Joemeek VC6 "The Meekbox": This is a one-channel rackmount preamp with compressor and enhancer. This model, made in England, came before the later VC6Q and VC6Q CS models. They are not exactly the same, but I haven't reviewed those later ones yet.
It has instrument, line, and microphone inputs, and the mic input has switchable phantom power. The instrument jack has a 180K input impedance, which is quite low--it will give passive instruments a dark sound. Interestingly, the manufacturer says they chose that low input impedance based on their testing with a Fender Jazz bass.
The compressor section is pretty much the same optical design used in most Joemeek products. It has controls for threshold, ratio, attack, and release. The comp has its own bypass switch, which is transparent and effective. Unlike with many other rack comps, bypassing the compression here does not cause problems with different gain levels. There's also an LED that indicates the amount of signal over the threshold. The action is smooth and kind of syrupy, though not exaggerated--much less dip and swell than in the later MC2 that I tested. It is capable of some peak limiting, but the max ratio is 6:1 so it is better at gentle smoothing and medium compression. The tone of the comp section is not transparent exactly, but the coloration is quite subtle. There is no noise, and no loss of highs, however the highs can get attenuated or muddied under heavy compression. The lows are not lost per se, but the tone of the preamp overall emphasizes the highs and mids, so the lows seem less strong by comparison.
The enhancer section is designed to boost upper harmonics, for a brighter tone. The "enhance" knob controls the amount of the effect, the "drive" knob controls the amount of harmonic distortion added, and the "Q" knob controls the width of the range of frequencies affected. At low levels it adds some shine and "pop" to your tone; at high levels it has a harsh aggressive cutting quality, good for thrashy music only. The distortion is not like a distortion pedal effect, more like a rough edge on top of your signal, and at low settings it's quite subtle, just adding a bit of shine.
The tone of the preamp overall is bright and not bassy, so I'd recommend it very strongly for people who want a jangly or cutting tone, and I would not recommend it to somebody who wanted a fat or dubby tone. It was made for rock'n'roll.
The construction quality is decent--not super robust, but not flimsy either. I'd gig it without worries, but I wouldn't mash the comp button too often. One nice thing is that it's much shallower and lighter-weight than most other rack preamps. It takes an IEC standard detachable AC cord for power.
Price in USD: $130-$160 used, no longer available new.
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