Joemeek oneQ2 by Chris Martins
JoeMeek has been a household name for colored mic pres since the days of the VC1Q and this unit is a proud heir to that era. But it sports a few tricks that its venerable ancestor couldn't achieve.
So features first : it's a channel strip with a mic pre with phantom power, phase inverter, Iron switch ( more on that later ), 20dBs pad, and line input, as well as a DI Hi-Z input, it also has a 4 band EQ with parametric low and hi mids, Hi Pass and either 7 or 14kHz high band, PhotoOptical compressor, Enhancer and De-Esser... Need more ? Alright, it had an onboard AD converter with AES/EBU/Spdif output with up to 96khZ conversion, and a side input for another preamp, so as not to let that stereo conversion half go to waste. How's that for features ?
First of all, YES ! It can do clean and transparent, unlike its ancestors which could only do colored and dirty. You get 10 to 60dBs of gain on the mic pre, which is more than enough in most situations ( it can prove a little short on gain on extremely low output ribbon mics picking up very subtle instruments, but how often are you going to get into this situation ? ), and yes, it does get noisy in the last 10% of the available gain, as most mic pres do. At unity gain, it's noise free and the output is quite generous, so you can keep it clean and still get a good, loud, noise free signal.
There's a switch labelled "Iron" that engages an input transformer and gives the pre an extra push and some attitude, and on heavy guitars, vocals, drums, bass and other high energy instruments, it gets you a great rocking vintage tone, the EQ is quite responsive and adds a bit of color to the overall sound, but it's the famous JoeMeek Photo Optical compressor that acts as the master tone sculpting tool.
You can add distortion with it, or keep it "relatively" transparent, make it pump like crazy but once you switch it on, you know it's there, even if your setting is dead flat. That's the beauty of that compressor, and it's very musical too. Sure it can get nasty, but it does something to your sound that no other can and on a DI bass, it's just plain awesome.
The downside is that the compressor can be a little difficult to apprehend initially, but once you get the hang of it, you can do stuff with it that no other type of compressor will let you do. It's beautiful on a snare or kick, and it work really well on rock vocals too.
The enhancer and de-essers work great, but I seldom use them for what I do. Again, they act more as tone altering/sculpting tools than corrective tools in my opinion.
I've tried the OneQ with my Z5600A, SM57s, Rode NT3, Beta 58, T-Bone SC180s and many more mics and everytime I ended up with something not just usable but also musical.
There are cleaner channel strips out there, there are dirtier strips too, but usually you have to settle for one or the other, and pay a hefty price for it. This unit does it all, does it great, looks sexy in a rack and is affordable. You won't find anything that does more than what the OneQ does at twice the price. What's not to like ?