The UBK Fatso is a beautiful, intuitive compressor which could just be the most vital piece of gear I own. Made in America by Empirical Labs, the UBK Fatso is modified by Kush Audio to the specifications of producer Greg Scott, also known on forums as UBK. The Fatso is an incredibly versatile unit consisting of, a tape emulation circuit, and compressor, a high-frequency reduction circuit labelled “warmth”, a compressor and a switchable output transformer. The tape emulation is always on and is level dependent, and brings a fantastic drive sound. The “comfy” LED indicates harmonics are being added, and this can be just the thing to bring out crunch on drums - try it on snare or kick. The “warmth” circuit is also level dependent and helps tame extreme high frequencies above a threshold set by the cyclical warmth button. The high the warmth setting the lower the high frequency reduction threshold in both volume and frequency terms. This means that on a low setting only the very highest frequencies are attenuated at the highest threshold. The compressor section relies on selectable presets which dictate that preset’s ratio, attack and release settings, and threshold. There’s a good range of sounds to be had here, a particular favorite of mine being the ‘BUSS’ setting, which I use, as suggested over the main mix. The final feature to be played with is the inserts. As the compressor section relies on preset threshold values, there appears to be no way to set up the warmth circuit without also affecting the compression amount. However, if a volume reducing device (preamp, EQ, or passive volume controller) is connected to the inserts it becomes possible to separate these two functions, as the inserts work between the warmth circuit and compressor circuits. The versatility and sheer number of high quality signal modifying features of the UBK Fatso surely makes this a great unit for any studio.
Last month they had a sale at my favourite home-grown music shop Long & McQuade (thank god for financing!) and I decided to pick one of these babies up. I had been eyeing it for months now based on some good things I read about it and the online demos and youtube videos. I was looking for a versatile stereo/dual mono compressor that could handle 2-buss duties and also add a bit of character, a jack of all trades. It was between this and an API 2500 which were basically the same price new, so I went with this because the API is more popular and I wanted something different. Truth be told when I finish paying for this I will likely buy the API anyway as its one of my all time favourite pieces of gear!
I'm very happy with the UBK Fatso, and I've really only been using a few of the pre-set modes regularly. I would be totally happy leaving this thing in 'glue' mode all the time on everything and just tweak it so you get between 2-5 dbs of gain reduction. This seems to be the sweet spot setting, above 7 dbs and you can really start to hear it working, but 7 dbs is a substantial amount of gain so that's to be expected. You can get away with really pushing this thing on single instruments and still have it sound natural without really hearing the compressor work, but on the 2-buss it becomes really obvious. I record a lot of indie rock so big and loud is usually the way to go anyway. When you really start driving this thing there is a point where it starts to sound like too much compression, then you drive it even harder all the way into the red and it has a way of smoothing itself out.
The input is quite sensitive to line level signals, I usually have to turn down the output of whatever is driving it just so I can get the gain up above 1 which is where the unit seems to cut in/out. This does make it a bit tricky to find the right gain staging when using this as an insert on an analog mixer especially if you tend to mix hot. I've found that using the sidechain input with a gain changing device such as an empty channel on the board (as I'm doing) is a game changer. This allows you to control the threshold setting for the compressor circuit. It means I can dial in a bit more gain to kick the saturation and 'warmth' circuit before the compressor starts squashing the track. If I engage the channel eq and cut the lows it acts as a variable high pass filter on the compressor detector circuit making it even more useful for Buss duty compression. Its a very simple set-up, but don't expect the manual to give you step by step instructions, its quite vague, so I'll explain it here. You need a balanced 1/4" TRS split to two unbalanced 1/4" TS cables which act as a send/return. You plug the send into the channel input and the return into the direct out, balanced connector goes into the units sidechain input. Voilà. You can use only one channel strip for this plugged into the left audio input, and as long as the unit is in 'link' mode it will affect both channels sidechain circuits. If you own this piece of gear and you're not already doing this you're missing out. This is really the selling feature for me that makes this compressor versatile, as on its own it is very aggressive sounding.
The saturation on it is very nice, I like to light up the 'comfy' LED so that it blinks occasionally with every kick drum indicating soft clipping. The warmth circuit (HF limiting) I like to keep around 1-3 dbs so that its just kissing the high end. For Mixing I pretty much keep it in 'glue' or 'spank' mode, or disengage the compressor altogether and just use the saturation, but the 'all buttons in' mode can be especially nice for crushing the living hell out of the drum buss. 'Spank' mode is nice for tracking vocals, it grabs very quickly and can rapidly adjust to a highly dynamic performance which is great for general limiting or for a singer that likes to move around. The 'smooth' mode can be nice for this as well. The transformer option rounds off the low end and gives it a bit of a hump around 80Hz so you do loose a bit of the deep bass, but it does sound more forward in the mix. Its not something I use on the mix busses often but sometimes its just what you need. On single tracks I'll use it quite a bit.
Overall I'm very happy with this purchase and would recommend this piece of gear to anyone who records modern music.
Such an amazing piece of gear. It's lots of fun to just throw anything threw it, ANYTHING. I've used it for tracking and tons for mixing. It really does just make everything sound better. If I could give anyone advice if they were considering purchasing one, I'd say READ THE MANUAL. Really study it and understand how this piece of equipment works. Its designed to be simple but it really, imho, can be an amazing tool if you really understand what each preset is actually doing so you can apply it to your situation, weather its mixing or tracking. Its a great product and I love the trapfo feature, tape saturation and the color. One thing to keep in mind is the "warmth" feature is actually limiting anything above , I believe, the 5k range. I love that you have the control to adjust, in steps, how much you want your signal to start limiting the high end. really cool especially on OH's to keep the cymbals under control. My ONLY disappointment is that when you link the channels together only the bypass/trapfo function is linked. I wish it linked the preset and also the warmth generator(warmth always makes me think of tubes). I think no one who owns this regrets it, you really never see used ones for sale, that's always a great sign! If your on the fence, GET IT!!!