The latest update of Ted Fletcher's ubiquitous half-rack recording channel.
If, in all but colour, the TFPro P3 bears a striking resemblance to an older Joemeek product, it is because designer Ted Fletcher has parted company with the Joemeek name and is now marketing his revised designs under the TFPro name. The Joemeek name has been bought by the company that formerly distributed the Joemeek line in the United States, so some time soon we can expect to see green Joemeek products back on the market, though these will probably have undergone some radical design changes. Apparently Ted experimented with all kinds of colours, as he couldn't go on using green and didn't want to go for something too common like black, so he eventually settled on a rather nice muted shade of red.
The TFPro P3 is a mains adaptor-powered, 1U half rack-width voice channel which combines a mic preamp with an opto compressor and a three-band equaliser. It can accept mic-level signals via a rear-panel XLR or line-level signals via a balanced jack connector. There are two outputs on balanced jacks, a feature that comes in handy when you need to set up a zero-latency monitoring feed for a performer doing an overdub in a computer-based setup. If the spare line output is fed to the mixer in charge of the performer's monitor mix, it means the performer can monitor their overdub from its source rather than via software, though you must remember to mute the software-monitored signal to avoid a doubling or flanging effect in the headphone mix. A Mix In jack is also fitted that can be used to mix another signal with the existing mic or line input, plus there's a TRS insert jack that allows additional processing to be inserted between the preamp and the following stages.
The mic preamp is based on Ted Fletcher's current-sensing design and works well with pretty much any dynamic or capacitor microphone. Full 48V phantom power can be applied by means of a rear-panel button (with its associated red status LED also on the rear panel, oddly enough). The benefit of a current-sensing design is that it isn't unduly affected by microphone impedance, so, in theory, all low-impedance mics should 'match' it perfectly. A front-panel button selects mic or line mode and the only other control associated with the preamp stage is a gain control calibrated from 0-60dB. Separate buttons switch the compressor and EQ sections in and out of circuit.
No make-up gain control is required by the compressor, as the system used effectively changes the level of the input signal relative to a fixed threshold using the Compression knob. This isn't a unique approach, though it is less common than the variable-threshold system used in the majority of modern compressors. Two further knobs adjust the attack and release time constants, though there's no programme-dependent release option. As with Ted's earlier compressor circuits used during his 'green' period, the P3 uses a lamp/photocell topography, which gives it a somewhat non-linear, soft-knee characteristic that produces a distinct flavour of compression. This works particularly well on vocals where you want an obviously compressed sound, and in most cases it sounds pretty musical and assertive, though there are inevitably occasions where it doesn't suit the source being treated. Setting up has to be done mainly by ear, as the only gain-reduction read-out is a single yellow LED — in most cases, this should flicker only on signal peaks.
The EQ section offers three fixed-frequency cut/boost bands at 80Hz, 1.5kHz and 8kHz, with 16dB of cut or boost in each band. A five-LED bar-graph level meter monitors the output signal level, plus there's an output gain knob that goes from off to +6dB. A red Peak LED in the EQ section comes on just before clipping and, as this comes post-EQ, it warns of excessive EQ boosting. The EQ bands are well chosen, given that they can't be varied in frequency, though I'd generally use the mid-band only for cutting, as boosting in the 1.5kHz area usually makes vocals sound harsh and nasal. Of course this harshness could be used as a deliberate effect — just don't expect me to listen to your demos!
The preamp section of the TFPro P3 is quiet and generally clean sounding with plenty of gain adjustment range, while the compressor has a distinct '60s 'opto' quality that can be a bit over-obvious if not adjusted carefully, but equally it can sound very good on pop and rock vocals as well as on bass guitar and other instruments. The EQ is very simple and quite sweet sounding and is fine for general tonal adjustments, but far less useful for 'surgical' tonal correction. In all, the P3 offers little that we haven't seen before in Ted's designs, but it delivers a quality sound with a distinct character in an affordable and easy-to-use format.