The 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 ... Click To Read More About This Product
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The 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.
The Distressor "British Mode"
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.
The Distressor has the advantage of being able to apply this "aggressive" nature not only to the new British ratio (1:1) but also to all the ratios since a separate switch is installed, which can be enabled with any ratio. One should keep in mind however, that an attack below 3 or 4 is required to maintain the LN1176 character. If you go above an attack of 3 you will also incur a rise in some grunge (distortion) and see the THD indicator lites come on a lot more. The Distressor will no longer behave smoothly, nor like an 1176.
Stereo Image Linking for the Distressor
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.
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.
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
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Reviewed by 1 customer
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Comments about Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor Compressor Stereo Pair With British Mod and Image Link:
I use this on vocals, snare and kicks. I'll also use this in a 2 buss mix chain. Don't know why I never picked it up earlier in the first place.
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