The Mike-E from Empirical Labs is a modern digitally controlled Microphone Preamplifier chocked with unusual features to warm and soften the source, along with an excellent compressor/limiter. Mike-E offers an incredible performance transformer-coupled mic preamp, whose noise floor is far below any microphone’s self noise. The one-of-a-kind ‘CompSat’ section is an uncompromising compressor and saturator circuit that offers versatile ‘coloring’, and classic knee compression.
Mic Preamp Section – This is a super low noise transformer input amplifier section, with the gain digitally controlled. This section comes standard with a shielded Lundahl transformer, but provides for a Jensen transformer also.
The signal to noise far exceeds any microphone in existence, typically over 130 dB with the input shorted and 40dB of gain. Having used many mic preamps over the years, we have implemented a unique stepped gain control that should be impervious to the normal flakiness that age causes to pots and detented switches.
Counting the output gain of 14 dB, a total 74 dB of gain is available to the user with the CompSat section bypassed.
A 48 Volt Phantom power is provided for condenser mikes.
Exclusive CompSat™ Section - This unique circuitry sets the Mike-E apart from all other mic preamplifiers. It has four sections:
1) Saturator – This is a multi-stage soft clipping circuit. At lower levels, a triode type saturation affects the signal. As the level increases, a second unique clip circuit that includes Germanium semiconductors starts to more severely flatten out the peaks. An LED named “BAD!” indicates harder un-musical clipping.
2) Compressor – This is an uncompromising compressor/limiter circuit that allows detented control of attack and release for easy repeatability. You adjust the amount of compression with the DRIVE knob, which adjusts the level going into the compressor. In ways it is Distressor-like, but has other differing characteristics including a much longer available attack time, and additional circuitry. Four ratios are provided, 2:1 being the gentlest with a long 20dB knee, good for subtle compression such as while tracking or on the Buss. Ratios 4:1 and 8:1 are steeper but still very smooth with long knees. Nuke is very steep (limiter like) and has a different attack & release shape.
3) Emphasis - The Emphasis is actually two circuits that surround the compressor and saturator, as shown in the block diagram. The Pre-emphasis boosts the high frequencies before the compressor and saturator (CompSat), soft clipping them sooner than normal, while a de-emphasis cuts the frequencies complementary after the CompSat. Emphasis has the added perk of improving signal to noise, and is the reason analog tape decks used emphasis to begin with.
4) Mix Control - The modern recording engineer often employs the technique of mixing between the compressed and the dry (or uncompressed) signal. This can often help maintain transients and a sense of dynamic range while enhancing the low level nuances. Mike-E has a built in mix control to submix in the uncompressed signal to the compressed signal. As the user rotates the MIX control from full right to full left, he goes from the full compressed signal to the full dry signal (absent of any compression or saturation). Lil' Freq
Let's get serious about EQ for a minute. Empirical Lab's Li'l FrEQ mono parametric is a serious pro audio carving tool... It gives you four fully parametric bands to really dig with, plus high and low shelf, HPF, AND a surprisingly smooth De-Esser! The FrEQ can do all the sound-sculpting you need and yet remain amazingly musical.
The EL-Q Lil FrEQ. Instead of daisy chaining EQ's and frequency processors, Empirical Labs tried to cram most of what an Engineer needs into one single-height box, while offering the highest performance of any design we know of.
About the EQ Sections :
– The High Pass section is a sharp filter that cuts all content below one of eight pre-selected frequencies. We call this particular filter a “colored” filter since it is very steep and has a special shape that prevents thinning out frequencies just above the “cutoff” frequency. The corner frequency is indicated by LEDs that glow softly when the section is bypassed, and brightly when the section is engaged. As with all the EQ sections in the Lil FrEQ, there is a dedicated bypass switch.
High and Low Shelving – These are very similar to your standard “Tone Controls”, but extremely high performance, providing exceptionally smooth boost and cut on the “bass” and “treble” frequencies.
Parametric EQ Sections – There are four sections of fully parametric EQ… possibly the cleanest parametric EQ section ever produced- operating below .0007% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) at extremely high audio levels. Try finding those specs anywhere else!
Dynamic EQ Section – The DS section combines filters with a compressor-like circuit that can help contain and control excessive high frequency content such as sibilants, especially in the absence of other lower frequency content. There are two modes of operation, with threshold control as well as a frequency select control. There are four LEDs that indicate the amount of Gain Reduction: -1.5dB, -8dB, -14dB, -24dB. The DS section provides the highest performance, easiest to use, and most natural De-esser ever built, as well as a one of a kind, soft knee High Frequency Limiter.
The Lil FrEQ is to EQ what the Empirical Labs Distressor is to Compression... You will love it!
Empirical Labs ELQ Lil FrEQ Equalizer Features :
- Effective and Versatile mono equalizer.
- One special "Colored" 3rd order HP (Low Cut) sections with eight selectable frequencies..
- Frequency Response of 5 Hz to 140 kHz.
- Highest Audio Performance of any Parametric EQ Ever Available: The total harmonic distortion is below 0.0007% with all bands engaged (see specs). In fact, Empirical Labs actually had to buy a new analyzer to even measure the distortion.
- Distortion and Noise Performance Exceeds any Digital EQ: No analog-to-digital Converter can currently produce suck low distortion and noise.
- The Dynamic Section: Can be used for De-essing and high-frequency softening.
- Built-in Instrument Preamp/Direct Box: Just plug a guitar or bass, etc into the front panel, engage the instrument switch and you have the highest performance direct box available. Distortion is below 0.0009% on the Instrument Preamp with 112dB dynamic range. Frequency response extends down to 50Hz.
- Three Outputs, Including a Class A Transformer Output: To give you an isolated output with the wonderful soft saturation and beefy low end that you get from your favorite vintage gear.
- Huge "Distressor" Knobs with high resolution numbering - for easy readability and repeatable settings. They also go to 10-1/2!
- A "BAD!" Hard Clipping Indicator Light: This LED indicates when the user is within 1dB of hard clipping. It monitors every section of the EQ for internal clipping.
- Calibrated Output Level: Allows speed in setting tape and live mix levels
- Foolproof Operation: Monstrous internal headroom. Full boost of an EQ section can sound fine!
- Single-height and Light Weight: More EQ processing than any other 1U analog EQ.
- Discreet and Integrated Combination: The best of speed/linearity with repeatability. Hand-tested and -selected components. All metal film and Roederstein resistors in the audio path - top quality components, most being high temperature, military-spec parts.
- Switchable 110/220 Volt Operation: Extra fuse provided inside unit.
- True EQ Bypass: Hard wired switch that lets you know what it's really doing.
- XLR and 1/4" Phone Ins and Outs: XLR fully balanced design, pin 2 hot. Changeable by user to pin 3 hot!
- No Internal Connectors: High reliability parts and military-grade switches and relays. All contacts double up for maximum reliability.
- Interface and Features Not Found Anywhere Else.
- Three Year Limited (Yet Generous) Warranty.
- Hand Wired and Calibrated in USA!
The History of Empirical Labs :
Empirical Labs Inc. (ELI), designs and produces professional audio equipment and software. This includes equipment used in recording studios, live sound, broadcast studios and other audio production facilities etc. They also make software for digital signal processors. This product, was designed in 1994, tested and revised for several years, and released in early 1996. The Distressor is the first in a series of audio products from ELI that will offer original features, ease of use, long product life, and a very musical audio path.
Empirical Labs was started in 1988 and functioned mainly as a recording studio and electronics consulting firm. The founder, Dave Derr, was also employed at the time by Eventide as an audio engineer. Dave was part of the core design team for the H3000, H3500, and DSP4000. His experience at Eventide proved valuable for his later work. Dave was exposed to great engineering and the modern world of digital signal processing (DSP).
In 1998, Empirical Labs closed the doors of the recording studio. The sales of the Distressor had flourished after a shining review appeared in the December 1996 issue of Mix magazine. Later that year, the company picked up and moved to a larger facility to meet their increased production requirements.
Another goal of Empirical Labs is to make their products less prone to obsolescence and be easier to update, modify or repair. Instead of entire new products that may be outdated in 2 years, their thinking is to make a few great products that can be supported and upgraded for decades.
Empirical Labs' engineers & technicians are encouraged to play with and use their designs along with other expert beta-testers. The word Empirical in its most positive interpretation means, fashioned from experience. Empirical Labs considers real world use to be one of the best resources in developing innovative, user-friendly and robust designs. Before final release, all of their products will be extensively tested in the environments for which they are designed. They will not throw products out there and see what sticks.
Their Philosophy is very simple - but very hard to live up to :
Empirical Labs wants to make products that work a little easier, a little better, and a lot longer - and make sure they are fun to use.