The 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. With over 28,000 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.
All 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.
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 one in the audio path, one in the detector path - are also available to help with low frequencies that can cause pumping and breathing.
The modified EL8-X Distressor features British Mode and Image Link.
The concept of 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 aggressive sound that had some elements of the unit's 20:1 ratio, but with an unusual knee and new envelope shape. Somewhere along the line, someone called it "British Mode", and the name stuck.
The original Distressor stereo link function used a summing and phase detection method, which allowed slight stereo image shifting. Although frequently desirable for its phase correction, and its "thickening" on open room mics and other stereo sources, this approach can sometimes be 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 EL8-X now has three link options - the original "phase" link, the new Image Link and the combination of the two, phase and image linking - something never before offered on any compressors or limiters.
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
Signal to Noise: > 100 dB in distortion 3
Distortion Range: 0.02 and 20%
Outputs: DC coupled
Attack Time: 50 uS to 30 mS
Release Time: 0.05 to 3.5 seconds, release goes up to 20 seconds in 10:1 Opto mode
Power Consumption: Typical: 10 W Maximum: 14 W