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Thread: JOEMEEK VC1 GEAR REVIEW ..transformer preamp and opto comp in 2020

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    JOEMEEK VC1 GEAR REVIEW ..transformer preamp and opto comp in 2020

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    I grabbed a JOEMEEK VC1 rev3. and a cup of Starbucks Hazelnut.

    JOEMEEK VC1, the first 19" rack version. 199x ... it followed the "brick" box. The Brick shaped like the ISA One type design preceded this VC1. This VC1 rev3 is 19" standard rack piece and the rev 3 added a phase switch. The transformer and all electronics is the same as the Brick, and precedes the VC1Q (Q= EQ). All the inside is the same per Ted Fletcher the designer and things didnt change for a few years until the VC1Q when EQ and more knobs were added making it visually obvious. This is the first VC1 "with all the knobs in a straight line".

    These JOEMEEKS are a good read and interesting design, imo. Ive owned a few over the years, new and old, VC1Q and the VC3's.
    The manual is great but also there are posts from Ted Fletcher the designer whose gone into details of design.
    http://www.joemeek.com/pdf/vc1hb.pdf

    The Preamp design based off a British Broadcasting console, the transformer designed for large signals for low distortion, and overbuilt in a good way for microphone levels. The unique gain structure is a multi-gain stage with "no gain stage having more than 25db gain per stage that eliminates transient distortions". The Transformer is a "high permeability core, 90% mu-metal and wound using a bi-filar technique for high efficiency, good freq response, excellent common mode rejection". Interesting in the Rabbit Hole of transformers, this unit has the OEP transformer that was bought by Carnhill 2014, , which bringing it all current is the OEP/Carnhill BAE 1073MP choice of transformers...as BAE says about the OEP/Carnhill transformer DI "it imbue any signal passed through it with a warmth and analog richness".

    the manual link above mentions more on the compressor and voice enhancer. It also has a DI input for instruments tossed in!!! and Switchcraft jacks again adding to the well built early units. ($great value)

    COST:
    From the internet searches retail was as high as $1099 back in those days, common used prices in past few years have always seemed $400-$600 though on the street. GAS got me when I saw one for $279, but then was pleasantly surprised when it arrived in a 6U SKB case in perfect shape too ($200new). So against my new years resolution to stop gear buying , the deal was too sweet.

    GEAR LOVE:
    I love the gear and JOEMEEK was a early piece for me. The gang here turned me onto learning what preamps and comps were near 2004, the DMP3/RNC was big then and still is a "wow!" moment. It was like a really really pro sounding upgrade from my bland/empty porta studio mic pre's. To repeat the buzz a level higher , I grabbed a JOEMEEK VC1Q and loved it but it was a much smaller "wow buzz" than the first pre/comp upgrade. Ive found this "smaller wow" to be consistent all the way up to $2500 units for me...with my ears and my monitoring situation. The dmp3/rnc is still a respectable unit in all ways against anything Ive had here.

    The JOEMEEK VC1 was touted as the British sound and colored to bring some extra tones to the bland and blank interface or cheap mixing board sounds. Its 2020, Ive since had and have many many other pieces through the Home Studio...more reading , more experience, more hindsight, more experience and gear under the bridge, the JOEMEEK VC1 Ted Fletcher stuff is a beautiful piece of gear and vibe. Of course being into the Beatles sound and recordings I thought "BRITISH SOUND!!" thats what Im seeking. The JOEMEEK did have a cool sound and the analog knobs allowed tweaking and DI was very nice for bass . BEATLES SOUND buzz!! British green....(I had no idea back then about Neumanns and REDD's then before high speed internet was just starting, and surfing on phone lines was so slow I didnt bother.).

    The whole concept of the large consoles being torn apart and channel strips of NEVEs, API and SSL becoming a wave of single channel strips but with much higher quality than the cheap mixing boards was the thing for studios and smaller studios. The Home Studio market benefited by the single channel strip or two strips for a "pro" sound without buying a large console. Seems over the years the massive gear market has now turned into a battle of Clone-1073 and Clone -Neumann mic and Clone-Compressors (1776 & LA2A) should have us all sounding the same.

    CHANNEL STRIPS? TRANSFORMERS? OPTO Comps?
    The JOEMEEK VC1 isnt some clone-1073, but it is a Transformer Preamp so not considered super-clean. It was designed to sound better than a bland ic chip cheap mixing board and yet in a decent price range for those who werent buying NEVE Original 1073 strips. The Compressor is of the optical flavor and again focused on Vocals...aka VC....Voice Channel. (not that you cant plug anythign into it).
    Interesting too of the history timeframe, Ted Fletcher mentions it was designed to some hi-end mics we all know, but also the times were the beginning of the Chineese Mic LDC invasion due to the booming Home Studios wanting LDC they could afford. So he was aware of the overly bright bumps in most these mic's coming in from Asia under various name-brands. (Jim Williams has a great article on how all the mic capsule stuff and bright spike characteristic of CHineese capsule mics developed).

    Transformers in physics are known to tame some shrill highs. I think one reason Transformers work well to our ears. I dont know if I can hear a difference like some Golden Ears between transformer windings and magnets and all that but theres something to it all obviously in the signal chain as all the infamous designer gurus used them and the transformer is still desired today. Opto compressors are pleasing to the ears though designed a long time ago seem to be here to stay and the JOEMEEK has this done very well and tuned for Voice with good suggestions for settings in the Manual. ( a great manual read too).

    CON and BASHING SECTION:
    The only thing I can bash is myself, because I dont use the gear enough, theres nothing to really bash in this review and at this used price.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails joemeek-vc1-png  
    Last edited by CoolCat; 01-11-2020 at 15:58.

    if it's not happening in the room, it ain't gonna happen on tape.-H.Gerst

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    I've always wanted one of VC series. So, with you're admittedly 'less than golden ears', is the difference between these and a DMP3 huge?

    With my damaged ears, this is one of the few pieces of gear that I still think I want. But do I? I seem to recall that they can do relatively transparent set at minimum, but can really color the sound (in a good way) if cranked.

    I would only desire the heavily colored sound, so is it worth it?
    "One thing led to another and, before we knew it, we were dead." --Michael O'Donoghue

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    Do you have or use plugins? If YES you use plugins....you'll get more "color" from those.

    DMP3 is a really nice preamp, no color and has gain, simple to use. The gang here recommended it and was my first and it was a "wow!" moment...but now I realize any pre-amp, decent gain, even a Cloudlifter can get those dynamics up. But after trying to just buy anything I wanted to hear for myself, seeking the "sound" of pro's.....I soon found out the color wasn't the preamp.
    And I found out the DMP3 sounded as good as a Rane MS1 that the Steely Dan Engineer liked and others said the MS1 sounded as good as some expensive Martech and they can all sound so similar..when clean. Not once did I test drive and say ...wow! that's 100x's better than the DMP3.
    So the DMP3 isn't the "color"...and none of the other preamps were either. (unless overdriven but that's another totally different thing) Not my current Cloudlifter either...the DMP3 is actually a better deal in some ways.(you get 2qty preamps)The Joe Meek Transformer does not have the dual-output design, so its a Input only and theres no "overdriving the output Transformers" (like 1073)….so that means,.,,the "Color" is the Compressor.

    The COMPRESSOR is the "color"......and the Joe Meek has that and yes, its got color..if you crank it up. Will you like it? I don't know.
    I changed from preamps to compressors....and found from comparing compressors there was the familiar sound of that crushed but clean, combo.

    The compressor is the optical design, and yes it can be invisible or squash ….but its not an LA2A or 1176. I suppose by design its more the OPtic- LA2A flavor but again its not all tube and overdriven tube circuits of 1950 LA2A either. (though articles of those who own the real LA2A post about their plugins being really close at times.)

    I went through a handful of compressors looking for the "color" and plugins work better for me, and I can put a Klanghelm on every track!! During the mix...as a LIMITER or COMPRESSOR...so that's cool. Ive a LA2A plug that can be cranked and get that sound, or the Boz +10db channel strip has a eq and comp and you can save a thousand settings for recall.

    Hardware Compressor....I think the VC is as good as any of the other channel strips, imo...the LA610(LA2A), MikeE9 Emperical Labs(1176), theres others..Lindell...and the VC is really as good as any of those imo. BAE using the same transformer in some pieces (in the original Made in England Joe Meek VC and VC1 and VC1Q.....not cs -JM) so good quality stuff at least in the original ones. My LA610 can sound bad too if I over compress and it can sound invisible if I under compress or limit..... and the Joe Meek VC1 was a great unit and at my $275 compared to this expensive LA610 $$$$$ as good as, imo. Compressor "color" is some thing a person has to try out. But putting color on in a mix is so much easier with Plugins. Im not sure I'll keep my LA610, its such a gorgeous gear thing but Im not rich enough to collect gear I don't use.


    For some $275 VC1? Its a great deal, a super deal! For $800 or $500?....I'd get a LA610, or even try a KT1176 for some compressor color and feed it with the DMP3. The MikeE E9 is probably the best of all Ive tried in hindsight, it had something, tank tough, huge clean gain but could go to a nice distortion Nirvana vibe....Ive never tried the KT1176 (MikeE9 is based on) or the clone LA2A recently. But I'll bet you would get more color-vibe from those than the VC1.

    $275!!! Why not keep it!!!???? I suffer from a gear-disease that seeks stream lined, one at a time gear...(it might be related to low bank account)….so if I have a piece and then another I don't need two. Same with microphones, Im recording one source not a wide range of customers. Same with preamps and other gear....

    Seems these days, it always comes down to the ITB vs Hardware thing, doesn't it?



    The New Joe Meek has a button with Transformer IN or OUT, and that was a great idea but when I tried the button I couldn't even tell a difference.
    Most transformers Ive heard don't add some huge tone change.....the thing I read is the IN and OUT transformers can overdrive each other and then you can get Tone changes with Trannys.

    Really the "compressors" are the tone-mojo..... better to try a KT1176 or some LA2A clone, imo.
    Last edited by CoolCat; 03-08-2020 at 06:26. Reason: add detail

    if it's not happening in the room, it ain't gonna happen on tape.-H.Gerst

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  5. #4
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    Yeah, that's what I meant, the compressor part of it that gives 'the Joe Meek sound'. I always thought I'd like it. I'm still in the dark ages and not a plugin guy, at least not yet.

    BTW, I wasn't really asking about the DMP3, I've got one.
    "One thing led to another and, before we knew it, we were dead." --Michael O'Donoghue

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    Ive had the VC3 and its very close to the VC 1.
    The VC 1 has the larger rack and DI and a bit more preamp transformer......but the sound is pretty close. Ive grabbed those for $80 before, now and then.
    If you dont like the VC3 you wont like the VC1.

    All I did was get a paypal account and started buying anything I wanted to test myself, then sold stuff (which sucks)....but it allowed me about 3 yrs I think its about all I did really, its just a hobby for me and Im not having customers and needing "large" mic lockers and preamps.

    The VC3 vs the old VC3, are different too....I tend to like the older joemeek stuff. I understand why some try selling the VC1 for $800 , its because they are cool and they have a cult following, when I saw one for $275! I jumped, it was so mint Im always amazed when that happens...but I took it back because Im going into something else this year.

    I had my LA610 up for sale too but the Joe Meek was ok to return and all my other units sold but the LA610 is so mint and expensive I would rather sell it locally and avoid any damage. But I would have sounded as good with either. I think the JoeMeek is a great deal and has some mojo, some love the EQ stuff and all that. If I win a lotto Id have a huge pile of gear probably....but would it be used or a museum? lol

    nothing wrong with dark ages! thats why I bought a Tube mic and the LA610 all tube with cinemag transformers for that "old school" vibe.
    I just dont hear so much difference. To be honest I still recall the frkn awesome chain of a DMP3 and RNC , it gave that "studio" sound, that combo is every bt as good as anything else Ive eve tried....but then the people who suggested that combo in 2005 were comparing to hi-end and all the rest, I suppose, right? ....the DMP3+RNC was and is impressive and theres little cost. The VC1Q was my next attempt to upgrade from the DMP3/RNC and it was much smaller a noticeable thing...then now after 10 or 20 units...the difference to the VC1 or VC1Q to the $1500+ is even smaller, imo.

    if it's not happening in the room, it ain't gonna happen on tape.-H.Gerst

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    So, what tube mic did you get? I'd still like to get an RNC AND a VC1.
    "One thing led to another and, before we knew it, we were dead." --Michael O'Donoghue

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    Rode NTV.
    has Jensen transformers and all hiend parts are stock. telefunken tube. stainless steel body.
    paid like $276.or something...retailed $1200. most people miss that its not the cheaper NTK. totally different.

    all the stories is RODE tried this flagship project using name brand Wima caps and Jensen transformers etc...but then decided it was too expensive and went with their own parts and split it off into the NTK cheaper and the K2 more expensive, and the Classic even more expensive. NTV was discontinued, short life and excellent parts.

    Its really probably a better home for it in a decent room, give it some distance 3-6ft away...., actually Ive not plugged it in for months. I have a small area I record in, like 6ft side to side. Dynamics is the logical choice, smart choice. Less wall pickup.

    I just did this one with a SM58 and slapping the table for bass kick drum and compression....love the p-bass sounds like a freight train piano string.. fun. I figure simple demo-scratch tunes with a 58 works, I like it a little more than my SM7.


    if it's not happening in the room, it ain't gonna happen on tape.-H.Gerst

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    You like your 58 more than your SM7?I don't particularly care for 58s. I'd rather sing into a 57 (with a screen) than a 58, but I know I'm not the norm. But I'd still far and away rather us my SM7b. The whole reason I got a DMP3 was to have something with enough gain for the 7b. Later on I got a GT Brick.

    But I still need a compressor.
    "One thing led to another and, before we knew it, we were dead." --Michael O'Donoghue

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    I dont know... my 58 has a little more top end I like, I like the build and style of the 7b better, but my ears likes the 58....and the 58's smaller and hangs on the mic arm better! the two mics are not that much different, its not like a 58 vs a KSM44 difference. Its a pretty small difference imo. The SM7b is worth every penny, it has the extra armour and filters and eq, its great, but the SM58 gets the win on cost and in a small closet studio hobby the 58 /57 is fine.

    When I started the mic seeking stage.... Holy Grail for myself... it was more crazy than preamps and compressors....theres too many mics. So I scaled down to Shure, they have one of each flavor design. Almost went with Sennheiser Ive owned a 421 or 441 years ago and liked it a lot....or AKG....anyway, Shure was that choice. Then started trying the different mics and reading about patterns. I think Ive bought the SM7b 2 or three times, then sell it. I havent plugged mine in for months this last time, its actually wrapped in a shipping box was going to gift it. I dont like things sitting around not used. ?

    The Cloudlifter is on my SM58 now, it sounds fine and gets processed later anyway. Thats my 2020 work flow. Clean in tracking, then put everything up, then sit down and Mix fun with my Headphones+GraceDesign headphone amp....

    I was listening to some dudes Jazz with a female voice and a U67>1073>LA2A real, not clones and it was great, with reverbs etc...but I dont think these days its anything special that cant be achieved on a hundred other mics...or clones.
    Of course putting together a Pro Studio all that mic locker stuff is required...er...or get a bunch of Slate Virtual Mic's...

    yeah the GT Brick Ive had that in the shopping cart before, cool piece and the REDDI bass tube box is highly rated.
    I went with the JDI for my bass, I bought it and sold it, then listening to tracks later it had a little something I liked and most of all it sets over by my bass guitars and goes DI with no power supply nothing, simple and sounds great. Im not going to doubt a good real bass player could make the cheaper DI's sound even better but I had the extra cash to grab the Jensen transformer version and be done, its a pro piece for $100? used.

    Over the GT brick a UA 610 solo is a little more but offers more and probably easier resale if you dont like it.

    funny in a way I have the LA610 which is another version of the Cloudlifter+JDI...(with no comp) going in.
    theres a sea of LA610's for sale and on a good day a person might get one for $700, usually $1000 but common to see an $800 one. the LA 610 is really a decent bang for buck with tubes $$$ and DI + Mic Pre + Comp + Impedance switch+ a real EQ section... GT box for $500-$600 ?

    Whats the review on the GT Brick?
    Last edited by CoolCat; 03-09-2020 at 05:23.

    if it's not happening in the room, it ain't gonna happen on tape.-H.Gerst

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    Well, I'm underwhelmed by the Brick, but I have a feeling that it's just beyond my ability to hear because of my hearing and my bottom feeder signal chain. It's not bad, it just doesn't do anything for me. I guess that's why I wanted a JM pre/compressor, to see if I could hear anything there. And that's for vocals. For bass, I actually prefer my Behri BDI21 Sansamp clone. Probably tells you how bad my ears are, especially now. I've suffered pretty severe hearing loss.
    "One thing led to another and, before we knew it, we were dead." --Michael O'Donoghue

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