I have always had good results with Joemeek products. After reviewing the VC1 (PAR, 9/98, p. 108) I found I couldn’t live without it, so I bought it.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, broadcast, live sound
Key Features: Single channel preamplifier; photo-electric compressor; Meequalizer EQ section; parallel 1/4-inch and XLR analog I/O; optional VC1QD A/D converter card
Contact: Joemeek/PMI Audio at 877-563-6335 310-373-9129; Web Site www.joemeek.com;
+ Excellent sound
+ Solid construction
+ Front panel microphone and instrument inputs
– No 16-bit operation on optional converter card
The Score: A versatile single-channel mic/line preamp and processor with loads of character.
My complaints with the VC1 were minor, primarily the lack of a phase-reverse switch and the limited flexibility of the enhancer. Abracadabra, the VC1Q appears (and I bought it, too). Boasting all the VC1’s features – with an added Meequalizer EQ and an improved Enhancer that can act as a de-esser, as well as an optional VC1QD digital output card – the Joemeek VC1Q is an affordable dream come true.
The 2U rackmounted Joemeek VC1Q ($799.99) is housed in an aluminum case. The rear panel is equipped with two female XLR connectors for microphone and line input. The microphone input is transformer-balanced and floating. The line level input is a high-impedance floating balanced input adequate for any line level audio signal (either unbalanced or balanced).
Also on the rear panel is a TRS insert jack (tip-send, ring-return). The insert point lets the user insert another effect or piece of outboard equipment into the VC1Q’s signal path before the compressor. A male XLR connector and 1/4-inch jack provide balanced line output. These parallel outputs are low impedance balanced at zero level. An IEC jack with a reversible fuse holder allows the box to be configured for either 115V or 230V operation.
The front panel is equipped with a female XLR jack for microphone input and a 1/4-inch jack for instrument input. Use of the front panel inputs override the rear inputs; one can easily insert an additional mic in the front XLR input without having to repatch.
The instrument input is high impedance unbalanced and is suitable for any instrument output or line level signal from unbalanced equipment. The front panel’s input level pot boosts the line/instrument input signal from 0 dB to 35 dB or the microphone input signal from 15 dB to 70 dB.
A switch selects between microphone and line inputs (an LED lights to indicate line has been selected). A second switch activates the 48V phantom power circuit (also equipped with an LED indicator). A third switch activates the high-pass filter, inserting a 12 dB per octave high-pass filter starting at 75 Hz. Finally, a front panel switch selects whether the VU meter monitors output signal (before the output gain control) or gain reduction.
The VC1Q boasts harmonic distortion generally within 0.01 percent, rising to approximately 0.14 percent at 4 dB above nominal output level (second harmonic predominant).
The VC1Q’s compressor is of the photoelectric type, i.e. the audio signal triggers a light-emitting diode that in turn controls the resistance of a photo sensitive resistor. This gives the box vintage compression characteristics typical of the sound found in compressors of the ’60s and ’70s.
The Comp switch inserts the compressor in the signal path. An LED glows blue to (quite brightly) indicate the compressor is active. A second LED indicator glows red as the signal is being compressed. This feature is helpful while using the meter to monitor signal level rather than compression. The Slope control is a five-way rotary switch that sets the ratio ranges of the compressor. This ratio can be adjusted between 1.5 to 1 and 8 to 1. There are also knobs for controlling attack time (0.5 milliseconds to 10 milliseconds) and release time (250 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds).
The enhancer allows the user to add shimmer and clarity to the signal. It works by taking the higher frequencies of a sound and compressing and dynamically altering them, and then mixing them back in with the original signal. The Enhancer switch takes the enhancer in and out of the audio path and an LED indicates whether it has been selected.
Effect, Drive and Q knobs allow the enhancer to be adjusted to taste. The Effect pot determines how much of the enhanced signal is mixed back in with the original signal. Turning this pot clockwise adds enhancement while turning it counterclockwise allows the circuit to act as a de-esser. The drive pot determines the amount of high frequencies that are fed into the enhancer side chain. Finally, the Q pot affects the length of the high-frequency harmonic after the syllable that created it. Although I did not find the de-esser to be as effective as my dbx 902s, I did find it usable and it worked extremely well removing string noise on a steel string acoustic guitar track.
The MeQ switch allows the equalizer to be inserted into the signal path. An LED glows when it is activated. The Meequalizer EQ is equipped with fixed high- and low-frequency control (8 kHz and 100 Hz respectively) and mid-frequency control sweepable from 800 Hz to 3.6 kHz. Each band is adjustable +/-15 dB.
A makeup amplifier compensates for the compressor’s attenuation of the audio signal. This amplifier is controlled using the output pot. The output is electronically balanced via a discrete circuit with a maximum balanced output level of +26 dBu. The VC1Q’s VU meter monitors the gain before the make-up amplifier output so adjustments in the output level will not result in meter changes.
The optional VC1QD digital output card ($199.99) enables 24-bit 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz digital S/PDIF output from the VC1Q’s rear panel. The digital output does not affect the analog outputs, so analog monitoring while recording via the digital output is possible. Two buttons allow the sample rate to be defined at 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96 kHz. Unfortunately, 16-bit output is not possible.
First of all, the VC1Q is not an audiophile box. If you want a transparent preamp with an inaudible compressor and EQ, this is not the box for you. But if you are looking for a piece of equipment that has loads of vintage character and a personality of its own, then the VC1Q may be your piece of gear.
As was true with the VC1, working the VC1Q 24-7 produced impressive results. Electric guitars sound fantastic through the box. They are full and punchy and the EQ compensates for any deficiencies I encountered. Bass guitar also records wonderfully through the box. I had strong results running the bass directly into the instrument input jack as well as using an external direct box (the Demeter Tube DI and the Radial JDI boxes worked best).
Like the VC1, the VC1Q’s compressor has a magical effect on vocals. The intensity and aggression of a vocal can be increased through the use of substantial compression with a quick attack time and a relatively quick release. I had good results cutting vocals entirely through the VC1Q as well as using other mic preamps and only making use of the VC1Q’s compressor and Meequalizer.
In mix mode, the VC1 always sounded great, although I usually was not able to completely shape the sound to my liking with the enhancer alone. I usually ended up using the VC1 in tandem with an outboard EQ (usually my GML) rather than the enhancement circuit. With the addition of the Meequalizer in the VC1Q, I almost never need additional EQ.
While the Joemeek VC1Q may not be the right piece of equipment for every occasion, it is perfectly suited for recording tracks on virtually any rock or pop production, at a price that can’t be beat.