One of the most useful things any audio engineer can carry around is a test disc to check the alignment of equipment, and to evaluate unfamiliar monitoring loudspeakers. There are many such discs around already of course, but a new one from Canford Audio is a little different to the rest.
The twelve‑track Quick Check Test Disc has been specifically intended for line‑up and subjective quality assessment of audio equipment and is available in three formats — CD, MiniDisc, and DAT. In common with most test discs, there is a full set of test signals; all are at practical levels, and with usable durations. The sleeve notes are very comprehensive, not only stating what the tones should read on a variety of common meter types, but also what an AC Voltmeter should read when connected to 0dBu, 0dBV, or ‑10dBV outputs!
The test tones include a 440Hz Concert A tone which can also be used to check replay speed, and a swept frequency track which usefully starts with a reference level 1kHz tone and then switches directly to 20Hz, sweeping up to 20kHz before switching straight back to 1kHz. If you hear any gaps then either the replay system cannot reproduce, or your ears cannot hear, the signal!
In contrast to most test discs, however, Quick Check does not contain impressive music tracks — just superbly recorded spoken (male) voice. This might be unusual, but it is what makes the Quick Check disc so useful. If you think about it, virtually everyone spends much of the day listening to the spoken voice, and our hearing is very highly tuned to spotting deficiencies or problems with its reproduction. Try it and you will quickly discover that, compared to music, the spoken voice is far more revealing of all manner of subtle flaws in loudspeakers, room acoustics, processing equipment and recording faults. The speech tracks include a channel and phase check, followed by five minutes of a prose passage by Washington Irving, followed by a further five minutes of a hypothetical shipping forecast. The recorded prose has not been limited or compressed at all, whereas the shipping forecast has been gently limited.
All in all, Quick Check is a very useful reference and test tool, and certainly a disc which I shall be using a lot from now on. The attention to detail is superb, the sleeve notes provide good advice and useful information, and the quality and accuracy of the test tones and voice recordings are excellent. In my opinion, the provision of voice tracks rather than superficially impressive music makes this disc worth every penny of its asking price!