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Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor Compressor

With British Mode and Image Link. (16) Read 2 reviews for this product | Rate and review this product
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Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor

The Empirical Labs Distressor is an automatic gain control device 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.

Features

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 in. 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.

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 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 compressors and limiters and deliver a classic "knee" sound all its own.

Stereo Image Linking for the Distressor -
A hardware option for your Distressor


Basic Description
The original Distressor stereo link implementation used a summing and phase detection method which allowed stereo image shifting. "Image shifting" occurs when the interchannel balance (the relative volume between Left and Right channels) changes during compression. Although known for its phase correction, and its "thickening" on open room mics and other stereo sources, this approach has sometimes been a problem on stereo program material where the producer/engineers want to maintain absolute left/right balance at all times.

With the new "Stereo Image Link" option, the Distressor user now has three link options - the original "phase" link, the new Image Link and the combination of the two, phase and image linking. This has never before been offered on any compressors or limiters. There can be very slight differences in the metering between the two units. Due to the high resolution of the Distressor's metering, 1/10th dB can make an LED on one unit go on or off earlier than the other unit's. Also, don't readjust knob alignment - the output pots especially. They are often offset around "0" to allow for "dead spots" at the lower extremes.

The Distressor "British Mode" Option
Welcome to another upgrade & option for your Distressor!


Basic Description
The original concept of the "British Mode" came from an unusual setting on the classic UREI LN1176 limiter. The unit was designed to have only four ratios, each ratio being engaged by selecting one of four buttons. However, as early as 1980 (or before), renegade recording engineers, always on the lookout for something a little more "over the top", found that you could make all four buttons stay "in" if you pressed them just right. What resulted was a very, very aggressive sound that had some elements of the units 20:1 ratio, but with an unusual knee and new envelope shape. Somewhere along the line, someone called it a "British Mode" and the name has stuck. It is also called "all buttons in" and some other intuitive names.

zZounds is an authorized dealer of Empirical Labs products.
Specifications

Frequency Response: 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 maximum output to minimum output in 1:1 mode. Greater than 100 dB signal to noise in distort 3 mode.

Distortion Range: .02% to 20% depending on distortion mode and release times set on front panel.

DC Coupled Output High quality input caps.

Input Impedance: 20K Ohms

Output Impedance: < 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.

Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.75 x 19 x 10 in.

Weight: 11.25 lbs.
If you have additional warranty questions, please contact the manufacturer at 973-728-2425
Customer Reviews
4 out of 5 (16 ratings) Rate and Review This Product
zZounds has verified that this customer bought this product from us. This review has been selected by our experts as particularly helpful. "Move Over Harsh Digital Sound... That Analog Feel In A Digital Realm Is Here!!!"
Sound: When using mics, I've always found myself using just an Avalon (or something similar), and hearing complaints about the sound being kind of "cold." I found myself using plug ins such as Vintage Warmers (which work) but I came across this device called a "Distressor" that I've heard about but never had the pleasure of using. After using it just once, I can't imagine working without it. Ever since, I've used it countless times in various studios, and have made the decision to add it to my personal arsenal of toys in my personal studio. Gotta have that British mode!!! Now, the Avalon is only used for +48 and maybe EQ... the Distressor takes over from there! Feature: Everthing was a winner for me! Quality: Everything was great. Value: It pays for itself in no time! Wasn't too bad a price considering what similar items go for nowadays! The Wow Factor: Easily laid out and direct in appearance... Not a very "sexy" device but gets to the point. Overall: I plan on using this product for quite sometime to come! Definitely satisfied with the quality and functionality. Highly recommended to any serious music enthusiast or audio engineer such as myself!
Style of Music: All (Emphasis on Hip Hop, R&B, Pop & Reggae)
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This review has been selected by our experts as particularly helpful. "Great for recording bass guitar"
Sound: The sound of this product is extremely clean -- almost as clean and clear as the LA-2A. The compression is very smooth, giving a natural sound to my bass when I'm recording through it. Regardless of style, if you're recording a stringed instrument, vocals, drums, or brass, this compressor unit will work well. I don't know if some sounds are better than others because when I've recorded bass through this unit during sessions, the engineer has always set up the unit. To that point, compression is the only thing in my signal chain besides my amp when I record sessions, so I don't know how well this unit plays with other effects processors/pre-amps. Feature: Simple controls, easy to hook up. Easy to let the engineer run it too!! =D Ease of Use: Very simple 4-knob set up. As a "minimalist" of sorts with musical equipment, I like that there are only 4 variables to control the amount of compression. This makes it very easy to get a really good, usable tone quickly and move on with the session. I have 3 basses that I use currently: a 4-string fretted Ibanez ATK, a 4-string fretless Yamaha RBX, and a 5-string fretted Traben. All have passive pickups, active preamps, and except for the Yamaha (which has a 2-band EQ), a 3-band EQ onboard. With the onboard pre's on my basses and this compressor, I can get many, many usable tones for almost any kind of music. Quality: No quality issues during the period of time I've been using this unit. Value: As good as I think this unit is, I do think it is overpriced by about 10%-15%. Then again, the LA-2A is almost $3000. Looking at it from that perspective, this is a good value. Overall: I am a studio session bass player when I'm not working my full-time job, going to college, and spending time with my family. With all of that said, I don't have time to waste in a studio trying to dial in a good tone that fits the song well. That is what I like about this particular item. The engineer has always dialed in a fantastic compression setting, making whatever bass(es) I bring to the session sound fantastic. If you are a serious bass player with the extra cash, or if you have a studio, do yourself a favor and buy the Distressor.
Style of Music: Anything and Everything
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