Empirical Labs Distressor EL8X Distressor
Classic Knee Sound
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 (similar to tape).
The Empirical Labs Distressor is an automatic gain (or volume) control device (AGC in engineering terms) designed for pro audio (music) applications. Basically, it electronically controls the volume of just about any source in a very pleasing, and "musical" manner - adding fullness, intelligibility, and especially in the Distressor's case - excitement. This type of device is often called a "limiter" or "compressor" by audio industry people. Its most probable uses will be in recording studios, live sound situations, movie sound production, and radio broadcast production.
Unlike most analog compressor/limiters the Distressor is a digitally controlled audio device and actually incorporates several products into one by utilizing digital controls to switch totally different circuits in and out. Years of beta testing and redesign went into the Distressor as will be the case with all Empirical Labs products.
Besides offering a wide range of control and unique features, the Distressor offers a warm, vintage sound by using a custom designed gain control circuit. This "warmth" or vintage sound has become an important issue in the last 15 years, as the super clear and linear digital technology does very little (or nothing) to soften "harsh" sounds nor emphasize the bass frequencies in music sources. Older analog tape, vinyl records and tube equipment on the other hand, could not be prevented from coloring the sound, often to the frustration of recording engineers. However, many people have now realized that this coloring can be extremely pleasant and "musical." The current digital technology is often referred to as "cold" and "brittle" among other terms, although we prefer the term "unforgiving" to describe the negative side of the "linearity." The Distressor offers several modes that color the signal, even without compression (or gain control). These extended modes were designed to allow emulation of some very old and some very expensive vintage gain control units (compressors & limiters) and deliver a classic "knee" sound all its own.
- Freq. response is 2 Hz to 160 kHz in clean audio mode (+0, -3 dB)
- Response is shaped in distortion modes (Dist 2, Dist 3)
- Dynamic range 110 dB from max. output to min. output in 1:1 mode
- Greater than 100 dB signal to noise in distort 3 mode
- Distortion ranges between .02% and 20% depending on distortion mode and release times set on front panel
- DC coupled output - high-quality input caps
- Input impedance is 20K Ohms, output impedance is < 75 ohms
- Time constants - Attack range 50uS - 50mS
- Release range .05 sec to 3.5 seconds, normal modes and up to 20 seconds in 10:1 opto mode
- Time constants are dependant on ratio
- Metal Chassis - single height 1.75" high, 10" deep, 19" wide
|Tube or Solid State||Solid State|
I want to give it five stars ! I really do. The only reason I can’t is because I honestly don’t think I’m qualified with enough experience to award “blue ribbon” status. Consider my above statements as a disclaimer.
I like this unit so much, I ordered a second. Tracking vocals and my acoustic guitar with a Neve SPX 1073 with the Distressor in the insert path, gives me a whole lot of flexibility. The Distressor being used as a “limiter” does what I would expect it to. The availability of the “distortion” parameters of this unit is a definite plus. It doesn’t sound artificial or contrived (to my ears) in any way. This is a very usable feature set !
I am very much looking forward to having a pair of these and this latest incarnation of the EL8X being “linkable” for stereo applications is a plus for me.
Regardless of how many “stars” I give this thing, I can readily declare that I have zero buyers remorse. Having a pair of these, seems like a darn good investment in craft work tools. I do indeed think that the often declared description of Distressor being the “Swiss army knife” of compressors is an apt description. I highly recommend this product ! Be forewarned that if you buy one of these, I do indeed think that you will desire a pair of them !
If you are having a hard time picking a specific compresor; Fet vs. Opto vs. VCA.. grab a Distressor - this is the Swiss Army knife of compressors, a literal Chamelean that can give you all of the above. From Gentle to Agressive this compressor gives you it all and that is why it has become a staple in studios today. (Don't forget the harmonics and the NUKE button - fun for days!!!!)
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