Chicago’s Black Lion Audio has built a pretty enviable reputation by modding gear to release its full potential. These days though, the company also produces high-performance kit from scratch. Like the brand’s excellent Seventeen, a supercharged take on the legendary Urei 1176 compressor/limiter – the new Eighteen takes inspiration from classic audio design without being a clone.
A top-class analogue recording channel input makes all the difference in the digital domain. Plug-ins that emulate vintage kit and effects can go a long way to spicing up audio recorded through clinical-sounding interfaces but little beats creating the vibe at the source. It follows the trash-in, trash-out philosophy of programmers or the front-end-first mantra of audiophiles who realise that upgrading your loudspeakers is pointless if you’re pumping low-grade audio through them.
Aside from the authentic analogue sound of the Eighteen, there’s something satisfyingly tactile about adjusting the relative levels of input and output to inject the right amount of harmonics before sweetening with a touch of EQ on the way in. The Eighteen can also be used as a standalone EQ or to add colouration from the unit’s transformers.