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The karacter plugin is a box full of vibrant colors for your DAW. It covers a complete spectrum including mastering-grade saturation, tube-inspired distortion and glorious destruction, creating manifold highly desirable styles of tonal coloration… Enhance your tracks or decimate everything – It’s a matter of karacter.
The karacter is actually a bundle of two separate plugins: karacter mix and karacter master. While both version give you plenty of options for painting your project’s tracks with colorful harmonics, you can always choose the version that works best for you in a specific situation.
The karacter mix provides a straightforward set of controls for treating mono and stereo tracks.
The more advanced karacter master plugin features independent controls for left and right channels or, in M/S mode, mid and side channels and is optimized for processing full mixes and stereo stems and subgroups.
The karacter plugin 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 plugin 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.
The Master version of the karacter plugin offers a total of four different modes of operation:
In this mode, both channels are linked and controlled by just a single set of controls for comfortably processing stereo sources. The specific knobs and switches of each channel now automatically control their corresponding counterparts, too.
For those cases in which you want/need to make different settings for the left and right channel of a stereo signal, this is the mode to go for. For mere mono signals, the Mix version of the plugin is the tool of choice.
This can be an interesting and different sounding alternative to the Stereo Linked mode. In M/S, the signals are distributed differently to the two saturation stages of the karacter plugin. For example, the signal shares in the side channel can be rather low in level so they get clipped much less than in Stereo mode.
This gives you the option to process the mid and the side signals completely independent from each other. You can apply a high amount of saturation to the mid and leave the side completely untouched, or the other way round, or anything in between… Furthermore, different settings of the gain controllers can be used to create subtle or significant changes within the stereo spectrum.
Transferring a complex analog hardware into digital code is not exactly trivial, especially if the model is a completely discrete design like the alpha compressor.
The first important task in a project like this is to fragment the electronic circuitry into separate functional blocks. These blocks are translated into software step by step after which they are united to become a functioning prototype.
This first result is measured very accurately and then compared to the hardware, which leads to an extensive and very detailed matching process. The work on the graphical user interface (photography, retouching, rendering) takes place at the same time.
The final stage is the calibration of the behavior of all the controllers in order to give the software the ‘feel’ of the real thing. Finally, the finished code is ported to different plugin interfaces (RTAS/VST/AU/TDM/AAX…) and packed into installation routines.
The karacter plugin benefits from higher sample rates in two ways: In the first place, it profits from a much better resolution especially for high frequency distortion which reaches very high into the spectrum.
Secondly, it reduces aliasing artifacts and therefore brings the curves of the karacter‘s filter stages even closer to its analog counterparts.
The karacter plugin employs the oversampling technique in order to enjoy these advantages even if lower sample rates are used. This means that the basic sample rate of a project is multiplied by a certain factor inside the plugin without the need to set the complete project to a higher frequency.
This method consumes a certain amount of CPU power, but the acoustic result speaks for itself. The karacter plugin uses oversampling according to the following rules:
- Project sample rate lower than 50 kHz: 4x oversampling
- Project sample rate lower than 100 kHz: 2x oversampling
- Project sample rate higher than 100 kHz: no oversampling
You do not necessarily have to click and drag the controllers of the alpha compressor. Instead, try making your settings with the alternative mousewheel control without clicking on the specific controller first. The following shortcuts provide some further comfort:
VST: Shift + mouse wheel
AU: Shift + mouse wheel
RTAS/TDM: Ctrl/Cmd + mouse wheel
VST: Ctrl/Cmd + mouse click
AU: Alt + mouse click
RTAS/TDM: Alt + mouse click
“They’ve nailed it again. I love elysia hardware and the karacter is no exception. This virtual version has that same cool fuzz I can dial in exactly the way I want it.”
“The karacter may have just become my new favorite drum buss plugin. You can some add character (no pun intended) to lackluster drums by adding some pleasing THD, or really crank it and get some amazingly trashy and crunchy drums that are still really pleasing to the ear.”
The karacter plugin is available for MacOS and Windows in 32 and 64 bits. The following formats are supported: AAX DSP, AAX Native, AAX AudioSuite, AU, VST2 and VST3.