The Joemeek MEC500 recreates the punchy sound of the photoelectric Compressors used by legendary record producer Joe Meek in the 1960's. Robustly engineered for predictable, controllable performance, powerful yet simple to use, the MEC500 will bring the gloss of a professional production to all you recordings and live performances!
Perhaps the hardest studio device to understand, yet one of the most useful, the Compressor's job is to make quiet sounds louder and loud sounds quieter, or in other words to control dynamic range of programme material. It's a bit like manually riding a volume control, except the compressor does it automatically, responding far quicker and more accurately than you ever could by hand. This can be used in several ways:
Make Sounds Stand Out - making quiet sounds louder without the loud bits getting even louder, means you can raise the average level of an instrument or vocal in the mix. This can actually improve vocals for example, by bringing them out in front of the mix, making them sound denser, more even, and more confident!
Crank Up The Volume - raising the average volume of whole mixes is what makes rock music, radio stations and TV commercials all sound LOUD!
Protect - using fast Attack and Release times to control brief transients is known as "limiting" and is used to protect recorders and monitoring systems from overload.
Accommodate - mixes intended for AM and FM radio broadcasts are compressed to fit the restricted dynamic range, which also gives a certain "feel" to the production.
Modify - a compressor can be used to change the dynamics, or "envelope" of a track.
If the input gets 10dB louder but the compressor only allows the output to increase by 5dB, then the compression ratio is "2 to 1". If the input goes up 10dB but the output only goes up 1dB, then the compression ratio is "10 to 1". But there is more to it than that: in the Joemeek optical compressor the compression ratio varies with the amount of compression. Suppose the 'SLOPE' control is set to 5:1. For signals only just exceeding threshold, the ratio is little more than 1:1. As the signal gets bigger, the ratio rises to 5:1, but eventually reduces again. This helps to retain brightness and is why optical compressors can often sound more lively than their VCAcounterparts.
Set 'COMPRESS', 'ATTACK' and 'MAKE UP GAIN' fully anti-clockwise, with 'SLOPE' and 'RELEASE' at mid-position. Press the Compressor 'ON' switch and turn up 'COMPRESSOR' until the GR meter starts to read. You should now hear the compressor working. Use the 'MAKE UP GAIN' control to restore the volume and use the 'ON' switch to compare compressed and uncompressed sound. Experiment with different control settings to discover what best suits the material.
'COMPRESS' sets the level of signal (the "threshold") above which the signal starts to be compressed. Turn clockwise to lower the threshold and drive the compressor harder.
'SLOPE' sets the compression ratio applied to signals above threshold. Turning clockwise increases the ratio and makes the effects of compression more dramatic. Slopes around 3:1 are gentle for vocals while higher slopes are hard for drums and guitars. At maximum (10:1) the Joemeek compressor effectively becomes a limiter.
'ATTACK' sets how quickly the compressor reacts to peaks above threshold. Set to around mid-position for natural sounding vocals where the compression needs to be less obvious. Longer times allow the fast leading edge of percussive sounds to pass uncompressed for a moment, exaggerating the percussive nature of drums and other instruments. Use the 'FAST' switch and lots of compression for more extreme effects.
'RELEASE' sets how long the compressor goes on squashing the sound for, after the signal drops below threshold. Short times can result in modulation or "pumping" of the sound for special effect, while longer Release times give less obvious compression.
An eight segment LED, reverse-reading, bargraph gives a true measurement of gain reduction, by comparing audio levels before and after the PhotoOptical gain cell.
Two MEC500's can be used together for stereo. To avoid shifts in the stereo image, press the LINK switches on both, then choose one MEC500 to be "MASTER" and press the 'SLAVE' switch on the other. The Master's 'COMPRESS', 'ATTACK' and 'RELEASE' now control both MEC500's and the corresponding controls on the Slave are redundant. All other controls still function and must be set the same on both units for stereo balance.
If you have a Radial Workhorse or compatible rack, you can use the rear Omniport connectors to link a pair of MEC500's for stereo and avoid cables hanging out of the front panels - use a 1/4" stereo jack lead wired pin-for-pin. You can also send the output of the MEC500 to the rack's internal mix buss. To do this, locate jumper J1 on the main circuit board near the edge connector. Move the jumper onto the innermost two pins.