TL AUDIO Fat Track by tone_rekooda
this is a review about TL Audio`s Fat Track.
What is this machine in short words
The front plate says “tube production suite”. That`s true! The Fat Track is a 10-to-2 summing box, a monitor controller, two channelstrips with two mic pres and two eq and inserts on the channelstrips and also an insert on the master. Ah yeah, and of course you can drive the tubes!
So it`s something like a little console, which is the reason why I´ve put this review in the console section.
Let`s go into detail and discuss the several parts of that machine.
There are two channelstrips. They are pretty overlookable, consisting of a mic pre, a 3-band eq (semiparametric mid, fixed hi/lo), panorama knob, fader knob, fx send, phase reverse, eq on/off, mute switch, pad switch, phantom switch and of course DI.
The mic pres are sounding pretty decent. We have used the for tracking bass drums and snare which gave very nice results (tracked them with audix drum mics). Bd and snare sounded full with tight lows.
Bass guitars and guitars were always tracked DI which I like a lot! Also sounding smooth with full mids and pleasing lows. We`ve recorded an old 70`s Gibbson just DI, didn’t reamped it because it sounded so over-nice, awesome guitar anyway.
You can route the mic pres to a direct output so you don`t have to record via the master stage.
The EQ section is awesome too. I don`t have a lot experience with other hardware EQs, but this one is sounding very nice. While mixing I always send the drums buss into the two channelstrips and do some eqing. The lows are fixed at 90Hz I think, the highs at 12kHz, mids are semiparametric. Boosting the BD`s impact in a very nice way or giving some more air is an easy fun! It`s much more fun tweaking this eq than any software EQ I am using. It`s fun because of the haptic and also and much more because of the sound itself. Very smooth sounding, hardly nasty results when cranked up.
I always send my final mix (two buss) into the channelstrips too for some eqing. Best results I always get with electronic music (Did some minimal/techno, freetekno, drumandbass, dubstep), increasing the low impact and giving air and boosting some mids always work well.
The insert/send-section is pretty dope too for that little machine. I did some parallel compressing of drums with it. Just send your drum buss into the channelstrips and turn up the send knob. On the insert was a Radioman Compressor located which can be awesome for in-you-face drums. With the sendknob you can adjust the amount of the parallelcompression. Very very handy!
Like I said you can sum 10 to 2. 2 mono signals on the channelstrips and 4 stereo on the additional inputs A, B, C and D. This additional inputs just have a fader knob which controls the amount which is sent to the master.
My approach while mixing is to send the drum buss into channelstrip 1 and 2. On input A I have my bass, on B guitars, on C vocals and on D effects or synths or whatelse.
You can adjust the tube amount on the master stage, there is an extra fader knob for this purpose. Cranking up the tubes can get damn audible results! Very usefull and I think very nice sound.
Ah yeah, the output level is showed by two VU meters.
When I did my first mix on the Fat Track (a minimal/techno track) I was amazed how it sounded on my well known monitors. It felt and sounded much deeper and wider. The several sounds were better located in the mix and it all had a pleasing “analog” touch and warmth. It also was easier mixing into the Fat Track then it was itb. Of course I am biased, no way, but all my mixes I did on the machine sounded better than before.
But I think you get nice results when you start mixing directly into the Fat Track. If you mix itb and then put the interface outputs into the machine you won`t get the same sound. At least that`s what I experienced.
There`s not a lot to say about. You can drive two monitor sets and two headphones and turn up or down the volume. I don`t know if it`s good to monitor via Fat Track. I have the feeling that it would be better monitoring via an external controller. But it works very well for me.
It feels like a little, blue tank! Looks and feels rocksolid. But when we`ve bought now monitors (Focal Solo 6) we heard the first time that some knobs are crackling sometimes. It`s not a big problem and doesn`t do any bad, but when you have to press the buttons very often it can get on your nerves … I have to say that we`ve bought the machine second hand.
What`s not included
You can`t really bypass the tube section and there is no talkback function. Ah yeah, you can buy an ADAT Option too, but I don`t have any experience with that.
It`s a really bang for the buck mates! Of course some over-pro-studios don`t need such a tool, but the little studios or home/private studios can benefit a lot from the TL Audio Fat Track. When it`s your first analog hardware gear you won`t be disappointed in anyway, I think I can promise you
Statement on my review scores
Sound quality is 8 because I do believe there is gear around which is sounding better than this tool. But I don`t have a lot experience with other analog gear and regarding to its price (€1149) I think 8 is well thought. Especially when you are going otb the first time!
Ease of use is 9. Yeah, it`s indead VERY easy to use. But using a sunglass and wearing it is something I think of when I say "easy to use", so mates, it`s just 9 out of 10
Features is 9 too. I don`t need anymore and especially no talkback function of adat option. But some guys said "no I am not gonna buy because of that". So well, I scored 9 out of 10
Bang for the buck, yeah, no way, just 10! Full points dudes!