While this outboard EQ provides little more than a decent desk EQ in the way of facilities, it does have that distinctive vintage JoeMeek sound at a price that won't break the bank.
The JoeMeek Meequaliser appears to offer no more than you'd be likely to find on the EQ section of a typical budget desk — high and low shelving controls, plus a single sweep mid. However, no matter how similar the control layout, or even the paper specifications, equalisers by different designers always sound different. This particular dual‑channel design is based very closely on a circuit originally used by Joe Meek in his own studio, and is said to comprise simple bass and treble shelving controls with a mid circuit based around an inductive filter — one that uses a wound‑coil inductor rather than a capacitor in a gyrator feedback circuit. Indeed, Ted Fletcher (the man who refined Joe Meek's original designs), has few kind words to say in favour of typical desk equalisers based on gyrator circuitry.
Built into the familiar JoeMeek green 1U case, the Meequaliser has TRS jack ins and outs that can be used balanced or unbalanced. In fact there are two identical outputs per channel, just in case you need to split the signal. Additionally, each channel has a direct insert TRS jack socket that can be connected to a console's insert point with a regular stereo jack cable (though there are still one or two mixers that wire their inserts the opposite way to everybody else, so this may not work in all cases). This connection is, of course, unbalanced. Power comes from an internal supply connected via an IEC lead.
The front panel controls are both simple and familiar, though they have no centre detents. Treble comes first, providing up to 18dB of cut or boost at a fixed frequency of 8kHz. The Bass control offers the same range, but at 100Hz. Around 16dB of cut and boost is available from the mid‑range controls, with a second pot sweeping the frequency between 600Hz and 3.5kHz. The mid‑range Q varies with frequency, from around 1.2 at 600Hz to a tighter 2.5 at 3.5kHz. This has less range than I usually like from mid controls, as I find it valuable to be able to get into the 150‑200Hz band to modify errant bass sounds, but I'll reserve judgement until after the listening test. The final control, accompanied by a dual green/red LED level indicator, provides up to 12dB of overall gain or attenuation. A separate bypass switch, with status LED, is fitted for each of the two channels.
I tested the VC5 Meequaliser alongside the 3‑band EQ section of one of my own small consoles (one that I regard as being reasonably good), and in all respects the VC5 produced nicer sounding results. With drums, for example, the bass control on the VC5 adds weight but doesn't mess up the mid‑range or create an unnatural sound — it simply acts like a volume control on the bass elements of the sound, which is how I feel it should be. The treble control emphasises cymbals and transient hits, but you have to add quite a lot before the sound gets aggressive or spitty, whereas I only had to add a little of my desk EQ before the top end took on a rattly quality.
The mid‑range control works very sweetly, and you can pile on a lot of boost without feeling you're overdoing it. Again, trying similar settings with my desk EQ resulted in a rather more nasal sound.
Re‑testing with vocals showed the bass control on the VC5 to be particularly good at bringing out the chest resonance of the voice in a very natural and controlled way, while my desk EQ (fixed at 80Hz rather than 100Hz), seemed almost to miss it entirely. I put this down to the gentle slopes of the VC5, which must bring the bass EQ right up into the mid‑range, though no curves are provided to corroborate this impression. Similarly, with mixed material, modest amounts of EQ are effective in sweetening the overall sound without giving it that phasey, disembodied quality that desk EQs often seem to impart.
This isn't an EQ for making radical changes to a sound, but more a sweetening EQ for use in situations where you need to make tonal changes without sacrificing the natural character of the original sound. It's probably fair to say that it's most useful on mixes and vocal tracks, where it works exceptionally well, but it's also flexible enough to work with guitar and bass, providing the type of change you're after isn't too radical. Obviously there are better equalisers around if you're prepared to spend the money, and there are equalisers with rather more flexibility, but as with the existing JoeMeek products, the VC5 has a smooth, friendly character that should win it a lot of friends. If you're disillusioned with your desk EQ, but can't afford one of the big‑name esoteric outboard equalisers, the Meequaliser could be exactly what you need.
- Warm, musical sound.
- Not excessively expensive.
- Simple to operate.
- 3‑band, fixed‑Q format makes it less flexible than some other models.
- Limited mid‑sweep range.
- Only one mid band.
The VC5 Meequaliser is a simple, straightforward 3‑band equaliser with a warm, natural sound. What it lacks in flexibility it makes up for in sonic charm.
£349 including VAT.