Ted Fletcher, the original Joemeek founder and designer, now develops products under his own name. This new British-built model comprises a 3U unit with two channels, each featuring microphone and instrument preamplifiers, compressors and EQs. The P10 processes signals from microphones or instruments for recording directly into a multitrack or DAW, or insert processing when mixing. Its price places it in the upper-midrange of the market.
Behind the impressively crammed front panel the case is surprisingly shallow and lightweight. The input section of each channel includes separate Mic and Line non-latching XLR inputs, Line TRS jack, plus a front panel Instrument jack. All these feed a transformer input before the amplifier circuit, with all inputs sharing the same gain knob which includes an Off position and goes up to 75dB, with few more dBs gain available using the Output knob. This huge gain capability is useful when recording low output mics, but the last 5dB of gain at the top introduces a fairly audible hiss. The input selector makes it slightly too easy to select 48V phantom power for our liking, especially with no illuminating indicator of its status. The switchable 12dB per octave high-pass filter set at 75Hz is useful for removing bumps and thumps. And also located on each channel’s input section is the ‘almost unique’ Vari-Phase knob. This feature is much like Little Labs’ dedicated IBP boxes, but we haven’t previously encountered it included in a recording channel.
Using full-frequency range filters (‘all-pass’), varying degrees of phase shift are achievable, a very valuable function useful for preventing frequency cancellation when combining, say, a guitar’s DI’d signal with an amp’d mic’d signal, where the mic distance inevitably results in phase shift. The knob goes from Off to 180 degrees, this operates only on frequencies above 250Hz. Disappointingly, as soon as you start to turn the knob slightly and engage the circuit, there is a noticeable loss of high frequencies, we measured -8dB@10kHz; these mostly return as you turn the knob further. The associated 180 degree phase reverse button also uses a filter circuit for less of a click. Outputs are on XLR sockets and TRS jacks which allow simultaneous connection – record from the XLR and monitor the jack perhaps. Also on the rear are useful TRS jacks for separate balanced insert sends and returns which are between the input section and the compressor.
The two large VUs operate either as compressor gain reduction indicators, or show the level post-processing but pre-output gain knob. However, when these read 0dB the output level is a few dB quieter when the output knob is set to 0dB. They are gently illuminated – this is the only indication of power when the little rocker switch is flipped to On. Signal present and Overload LEDs add further visual feedback.
The Compressor/Limiter section includes all the usual controls of Ratio, Threshold, Attack and Release, plus a four-position Model knob which governs the style of compression. Ratio goes from 1.5:1 (even lower might have been useful) up to a brick-wall 100:1. Make-up gain must be applied using the main Output gain knob. The Compressor is a powerful, with four markedly different ‘Model’ characters. However, generally the compression takes place with remarkably little effect on the frequency response of the signal, with no obvious dulling or blooming, and low distortion. Although there are dedicated controls for timing, the model switch changes its characteristics with claims to be more VCA-like in position 1, UA 1176 style at 2, LA-2A at 3, with 4 seeming similar to the original Joemeek models. Model 2 exhibits an exciting fast release; Model 4 is great for aggressive drum and bass buss compression. The Attack and Release times very much depend on the chosen model. Space precludes a detailed description of each model, but suffice to say a broad range of compression is available, albeit with an optical signature to all models. The emulations aren’t strictly accurate, but it is undoubtedly useful having these different flavours. In any mode this is a useful compressor for taming vocals and guitars.
The EQ section is four-band, all peaking with fixed Q and sweepable frequency knob except the high band which is switchable between 8kHz and 12kHz. The other three bands overlap their frequency ranges slightly. With a fairly broad bandwidth (Q=1.5), small nudges of the frequency knobs are very subtle, it is easy to set up and not at all fiddly. Similarly the cut/boost knobs are quite subtle until cranked quite a way before their full power is revealed. The bottom end is terrific, extending deeply without seeming over-hyped. The mids are powerful, but despite the broad Q the high frequencies tend towards aggressive rather than sweet when boosted at either frequency.
The mic preamp section sounds clear and natural, if a little less detailed and less hyped than, say, a vintage Neve clone or a tube model. With relatively low impedance, the Instrument input is considerably less zingy in the upper midrange for guitars than most rival units, and overloads more easily with high output guitars. The compression section is excellent, with plenty of variety, and time spent familiarising oneself with the different models is well spent. The powerful EQ is a matter of taste – if you like broad swathes this might appeal, but it’s less suitable for surgical corrections. If the Vari-Phase circuit didn’t cause such HF loss that might be the clincher. In a rack the deep knobs make it difficult to see the legending, and we’re not completely convinced that the manual’s hyperbole regarding design aspects translates into this being the ultimate studio weapon. But the P10 is undoubtedly worthy of consideration, and is a refreshingly characterful performer compared to blander rivals.
Dual Channel; each channel with:-
All balanced transformer inputs and 'class-A' circuitry.
Phase reverse, variable phase control and high pass filter.
4 switchable inputs,
Advanced emulation 'Ted Fletcher' optical compression with stereo linking.
4 Compressor Models
4-band Equaliser with variable frequency bass and mids.
Analogue level and compression metering.
Designed for quality 'character' recording and tracking for stereo or mono sources.
Hand built in the UK.
At this level, consider some valve alternatives… MindPrint’s DTC includes more comprehensive EQ but simpler compression, the well-featured TL Audio Ivory 5052 Mk2 is slightly cheaper, and the Drawmer 1960 is a classic unit that invented the recording channel concept, but its EQ section is sparse, and compression rather gloopy.
The Vari-Phase knobs correct phase differences between DI and mic signals from the same guitar, or two spaced mics. Split the signals into the two channels. Turn both Vari-Phase knobs to Off. Balance them to monitor equal levels of the two signals with them both panned to the centre; (solo individually to check). Switch one of the 180 degree phase buttons to the position where you hear and/or meter the loudest or beefiest signal. Then turn the Vari-Phase knob (use the channel with the least treble content) and listen carefully to find the point at which the signal is fullest.
Almost unique Vari-Phase circuit very useful
Very high gain mic input
Neutral sounding mic preamp
Terrific extended frequency response
Great low-end EQ
Great sounding and extremely flexible compressor
Designed by a legendary and innovative industry figure
Walk On By
HF EQ can be slightly harsh when boosted
Vari-Phase circuit causes HF loss
Neutral sounding mic preamp
Flat sounding instrument input
Level calibration slightly inaccurate
Closely bunched knobs are too tall
No phantom power indicator light
Verdict: A characterful and quirky recording channel with fabulous compression, great low-end and unique Vari-Phase circuitry
Reproduced with kind permission from George Shilling. Copyright George Shilling.