(click thumbnail)Toft Audio Designs AFC-2 Mic Preamp/EQConsoles designed by the legendary Malcolm Toft have been used to record albums for everyone from David Bowie and Elton John to Pavarotti and Radiohead. I was impressed with the Toft Audio Designs ATC-2 when I reviewed it a couple of years ago so I was more than pleased when the opportunity arose to check out its younger sibling, the AFC-2. The Toft Audio Designs AFC-2 is a dual-channel equalizer and mic preamp competitively priced at $859.
The 1U AFC-2’s 1/4-inch thick anodized aluminum front panel has a striking brushed silver finish with black labeling. Its impressive spec list includes mic input impedance >1.2 Kohm balanced, line input impedance >15 Kohm electronically balanced and instrument input impedance >100 Kohm unbalanced. The mic preamp provides up to 60 dB gain, the line input is variable from -20 dB to +20 dB and the instrument input provides 36 dB of gain. The XLR output impedance is <100 ohm electronically balanced and the 1/4-inch jack output impedance is <100 ohm unbalanced. The mic preamp input noise is <-128 dBu ref 150 ohm (20 Hz - 20 kHz) and the line input noise <-75 dBu (with the EQ activated, 20 Hz - 20 kHz).
The rear panel of the AFC-2 is equipped with a pair of F-XLR connectors for mic input and a pair of F-XLR connectors and 1/4-inch TRS jacks (wired in parallel) for line input. Two front-panel mounted 1/4-inch jacks provide instrument input. A pair of M-XLR connectors and a pair of 1/4-inch TRS jacks provide line output. Power is provided via a standard IEC jack.
Although the rear panel is fairly simple and well labeled, I still found it a bit confusing. Typically, on multichannel pieces of equipment, the inputs go from left to right on the front panel and right to left on the rear panel. For some reason, Toft decided to reverse the two channels somewhere between the front and rear panels so the right input is directly behind the left control and vice-versa. I found that unless I was concentrating on the box, I frequently made a patching mistake.
The front panel offers identical controls for the left and right channels. In addition to the channel controls, the Power switch provides power to the unit. The box appears to be well made and the rotary controls and switches feel solid and sturdy.
Studio, broadcast, post production
Two-channel; four-band sweepable EQ; 48V phantom power; phase reverse; front panel 1/4-inch DI input
Toft Audio/PMI Audio | 877-563-6335 | http://www.pmiaudio.comThe Mic/Line switch sets the unit’s input to either mic or line. If a cable is inserted into the instrument input, it automatically becomes the default input. The gain control provides 60 dB gain for the mic input, -20 dB to +20 dB for the line input and –16 dB to +30 dB for the instrument input. A notched “0” position gives unity gain for the line input allowing cutting or boosting as required. The phase reverse switch (a feature that was sadly missing from the ATC-2) reverses the phase of the input signal. It operates on both the mic and line inputs. The +48V switch activates 48V phantom power to the microphone input. A red LED illuminates to indicate that phantom power has been activated. The EQ In switch activates the equalizer circuit and a red LED illuminates to indicate that the EQ has been activated.
The box’s four-band equalizer features four overlapping bands. All four bands have ±15 dB gain control. The low-frequency band is sweepable from 40 Hz to 650 Hz, the low/mid band is sweepable from 100 Hz - 1.5 kHz, the high/mid band is sweepable from 700 Hz - 10 kHz and the high-frequency band is sweepable from 1 kHz - 15 kHz.
After several weeks of use I have found the AFC-2 to be a wonderful recording tool. The box works very well with drums and percussion. I put the AFC-2 with an AKG D112 to record kick drum and a Heil PR-20 to record snare and I had great results. The pre also worked well with a Royer SF-1 to record tambourine.
Coupled with a Royer R-122, I had great results using the AFC-2 to record electric guitars. The EQ is quick and easy to adjust and it is very musical.
I put the instrument inputs to work recording a stereo keyboard and bass and had good results. The box really shined on vocals. I had good results with a Sony C-800G and an AKG 414. For vocals my best results were using only the AFC-2’s EQ along with a Gordon mic preamp.
I wish there was a way to simultaneously use the EQ and mic preamp separately from each other. If I’m using my Gordon mic preamps with the AFC-2 EQs, I would like to use the AFC-2’s mic preamps on another sound source.
My only other complaint is that while I have found that the EQ is extremely musical, I miss having an adjustable bandwidth. Even if it was only the ability to toggle between a broad and tight Q on the two mid bands, I’d be pleased. However, these items are both minor and the box is still easily worth its rather small price tag.
I have really enjoyed using the AFC-2 over the past several weeks. While the mic preamps aren’t revolutionary, they sound really good and the EQ is wonderful. The EQ alone is worth the price of the unit so the preamps are icing on the cake. Anyone looking for a good EQ for a really good price should give the AFC-2 a listen.
Nashville-based Russ Long has been a producer, engineer and studio owner since the late 1980s. His credits include hits from by Sixpence None The Richer, albums by Wilco, Newsboys, Third Day, Dolly Parton and DC Talk and songs from the soundtracks of motion pictures such as Girl Interrupted, Here On Earth, Jonah, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, and She’s All That.
Apple Macintosh 2 GHz dual-processor G5 w/2 GB RAM; Digidesign Pro Tools 7.1; Lynx Aurora converters; Lucid Gen-X-96 clock; PMC AML-1 monitors.