The Analog Saturator Module
The karacter 500 is a box full of vibrant colors. It covers a complete spectrum including mastering-grade saturation, tube-inspired distortion and glorious destruction. Gone are the days when only racks full of outboard gear could achieve these elusive and highly desirable styles of tonal coloration.
The entire unit is designed with discrete class-A topology, so even the most lo-fi sounds will benefit from the karacter’s high-end touch. Enhance your tracks or decimate everything – It’s a matter of karacter.
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Every single of its many aspects – sound, features, circuitry, components, design, materials, manufacturing – has been thought over and over until there was just nothing left to improve. Basically, every single part of our fine products is custom, and most of these are made according to our own designs and specs.
Only the best components the market has to offer are good enough for the karacter, and it shows. Each of our product is manually built to order and tested by ourselves, here at our headquarters in Germany.
Our product benefits sum up in an audio quality that is beyond all doubt. Even when extreme settings are used, the sound always stays clean and powerful.
The karacter 500 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.
Now, the karacter 500 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!
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 Color Filter 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.
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.
karacter 500 gives you ultimate flexibility in terms of configuring its channels:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The karacter 500 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 500 establishes this very handy feature in the regular serial version without any luxury up-charge.
The PCBs of the karacter 500 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.
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.
100% Dry: <10 Hz - 400 kHz (-3 dB) 100% Wet: <10 Hz - 27 kHz (-3 dB) THD+N 100 % Dry
@ 0 dBu: 0.013 %
@ +10 dBu: 0.024 %
THD+N 100 % Wet (in Saturation Mode)
@ 0 dBu Min Drive: 0.47 %
@ 0 dBu Max Drive: 35.1 %
Noise floor 20 Hz – 20 kHz (A-weighted)
100% Dry: -91 dBu
100% Wet (depending on Drive and Gain): -81 to -91 dBu
20 Hz – 22 kHz: 112 dB
Input: +21 dBu
Output: +21 dBu
Input: 10 kOhm
Output: 68 Ohm
Total: 210 mA
Per slot: 105 mA
“My elysia karacter and nvelope pieces have changed my live sound approach on restoring transients and using saturation to color… The karacter smooths out the harsh top end of my vocal and gives weight..
It was fun to color as a kid but it’s more fun to “color” now… The nvelope makes the drums jump right out and keeps them punchy!! Lots of different sound combinations so experiment to your hearts desire.. Go elysia…”
“OK, I admit it, I am gushing. I love this little box. Why? Because after trying many distortion/saturation plug-ins, patching in reamped overdrive pedals, clipping my microphone preamps in series, and more – techniques which can easily get over the top and out of control fast – the karacter offers the amount of control, blending, and sonic throw I have been craving in a saturation/distortion box.
The karacter 500 is a great tool to add analog grit and life to sterile MIDI-based DAW tracks. I even had success gently thickening up an acoustic guitar/electric bass duet, and was surprised by how much I liked the results.”