A modified version of the EL7 Fatso with compression, tape saturation, warmth generator, and transformer coloration to add richness and character to your mixes.
The Kush Audio UBK Fatso builds on the brilliant design of Dave Derr’s Empirical Labs EL7 Fatso, giving you the ability to enhance the sound of a final mix or shape the sound of any instrument with single control ease. Like the EL7 Fatso, it offers many of the “musical non-linearities” of older tube, Class A discrete, and magnetic tape mediums, but with several distinct flavors of compression—hand and ear-tuned by Gregory Scott (aka UBK).
What sets the UBK Fatso apart from a stock EL7 Fatso is a completely retooled compressor section. Designed to give you the most unflinchingly musical compression regardless of the sound being processed, or the amount of compression being applied, it will never pump or fold. The Kush Audio UBK Fatso makes easy work of the most difficult and mysterious process in sound engineering: compression.
Vintage limiting, smooth opto leveling, transparent reduction, aggressive modern squeeze—whatever your vision, the UBK Fatso not only makes it possible, it makes it easy. Seven unique compressors—four “name” presets plus three “hidden gems,” produce a remarkable range of flavor, attitude, and grab, all rolled into a one-knob interface that makes it impossible to screw up.
Your job: choose the style of squeeze you desire, dial up “more” or “less” and get on with your life.
The tape saturation effect of the UBK Fatso could not be easier to operate: by simply turning up the input knob, you get more of the sweet harmonic distortion and transient soft-clipping that naturally occurs when you drive a signal into the magnetic field of an open-reel tape machine.
Hard sounds will soften as the tops and bottoms of the waveform get rounded off in an extremely musical fashion; meanwhile, the density or thickness of the source grows as harmonics are intensified and excited by the UBK Fatso’s 2nd and 3rd order harmonic distortion generators.
The “Comfy” light is your indicator that the input level is hitting 0dB on the VU scale, which means that the harmonics have begun building up and your transients are being gently rounded. Keep pushing the input and you’ll see the “Toasty” light engage, which s your cue that distortion levels are running high and heavy saturation is happening. The tape saturation effect by itself, without any compression, is often the only thing a mix or an element needs to go from raw to polished.
When tape saturation combines with compressor, warmth generator, and transformer coloration, the UBK Fatso is a formidable tone-shaping and energy transforming device, that can subtly or dramatically alter the sound and behavior of your elements and mixes in ways that are generally associated with very old, very expensive equipment. With the twist of a knob and that tap of a couple of buttons, harsh becomes smooth, uncontrolled becomes tamed, and lifeless becomes energized.
Once upon a time, when mics, preamps, consoles, tape machines, compressors, and equalizers all had tubes in them, warmth was a given and the struggle was to achieve clarity and overcome noise and distortion. Today, the process of recording digitally with modern equipment tends to produce the opposite effect: too many stark details and hard, edgy transients; not enough roundness, depth, character, or mystery.
The Warmth Generator of the UBK Fatso softens and saturates the high frequencies of our signal in a way that evokes the spirit of analog tape and classic tube gear. As usual, its operation could not be simpler: with each press of the Warmth Generator’s single button, you increase both the intensity and audibility of the effect. Seven discrete threshold levels give you a range of from subliminal to excessive and everything in between.
When used subtly, the Warmth Generator adds a touch of that old-school analog magic we all lust for. But Warmth also fixes the problems that we all deal with far more often than we’d like: it smoothens harsh, brittle drum overheads; softens brash, sibilant vocalists; rounds out the edges of an overly bright, metallic-sounding acoustic guitar; and “de-digitizes” grainy drum loops.
With the UBK Fatso in your rack, a world of vintage tone and fatness is at your fingertips.
Typically, when sound passes through a well-designed transformer, the low frequencies will shift ahead of the high frequencies to arrive at your ear first. This subtle phase shift produces a tone that is often described as warm, creamy, and musical. When driven harder, transformers soften the hardest peaks of the transients, literally making your sound rounder and smoother. They also distort the signal musically by adding harmonic overtones, further increasing density and thickness.
The transformer circuit in the UBK Fatso was specially tuned by Dave Derr (founder of Empirical Labs) to not only produces these desirable artifacts, but also to replicate “head bump;” the name given to the low-end weight and inherent EQ boost that occurs whenever you record on open-reel, analog tape decks. Simply by flicking a switch on the UBK Fatso, your bass takes on a little more growl and grit; it also becomes more audible and full sounding on smaller speakers. Acoustic guitars take on a shimmering quality, and drums and vocals have a touch more air and presence.
Be aware, as with all good circuits, the transformer coloration of the UBK Fatso is not a radical effect; it is in fact subtle. But its effect, especially as it accumulates on many or most of the tracks in our project, can be very powerful indeed.
Gregory Scott (aka UBK) on the UBK Fatso:
1. I wanted to create a collection of fixed-setting compressors that, with the turn of a single knob, could shape and tame any sound you throw at it, and be especially adept with those that are the easiest to screw up: vocals, drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, and pianos.
2. I wanted these preset comps to offer up several distinctly different ‘flavors’ of compression, each of which has a ‘grab’ and ‘motion’ that is totally unlike the others, in order to give the mordern engineer maximum flexibility in terms of style, attitude, punch, and squeeze.
3. I wanted to make these compressors incredibly smooth and easygoing at moderate settings, but able to go to extremes (and beyond) to create sounds that are suprising, inspiring, and drenched in vibe. No matter how much you dig in, the results should be musical; it might be too much compression for you, but it will never be *bad* compression.
“How do I do this?” Once upon a time, compressors came with two knobs, and your compression options were ‘more’ and ‘less’. But make no mistake: this minimalism in design was actually an asset to the guy who had to turn the knobs and push the faders. The engineers who designed these simple boxes paid painstaking attention to every crucial aspect of envelope shaping --- the knee, the ratio, the attack and the release --- and they tweaked and tweezed the mysterious and often chaotic interplay of these parameters until they found their holy grail: a circuit whose action was incredibly musical and whose grab sounded amazing on every source and sound you feed it.
“Compression was easy, and it always sounded good.” So it is with the UBK Fatso. In addition to all the tone-sweetening characteristics and features of the classic Fatso --- harmonic thickening, tape-like saturation, independent ‘warmth’ control to soften and tame high frequency harshness --- the UBK Fatso features 3 brand new presets, lovingly crafted by yours truly, tweaked exclusively by ear, and exhaustively tested in the trenches on every sound you’re ever likely to find in your mixes, and a few you probably never will… just in case.
Splat - this is my take on the comps built into my favorite 3-lettered vintage console. At modest settings, it stiffens and reigns in drums, focuses a vocal, and enhances the vibe of the original sound while making it easier to manage. But when you dig in, wonderful things begin to happen. Drums develop thwack and hit you in the chest. Vocals get utterly creamy with a pleasing, old school hair. Loops come alive and breathe organically. Electric guitars get thicker, deeper, and stay pinned where you want them. But don’t be afraid of those meters: push it farther, past that red light. 20dB of reduction? Don’t worry, keep going. Ever heard your drum buss do that? Didn’t think so.
Welcome to ‘no rules’ compression.
Smooth - this is classic limiting, with a twist. My intent here was to craft a tracking style limiter that would allow the engineer to shave 6-10db off the peaks of instruments without sounding like much of anything happened, yet things are somehow sweeter, they behave better. When you print elements thru this preset, you’ll find your mixes come together easier and faster, with less eq and compression. Things just ‘fit’, the way they did when we tracked to tape.
But again, what happens if you start to abuse this preset in the mix? ‘Fast and smooth’ begets and ‘fast and aggressive’, that’s what. Slap it on electronic drum loops and watch the Germans seethe with envy. Put it on a room mic in parallel, maybe a little Abbey Road really is what that kit needs. Crazy hip hop vocal refusing to behave? Clamp it down, ruthlessly, effortlessly.
One compressor does it all.
Glue - the bottom end never sounded like this. It is simply unreal how easily this preset will lock the bass in place, punch it up, let all the notes ring clear as a bell, and make it loud while getting it out of the way. Engage the transformer to make the low end sing, even on iPod docks. If gluing the bass were the only thing the UBK Fatso did, it would still be worth the price. But Glue is every bit as versatile and surprising as the rest of this box, especially when pushed. It’s an extraordinary drum compressor, imparting a distinct smack even as it makes the room explode. It’s lovely on acoustic guitars, Rhodes, sitar… whatever.
When all else fails, glue the sucker down.
In addition to all of these purposeful compressors, the UBK Fatso features Dave Derr’s classic “Spank” for that inimitable SSL-style smack. You can also combine any two presets, or all three, for even more unusual and unexpected results. So grab those knobs, experiment fearlessly, and ignore those meters: your ears will tell you all you need to know.