Just when you thought you had all the tools you needed, along comes the PCP Instrument Distro, a multipurpose distribution, impedance and level-matching box.
If you have ever been in a mixing situation where you wanted to run the recorded guitar track back through an amp and you ran into all kinds of impedance and level nightmares, the PCP Instrument Distro re-amp capabilities would have solved all your problems — for $950.
While this may be out of reach for some project studios, in a professional studio this black box could fill many gaps if you need an active direct box, transformer-isolated three output guitar splitting/re-amping and a long guitar cable line driver.
The active direct has 16 dB of gain — it can be plugged in at line level, avoiding the mixer’s mic preamp. The PCP — which jokingly stands for Professional to Cheesy Pedal — is powered by a regulated low-impedance 48 VDC power supply with large-reservoir capacitance and a 250-mA current capability.
If you have ever split a signal coming from the guitar and noticed the immediate fidelity loss, the PCP will allow the split without loading down the instrument pickups. It does this with a specially wound transformer that emulates the guitar pickup’s impedance, and also provides the added flexibility of a phase reverse switch, a ground lift switch and trim level for all three outputs.
The PCP has enough I/Os to handle a guitar army: three XLR inputs on the rear panel for balanced mixers or tape machines, three instrument-level outputs, an unbalanced direct out for long cables, an XLR direct box output and an I/O for expanding to other PCPs.
Little Labs thoughtfully made it possible to override the instrument plugged into the rear by plugging one into the front — thus saving you from having to send out a search party to unplug the rear connection when the box is rack-mounted.
Besides the aforementioned reverse and ground switches on the front panel, there are trim controls — which adjust your guitar level outputs from unity down.
The beauty of the box is its versatility. You can gang all three inputs at once, plug into any +4 dBu outboard gear before your amp, slice and dice, and mix and match. There are also (hallelujah) instructions in the manual on how to take it apart so you can remove the broken phone plug after Nigel gets through shredding in the control room and walks off still attached.
For professional studio engineers, the PCP really opens up creative doors using its multiple re-amp I/Os. For example, a mix engineer can simultaneously run a DI-recorded guitar or bus track to an amp, a keyboard through a chorus pedal and a vocal through a vintage tape echo — all without impedance problems or loss of fidelity.
The PCP is handy for professional studio engineers, a small studio with a big budget or for live performers playing a guitar through multiple amps or effects routings. It is well built, versatile and extremely useful for solving those impedance-matching problems or running long lines for guitars from control room to studio.
Solely as a direct box, financially you could probably do better. For a box that fits many niches and provides so many solutions, the PCP is a winner.
I wish I had access to a Little Labs PCP box years ago. The PCP Distro could have saved a lot of the aggravation and time I’ve spent chasing down guitar buzzes and hums while the client nervously glances at his watch.