elysia Karacter 500 by Onan
I was on a quest for hardware saturation/distortion units right about the time the Karacter was released, and I feel lucky it came out just in time to fill my lunchbox. I can't explain the Karacter nearly as well as Elysia does, so you owe it to yourself to watch their video's demoing the unit.
It's wildly flexible. The M/S function is where mine lives, so I can subtly give stereo sources more breadth and warmth than I ever can with eq. I use the UAD-2 Brainworx Saturator, Fairchild, and Studer A800 plugs to add saturation in Cubase, but the Karacter does it even better. Plug ins are getting really awesome, but to my ear the analogue gear still does saturation even better. I have some other hardware saturators at my disposal, too, and along with the plugs that add good saturation, I find that I get better results by dialing in the right saturation than I ever did by using more eq. The saturators let me boost the harmonics in the frequencies I want, and it sounds better than eq (usually). Real analogue saturation is (IMHO) the missing ingredient in a lot of digital production. The Karacter is a great solution to that problem, and seriously, if you haven't tried its M/S function to saturate stereo tracks, you're missing a world of sonic beauty.