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Empirical Labs EL7 Fatso Reviews

5.0 stars based on 4 customer reviews

Sweetwater Advice

  • Ted Hunter

    This was one of the best purchases I've ever made for my studio. This processor somehow has the ability to make everything you pass through it sound better. It's great for anything from taking the edge off of things to helping a particular track stand out in a mix and can be used in the tracking, mixing and even mastering stages. I really like the compressor as well... very easy to set up and versatile to use on just about anything.

  • from March 17, 2014

    Amazing

    I use this as a bus compressor on electronic (post analog summing) music and it's amazing. I like it more than my API 2500 and SSL G compressor, combined. It does exactly what is described. Mix into bus comp setting around -3/5 dB, warmth on 2 or 3 and mix away. That is the sweet-spot. You will be amazed. It also makes things very loud.

  • from shores of pluto March 12, 2011Music Background:
    musician, sound designer, recording engineer

    ANALOG MONSTER!!!

    I've used this on basically everything going into the A/D since acquiring it. Definitely fits best first and foremost as a tracking box/drum buss box (i treat it like a fancy distressor w/ fixed comp settings), but I've also used it for mastering applications, and with the lightest touch, you can really make some magic happen. Love this thing to pieces, it's a beast.

    I HIGHLY suggest though that if you are considering buying this box that you take it upon yourself to also purchase a cheap effects unit of some sort with gain control and a reasonably flexible eq (i got a dbx graphic eq); the Fatso has a sidechain input on it for controlling the signal the compressor receives (normally just follows the input which means you can't have more broadband saturation without hitting the comp really hard). Having a gain control element to sidechain into it gives you MUCH more flexibility, and with an EQ in the mix you can drop the lows to the compressor for bigger bass (mastering 101), or even make a simple broadband de-esser. Pretty sweet! :)

  • from Richmond, KY October 24, 2010Music Background:
    Recording Engineer

    Pretty awesome

    This makes even the most harsh "digital" sounding recordings sound warm and smooth. I use it to track, mix, and master. It's THAT good. If you do many subtle adjustments of sound with this unit, the layering effect is very special. It sound "professional" the way professional recordings USED to sound before everything sounded harsh and "in a bucket"." Try it!!

  • from Georgia September 29, 2006Music Background:
    Recording Engineer, Mastering Engineer

    The "Skinny" on the FATSO

    I need to be physically restrained from using this on everything because it is so addictive! It's incredibly easy to set up and get to work. Even though the buttons have to be pushed multiple times in order to access some settings, it's still very easy and doesn't feel cumbersome at all. The compressor settings are all ok, but the buss compression in particular is great, and so easy to use. The buss compressor is very musical and pleasing to listen to. The Tranny feature sounds good on bass frequencies, but my favorite part of the tranny is the extra edge that my electric guitars get from it. The Warmth controls are awesome - drum samples with a little warmth and compression become much more realistic, harsh recordings can be smoothed out, thin tracks can be fattened. The real challenge with the FATSO is to not use it too much - the individual settings may all sound great, but combined, it may be overkill on a lot of material.
    I've used the FATSO during recording and mixing, but my favorite use so far is for mastering.
    The warmth and the tranny can be very very subtle, but when used properly, it's really making a great impact on finished product. I'd definitely recommend this to others.

Reviews

  • Charlie Livingston
    8-10-2004

    I love analog sound. I'm a guitar player, and I love all those old grungy-sounding pedals. I love the whallop of John Bonham's kick drum fed through tube recording equipment. I love the "give" of analog tape when you hit it hard with a signal and it saturates with warm, smooth mids and rich low end. Any time I hear a good analog recording come on the radio, I turn it up to enjoy that sound even if I don't particularly like the song (and yes, my wife thinks I'm crazy!)

    I don't like that modern "spikey" sound that is the trademark of digital recording equipment. I do, however, love the flexibility of digital recording systems, and I acknowledge that they are here to stay. And no matter what anybody tells you, defragmenting a hard drive and dealing with the occasional Mac crash is a lot less time consuming and frustrating than calibrating a 24 track analog tape machine or a Dolby encoding/decoding system. However, I have yet to hear a digital system that sounds particularly musical out of the box.

    Enter the Fatso - this unit provides master quality compression and analog tape simulation that can tame the chiliest digital sounds. No, it's not cheap, but in terms of relative value it's one of the best buys out there today. If it only did the analog tape compression/saturation thing it would be worth the price, but this unit is really more like a pro "Swiss Army knife" compressor that's actually good at everything it does.

    The Fatso is all about subtlety. It probably won't blow you away on first listen; you have to spend some time with it, tune your ears with A/B tests, etc. Repeated use draws your attention away from "where's the wow factor?" and towards an appreciation of the smoothing out of the mids & highs. Most importantly, the warming effect is logorithmic (and you can hear this), so it's not the same thing as simply cutting highs with EQ. Also (and this is really really important), the compressor presets are absolutely killer; 1176, 160, and bus/general program compression all sound phenomenal - definitely not afterthoughts even though the manufacturer kind of markets
    it as such.

    Intuitive, simple controls cater to the preferences of those who dislike complex programming schemes and steep learning curves (e.g. to make it sound good, fiddle with the knobs until it sounds good!). Deeper level control is possible, though, for those who want to experiment with tweaky stuff. The user interface is designed to steer you away from extreme settings; this helps to avoid allowing the unit to "run away" with you and commiting to a mix that you'll regret in two weeks.

    And, because the processor can be strapped across the stereo bus, monitoring of analog warmth is possible in real time! This wasn't even possible with analog tape systems where tape saturation could only be monitored on playback; having dedicated hardware alleviates taxing DSP power in a computer with analog warmth plug-ins. With a patchbay, the Fatso can quickly and easily be routed to any number of stereo destinations (monitoring, mixdown, mastering, etc.)

    I took the Fatso home for a week and used it both as a tracking compressor and strapped across a stereo mix. For tracking direct bass, I don't think I've ever heard a better bass sound; the notes "spread out" and, more importantly, I could feel the unit doing this as I played. This was incredibly inspiring and expressive, and I instantly felt myself adjusting my technique to produce a better overall tone (not bad for a guitarist who plays only passable bass!) Here is where an entry-level compressor would never do in a pro environment; the performer doesn't need to feel themselves fighting to regain dynamic control or they'll quickly become frustrated, and their performance will suffer as a result. I've experienced this myself, and while inexpensive compressors can be handy in a wide variety of situations, the Fatso is in a whole different league. And this was just with a preset compression setting! I didn't have to do any tweaking save input gain.

    I also used the Fatso to try to "rescue" one of my favorite recordings that was unfortunately tracked, mixed, and mastered all-digitally before the technology was truly ready for professional sound quality - George Michael's "Freedom 90". Great song, great arrangement, great talent, but the mix sounds harsh and thin. I warmed up the signal with some input gain and "saturation" controls, then engaged the "tranny" (tape head/transformer emulation) for that warm low end. No, it didn't make the recording sound like Boston, but that wasn't a realistic goal given the difference in tracking methodologies; I wanted to preserve the clarity and "air" of the original digital signal while adding a midrange smoothness and low end warmth that allows you to listen to a recording significantly louder without ear fatigue. The Fatso delivered with no more than fifteen minutes of tweaking; after an hour or so of A/B-ing, the unprocessed mix sounded pretty good, but then I kicked in the Fatso and thought, "Whoa!" - the difference was pretty astounding (this is what I was talking about above; the unit is designed to stay subtle so you don't overdo it while you're frying your ears on multiple A/B's).

    I burned a mix to CD, popped in my car stereo, and drove around Fort Wayne for an hour enjoying a recording that I have always liked as it should be heard.

  • Charlie Livingston
    8-09-2004

    Does anybody remember the first Boston record? The one that, until Hootie and the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View was released, was the best selling debut album in history? Remember that hyper-engineered Boston analog sound? (Guitarist/producer Tom Scholz was an MIT graduate; apparently he knew what he was doing!) Does anyone miss that sound???

    I do. I love the flexibility of digital recording systems, and I acknowledge that they are here to stay. And no matter what anybody tells you, de-fragmenting a hard drive and dealing with the occasional Mac crash is a lot less time-consuming and frustrating than calibrating a 24-track analog tape machine or a Dolby encoding/decoding system. However, I have yet to hear a digital system that sounds particularly musical out of the box.

    Enter the Fatso. No, it's not cheap, but in terms of relative value it's one of the best buys out there today. If it only did the analog tape compression/saturation thing pretty well it would be worth the price, but this unit is really more like a pro "Swiss Army knife" compressor that's actually good at everything it does.

    The Fatso is all about subtlety. It probably won't blow you away on first listen; you have to spend some time with it, tune your ears with A/B tests, etc. Repeated use draws your attention away from "where's the wow factor?" and towards an appreciation of the smoothing out of the mids & highs. Most importantly, the warming effect is logarithmic (and you can hear this), so it's not the same thing as simply cutting highs with EQ. Also (and this is really really important), the compressor presets are absolutely killer; 1176, 160, and bus/general program compression all sound phenomenal - definitely not afterthoughts even though the manufacturer kind of markets it as such.

    Intuitive, simple controls cater to the preferences of those who dislike complex programming schemes and steep learning curves (e.g. to make it sound good, fiddle with the knobs until it sounds good!). Deeper level control is possible, though, for those who want to experiment with tweaky stuff. The user interface is designed to steer you away from extreme settings; this helps to avoid allowing the unit to "run away" with you and committing to a mix that you'll regret in two weeks.

    And, because the processor can be strapped across the stereo bus, monitoring of analog warmth is possible in real time! This wasn't even possible with analog tape systems where tape saturation could only be monitored on playback; having dedicated hardware alleviates taxing DSP power in computer for analog warmth plug-ins. With a patchbay, the Fatso can quickly and easily be routed to any number of stereo destinations (monitoring, mixdown, mastering, etc.).

Questions about the Empirical Labs EL7 Fatso?

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