The CHARISMA is an 8-channel tube processor designed to improve the power, punch, dynamics as well as the subjective loudness of the signal being processed. It also optimizes the headroom exploitation of digital recording systems by helping to prevent overload while recording. Subjectively, CHARISMA introduces tonal warmth and a smooth bottom end into digital recording.
The CHARISMA project was a joint development with Manfred Reckmeyer, whose exceptional knowledge of tube technology, plus his aural imagination, have resulted in some amazing custom designs for tube guitar preamps. Who could better describe the concept of CHARISMA than the developer himself? We quote from an interview with Production Partner magazine.
"Since digital multitrack like ADATs or DA-88 have been around, I have heard from many recording engineers that these are practical and affordable products that represent a real recording alternative. Still, many miss the punch of analogue tape machines, so they decide to record certain instruments on analogue, or they dub the digital multitrack onto an analogue 24-track to breath some life into the tracks. It is very similar with hard disk recording systems. These systems provide incredible editing features, but many engineers miss something in the sound, too."
What is described here is familiar to many of us. The CHARISMA represents a solution that exceeds by far the mere simulation of tape saturation. It's tube saturation characteristic can actually be manipulated. Even so, the concept of operation is kept simple: Each CHARISMA channel has three potentiometers with which you can drive the tubes (Drive), change the tube saturation characteristic (Charisma) and set the output level (Output).
The Drive control sets the drive level to the tubes. You have control over the tube's onset of saturation to find the optimum point of processing. The higher the Drive, the more tube harmonics are being generated. At the same time, limiting gets stronger, increasing the density of the tube distortion. Charisma This unique control varies the tube saturation sound and allows you to create varying sound characteristics from 'soft' to 'hard'. Creating different tube sounds results in varying harmonic structures, and adjustments in the soft control range bring in the harmonic distortion and the tube limiting very slowly (you can compare this with the soft-knee characteristic of a compressor). In comparison to the hard control range, the soft effect starts off at relatively low levels. The sound becomes smooth and warm, is a little softer, and contains more harmonic distortion than the hard sound. In the hard control range, CHARISMA operates comparably to the hard-knee characteristic of a compressor. The processing starts with full effect at one point whereupon the signal is sharply limited, and at this point, the sound becomes punchy and crisp. Depending on the selected characteristic and intensities, a readjustment of the Drive control may further emphasize the desired effect.
The Output control sets each channel's output gain to compensate for the level increase when the Drive control has added level to drive the tube circuitry. The bypass switch switches each CHARISMA channel in and out of processing (hard-bypass), and the bypass switch is labelled according to channel number.
CHARISMA can be used everywhere, where audio signals might benefit from the excellent tube sound. The 8-channel concept is ideal for use in conjunction with digital multitrack or hard-disk recorder systems, but it can equally be used with analogue tape or DASH machines. In the MIDI studio, CHARISMA is ideal for processing single tracks such as keyboard or sampler sounds as well as vocals. In this application, the CHARISMA is inserted into the mixer's channels inserts or directly between the source and the desk. The most flexible way to use CHARISMA in the studio is to wire it into the patchbay. That way you can decide, whether it should be used while recording or later during mixdown Ð or simply inserted into specific channels. Processing subgroups is another interesting application. Using the CHARISMA while recording to digital is the most beneficial application as the tube limiting prevents clipping.
Making use of the typical tube harmonics and saturation sounds, as well as the natural tube limiting effect, while recording, is of benefit to almost any signal - indeed there's almost no limit to the applications. The sonic implications can best be characterized as gaining more presence, punch, and warmth. When recording to a digital media it is essential to avoid clipping and the tube limiting is a great tool for this purpose. Critical peaks are smoothed resulting in increased subjective loudness while controlling the electrical level. Traditionally, drums have been recorded to analogue tape - even digital drum tracks are frequently copied to analogue tape purely to capture the sound of tape saturation. With CHARISMA, you can achieve the same analogue warmth, punch and power without the inconvenience or noise of an analogue tape machine. Even sampled drums really start to sound much more like real drums. Acoustic guitars benefit from the CHARISMA effect with improved transparency and clarity, yet the recorded instrument retains the same liveliness and character as the original. Electronic basses become better focused, or you can add just a hint of deliberate distortion to help make them stand out in a busy mix. When recording vocals, the CHARISMA allows the voice to stand out in the mix without increasing the actual level - any good studio mic effectively becomes a valve mic. Intelligibility is greatly enhanced by the tube harmonics, and you can even make a clean voice sound smoky by driving the CHARISMA a little harder. That's something a tube mic doesn't allow you to do. Producers of dancefloor/trance or ambient music will find CHARISMA a remarkable creative tool for distorting bass drums, snare- and lead sounds absolutely free from noise and hum - a clear advantage over the guitar-preamps. Even original 303/808 bass and drum sounds gain additional kick and authority. CHARISMA lets you produce really 'in your face' sounds.
CHARISMA is equipped with high quality Neutrik TRS stereo jacks for balanced operation. The SSM precision input and output stages feature laser trimmed resistors that make possible common mode rejection of better than 87 dB. Mono-jacks may be used for unbalanced operation without level change - a valuable feature as most desks have unbalanced insert points! CHARISMA is also the perfect solution to driving digital 8-track systems with high quality balanced connections. The connection between console and CHARISMA should be balanced, whereas the short connection to the digital 8-track system may be left unbalanced without compromising signal integrity.