Yamaha GQ1031 Graphic Equaliser
It's not often that graphic equalisers turn out to be especially exciting, but this model from Yamaha combines sound design and elegance with an astonishingly low price tag.
Graphic equalisers are useful for both corrective and creative signal processing, but in either case it's fair to say that the more bands they have, the greater their flexibility.
The Yamaha GQ1031 uses all solid state inductorless circuitry to offer up to ±12dB of cut or boost in 31 bands which cover the entire audio spectrum in third octave steps. Because severe boosting of some frequencies may cause the system to run out of headroom, an input level control and a peak reading LED (which lights up 3dB before clipping) are fitted so that potential problems can be recognised and corrected during the setting up procedure.
One important addition is the inclusion of a bypass switch that enables you to perform an A/B comparison to find out whether or not you really have improved the sound.
This is either a single channel or a mono equaliser, so two would be required for room-equalising a stereo monitoring system. In this application the 31 bands give a fair degree of control, though room anomalies don't always conveniently fall into third octave slots.
Some engineers would claim to be able to set up this kind of system by ear, but I think that most realistically thinking professionals would agree with me when I say that a spectrum analyser is vital if this is to be done properly. You don't have to buy a spectrum analyser of course, you can hire one for the day as it's a job that only needs doing once. It's often said that graphic equalisers cannot entirely compensate for deficiencies in a listening environment and that is perfectly true, but they do represent what is probably the most practical approach to the problem.
No spectrum analysers needed here, just patch a signal through the graphic equaliser and fiddle with the sliders until everything sounds right. In this capacity, the resolution provided by third octave equalisation gives particularly fine control at the all important bass end, where there are no fewer than ten bands dedicated to the frequency range 20Hz to 160Hz. It is in this region that bass guitars and kick drums often need a little tailoring to remove rogue resonances or liven up dead spots and the relatively coarse control offered by conventional EQ circuitry is quite useless for resolving this kind of detail.
Parametric equalisers would appear on the face of it to offer greater flexibility in this area and that is to some extent true though it must be remembered that a single parametric unit can only modify one frequency band. This coupled with the fact that parametrics are quite difficult to set up makes a third octave graphic a very attractive proposition to the home recordist.
Other creative uses may involve treating the send or return to a reverb unit and you can synthesise a passable handclap sound by passing a drum machine snare drum output through a graphic set to peak at around 1 kHz. If you overload the graphic input, the resulting distortion adds to the authenticity.
Being housed in a 1U rack case, the travel available on each of the sliders is somewhat limited, but a centre detent system enables the neutral position to be easily loaded. The compact format does mean that precious rack space is not occupied unnecessarily and a little extra care in setting the sliders is all that is really needed.
In terms of styling, this sleek unit belies its modest price and, like most Yamaha studio units, it exudes an air of purposeful elegance. The satin black paintwork is complemented by tasteful gold lettering and both the mains and bypass switches have status LEDs.
The input level slider is physically identical to the EQ sliders, but is sensibly set slightly apart from them to avoid confusion; another testimony to Yamaha's practical approach is that a choice of both jack and phono connectors is available on the rear panel. The phono connectors are a sensible alternative if the equaliser is to be used in a permanent installation.
Another innovation is the incorporation of a power on surge protection system which bypasses the equaliser electronics for a couple of seconds after switch on to avoid any potentially damaging current surges from being amplified by the monitor system and consequently turning the speaker cones inside out.
The equaliser is extremely simple to use and, whilst excessive boosting of the high frequency bands does emphasise noise in the programme material, this is true of all such equalisers and the circuitry itself is very quiet. Inductorless designs like this sometimes misbehave when adjacent frequency bands are cut or boosted by radically different amounts, but this is an unnatural way to use an equaliser. I can't imagine any situation when you would cut and boost alternate bands by the full 12dB.
Used properly, the equaliser works very smoothly and the facility of being able to modify the bass end in such detail is definitely a worthwhile one.
At around £200, the GQ1031 represents superb value for money and it's cool good looks should be enough to impress any studio client. Good looks aside, what I like is the way that the GQ1031 just gets on with doing it's job without fuss so that I can get on with my recording.
Once again, Yamaha give the home recordist the chance to narrow the gap between themselves and the top professionals.
Further details from Yamaha-Kemble Ltd, (Contact Details).
Review by Paul White
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