Softube and Empirical Labs have teamed up for a series of plug-ins based on ELI’s iconic hardware. The Mike-E Comp is a preamp, saturator and compressor built around the Empirical Labs Distressor circuit. Lil FrEQ recreates the equally renowned EQ and de-esser. And to round things out, they’ve made a channel strip for Console 1, as well.
If we’re to believe the product intro on Softube’s website, the two companies began to think about collaborating no less than 15 years ago. Now we get to enjoy the results, and as you might expect, they’re all about character: the new Softube Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp, Lil FrEQ and Trak Pak plug-ins.
Mike-E Comp is an emulation of the ELI hardware device of the same name. Softube says that the plug-in was modeled in close collaboration with Dave Derr himself. Mike-E Comp begins with a preamp section, which Softube calls “crunchy”. It offers 10 switchable gain settings. After that is a multi-stage soft-clip saturator, which lets you drive the signal into the warm, hot or toasty regions.
Finally, the compressor section is built on the Empirical Labs Distressor circuit. You can choose from five ratio settings including NUKE, five attack times and four release times. There’s also an external sidechain input.
Lil FrEQ brings Empirical Labs’ popular equalizer and de-esser combination to your DAW. Softube says that it offers a “warm yet extremely punchy retro sound”. Like the original, the plug-in offers a high pass filter, high and low shelving bands and four parametric EQ bands. Then, there’s the unique de-esser section with tunable filters, which can also act as a high-frequency soft-knee limiter.
Trak Pak for Console 1
In addition to the two individual plug-ins, Softube and Empirical Labs have created Trak Pak for Console 1. The channel strip combines the Mike-E Comp and Lil FrEQ and maps their controls to the Console 1 hardware. Lil FrEQ’s de-esser and HF limiter are found in the Shape section. Softube claims that it feels like mixing on an Empirical Labs console.
Price and compatibility
Softube Mike-E Comp, Lil FrEQ and Trak Pak are now available for an introductory price of €199 each, which is 20% off the regular price. If you’d like the whole package, the Softube ELI Complete Collection can be had for €349, down from €449. You can get the plug-ins at Plugin Boutique*.
The plug-ins require macOS 10.12 or higher or Windows 7 or higher (64 bit). They come in VST, VST3, AU and AAX formats. You’ll need an iLok account and the Softube Central software for authorization.