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Control your volume levels while adding musicality, intelligibility and excitement.
The EL8 Distressor from Empirical Labs is an automatic gain (or volume) control device (AGC in engineering terms) designed for pro audio applications. Basically, the compressor 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 EL8 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 compressor 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.
About Empirical Labs:
Empirical Labs was started in 1988 and functioned mainly as a recording studio and electronics consulting firm. The founder, Dave Derr, was also employed at the time by Eventide as an audio engineer and was one of the core designers of their legendary H3000. EL's first product, the EL8 Distressor (#501578) immediately took the recording industry by storm and hardly a record has been made without it since. With a mission "to make products that work a little easier, a little better, a lot longer, and are fun to use," Empirical Labs continues to create unique and innovate products that quickly find homes among the top professionals of the audio industry (and anyone else who wants in on the Empirical Labs sound).
Empirical Labs Users:
Aerosmith - Joe Perry (8 Distressors)
Angela Piva - Mary J Blige, Naughty by Nature, Janet Jackson
Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Niacin, David Lee Roth)
Bob Clearmountain - Journey, Bryan Adams, Stones, Springstein, etc, etc, etc!
Brendan O'Brien -Producer Mixdown Engineer
Bruce Calder - (Electric Lady Studios, Degeneration)
Chris Lord Alge
Craig Melvin (Gloria Estefan)
Creed - Eight Distressors on their 2003 tour
D & D Studios NYC
Daniel Lanois (U2)
Dave Hewitt - Remote Recording Services
Dave Matthews ”
Death Cab for Cutie
Dust Brothers (John King)
Ed Cherney -
Ed Kowalcyzk - Live
Eddie Kramer (JimiHendrix)
Effanel Remote recording - Randy Ezratty, 2003 Grammys
Eric Schilling - Gloria Estefan, John Secada
Finn Halle - Germany
Five Towns College (6 Distressors)
Full Sail School for the Recording Arts
Goo Goo Dolls
Greg Calbi - Sterling Sound
Jason Slater - Snake River Conspiracy
Jay Baumgartner - NRG Studios
Jay Gordon - Producer, Lead Vocalist of Orgy
Jerry Harrison - Live, Verve Pipe, (12 Distressors)
Jerry Only - The Misfits
Joe Chicarelli - Hole, Beck, U2, etc!
John Agnello - Producer, Engineer, Mixer
John Kurzweg - Creed
John McBride at Blackbird Studios - 8 Distressors, 4 Fatsos, 2 Lil FrEQs
John Patterson ”
Josh Abraham (Orgy, Staind, Korn, Limp Bizkit)
Julien - K
Kooster McAllister - Record Plant Remote
Marc Costanzo, Len
Mark Plati - David Bowie
Michael Wilton (Queensrych)
Micheal Brauer - Sony Studios NYC
Mick Gazauski ” (Mariah Carey, Boyz 2 Men, Toni Braxton, etc.)
Mick Hughes - Metallica FOH Engineer
Mike Keating (Sting, Bush, Springstein live)
Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue)
Nine Inch Nails
Paul Tennebekk (Norway's Midwest Audio)
Phil (the Buther) Nicolo (The Stones, Amy Grant, Sting, Aerosmith, Judy Saiya)
Phil Ramone/John Patterson
Real World Studios - (Peter Gabriel's facility in England)
Roey Shamir - Information Society, Al B Sure
Ross Hogarth - (Jewel, Coal Chamber, Grade 8)
Ryan Hewitt - Engineer Extraordinare
Scott Anthony - Dessau recording, Beastie Boys
Seal - on tour
Sean Beresford (3rd Eye Blind)
Stone Temple Pilots
Sue Shoemaker - Blues Traveler
Tchad Blake - Sheryl Crow, Richard Thompson, Crowded House, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt
The Academy Is
The Voyager Remote Truck in Paris
Tom Lord Alge
Woodland Studios - Robert Solomon
- Classic knee sound - With modern noise specs and improved performance. Really grabs.
- Programmable analog distortion/warmth - helpful in the pristine but unforgiving digital world. Three audio modes providing 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.
- Fool proof 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 brick wall 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 LA2A 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 1/2 .
- Locked, calibrated, output level - Allows speed in setting tape and live mix levels.
- Stereo Strappable
- Switchable 110/220 volt operation - Extra fuse provided inside unit.
- Over design 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 mil spec. parts.
- Interface and features found nowhere else.
- Hand wired, calibrated in USA. Shipping weight 11.25Lbs.
- 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 dependent on ratio.
- Metal Chassis - 3.50" high, 10" deep, 19" wide.
- Shipping info: Weight - 24.2 lbs, Box dimensions 22.5" x 18.5" x 6 1/4
Musician's Friend Gold Coverage
Gold Coverage goes above and beyond the manufacturer's warranty to protect your gear from unexpected breakdowns, accidental damage from handling and failures. This plan covers your product for one, two, three or up to five years from your date of purchase, costs just pennies per day and gives you a complete "no-worry" solution for protecting your investment.
Gold Coverage Includes:
- Unexpected and unintentional spills, drops and cracks
- Normal wear and tear
- Power surges
- Dust, internal heat and humidity
Other plan features include:
- For products over $200, No Lemon Policy applies. If it fails for the same defect 3 times, it is replaced on the 4th breakdown. (Does not apply to failures due to drops, spills, and cracks)
- For products under $200 experiencing the above failures, a Musician's Friend gift card will be issued for the full price of the product + tax.
- Shipping fees covered if required for repair or replacement
- Plans are transferable in the event merchandise is sold
- Plans are renewable on new gear
*Limitations and exclusions apply. See terms and conditions for program details
Term for New Gear begins on date of purchase but does not replace the store return policy or manufacturer coverage.
Reviewed by 1 customer
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Comments about Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor Compressor Stereo Pair:
I rarely give any product a rating of 5 *'s, but this product truly deserves it!I'm a pro bassist in Greensboro, NC, and the primary studio that I record sessions in has 2 - 1 channel units of the Distressor. He uses them for everything from drum tracks, to vocals, to guitar, and of course: BASS!! This unit is essentially his compressor rig in 1 unit instead of 2.Anyway, I've used many compressor units at Underground, and this is my favorite compressor by far! The engineer at Underground works all of the controls, so I can't speak on how easy it is to use. It looks simple enough to use though. I can tell you that this thing makes my bass sing! The tone is even, the signal is boosted, there is no coloration from the compressor, and no noise. Running direct into a patchbay into the Distressor, then directly into his ProTools rig, my bass sounds clear, defined, precise, punchy... I have not run through any high end bass rig that make my bass sound as good as the Distressor! I would say, from my playing experience, that the LA-2A is the closest competition to these units. But at double the price of this unit, you can keep the LA-2A. I'll take the Distressor!!!