One of the really important factors about the VC5 is that the EQ amplifier section uses discrete transistors in a circuit that is quite similar to some of the early Neve equipment. It works in class A so if you push it hard, the distortions produced are 2nd order, that is, they are pleasant to listen to. These discrete amplifiers have a significantly higher noise floor than IC circuits. The biggest difference with modern gear is the operating level…. the VC5 needs to work at high level; running it at a nominal -10dB it is likely to sound noisy. The red ‘overload’ LED actually comes on at least 8dB below clip so, unlike with digital gear, it’s perfectly OK to let it flash!
In fact, some of the later versions of the VC5 had a modification to the output stage to reduce the audio output (technically, the mod was removing R39, grounding the junction of R41/R44 and changing R47 and R48 from 33R to 330R). This produced a 6dB reduction in output and the output becomes partially balanced, a technique that works very well.
For the sake of completeness, a further mod was to change C33 from 4.7uF to 47 or 100uF. this protects against an instability that can occur with very high transient overloads in the audio.
The VC5 follows my philosophy of the time…. don’t be frightened to ‘push’ the audio levels; if it sounds right, it is right!
Historically, the VC5 was designed at the end of 1996 and was produced at our Newton Abbot factory from March 1997 to about mid 2000. Most went to the USA.