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Monday, December 22, 2008

Toft ATC-2

Toft ATC-2 dual channel strip a tweakers delight

I became initially interested in the Toft ATC-2 to track toms. I have a variety of Daking, Neve, Summit, Telefunken and Manley preamps but none of them seemed flexible enough to carve out the right tom sound. I record drum kits every week and the toms sometimes come up a little short. I sort of thought the problem not enough EQ bands, wrong bandwith and wrong frequencies. I purchased the Toft ATC-2 and found it the ultimate piece for this job. It imparts a distinct 1970s classic rock sound to the drums as well.

The Toft ATC-2 is a dual channel recording strip with mic pre, EQ and compression. I used the unit exclusively for recording toms for a number of months. All of the engineers here and the clients were impressed by the improved tom sound. The only problem that popped up from time to time seemed to be my cutting a little bit too much in the low mids. If the drummers played hard (and I mean very hard), then the sound came up a bit thin. Once I became more careful in where I cut the low mids the problem disappeared.

After I decided to write a review of the Toft ATC-2, I decided to try it on some other instruments and vocals. I first ran a DJ’s turntable mixer into the front panel inputs. The source came across solidly with no input clipping and the compressor set the tracks correctly in the mix with no other compression necessary.

I then used it on a vocal tracked through my Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone. The compressor on the Toft grabbed the vocal in a way similar to an old DBX 160. The Toft imparts a definite retro rock sound at four to five dB of compression. Higher amounts of compression seemed unnecessary due to the way it grabbed the vocal and held it. Higher amounts of gain reduction proved to have too much color for normal vocals.

I found that using small amounts of compression and a little low mid boost on electric guitar put across an Allman Brothers type lead guitar sound. I then used the ATC-2 on a variety of odd percussion instruments played by an experimental music band. I used unusual EQ boosting, overcompression, and forced preamp distortion to the delight of the band. The band wanted some unusual treatment of the sounds and the ATC-2 delivered.

I tried plugging a Fender Precision Bass into the front panels inputs and didn't like the results. These inputs seemed to be optimized for line level inputs. I plugged the bass into the mic pre XLR input on the back through a direct box and was delighted by a fat 1970s bass sound using a little low boost and compression.

If someone wants to carve up sounds with EQ and wants a compressor that can be heard, then the Toft ATC-2 should be considered. It can be a bit touchy to use but if you don’t over EQ or overcompress it sounds great. It does lack phase reverse. The low cut filter is sometimes too noticeable. But, I've been able to work around those limitations. If you’re looking for the 1970s sound that you heard on countless classic rock songs, then you should give the Toft ATC-2 a try.

The Bottom Line: It's retro. It can be a little touchy. But, damn, the EQ and compression sound great. Recommended.

--Jay Matheson

Toft Audio Designs

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