I also looked at the Focusrite Tone Factory, but settled on the ART because of the tubes, size, and price. Just onthe strength of the first one, I bought a second one and their Tube PAC Preamp Compressor as well.
I think the unit would be even that much more powerful with adjustable "Q" controls for adjusting the bandwidth for the hi and low midrange controls, but I couldn't think of where they'd fit them on this compact unit without cluttering it up.
My favorite aspect of the Tube EQ is it's warm tone, and how powerful it's controls are. I can't really think of any down sides.
For the price, I think this unit has been overlooked by acoustic guitarists looking to warm up their piezo tone. Their Tube Channel (which is the Tube EQ and Tube PAC Preamp Compressor in a 1 space rack unit) makes a pretty nice preamp, and for bass, the Tube EQ makes a great improvement on my direct sound. I would even consider using the Tube Channel as the preamp section of a bass rig.
I haven't been seeing them as much these days, ad heard that ART might be considering discontinuing them as sales seem to be dropping off. Maybe this it true or not, but either way, they are definitely worth a listen.
you can read their release and owners manual at: "http://www.artroch.com/products_detail.asp?PRODUCTID=43"
Model Year: 2000
Price: $229.00 (new)
Where Obtained: Sam Ash
AC powered (3 prong).
Bypass switch (completely bypasses the unit, but I don't think it's a hard bypass), XLR (balanced) and 1/4" unbalanced jacks. Input gain, and output level knobs, both the high and low shelving knobs, and the 2 overlapping hi and low mid controls can be switched to 2 sets of frequencies each.
I do wish that the mids were fully parametric, allowing you to select the Q (bandwidth) that is affected.
It's a mono unit and has a 12AX7 tube inside.
This unit is very warm sounding with "crystal-like" highs, and a tight powerful bass. Pushing the input gain past "line level" changes the way the controls affect the sound, changing the highs from crystal to edgy, and everything in between, so you have a wide range of colors to work with.
I've used this with a bass with active electronics, and it beefed up the midrange (which sounded thin on this bass when going direct), made the bottom end "punchier," and warmed up the high end, giving the bass more of the feeling of going through an amp.
I also ran it on the line from my POD, and it went a long way to adding presence and character to the POD's tones as needed.
It really shines on piezo equipped acoustics. You can dial out the harsh, "quacky" high end, and the boomy low bass, and still have midrange control to warm up the frequencies you desire, or pull down any problem areas.
In my dual source rig (which consists of an Rane AP-13), I now have 2 Tube EQ's. One for the undersaddle transducer, and one for the microphone. They handle the majority of the tone shaping, and for me, they do a more effective job than the graphic eq on the Rane.
For noise, they are dead silent (as the Rane is too). They are definitely warmer and have more character than the semi parametric EQ on my home studio mixers, and being able to change the unit's character depending upon how hard or easy you drive the tube is a great aspect. It's not completely transparent (warm highs with a slightly bassy tone), so you have to want that sound.
I haven't used them for keys or mixdowns yet, but I will.
Very easy unit to use if you understand the semi parametric controls on a mixing board. The controls are powerful and it's easy to hear how it affects the sound, and having the bypass switch right on the front allows you to quickly compare the original signal with the altered one, or bypass it entirely.
The controls have solid "click" detented knobs, so it's easy to return to previous settings.
Heavy aluminum housing, solid controls. The small buttons for bypassing and switching frequencies are the weakest part, but are close to the knobs and so are pretty well protected.