Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor Compressor
Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor Compressor
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OverviewThe Empirical Labs Distressor is the product that started it all for Empirical Labs. Born of founder Dave Derr's love of classic compressors like the 1176, LA-2A and Gain Brain (among others), the Distressor incorporates his favorite sonic characteristics of these, along with other unique and interesting features that have made it a staple for audio engineers all over the world.
Distressors EverywhereWith over 22,000 units in the field, it's safe to say that the Distressor is one of the best selling high end compressors of all time -
- if not THE best selling. A prominent recording engineer recently wagered that there probably was not a top 40 record made in the last five years that didn't have at least one Distressor on it.
Add Analog ColorBesides providing a wide range of control and a unique feature set, the Distressor offers a warm, vintage sound by using a custom designed gain control circuit. This "warmth" or "vintage sound" has become a major issue in the last few decades, as the super clear and linear digital technology does next to nothing to soften "harsh" sounds, nor emphasize the bass frequencies in music sources. Conversely, older analog tape, vinyl records and tube equipment could not be prevented from coloring the sound, often to the frustration of recording engineers. However, many people now realize that this coloring can be extremely pleasant and musical. Digital technology is often referred to as "cold" and "brittle" among other terms (although we prefer "unforgiving").
From Zero to BrickwallAll eight of the Distressor's curves are unique and distinctive, from the 1:1 mode that simply warms up signal with low order harmonics without intentional compression, to the "Nuke" setting -
- a brick wall limiting curve that shines on live drum room mics. Each curve has its own personality and several actually use different circuitry, and are effectively different compressors. Most exceptional is the 10:1 "Opto" ratio which uses separate detector circuitry to emulate the oldest (and valued) "light controlled" devices, such as the LA-2A.
It's Not Just a Compressor -Another large part of the Distressor's personality and power derive from three modes that color the signal, even without compression. These extended audio modes were designed to allow emulation of some very old and expensive vintage compressors & limiters, and let the Distressor deliver a classic "knee" sound all its own by providing user programmable, warm harmonic distortion. In addition to the basic distortion mode, Distort 2 emphasizes tube-like 2nd order harmonics, while in Distort 3 setting the distortion becomes dominated by 3rd harmonics more closely resembling tape. Two HP filters
- It's a Distortion Generator
- one in the audio path, one in the detector path
- are also available to help with low frequencies that can cause pumping and breathing.
- Classic knee sound -
- with modern noise specs and improved performance. The Distressor really grabs.
- Programmable analog distortion/warmth -
- helpful in the pristine but unforgiving digital world. Three audio modes provide user-programmable, warm harmonic distortion. Emphasized tube-like, 2nd harmonic in clean and Distort 2 mode. In Distort 3 mode, the distortion becomes dominated by 3rd harmonic, more similar to tape.
- Distortion indicator lights -
- A 1% LED and a "Redline" (3%) LED. No hard clipping until a few dB past "Redline."
- Advanced built-in sidechain EQ -
- High mid band emphasis prevents harsh, edgy guitars or vocals from hurting innocent ears. Low cut keeps the low "sum & difference" frequencies from pumping the upper frequencies of source material.
- Foolproof operation -
- Even though there are 384 possible settings (not counting knob settings), it's almost impossible to get a bad sound. Keep all knobs on 5 or 6 (around middle) with ratio at 6:1 and you won't go wrong.
- Eight unique curves -
- from the 1:1 mode that simply warms up signal with low order harmonics without intentional compression, to the "Nuke" setting -
- a brickwall limiting curve that shines on live drum room mics. Each curve has its own personality, and release shape. Most exceptional is the 10:1 "Opto" ratio which uses separate circuitry to emulate the oldest (and valued) "light controlled" devices, such as the LA-2A etc. See manual to emulate other compressors of old.
- Discrete and integrated combination -
- the best of speed/linearity with repeatability. Hand tested & selected components.
- Huge knobs with high resolution numbering -
- for easy readability and repeatable settings. They also go to 10 and a half.
- Locked, calibrated, output level -
- Allows speed in setting tape and live mix levels.
- Stereo Strappable
- Switchable 115/230 volt operation -
- Extra fuse provided inside unit.
- Over-designed power supplies -
- Runs cool, allowing cabinet to be sealed -
- without heat vents. Long life components.
- Single height and light weight -
- classic sound in a small, extremely reliable package.
- True bypass -
- Know what it's really doing. All contacts doubled up for maximum reliability. No internal audio connectors.
- XLR and 1/4" phone ins and outs -
- XLR fully balanced, transformerless design, pin 2 hot. Changeable by user to pin 3 hot!
- All metal film and Roederstein resistors in the audio path -
- top quality components. Many military spec. parts.
- Interface and features found nowhere else.
- Hand wired, calibrated in USA.