Review: Klark-Teknik Square One Graphic & Dynamics
Klark-Teknik has a new range of quality, cost-effective analogue signal processors. Heard it all before? Read on.
Review: Simon Honywill
Klark-Teknik is well known for its high-end EQs and processors in the sound reinforcement market. Its gear is well respected and comes with a ‘pro’ price tag. The price tags on the Square One range are by no means cheap but far more ‘affordable’. And the way they’ve achieved this, according to KT, can be neatly summarised thus: KT didn’t want to produce a lower priced range by sacrificing build quality and sound quality. Instead the approach was to remove features rather than compromising engineering or component quality.
The first thing you realise on opening the packaging is Square One’s most outstanding feature – this gear is very purple. The controls are a nicely contrasting light grey, which goes to make an attractive looking package. Unfortunately, in practice, it’s hard to see what’s what when light conditions are low, especially on the Dynamics processor. The general feel of the equipment – the Graphic and Dynamics unit – is typical of the brand name. They are solidly constructed, well finished and the knobs and faders have the smooth, gentle weighting that we have all come to expect from KT. My initial reaction was, ‘Wow, they’re cool, can I keep them?’.
SQUARE ONE GRAPHIC
There is very little one can say about a 31-band graphic equaliser that hasn’t already been said. The Square One Graphic is simplicity itself, the emphasis being on quality and ease of use at the right price. An 80Hz high-pass and 12kHz low-pass filter, a bypass button and a gain compensation knob for both channels are the only features additional to the 31 EQ filters. What stands out about this unit is the audio quality. KT DN360 users will know what I mean when I say it’s subtle, yet effective, and extremely pleasant on the ear. A high quality system EQ is crucial to good PA sound, and at this price there’s no longer an excuse to not have that quality. Meanwhile, for monitor systems, there can be no doubt that this unit would be a wise choice in any situation.
SQUARE ONE DYNAMICS
The Square One Dynamics unit elegantly packs eight channels of compressor/gate/expander in a 3U rack space. In the past, the perception was that unless a device had ‘Focusrite ISA’ written on it somewhere, this multi-channel format meant compromised quality. This piece of equipment puts paid to that assumption. Everything about Square One Dynamics oozes quality. Each channel has a fully functional, high spec compressor, which offers the choice of either RMS Sensing, Peak Sensing (or ‘Vintage’) mode, and frequency conscious compression. Each setting can make use of the hard or soft knee switch, giving a wide range of options to suit just about any program material. The night before writing this article I used the Dynamics on a small, mostly acoustic gig. There were some fine singers involved, ranging from the harshness of female torch song singers through howling blues to beautifully delivered, rich ballads. A real mixed bag of timbre and dynamics were all kept well under control by the compressors, at all times still managing to sound open and natural – it took a matter of seconds to dial up the right settings and off they went, rock solid all night. It’s an enormous luxury to have eight great-sounding compressors at your fingertips – it’s amazingly good value when you think about it.
An interesting feature, and somewhat unprecedented in audio dynamics as far as I’m aware, is the cascadable solo bus facility. With the output plugged into an input on your console, each of the unit’s eight channels has a solo button which allows monitoring of that channel’s sidechain filter. There is also a solo-in-place facility, which does the same job but replaces the audio output with the sidechain monitor signal. The gate is as lovely as the compressor, and utilises intelligent threshold shift, a handy way of reducing gate chatter. It automatically shifts the threshold down when a signal reaches the threshold level, and then re-sets itself when the signal goes back under.
There is very little I can say about these pieces of kit that isn’t extremely positive. My only real gripes are the contrast of the legending in low light, and the fact that the red solo-in-place button on the Dynamics clashes horribly with the purple front panel – surely yellow would be a better choice. That said, these are excellent units at a price (thanks to the excellent Chinese manufacturing) that makes them very attractive to the rental market. Seriously, if quality audio at the right price is your bag, I urge you to give these units a go. I, for one, will be keeping an eye out for further (inevitable) additions to the Square One range.