Arguably the coolest and most unique device in the Empirical Labs arsenal, the FATSO (Full Analog Tape Simulator and Optimizer) is a digitally controlled analog device that gives musicians and engineers easy access to many of the desirable characteristics exhibited by older tube and Class A electronics and magnetic tape mediums. The Empirical Labs FATSO, is a two channel audio processor that musically integrates frequencies and transients, increasing the apparent volume while keeping tight control over peak levels.
With the Empirical Labs FATSO, recording studios and audio production facilities can enhance and soften the sound of Hardware Digital Recorders (HDRs) and Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). Mix engineers will have the option not to have to use bulky, expensive analog tape recorders to get the warmth and sweet high end they’ve come to rely on for so many decades. Owners of DAWs and HDRs can finally put a stop to complaints about the coldness and brittle edge of their mixes and instruments. Even audiophiles can benefit from the Empirical Labs FATSO, bringing back the warmth and ambience of LP’s and tapes to their CD players and other digital reproduction mediums.
As with most Empirical Labs products, the unit is incredibly easy and fun to use. Large Distressor-style knobs control the input and output levels. Four meticulously tweaked compression modes – including the extremely popular “Buss” setting and the legendary “Spank”, a subtle knee followed by hard limiting resembling the SSL talkback compressor – can be selected (and combined!) with the push of a button. Seven different high frequency saturation “Warmth” settings are accessed just as easily. The Empirical Labs FATSO also features switchable transformer circuits, which can add the musical artifacts generated by classic devices like NEVE, API, etc such as low order clipping and inter-modular distortion, transient clipping… and some other very musical non-linearities. True to its name, the Empirical Labs FATSO is rather sturdily constructed – you’ll be impressed with how well built it feels when you first lift it out of the box.
The Empirical Labs FATSO has been the “secret weapon” of studio and live engineers for many years, allowing them to add the elusive magic of vintage gear to their sound. Once you start using it, you’ll never want to be without it!
FATSO’s four types of processing
- Harmonic Generation and Soft Clipper (Distortion Generation) – this class A circuit gently rounds the peaks like saturated tubes or tape.
- High Frequency Saturation (Warmth) – a one-of-a-kind dynamic low pass filter which softens high frequencies when they “pile up” on a source.
- Transformer & Tape Head Emulation – a simulation of the effect of input and output transformers of older devices, which adds the low frequency harmonics that characterize them, as well as analog tape.
- Classic Knee Compression – your typical automatic leveling device found on just about every instrument and vocal track as well as on the overall buss, done Empirical Labs compression – smooth and sweet, but in your face!
New FATSO Features
- A new ratio “Eleven”, which emulates a favorite classic compressor setting.
- New Two Color Front Panel
- Improved Logic
- Separate TRACKING LED, more intuitive display.
- Backwards stepping when a front panel button is held.
- New extended stereo link functions. More choices of how to lock compressors.
- Cooler running Logic Circuitry, resulting in overall cooler operating temperature.
- Improved overall noise floor, due to lower logic power consumption.
The FATSO now goes to eleven!
ELEVEN is a new compressor for the Fatso, replacing the old GP Ratio, and emulates the famous UREI 1176LN in 20:1, with the slowest attack, and fastest release. This 1176 setting has been used on countless hit records through the decades. With the slower “1176” attack, the transients keep the dynamics present, while the high ratio, can radically limit the dynamic range of any source, making it present and sitting in a nice little place in your mix. One can slam it, or just touch it with a few dB of compression. You will find it great on Vocals, Bass, acoustic guitars, drum room mikes, pianos etc.
The ELEVEN ratio took several months of experimentation, and required a rather radical attack mod to get close. It was one of those projects that Dave Derr, the designer, thought would only take a few days, but upon initial research and listening tests, subtleties emerged which required starting over several times. “I got in one of these design loops, where you would get one thing right, then change another parameter or component, and find that it changed the first thing you thought you had right. It was actually a long frustrating series of changes, that slowly spiraled towards the desired result.
Any kind of math calculations or scaling seemed useless. In addition, while testing 1176’s, I discovered issues that I’m quite sure were not intended by the original designers, and probably things of which they were not even aware. But using modern digital oscilloscopes and analyzers, along with digital workstations, and our good old ears, we could see artifacts that the original designers couldn’t.” “Heck, they may have even tried to fix the little imperfections that gave the 1176 its unique character, had they the tools to see them. Thank gosh they didn’t, right?
Anyway, the design loop was frustrating, but like anything that takes you to unexpected places, hopefully you come out a little bit wiser, and with a great product. I hope our customers find the new ELEVEN ratio fun to use, and discover it can add some more magic to your music.”
NOTE: ALL existing older “Fatso Jr’s” can be modified to change the GP ratio to the new ELEVEN ratio. In addition, all Fatsos shipped from Empirical Labs since June 2013 have had the ELEVEN ratio already installed in the circuit, under the GP ratio, so if you bought a Fatso recently, you probably already have the equivalent EL7-X circuitry.
New logic and interface operation
The original Fatso Jr could operate quite warm. Since heat is the enemy of reliability, we decided to do what we could to cool the unit down in this re-design. By replacing discrete logic with a microprocessor, and eliminating warm running and often unreliable display circuitry, the current draw was dropped over 20%, allowing the power supply and analog circuitry to benefit from a cooler running product.
The new FATSO also has greatly improved interface operation. Holding any button in for a second will make the control step backwards, so the user doesn’t have to cycle around to go back one step in setting one parameter. In addition, the Stereo Link is improved and offers a second link method by holding in both COMP buttons. It locks the compressors and Bypass logic together, and allows either channels’ buttons to control the settings. Much more foolproof.
There is now a separate LED for the TRACK (Tracking) compressor, so that two LEDs do not have to be used, and interpreted by the user. SPANK is now a Blue LED delineated from the other compressors off to the side, to indicate that it is different and can be used in conjunction with the other ratios. Customers will find compressor selection more obvious and FUN.