Sometimes it takes a while for things to grow on you. You know, that feeling when you get something new and there's a level of indifference. But over time you come to really appreciate it.
That's a feeling I've had often during this compressor review process. But then along come compressors like the FloorQ where there is instant gratification.
Warning: Here comes a spoiler alert. The JoeMeek FloorQ is an excellent compressor. It's one of those devices that is versatile and just plain works well with whatever I threw at it.
If you've considered buying a FloorQ I doubt you would be disappointed unless you are looking for something that significantly colors your tone. That's not what the JoeMeek is all about.
For those looking for a relatively transparent compressor with excellent control over attack, release, and compression there is a lot to like.
JoeMeek has long been known for the rackmount signal processing devices. The FloorQ is an attempt to deliver the same compression circuit in rackmount compressors like the M2. Additionally, the FloorQ has a built in preamp.
The FloorQ is an optical circuit and the tone is quite transparent, but warm and very smooth. It's not a tone coloration device, but it is certainly not sterile either. At virtually all configurations the FloorQ is quite satisfying and delivers a beautiful almost studio like feel of compression.
Let's start with the preamp which is engaged all of the time. If power is delivered to the FloorQ, the preamp is on. There is plenty of gain on tap and you can even drive a power amp with the FloorQ which could be very useful depending on how you intend to use a compression pedal. Because of this, the FloorQ would make an excellent choice to drive a long pedal chain.
The preamp is controlled by just one dial, the Input control. How you have the Input dial set will also determine the level of your signal when the compressor is bypassed. This means that whatever you feed into the FloorQ will be boosted by the level of the input dial and whatever comes after the FloorQ will be fed a boosted signal (whether the compressor is engaged or not). Unless of course you have the input dial set to 0. It has a very high input impedance, making it suitable for all types of instruments.
The Input dial also has a definite effect on the compression circuit itself. The higher the setting, the more aggressive the signal being fed to the compression engine.
The preamp is always clean. I never detected any distortion and there is plenty of headroom.
The Threshold control is labeled Compress. The ratio control is labeled Slope. Yes, a bit unconventional. In practice though it works fine once you understand the nomenclature. At high ratio and a low threshold the feel becomes pretty thick but doesn't feel overly squishy like some compressors can when dialed in like this. I don't suspect most people will select the FloorQ for this function though. At lower ratios and higher threshold the FloorQ becomes so pleasing and punchy, yet somehow so smooth at the same time. Ratio is variable from 1:1 to 10:1.
There is plenty of useful range with both the Compress and Slope functions.
The Output knob controls the amount of gain that is applied post compression to make up signal lost. There is plenty of gain available.
The Attack dial sets how quickly the compressor reacts to peaks above threshold. Turning it more counter clockwise delivers a quicker response, grabbing the initial transients more quickly. Turing more clockwise delivers a slower attack time which the fast leading edge of attack to pass uncompressed for a moment, before the compressor kicks in. The sweet spot for me was around 7 on the dial (2:00).
The Release dial sets how long the compressor goes on clamping down on the sound, once the signal has dropped below threshold. The longer the Release time, the less obvious is the compression. turning more clockwise slows the release time. I found the sweet spot to be around 5 on the dial (noon).
With those Attack and Release settings the FloorQ felt plenty punchy, but controlled and just better all around.
According to JoeMeek, the FloorQ operates with a "Variable Ratio" where the compression threshold is not clearly defined and the compression ratio varies with the amount of compression applied.
Here's how that plays out in practice. Suppose the Slope (ratio) control is set half-way to a ratio of 5:1 or so. For signals only just exceeding threshold, the ratio is little more than 1:1. As the compressor is driven harder, the ratio rises to 5:1, at least up to a point.
According to JoeMeek documentation,
"It is a feature of the Joemeek compressor that the compression ratio actually reduces again during large transients and, adjusted correctly, this helps to retain brightness that is often lost with other types of compressor. This is why vintage compressors often sound more lively than their modern counterparts."
I would tend to agree that there is a dynamic feel to the circuit.
You really need to play around with all of the controls as they are all highly interactive. I started the review indicating that I pretty quickly realized I liked this compressor. That's true. Despite the number of controls and they dynamic feel, it is very easy to dial in. It is hard to make it sound bad.
On that note, there really doesn't seem to be any loss of lows or highs.
In fact, one of the things I really like about it is how strong the lows remain, yet somehow feel more refined and controlled.
The device itself is pretty well made. I don't care for the input/output jacks (which are side mounted) as cables don't stay as firmly connected as with other pedals. It is quite large though not nearly as big as the Markbass Compressor, Effectrode LA-1A, or Squeezebox. It is still pedalboard friend and has good weight to it.
The FloorQ will accept any power supply between 9 and 18 volts AC or DC so whatever you have on hand should work. I noticed no difference in tone or headroom operating at higher voltages. It worked fine with a Onespot too.
The pedal has a nice quality look to it. A blue LED illuminates when activated. There is no LED indicator for threshold or gain reduction.
The FloorQ reminds me of a cross between the likes of the Markbass Compressore or Effectrode PC-2A with something more open and clear like the Smoothie or Becos pedals. Whatever you feed it just comes out slightly bigger sounding and smoother.
It is extremely quiet at virtually all settings.
The FloorQ wouldn't be my first choice for a limiter though it does achieve a 10:1 compression ratio. I don't think that is what it is most suited for. As a subtle to moderate compression device it excels and I quite like it. I could easily be satisfied with it as my only compressor.
Versatility and level of control
Sound quality (especially as it relates to highs and lows)
Not a great limiter
No threshold/gain LED indicator
Retail price: $249