Joe Meek VC8 Fathead Preamp / EQ / Compressor / Distortion


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The Fathead is one of the later Joe Meek devices designed & built by Ted Fletcher’s company, Fletcher Electroacoustics, It’s a 1U rackmount channel strip incorporating EQ,  compressor & optical distortion sections. It’s a rare unit – this is the first I’ve seen in about five years

The Fathead has a balanced XLR mic input & line in on the back panel and a front-panel instrument input. The preamp feeds the opto distortion section, then the insert point, compressor, equaliser and output section. There’s a signal flowchart on page 19 of the manual, reproduced below

The preamp mic input has a switchable 20dB pad and phantom power and there’s a switch for the instrument input. Opto distortion starts fairly subtle but quickly turns fruity and full-on audio destruction is available at higher settings. The EQ has sweepable lo & mid bands and a shelving hi frequency section and sounds better than most channel strips I’ve tried

The compressor has five presets and an amount pot. If you’re familiar with other Joe Meek compressors you’ll know what to expect – gluey, audible compression with plenty of character. Adding the Opto distortion seems to over-egg the pudding so I suspect most people will choose one flavour or the other

Overall this is a channel strip which aims for character over cleanliness and I think it does it rather well. The provision of a line-level insert point, mic, instrument & line inputs, tuner output and a mute button adds a lot of flexibility

“I developed the VC8 20 years ago as a ‘special’ for Mark Knopfler” – Ted Fletcher, 2021

Tested & working 100%. Photos show the unit for sale

Product manual

Talkbass thread Youtube demo