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Discrete Class-A Topology
The input and output stages as well as the complete audio path are fully discrete designs running in constant class-A mode. The result: Signal coloration, high-end style.

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We love the sound of class-A circuitry! And here is why: In a class-A amplifier, the transistors are conductive all of the time, so there is no crossover distortion at all. This is the perfect technological basis for an open sound with massive punch and no degradation of your original source.

The discrete approach makes it possible to design every single stage in signal processing exactly to what you want it to do – physics becomes the only limit. The karacter uses our custom discrete input and output stages derived from the alpha compressor, and the complete audio path is a fully discrete class-A design, too.

The benefit of this pristine circuitry is a saturation tool capable of adding substantial amounts of color to a signal without degrading its original quality. And even if quite massive distortion is applied, the result will always sound interesting and never bad. A very welcome side effect is the noise floor which is pleasingly low for a processor of this kind.

Mastering-Grade Saturation
In this mode, the karacter 500 generates gentle Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) with a soft characteristic curve, resulting in very musical symmetrical clipping.

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The karacter can add unobtrusive coloration and thickness to your music by applying subtle (or less subtle) amounts of symmetrical clipping. This mode has a soft characteristic curve and focuses on the uneven harmonics (h3, h5, …). Remember you can always use the mix controller to blend any desired amount of saturation with your original dry path for even further signal integrity.

The following diagram shows the harmonic spectrum of a sine wave in this mode:

And this shows how the sine wave is shaped by the karacter:

Tube-Inspired Distortion
In FET Shred mode, the behavior of the karacter 500 changes drastically. The sound instantly reminds of tube amplifiers, with a wide range of asymmetrical distortion.

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Now, the karacter becomes a different animal... Its clipping changes from a symmetrical to an asymmetrical characteristic, which pleasingly reminds of the style a driven tube amp would sound like. More even harmonics (h2, h4, …) come into play, and what has been saturation before is now turned into truly musical distortion. Be sure to make extensive use of the Color controller in this mode!

The following diagram shows the harmonic spectrum of a sine wave in this mode:

And this shows how the sine wave is shaped by the karacter:

Glorious Destruction
Now, this is pushing the envelope. The Turbo Boost shifts the operating point of the distortion circuit in FET shred mode and generates even more asymmetrical wave forms.

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Turbo Boost puts the FET Shred mode on steroids. It shifts the operating point of the distortion circuitry, resulting in a signal structure which is even more asymmetrical than before. This will become most obvious at higher settings of the Drive controller, sounding great for industrial styles, mangling samples, brutal guitar sounds and much more...

The following diagram shows the harmonic spectrum of a sine wave in this mode:

And this shows how the sine wave is shaped by the karacter:

Color Filter
The Color control changes the harmonics-frequency relation with tons of interesting variations. Middle is flat; turn left for more dub and right for more shred.

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The Color is a unique, complex filter network controlled by just a single knob. This is something really different than the simple top end roll-off filters found on many distortion devices, as it is much more flexible and integrated deeply into the saturation circuits of the karacter 500.

So, this filter does not change the frequency response after it has been formed, but instead it is an essential part of THD generation itself. It gives you a wide range of coloring options and several amazing sweet spots ranging from dubby growl to steely punch.

The following diagram shows the THD over frequency relation for several clockwise to counterclockwise settings:

Integrated M/S Matrix
As an alternative to standard stereo operation you can process the mid and side signals, opening up completely new options for your work!

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M/S technology is commonly known as a variant of stereo microphoning. This technique uses a microphone with cardioid pattern for the middle signal (M) and another one with bi-directional pattern with an offset of 90° for the side signal (S). The main advantage of this technology is its mono compatibility. FM radio stations use M/S technology for transmitting stereo signals exactly for this reason.

To create M/S signals, the left and right channel of the stereo sum are added to generate the mid (M), whereas the side (S) is created by subtracting the right from the left channel:
M = L+R
S = L-R

To decode an M/S signal back into stereo again, M is added to S for the left channel and S is subtracted from M for the right channel:
L = M+S
R = M-S

The integration of an M/S encoder and decoder into a saturator generates new potentials that classic stereo processors can hardly offer. One of the main advantages is the possibility to process the middle and side signals separately. This way you can make the center sound fatter without corrupting the original stereo spectrum, for example.

Of course it is also possible to apply heavy distortion to the side signals without affecting the mid at all, and anything in between... The stereo width can be influenced fast and efficiently, too, and it is possible to process specific parts of a mix that could not be 'touched' in a stereo mix as precisely as it is possible in M/S mode.

Dual Mono/Stereo Link
For ultimate flexibility, the karacter 500 offers both true dual mono and linked stereo operation, while in M/S mode the channels can be linked or unlinked as well. 

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The karacter 500 gives you ultimate flexibility in terms of configuring its channels:

Dual Mono:
This gives you two fully independent channels of saturation/distortion/destruction  two units in one! This is of course the right mode to process two completely different signals at the same time. Or to send the output of channel 1 into channel 2 for even further mangling... if you dare.

Stereo Link:
In this mode, both channels are linked and controlled by just a single set of controls for comfortably processing stereo sources. The left controllers and bottom switches become the master for both channels. The obvious benefit is that you don't have to compare and match the settings of your left and right channels all of the time when processing stereo material. 

M/S Unlinked:
This gives you the option to process the mid and the side signals completely independent from each other. Then, left becomes mid channel and right becomes side channel. You can apply a high amount of saturation to the mid and leave the sides completely untouched, or the other way round, or anything in between... Different settings of the gain controllers can be used to create subtle or significant changes within the stereo spectrum.

M/S Linked:
The linked M/S mode might seem a little odd, as the behavior seems to be exactly the same as in linked stereo mode. It can still have its benefits, though, as the inevitable divergences between left and right channel which are caused by natural component tolerances will be reduced in this mode, because here the side information of both channels is processed in a single audio path.

Stepped Controllers
All potentiometers of the karacter 500 have 41 steps, which is a great help for recalling your previous sessions fast and precisely.

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The karacter features stepped potentiometers for all its parameters throughout. The 41 steps make a precise recall very easy, and they provide a useful range of possible settings at the same time. And you will just love the feel of them, too ;-)

Stepped controllers are something you will usually only find on much more expensive gear, special mastering editions, or in most of the cases – not at all. The karacter establishes this very handy feature in the regular serial version without any luxury up-charge.

Ground Layer Shield
One of the six layers of both PCBs is a full copper plane which helps to reduce interferences caused by electric fields.

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The PCBs of the karacter have a total of none less than six layers: While the first five are used for separately routing audio and power supply, the sixth one is a dedicated ground shield layer. But what's the idea behind this?

As the additional ground layer is placed extremely close beneath the traces which carry audio, it is very efficient as a shield against unwanted noise interferences caused by electric fields. The result is even less noise - at least the one you don't want to have ;-)

Technical Data
You are interested in learning more about typical measurements and technical specifications of the karacter 500? This is the right place to check.

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Frequency response:       
100% Dry 
100% Wet          

<10 Hz - 400 kHz (-3 dB)
<10 Hz - 27 kHz (-3 dB)
THD+N:        
@ 0 dBu
@ +10 dBu          
100 % Dry
0.013 %
0.024 %
THD+N:        
@ 0 dBu Min Drive
@ 0 dBu Max Drive
100 % Wet (in Saturation Mode)
0.47 %
35.1 %
Noise floor:
100% Dry 
100% Wet (depending on Drive and Gain)
20 Hz - 20 kHz (A-weighted)
-91 dBu
-81 to -91 dBu
Dynamic range:
20 Hz - 22 kHz

112 dB
Maximum level:
Input
Output

+21 dBu
+21 dBu
Impedance:
Input
Output

10 kOhm
68 Ohm
Power consumption:
Total
Per slot

210 mA
105 mA