Joemeek VC1Qcs by manysounds
This unit gets both bad reviews and lots of love everywhere. It is a quirky box with a wide range of sounds and a rare find these days. It's one of the last units that Ted Fletcher designed for JoeMeek before their split. I think I only saw one of these on Ebay throughout all of 2011 and I actively look for it (for kicks). So those who do have them generally tend to keep them, apparently...
This is a straight forward box on the outside but maybe somewhat complicated on the inside. It has a mic and DI input on the front and a mic and TRS line input on the back with two outputs, XLR and TRS. There is full 48v phantom, a 12db high pass at 75hz, a mic/line and a phase reverse all switchable followed by a Compressor, an EQ section, a de-esser/enhancer and a make-up gain for the output. Each section has a hard-bypass switch and the VU has a switch to view input level or gain reduction.
There is the "current sense" microphone pre-amp, the "cs" of the name. Widely regarded by most ears as the worst part of the box. It is slightly punchy and crisp crisp crisp in the high end. Perhaps a bit too crisp for many people and one of the reasons people put the unit down. It is not what I'd call warm or full but the mid range is represented well. I've enjoyed using it a few times to bring out the breathiness of some female backup singing. On the flip-side the DI input on the front of the box is nice and round sounding but perhaps the inputs are a little "scooped out" sounding. It's done extremely well with some dark ribbons and dynamics but mayhaps some condensers are just too sparkly for this sparkly pre. On a side note, it's relatively flat down to 10hz then on down to 6 according to the manual.
The compressor section is very much Ted Fletcher style Joe Meek opto-compression. The knobs are confusing to "by the book" people, for sure, and that is probably another reason this unit gets low marks for. There is a variable "Slope" setting that is a combination of compression ratio and a variable knee that changes in response to the material's loudness and peaks. It's very wild and as a result you can achieve high levels of transparent compression or amazing pump effects. The manual says a few interesting things about it. "Ratio minimum approx. 1.5:1, max approx. 8 to 1 (position 5)" and "In use, all of the settings are inter-related" and it acts like each setting in the compressor section changes the way the other settings are working. Adding to that the threshold marked as "compression" and it doesn't function like a normal comp threshold setting. SO it is very much set by ear instead of by rote, as it should be.
The EQ section is atypical as well and is definitely MEEQUALIZER style. A low shelf at 100hz, a high shelf at 8k and an extreme mid from 750hz-4k and a 1.2 "Q" to keep it musical even with wicked boosts/cuts. In practice I almost always end up doing things with this EQ that I would never ever do with others EQs and have gotten pleasing and wild results.
The de-esser/enhancer is definitely a bit strange with drive, Q and a knob that goes from out of phase harmonics ("de-ess") to very extreme enhancement. The effect is crazy and indescribable. I haven't had good use out of this secton for de-essing but have definitely used the enhancer to make some really interesting vocal sounds.
My favorite way to use this has been to really squeeze a vocal with the comp then insanely cut the highs/lows while boosting the midrange with the EQ and then applying far too many enhancer harmonics. Add some verb and delay and you have one seriously other-wordly vocal sound. That sound definitely has its place, if you can find it. I've used it for electric guitars with a 409 and loved it and also with LDCs for finger-pickin' acoustic guitar. Other than that I've gotten great results as an acoustic bass pickup DI/strip and a room mic channel strip. Now that I think about it, the mono room mic/overhead might be where this unit really does its most amazing things. Just remember, it is far from colorless.
A collector of different sounds should jump on this unit if they see one on EBay. Typical prices have been from 450-750 when seen. I bought mine new for ~800 in 2000 I think... it's been a while. I'll probably hold on to this one forever. It's definitely an inexpensive way to add color to your sound.