FIELD Joemeek Studio Channel VC1
by Russ Long
The Joemeek VC2 was one of my favorite pieces of gear to review
last year, so I jumped at the chance to review the 2U rackmount
Joemeek VC1. The VC1 is the solid-state version of the VC2 and
is another version of the increasingly common all-in-one pro signal
path. Like the VC2 it features a high-quality signal path including
a microphone preamp, a compressor and an enhancer.
Ted Fletcher, who never ceases to amaze the audio community, has
again turned the heads of top knobs worldwide. By applying the
principles he learned working alongside Joe Meek, he has designed
another product that is guaranteed to become a staple in the pro
The rear panel of the VC1 is equipped with a female XLR connector
for microphone signal input and a 1/4" TRS jack for line-level
input. The line-level input is a high-impedance floating balanced
input, adequate for any line-level audio signal (either unbalanced
or balanced). The unit is equipped with a TRS insert jack following
the common wiring of tip-send and ring-return.
The insert point lets the user insert another effect or piece of
outboard equipment into the VC1's signal path (before the compression
circuit). The rear panels mix input jack (also 1/4") is an
unbalanced line level input that combines with the normal input
(either microphone or line) before the compression circuit. There
is a male XLR connector and a 1/4" jack for high-level balanced
line output. This output is low impedance-balanced at zero level.
The rear panel also features a ground lift switch. I never found
the lift necessary but it might be helpful in certain circumstances
when ground noise is a problem.
The front panel is equipped with a female XLR jack for microphone
input and a 1/4" jack for instrument input. The microphone
input is wired in parallel with the rear panels microphone input
so it is important that only one of the connectors is used at any
given time. The instrument input is a high impedance-unbalanced
input and is suitable for any instrument output or line-level signal
from unbalanced equipment. The front panels input level pot boosts
the line/instrument input signal from -6 dB to 24 dB or the microphone
input signal from 15 dB to 70 dB. There is a switch for choosing
between microphone and line inputs (with an LED indicator for line)
and a switch for activating the 48 V phantom power circuit (with
an LED indicator).
The high-pass filter activation switch inserts a 12 dB per octave
high-pass filter starting at 25 Hz. Finally, a front-panel switch
selects whether the VU meter monitors output signal (before the
output gain control) or compression. The VC1 boasts harmonic distortion
stats of within 0.01% rising to approximately 0.14% at 4 dB above
nominal output level (second harmonic predominant).
The VC1's compressor is photoresistive servo-operated: The audio
signal triggers light emitting diodes that in turn control the
resistance of a photo-sensitive resistor. This was a very common
type of compression in the 60s and 70s. With the vintage sound
becoming more and more prevalent, this type of compression is becoming
common again today.
The front panel has a compressor insert switch for taking the compressor
in and out of the circuit. There is an LED indicator, which glows
red when the signal is being compressed. This is very helpful when
using the meter to monitor signal level rather than compression.
A knob controls the compression ratio. Ratio can be adjusted between
1.5 to 1 and 8 to 1. There are also knobs for controlling attack
time (1 ms to 7 ms) and release time (200 ms to 3 s).
The enhancer lets the user add shimmer and clarity to the signal.
It works by taking the higher frequencies of a sound, compressing
and dynamically altering them and then mixing them back in with
the original signal. There is an enhancer switch that takes the
enhancer in and out of the circuit as well as enhance, drive, and
Q knobs for achieving the maximum potential from this circuit.
The enhance pot determines how much of the enhanced signal is mixed
back in with the original signal. The drive pot determines the
depth and tone of the enhancement. Finally, the Q pot determines
the length of the high-frequency harmonic after the syllable that
The compressor's attenuation of the audio signal causes a loss
of gain, which has to be compensated for in the make-up amplifier.
This amplifier is controlled using the front panels output pot.
The output is electronically balanced with a discrete circuit,
which has a maximum balanced output level of +26 dBu. The VC1's
VU meter is connected before the output gain control so adjustments
in the output level will not result in meter changes.
I've put the VC1 to work around the clock and have yielded some
impressive results. This Joemeek seems to be the magic vocal compressor.
I used the VC1's compressor to record vocals with the VC1 preamp
as well as my Hardy and Daking preamps. I had very satisfying results
in all three circumstances. I was never pleased with the sound
of the enhancer on vocals, but it seemed to work wonders on acoustic
Electric guitars are killer through the VC1. They are full and
punchy and the enhancer seems to add the extra sheen they needed
to speak in the track. Bass guitar sounds giant through the VC1
and the enhancer adds the extra intelligibility that is often difficult
to attain with this instrument.
In mix mode the VC1 compressor always sounded great. The enhancer
always sounded acceptable but I usually opted to use some EQ (usually
my GML) rather than the enhancement circuit. I found the VC1 sounded
much like I remembered the VC2 sounding, though sometimes not quite
as warm. I wish I could have listened to the two units side by
side. I love having an XLR microphone input and a 1/4" instrument
input on the front panel. It's always a hassle crawling behind
my racks to plug in a microphone if I'm cutting something in the
control room, and having that front-panel option at all times is
Like the other Joemeek pieces, the VC1 is going to color the sound.
This is the kind of coloring that engineers have often spent hour
upon hour trying to attain, but never-the-less, there will be coloring.
The Joemeek VC1 sounds fantastic. Though it is not the right piece
of equipment for classical recording or for any type of recording
where extreme accuracy is an issue, it is the perfect piece of
gear for virtually any rock or pop recording where Fletcher's Joemeek
circuit is given the palette to do its thing. In the words of Joe
Meek, if it sounds right, it is right!
Russ Long, a Nashville, Tenn. based producer/engineer is the owner
of The Whitehouse and The Carport recording studios and a regular
contributor to Pro Audio Review.
Applications: Audio processing, recording studios and project studios
Key Features: High-impedance floating balanced input, XLR and TRS
Contact: Joemeek tollfree at 1-877-JOEMEEK (563-6553)
+ Plus -stellar sound; solid construction + Looks great
+ Front panel microphone and instrument inputs
MINUS (New Version 3.03 has pad and phase reverse)
- The enhancer has a limited usability.
- No phase reverse switch
- No pad
The VC1 simply sounds right.