Looptrotter’s products to date have appealed to me enormously. They’re all variations on the saturation theme, and it’s a gorgeous-sounding saturation too. This product, the Satur-8 24, is a 24-channel summing mixer plus eight-channel distortion processor with a Class-A signal path. It effectively bolts 16 more channels of summing mixer onto the Satur-8, which I reviewed back in January 2013 (http://sosm.ag/jan13-looptrotter). The first eight channels are pretty much as those on the original Satur-8, with inputs and outputs via DB25 D-sub connector and a solid-state transistor distortion stage sandwiched between them. As with that device, the distortion sounds lovely, and may be used subtly or for fairly aggressive coloration, as you prefer, courtesy of a Drive and output-level control. Each channel also features an L/C/R pan switch. In parallel to the channel outputs on these saturation channels, the signal is routed to a summing bus, via which the signals are mixed (actively) down to two channels (ie. left and right). Two further banks of eight channels are similarly summed, but these lack the dedicated outputs, the pan switches and the distortion processors. In fact, they have no front-panel controls whatsoever. The three pairs of signals are then passively summed to stereo, where a balanced stereo insert facility is available, courtesy of two pairs of TRS jacks, and there’s a new toy too — a ‘Magic’ module, the only control for which is a Magic/Normal switch. This, say Looptrotter, “magically nears, widens and thickens the whole mix, giving it a vivid, analogue sound.” More on that later. There are then two stereo balanced outputs via two pairs of XLR sockets, one for the main mix, and one for a monitor mix, allowing you to listen to the pristine summed signal at whatever level you desire, while routing the mix at the optimum level (as indicated by a pair of backlit VU needle meters on the front panel) for your recording device.
In use, the Satur-8 24 isn’t that much different from the Satur-8: the summing is just as clean and the saturation effect just as beautiful and controllable. The other 16 channels sound as quiet as the proverbial church mouse — other than for the fact that they’re passing a signal you wouldn’t know they were there, which is precisely as it should be. The insert point is perfect for use with a bus compressor (Looptrotter’s own Monster FET compressor/distortion processor could be an ideal candidate) or longer bus-processing chain. It would be possible to offer a little more versatility in this respect, either by adding insert points to the stereo sub-mixes or allowing you to route the two banks of ‘clean’ channels to the saturation channel inputs. However, Looptrotter came up with a different solution — they’ve tweaked the original Satur-8 to create the Satur-8 EX. The idea is that this may be used as an expander for the Satur-8 24, adding eight channels of distortion. It’s a lovely solution, but alas one which would require you to part with a significant wad of cash! Another, less ambitious but correspondingly more affordable, option would be to purchase a two-channel Sat2rate.
So what of the Magic feature? This does, as Looptrotter claim, slightly enhance the stereo width and it also thickens the mid-range somewhat, making things sound (just the faintest touch) more exciting. But when using this facility, one has to be careful, because applying the ‘Magic’ also boosts the signal level by a few decibels (possibly due to parallel compression being used here?) which is always going to make things sound more impressive. For a more objective comparison, which takes this level difference out of the equation, you’d have to bounce down two separate mixes and then level match.
In short, then, I’ve tried a few different summing devices. This one may not exactly be cheap but it’s far more versatile than most, given the control you have over the amount of saturation applied to different sources and to the overall mix. If you think of it as an eight-channel processor, with summing and master bus inserts and the magic control thrown in for good measure, it looks more reasonably priced! Matt Houghton