From the designer of the wildly popular Distressor, a game-changing microphone preamp with compressor and tape-like saturation.
Empirical Lab’s Dave Derr is no stranger to creating game-changing audio processors, and his Mike-E preamp is no exception. Mike-E is a modern, digitally controlled microphone preamplifier chocked with unusual features to warm and soften sound sources, plus, it also has an excellent compressor/limiter. Mike-E, a transformer-coupled mic preamp, offers an incredible performance with a noise floor is far below any microphone’s self-noise. And, 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
The preamp section is a super low-noise transformer-input amplifier section with gain digitally controlled gain. This section comes standard with a shielded Lundahl transformer, but allows for a Jensen transformer also.
The signal-to-noise ratio far exceeds any microphone in existence; typically over 130dB with the input shorted and 40dB of gain. Having used many mic preamps over the years, Empirical Labs has implemented a unique stepped-gain control that is impervious to the normal flakiness that age causes to pots and detented switches.
Counting the output gain of 14dB, a total74 dB of gain is available to you with the CompSat section bypassed. Phantom power (+48V) is provided for condenser mics.
Exclusive CompSat™ Section
This unique circuitry is what sets 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, triode-type saturation affects the signal. As the level increases, a second unique clip circuit that includes germanium semiconductors starts to flatten out the peaks more severely. An LED named “BAD!” indicates harder, un-musical clipping.
2) Compressor: This is an uncompromising compressor/limiter circuit with detented control of attack and release for easy repeatability. You adjust the amount of compression with the DRIVE knob, which determines the level going into the compressor. In ways it is like the Empircal Labs Distressor (see #501579), but has 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 2-Bus. 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 and release shape.
3) Emphasis: Emphasis is actually two circuits that surround the compressor and saturator. Pre-emphasis boosts the high frequencies before the compressor and saturator (CompSat), soft clipping them sooner than normal, while a de-emphasis cuts the complementary frequencies 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 uncompressed signal along with the compressed signal. As you rotate the MIX control from full right to full left, you goe from the full compressed signal to the full dry signal (absent of any compression or saturation).
About Empirical Labs:
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 and was one of the core designers of their legendary H3000. EL's first product, the EL8 Distressor (#501578) immediately took the recording industry by storm and hardly a record has been made without it since. With a mission "to make products that work a little easier, a little better, a lot longer, and are fun to use," Empirical Labs continues to create unique and innovate products that quickly find homes among the top professionals of the audio industry (and anyone else who wants in on the Empirical Labs sound).
Empirical Labs Users:
Aerosmith - Joe Perry (8 Distressors)
Angela Piva - Mary J Blige, Naughty by Nature, Janet Jackson
Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Niacin, David Lee Roth)
Bob Clearmountain - Journey, Bryan Adams, Stones, Springstein, etc, etc, etc!
Brendan O'Brien -Producer Mixdown Engineer
Bruce Calder - (Electric Lady Studios, Degeneration)
Chris Lord Alge
Craig Melvin (Gloria Estefan)
Creed - Eight Distressors on their 2003 tour
D & D Studios NYC
Daniel Lanois (U2)
Dave Hewitt - Remote Recording Services
Dave Matthews —
Death Cab for Cutie
Dust Brothers (John King)
Ed Cherney -
Ed Kowalcyzk - Live
Eddie Kramer (JimiHendrix)
Effanel Remote recording - Randy Ezratty, 2003 Grammys
Eric Schilling - Gloria Estefan, John Secada
Finn Halle - Germany
Five Towns College (6 Distressors)
Full Sail School for the Recording Arts
Goo Goo Dolls
Greg Calbi - Sterling Sound
Jason Slater - Snake River Conspiracy
Jay Baumgartner - NRG Studios
Jay Gordon - Producer, Lead Vocalist of Orgy
Jerry Harrison - Live, Verve Pipe, (12 Distressors)
Jerry Only - The Misfits
Joe Chicarelli - Hole, Beck, U2, etc!
John Agnello - Producer, Engineer, Mixer
John Kurzweg - Creed
John McBride at Blackbird Studios - 8 Distressors, 4 Fatsos, 2 Lil FrEQs
John Patterson —
Josh Abraham (Orgy, Staind, Korn, Limp Bizkit)
Julien - K
Kooster McAllister - Record Plant Remote
Marc Costanzo, Len
Mark Plati - David Bowie
Michael Wilton (Queensrych)
Micheal Brauer - Sony Studios NYC
Mick Gazauski — (Mariah Carey, Boyz 2 Men, Toni Braxton, etc.)
Mick Hughes - Metallica FOH Engineer
Mike Keating (Sting, Bush, Springstein live)
Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue)
Nine Inch Nails
Paul Tennebekk (Norway's Midwest Audio)
Phil (the Buther) Nicolo (The Stones, Amy Grant, Sting, Aerosmith, Judy Saiya)
Phil Ramone/John Patterson
Real World Studios - (Peter Gabriel's facility in England)
Roey Shamir - Information Society, Al B Sure
Ross Hogarth - (Jewel, Coal Chamber, Grade 8)
Ryan Hewitt - Engineer Extraordinare
Scott Anthony - Dessau recording, Beastie Boys
Seal - on tour
Sean Beresford (3rd Eye Blind)
Stone Temple Pilots
Sue Shoemaker - Blues Traveler
Tchad Blake - Sheryl Crow, Richard Thompson, Crowded House, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt
The Academy Is
The Voyager Remote Truck in Paris
Tom Lord Alge
Woodland Studios - Robert Solomon