JDK Audio14 - 4-Band VPR 500 Format Equalizer REVIEWAn Interview With Larry Droppa of Arsenal Audio by API and APIpan60: Give us some insight into yourself, Larry. Tell us as a little bit about yourself.Larry: There is an early Police song called ‘Born in the 50’s’ – that’s me. I had an interest in electronics and things mechanical from an early age when I would disassemble just about anything I could – radios, record players and the like. I went to college and studied electronics, worked for a communications company, and later an audio service shop, all while hanging around various bands and sound companies. Eventually, I got to work for a sound company, then went on the road, moved up in the business and toured extensively for the next 18 years, 12 of which were spent as the in-ear monitor engineer for Stevie Wonder. pan60: Sounds like a very fun, as well as a fulfilling career. Any hobbies, or is it all work?Larry: ALL WORK – no. I enjoy building R/C cars for fun and have even ventured into R/C helicopters a little. I shoot way too much home video (ask my kids), and like to do the occasional edit job for a home movie.pan60: I have been wanting to get into the R/C cars, but there just isn't time. Maybe, some day in the future. R/C anything has always fascinated me.As I understand, you have a history in the audio world aside from API? Are you a musician, or just an audio engineer?Larry: Most of my audio experience has been in live sound, as I have mixed both FOH and monitors over the years. The time with Stevie Wonder was mixing stereo to in-ears, which is like mixing house for a very small audience! The best part was that any acoustic feedback on stage was never my fault! (We carried an FOH engineer, a wedge monitor engineer and me.) I have always approached the sound business from the engineering side. I am not a musician, but seem to be able to bring out what musicians and the audience like to hear. I helped start ATI (Audio Toys, Inc.), in 1988 to manufacture live sound gear, became sole owner in 1993, and have enjoyed the success and popularity of the Paragon consoles and associated ATI rack gear for live sound to this day. I believe I was fortunate to be able to acquire API in 1999 and continue the fabulous heritage of discrete analog audio products that API is known for. We have worked very hard to re-energize the brand, improve quality control and reliability, and make sure that manufacturing is able to keep all our products in stock, while at the same time, re-engineering some discontinued products and designing some new ones.pan60: Well, it would seem your hard work is paying off. I think API is more popular than ever!So tell me, ARSENAL AUDIO by API, what made you want to start another company?Larry: API just wasn’t offering enough stress.pan60: LOL API not offer enough stress? : )~ Too funny.Larry: Seriously, we decide on a product or a design by committee. We have meetings to discuss what we should engineer and how it should be built. Over the years, there have been a number of ideas floated about in our engineering 'think sessions' that, while good ideas - don’t lend themselves to the API design parameters. API products, by definition, must have an all discrete signal path, must have transformers and the 2520 op amp (almost always), must have the signature knobs, and must maintain that ‘API sound’. We decided that there were enough other ideas and designs that could be turned into products that we were able to justify making those products under a brand name that had no design limits.On a couple of occasions so far, we have been accused of bringing out a lower priced version of API, which is decidedly not the design criteria. It just so happens that the products we currently have for Arsenal Audio by API are less expensive than the regular line of API products. This is due largely to the design and specific parts, not that we have ‘cheapened’ the circuit or audio quality. pan60: As everyone knows, or will know, I have the V14 EQs and I, in no way, feel there is any cheapened quality!How did the name ARSENAL AUDIO by API come to be?Larry: We don’t pretend to suppose that one product or one kind of product is the only choice that artists and engineers need to have in the studio these days. We recognize that to maximize your creative options, you need to have a number of choices in your ‘arsenal’. The product name just went from there.pan60: By the way, I love the name, and the color.Larry: Thanks – we uncovered a large cache of military green paint, so we felt it our patriotic duty to help use it up.pan60: That is too cool!As you know I am very fond of the V14s, which, based on our chats, is a reissue of the older APSI EQ. What made you want to resurrect this EQ?Larry: Over the years, I have spoken to several people who love the old APSI 562 EQ. They are hard to find and those who ‘discover’ them tend to hoard them. So, not many are available anymore. In an effort to kick off the new brand from API, we decided that resurrecting the APSI EQ would make both logical and engineering sense. API does not make a sweep EQ, so no product interference and it is already a proven design, so less risk from the peanut gallery.pan60: It is so odd, I was blindsided when the V14 was released, I thought no way!I had been chatting with a few manufacturers trying to get some info, as well as to get someone interested in reissuing these EQs. Needless to say, I was so stoked when I saw them, and even more so when I got a pair in my hands.I have been trying to do some research into APSI. Tell us a bit about the APSI company. Also, what was (if any), the relationship with API?Larry: As most people can already find on the internet, APSI was headed by Steve Crump, who had a relationship with API to buy parts to manufacture his own style of console. He designed EQ’s in a couple different styles and arranged some type of marketing deal with API to include his EQ products in the API sales catalog, most of which carried the API logo along with the APSI name. It doesn’t appear that APSI modules were sold for more than a couple of years before the company folded (it’s a very short chapter in the API history book). The popularity of the EQ’s, both the 562 (4 band sweep), and the 559 (9 band switched graphic), have long outlived the memory of the APSI consoles.pan60: Also, you have a 19" rack version of the V14, as well as a pre, under the ARSENAL AUDIO by API name. Can you tell us something about these other units?Larry: Well… the R24 is easy – it is simply two V14’s in a 2 rack-space box. It made good sense for those who want two EQ’s for stereo, or who just don’t want to jump into the 500 series just yet.The R20 dual channel mic preamp came about from one of those engineering round-table discussions I mentioned earlier. We became aware of a mic pre design that was IC-based. Engineering thought it was an interesting design and wanted the challenge to dig into something entirely new. So, we let them go at it. The output section of the R20 is another story. ATI had been awarded two design patents during the manufacture of the Paragon consoles – one is for a unique compressor circuit and the other is for an innovative IC based output circuit that behaves much like a transformer – without all the weight. We use the patented compressor circuit in the API 2500 and call it ‘Thrust.' We license the output circuit to THAT Corporation, which they manufacture as the ‘Outsmarts Balanced Line Driver.’ It made perfect sense to use the Outsmarts driver in our own products whenever possible, hence its existence in the R20. (This way, we get a royalty on our own technology that we buy from THAT. Ain’t we smart?) pan60: Cool! Do you have plans to bring more products to market under the ARSENAL AUDIO by API brand?Larry: Nope. ha ha ha! The plan, at this point, is to let engineering submit plans for new products, require sales to poll the market to test the appeal, build the approved product, then add it to the product line. We have a laundry list of ideas and will determine which of those will become actual products by the above method. We are hoping for great things.pan60: I'm definitely going to keep my eyes open: )~Now, on to the review: )~As always we have three main topics I feel need to be addressed:(1) the company, the people behind the company, and the service, (2) the build quality, (i.e. lifespan, craftsmanship) and (3) the sound or performanceOne: I think it be fair to assume ARSENAL AUDIO by API will be delivering the same quality of service and personal care that customers have come to expect from the API brand. And I, being in a position to get to chat with Larry Droppa, can definitely tell you he cares about his companies' products, and service will be top shelf.Plus, I like Larry and have a great deal of respect for him, as well as his companies. So, like so many of the other boutique companies that manage to make it to the finales of my reviewing process, a big thumbs up from me for ARSENAL AUDIO by API!Two: I think the build on these are great. They have very nice looking boards, good and clean. Everything fits. Not only do things fit together, and look nice, they fit the 500 format Lunchbox as presented by API! The V14s just look sexy to me. I love the vintage looking knobs, and the color trips my trigger, as well. I have to say, my eyesight is not what it used to be. I had some doubts as to whether I would be able to see the markings in dim light. But, it was not an issue as the lettering shows up fine!Three: As many of you reading this already know, I absolutely love these EQs. They deliver, and then some! They are part of the API VPR Alliance, always a plus. I do have a couple peeves, but I'll get to them in a bit. I have used the V14s on vocals, drums, electric as well as acoustic guitar and I love them. I wish I had a rack full.The first thing that really struck me, and really got my attention, was just how neutral these could sound. Just a little here and there. They do not really impart much in the way of color to the sound source. It’s just enough to do the job. Also, you can push the bottom, and get a nice, fat, but clean MOJO. I like that a lot. I can push the mids and bring the source forward a bit for a nice pop. The mids and top are not harsh and they are very effective at smoothing the edge of a vocal track without any apparent and/or glaring loss of detail. Another thing to bring up, I did not hear the ever-so-present ‘smear’ one often associates with this type of EQ. These are some very versatile EQs. If anyone is looking for EQs, you really need to give these a go. You owe it to yourself. They do the job. They do not get in the way, and I feel that (provided you are not pushing them hard) you won't even notice they are there, most of the time.Ah? So what did I not like? There's always got to be something. Mostly it's about the knobs. Not the vibe, the look, or the feel of the pot, but the knobs. It seems the skirt on the top knob is a bit large, in my humble view.Let me now emphasis that this does not, and for me, has not, nor is it, or will it be an issue, but, if one is not careful, when you are cutting, booting, or sweeping through the frequency, you could easily move the opposing knob. It took me some time to figure this out. At first, I thought the knobs were not adjusted correctly, or possibly the pots themselves may have been the issue. But, this was not the case. The top knob's skirt is about the same size as the frequency sweep knob's top. So, when I turned one, I had a tendency to turn the other at the same time. As soon as I realized this, it became a non-issue, because I could adjust.What else? The price. I want more of these, but just cannot afford them.I feel ARSENAL AUDIO by API has a real winner here!Technical information from the ARSENA AUDIO web site. http://www.arsenalaudio.com/v14.htmlV 14 4 Band VPR 500 Format Equalizer The Arsenal Audio by API V14 is an extremely high quality, single channel 4-Band Equalizer designed for the popular API VPR500 Rack format.The EQ features continuously variable adjustment of frequency and gain on dual concentric pots, with an EQ in/out switch.Features:4 bands of equalization modeled after the classic APSI model 562 EQ Each band offers continuously variable control of frequency and gain 12 dB of boost/cut per band All 4 bands are peak/dipping parametric configuration Custom transformer balanced output High headroom +24 dB clip level Designed to fit API's 500 VPR Rack or Lunchbox®Arsenal Audio by API's V14 offers a single channel of professional signal equalization in the popular 500 VPR format. Modeled after the circuitry of classic high end EQ's, the V14 delivers an affordable combination of rugged construction and solid performance. The V14 also features EQ in and out switch, plus dual concentric knobs which provide continuously variable control of boost/cut and frequency selection.V 14 4 Band VPR 500 Format Equalizer SpecificationsI/O: Balanced Input and Output through VPR Rack (All measurements with 600 Ohm output load) Bandwidth: +/- 0.5db, 20Hz - 50kHzTHD+N @ 1kHz, +4dbu: 0.01%Maximum Level: +24dbuSignal-to-Noise Ratio: -102dbEQ Bands: 4 bands, all +/-12db Peak/Dip typeLo: 20Hz - 200HzLo-Mid: 100Hz - 1kHzHi-Mid: 500Hz - 5kHzHi: 2.2kHz - 20kHzCurrent: 30mA, 3.4VoltAmpsDimensions: 1 VPR Alliance SlotHeight: 5.25 InchesWidth: 1.5 InchesDepth: 7 InchesWeight: 1.5 lbsInput Impedance: 12K OhmsOutput Impedance: 300 Ohms Transformer Balanced(Specifications subject to change without notice)Finally, a link to the PDF Manual.http://www.arsenalaudio.com/manv14.pdfHow much of a winner do I think this is?Well, I added a pair to my personal rack!Thanks to Larry and API for their time!