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Joe Meek VC3 (V2)


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Joe Meek VC3 (V2)

Category:  Products / fx & processors / other fx

Added: 20-Mar-00  |  Author: admin

New price: 199 (new model has superceded this one)  |   S/H price: ??

Joe Meek VC3 (V2)

By a great stroke of luck I've got my paws on the Joe Meek VC3 'Pro-Channel' (V2) pre-amp/compressor/enhancer unit for a period of time on loan. One of my mates is between houses, and lent it to me while he gets his new place together.

In the world of studio equipment, all singing and dancing FX units and new synths & samplers appear pretty much on a quarterly basis, hogging the limelight with exciting claims of huge proportions!!.... units with less subjectively 'spectacular' qualifications tend to get overlooked.. BUT, just like with hi-fi, you can have the best amps & speakers etc.. BUT... 'Shit goes in - shit comes out!!'....

It simply is irrelevent what quality the rest of your system gives if your point of entry to that system is controlled by some cheezy crappy generic soundcard pre-amp worth about 49 Cents at cost & made in the Peoples Republic of Wan-King etc.... the like of which most of us depend on daily !!... all you are thus doing is amplifying the shitty sound-card input... Even if you have a small mixer wired into your system, chances are the pre-amp stage on the mic/line in's aint all that...

Units like this Joe Meek VC3, (or the cheaper 'Hootersound' branded unit) offer a quality input stage to your system for both mic & line inputs, and really these units should get alot more attention than they do... Whether sampling to hard disk systems direct, or to your sampler, a unit like this VC3 will get you a better quality source input to work withfrom go, resulting in a better quality output sound as the final result and is suitable for use with mic's, keyboards, drumboxes, or even basses etc plugged in direct....

The entire 'Joe Meek' range is British made & designed by Ted Fletcher who worked in the studio of the legendary UK producer Joe Meek during the 60's. Fletcher also designed recording consoles for the BBC amongst others, and has an impeccable & respected track record in equipment design. Ted Fletcher writes the foreword in the users manual accompanying the unit, and claims that the VC3 parts & components are on par with those used in the very top professional mixers & mic-amp outboard, and it certainly sounds like it.... 'The unit uses a transformerless input stage in combination with a low-noise line amp', and has a huge input range, offering input headroom of over 30db, and will accept mic levels from -70db up to 0db.

The manual says: 'Noise performance is up to the finest laboratory standards - (125.5db below input, 20hz - 20khz, 200ohm input termination) .... the line input is designed for un-balanced circuits and will accept -30db up to +24db .... Frequency response is 10hz to 50Khz .... noise is about 100db below input, or 125.5db on mic input at more than 50db of gain .... Harmonic distortion is less than 0.01%'

Like it says, pretty much bulletproof, in essence the VC3 input stage amp/s can handle large transient peaks that whilst not actually audible in use, can lead to distortion or degredation of the input signal on most other cheaper/lesser designs.

Well... What an excellent piece of kit for the cash mo-ney!!.. Robustly constructed, with a great sound, and a user-intuitive interface all coming together to create a unit that would be as 'at-home' in the hands of either the newbie or the seasoned users studio alike. Also, it has a very well written manual, which gives full explanations of the features, along with some starter settings for various uses. All in all, a delight for newbies... open the box... RTFM !!... and get to work!!... :-)

OK... The VC3 comes in a stand-alone half-rack sized unit, steel plate contruction gives the unit a solid feel and weight that belies it's small size, with the front panel sporting a hard-wearing 'grass-green' coloured enamel finish with black text legends for the controls. The whole unit runs off a 12V AC 'wall-wart' external power supply, and the pot's are solid robust & smooth to the touch, a pleasant change from some of the weedy lite-weight plastik-y pot's finding their way more and more often onto todays equipment in this lower price bracket... it might sound wierd, but this unit 'feels' British... and for the price is very well made.

On the front panel the first control pot' is the gain... The VC3 features phantom power for your condenser mic's, and next to the GAIN control is a Phantom-power indicator (the Phantom In/Out switch is on the rear-panel) to let you know at a glance whether the Phantom power is switched In or not - handy...


Next comes the Compressor section... yup, you get a cool compressor... The compressor section features a 'Comp-On' switch... 'Compression Ratio' pot'... and a Release Control pot' - (from 250mS up to 3secs)... There is no 'Attack' Control, just a button which is labelled 'F/S' - Fast or Slow - (switched 1mS and 10mS)... In essence, this is SORT-OF a soft-knee compressor or at least seems to work like one, (where the ratio increases as the sound approaches threshold), but then again it doesn't... (!!!?) - Factually, the ratio varies from 1.5 to 1 - up to - 7 to 1 - as the programme material drives the unit/depending on setting... The best bet to see how these Joe Meek units' photo-optical compressor's work is to go and read this page: http://www.joemeek-uk.com/joemeek/documentation/awordfromted.htm

The VC3 seems at first to have less 'Control' over it's Compressor section than other units featuring more control pot's... but in practice, it is very easy to quickly dial up a setting that 'Works' with the programme material... and that is the unit's theme really, to get a great sound intuitively... and it works !!...

This is more good news for newbies... NOT being offered hordes of switches & 'modes' like say on the Alesis 3060 means you use your ears to get the sound... When it sounds right.. It IS right !!... which wierdly, I just realised is the Joe-Meek company motto on their website.. ha ha ha !!... nice to see an honest company claim for a change!!... I swear I didn't read that before writing the review, I just saw it now when I went to the Joe-Meek website to grab some images !...

In essence, using the F/S button switched to 'F' (FAST), is like setting the traditional compressors 'Attack' control to a high setting, (slower attack)... sounds like a contradiction huh?... but setting it like that, it lets through the first attack transients section of the sound, then cuts in the compressor to lower the following material/envelope of the sound... Using the VC3 Compressor in the 'FAST' switch mode allows you to add punch to drums and other attacking sounds as the initial attack of the sound busts thru, and then after that first few MS of attack, the rest of the sound gets crushed, (according to the 'Compressor' setting/amount) - So the 'FAST' term is in reference to the TYPE of material you are compressing, NOT the setting... Use this setting for FAST attacking sounds, where you want to enhance/emphasise that fast attacking sound... drums, basses, whatever you like, this setting can also be used to add emphasis & punch to vocals, BV's etc...

There is also between the GAIN and the Compressor section, an INSERT ... On the rear unit panel is a single stereo ring/tip socket, so you can run a loop out to any other outboard you require before bringing it back to the VC3's compressor, enhancer and output stage... nice touch...


The Enhancer section picks off part of the the top end sound, compresses & distorts it, picks out the harmonics, then mixes them back with the origial signal.. Like most enhancers such as the Aphex units, you just do it by ear... 'Suck it and see' as the manual says... and like most enhancers, overuse of the Enhancer can result in horrible harsh sounding effects, but set it right for the programme material, andit does work very well, - think of it as boosting the upper harmonic's of the sound adding sparkle to vocals, accoustic guitars etc...but without turning up the 'hiss' and sibilance or other un-desirable parts of the upper frwquency signal...

The Enhancer section of the unit features two controls -

DRIVE - this controls the amount of signal being passed to the Enhancer compressor/drive section

Q - 'tunes' the enhancer harmonic content...

ENHANCE - controls the amount of 'enhancecer-section signalthat is mixed back into the original signal

Finaly comes the OUTPUT control which is ...er.. theoutput control... next to it is an LED ladder which gives a signal input level indicator


XLR balanced mic input with phantom power (switchable) - Nice solid quality XLR socket
Line input 1/4" un-balanced
Insert - to add another FX unitor signal modifier such as an amp-simulator for guitar, eq unit etc...
MIX-IN - this is an interesting addition, and allows you to bring in an additional source to blend with the original input signal... Signals passed to the MIX-IN blend with the In-UNIT signal at the output
OUT-1 & OUT-2... this is a cool idea... two outputs in parrallel- you can use one to send to your soundcard input to record, and the other you can use as a monitor chain - this is cool where your PC systenm gives crap latency , you CAN monitor in real-time by sending the other parrallel output to your mixer for listening, whilst the other Output feeds the PC for recording.. Nice touch !...


Well, what you want to know is.. is it any good??... So far I've used it on a couple of sessions...

The first was for vocals... We had to get a vocal down to overlay on a stereo backing for some film music being done over in Hollywood... simple to setup, just plugged in the old faithful CALREC mic, and off we go.... the compressor works a treat being transparent if you want it to be, yet keeping the signal dynamic's nicely under control for a fairly inexperienced vocalist without great mic technique... Also, the Calrec, whilst real crisp, is a very sensitive mic, particularly prone to top-end distortion as it doesnt have great SPL level handling... which is great for acoustic guitars etc, but can prove a problem for vocals if the singer has low mic technique...

The first thing I noticed was that the VC3 gave a crystal clear sound but without even a trace of sibilance which I usually get with my normal mixer Mic input... sure, I use a sheild over the mic, but the VC3 really does the business giving a super crisp vocal which was real easy to setup... The Enhancer section particularly helped this process, allowing me to add-in the crispness after the mic gain, (which is super wide)... we were up and working in no time at all.... No need for the usual prolonged tweaking of mic-in, compressor etc to get an 'Optimum sound' before recording started... Also, the enhancer (after tuning by ear), helps to add some nice 'shimmer' and prescence to the vocal... in practice it helps to define the content of the vocals, making the words more legible without having to turn particular eq-bands for the vocal UP higher than you'd like to achieve that clarity, and making the vocal crisper and more upfront overall... but without being overly harsh... I definately thought the Enhancer section was better or rather, 'more practically useful' than the Aphex units to my ears...

On another session I used it to DI my bass... and even with some really tired old strings, after some initial setting up, got a nice crisp bassline for some slap-bass work on a drum groove... The dynamic range available made it as good as using a guitar amp with a Direct-out, but with none of the 'weedy-ness' or 'flabby-ness' usually associated with plugging a bass straight into a line input... The compressor worked a treat, I compared it to both my Drawmer & Symetrix units, and the VC3 shows admirable quality ... nice attacking bass full of punch - The Enhancer section combined properly with the Compressor section proved really useful for adding 'whack' & definition to the slap basslines... (if only I had some new strings !!)...

All in all, for the money - which is very cheap at 199 squids.. this is a cracking unit... well built, solid, does the job... British made... so buy one !!... and see a massive improvement in all your vocal & other outboard line & mic recordings - this unit and others of it's ilk replaces that critical 'missing-link' for your PC recording's... decent reliable quality input...

The 'Joe Meek' range made by Fletcher ElectroAcoustics Ltd also includes amongst others: the C2 Optical Stereo compressor - The VC1 Pre/comp/enhancer (the VC3's bigger sister) - The VC2 which has a tube in it for wicked valve warmness - and The VC5 'Meequaliser' eq. unit, etc etc etc - They also now do a range of mic's.... Cracking products with a superb reputation & loads of industry acclaim - Check them all out at their website - (see left column)

enjoy.. I suggest you give one a try.... I want 8 of them !!!....

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Last added comment

Product:  Joe Meek - VC3 (V2)
Name: Sam
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: part-timer
Date: 31-May-07

I have owned a JoeMeek VC3 for years, as well as the 2 channel full sized C2. These units are used by loads of top selling artists when recording in the studio thier Heavy Ass metal, electronic or other heavy banging tunes. My personal experience is that the VC3 and other high end true optical compressors, watch the compressor may take getting used to with different program material. I have seen reviews where they love a bass guitar with the VC3 but male vocals were to flat. It isn't going to work like a dbx. Or other similar VCA electronic based compressors. The compressor, attack, threshold are all working to give you the compression. If you have the compressor wound up to 7 (3 oclock) because no compression leds are active and it sounds the same as bypassed, you have the attack settings and the threshold/release settings off, maybe just a little. Also try turning the INPUT UP UP UP. Get a strong signal to compress. Red LEDS are OK.. You will hear it if you clip, the joemeek is so pro it will let you add 12 db gain compress the signal so drums bump and vocals don't, and add crisp shine to the cymbals and vocals with the exciter. Same with that exciter. Remember the exciter is so permanant, don't scew up a master recording trying to Brite everything. Its specific - cymbals, vocals, guitar leads or turn all three knobs up and get the sickest digital artifacts ever if its your thing. I will also add last, it is quiet. You WONT GET LINE NOIZE even sitting beside your crappy 17 inch mongo SVGA box monitor. Not a whizz. or FM radio station as my other dbxs like to playback for me.
. I think it (Joemeek VC3) is a discontinued (updated with other features)item in the Joemeek line, don't accept that as fact, I wrote this June of 2007 and I have only seen the other half spaced units for the last 3 years, Thats ok, get a used one, test the ins and out, make sure the knobs don't scraattch. Buy one. surely at a great price. Thinking of a RNC unit? forget those, they hardly do squat. Check out the specs on the RNC, the noise THD is whack. Thats not studio equip. for a home theatre maybe, never put that kind of unbalanced noize ratio in your setup, you will think its anything but your nice NEW happy compressor. And go nuts replacing cables, or just record noizy hiss with those masterpieces. SAM, USA

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