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Empirical Labs EL-9 Mike-E Reviews

5.0 stars based on 10 customer reviews
Questions about the Empirical Labs EL-9 Mike-E?

Questions about the Empirical Labs EL-9 Mike-E?

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Sweetwater Advice

  • Nate Edwards

    The Empirical Labs EL-9 Mike-E is a hidden gem. Everybody knows about the Distressor and the Fatso, but this piece is a secret weapon, and every studio needs at least one secret weapon.
    Its beauty lies in its simplicity and quality. The pristine preamp has tons of gain, and the CompSat section has tons of mojo - and the ability to give a warm gentle squeeze to those sounds that need a little love before hitting your DAW. Great for gently hugging vocals and crushing synths and drums. It has quickly become the busiest workhorse in my studio.

  • from Chicago May 6, 2016Music Background:
    Recording Engineer

    Stunning on all sources.

    I just picked one of these up from a friend who no longer needed it. All I can say is that this thing is magnificent. I reach for this preamp over my Neve 1073dpa, Focusrite ISA Two, UA610, and API 3124+ for vocals and snare drum. I haven't found something it didn't sound great on, but on Vocals it excels!

    A really beautiful and transparent compressor section, with all that transformer goodness (mine is trannys in and out). The HF Emphasis and CompSat pair so well with my brighter mic's like the U87 and st6050s, but even my darker TLM170 sounds great with this preamp.

    Come mix time, I send my snare to this bad boy with compsat on nuke and blend wet to dry until I hear what I am always looking for but rarely heard before owning this unit.

    I might just need another one... or 3...

  • from September 4, 2015Music Background:
    Audio Engineer - 10 years

    Killer Preamp!

    This was way over my budget but after weeks of research I went for it. All buttons and dials are easily accessible and almost idiot proof :)

    - Setting the gain is very easy with the option of a 80Hz high pass filter (useful for guitar, vocals etc).
    - Ratio, attack and release also very easy to set with a nice dry - wet compression dial to blend.

    Apart from the distressor style compressor which can smash audio and still retain transparency the two things that impressed me most we're;

    - CompSat - if your looking to fatten up your digital signal and give it some analogue vibe this is your dial
    - Manual - This is probably the best educational source of recording / compression techniques with detailed explinations I've ever come across in the decade I've been doing this. Google "Mike E Manual" and download it for free, you won't be disappointed!

    I've used numerous preamps and channel strips and this is still my favourite to date! Excellent purchase.

  • from Tulsa, OK January 29, 2014Music Background:
    Recording & Live Engineer

    Instant Mojo!

    This is my new favorite in the studio. The comp/sat is amazing. The color it imparts on my tracks is great. I love this box on almost anything.

  • from NJ April 25, 2013


    Tons of gain out of the preamp. Its got a very big clean sound, that stays nice and tight. The saturation cicuit is divine, and will fatten up anything you run through it without sounding harsh or too edgy. I love the compressor as well. It can be super transparent, or squash the crap out of whatever you run through it. The cool thing though is that it just never sounds bad! This is definitely a characteristic of the empirical labs products. They cover so much ground so well! A swiss army knife in the studio, and one of my new favorite toys.

  • from CT December 5, 2012

    Wow - Time to Sell Some Other Gear!

    Truly blown away by two things with this product - the audio quality and the ease of use/workflow.

    First, the workflow - I spend hands down the least time dialing settings and tweaking and the most time actually recording with this unit than any other preamp/compressor combination I have evry owned.

    The premap is awesome - as transparent as they come, and very very sweet sounding without adding color. The comp section sounds just like the distressor but with a more streamlined workflow with easier settings recall. The HF focus option is very useful, and the saturation circuit is just what the doctor ordered more often than I could have imagined.

    I own Vintech x73's, API's, LA-610's, Focusrites, and Chandler Germs, and the Mike-E is getting more use right now on acoustic, vocals, and mic'd electrics than all the rest combined, and the DI is spectacular on bass with the comp and sat. I really hate to say it, but the saturation circuit is so musical and useful that I think I'm going to unload my 610's and buy another. The analog warmth is so authentic and controllable that I just can't see myself using the LA-610 instead of this on anything, given the option to use both.

    This is a game-changer for me - the range of sounds available and the lightning fast workflow to compare different sounds is second to nothing I've ever used.

  • from Long Beach April 16, 2012Music Background:
    Musician, Composer, Producer

    Whatever you record Mike-E likes it!

    After much reading, researching, listening, and so on I finally picked up a Mike-E a few weeks back. Initially I was considering an API lunchbox (with Shadow Hills. Vintech, and Elysia modules) but decided that I could get more stability and consistency out of the Mike-E.

    So far, I have used it on acoustic guitar, live drums, direct electric guitar, and vocals. The range of color that you can dial in is truly inspiring. Essentially, you get a Fatso-style saturation circuit, Distressor-style compressor (with 20:1 Nuke setting), and high performance preamp with mix controls for blending clean/saturated/compressed sounds. One of the great things about the Mike-E is the "mix" knob. Without the CompSat section engaged, the preamp is VERY clean.

    I couldn't be happier with the Mike-E. It's made in the USA, built like a tank, and has very high quality components (Lundahl input transformer and Germanium semiconductors in the saturation circuit). I should also mention that the Mike-E manual is incredible.

    Unfortunately, there aren't many audio/video examples about the Mike-E online. I made a quick demo video showcasing different settings on acoustic guitar and drums. You can search for it on Youtube.

  • from Los Angeles August 8, 2011Music Background:
    Producer, Engineer, Musician


    Very pleased with my purchase! Awesome Product!

  • from Denver February 28, 2010Music Background:
    Live Engineer


    From LA610 to VOXBOX to Avalon this thing is hands down the best channel strip on the market when you want a compressor that kicks the snot out whatever you want. It opens up anything you throw through it and mopst of all....its simple. We are taking it on the road for a live rig as it performed so well in the studio! So far.....just as good live. Don't be afraid to try the NUKE setting on vocals!

  • from KS USA June 4, 2014Music Background:
    Recording engineer/Mixing engineer

    Absolutely huge for hip hop vocals

    I track hip hop vocals and guitar on the occasion. I have to say that I am extremely happy with my investment in the Mike-e. for hip hop vocals the preamp is exactly what I hoped for, the best way I can describe it is "pure" what you put in is essentially what your going to get out of the preamp section but louder and you could say slightly "wider" as well. The comp/sat section is also awesome, but for hip hop and rap I personally find that less is more in this part of the channel strip as the saturation can be anywhere from subtle to in your face, and I'm going for a very "clean" sound. When I put the drive relatively low and keep the ratio at 2:1 with a a somewhat slow attack and fast release I'm usually ble to get exactly the sound I want (making slight adjustments per artist). The Mike-e is a beast on electric guitar too, there's a million and one sounds achievable in the compleat section and I'm a huge fan of the "colored" 80hz hi pass filter for guitar, it has a nice flavor too it. Overall the mike-e is probably the best investment in recording/mixing I have ever made, and if I had the money I can't tell you how fast I would buy a second one just to add some analogue compression/saturation to the master buss.

  • from Pittsburgh December 12, 2009Music Background:
    Engineer and Producer

    Another awsome product from Empirical Labs!

    I have had the Mike-e now for 2 months and this thing is great on everything. Stellar preamp, Very Distressor-like Compressor and the CompSat section. I've used it on Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Kick, and Snare. I've also ran some recorded tracks through while mixing. Great for that as well. I had guitars that had some harshness in the upper frequencies and i was able to roll them off so to speak by using the Emphasis and CompSat section. Di Bass is pretty incredible through it as well. So far my favorite being vocals and snare. Only reason this guy doesn't get a 5 is because I would have liked the preamp to be a little more "colored". But thats just my opinion.

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