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barforama 23rd January 2012 10:27 PM

Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor
Having heard all the rave about these beasts I bought a couple of units with both british and stereo mods.
The idea is that you get a lot of emulations in a single 1U box. Optocomps (LA2/3/4-style), VCA(dbx-style), FET(1176-style) and then some.
Both compression-curves and distortion characteristics can be adjusted to taste
The unit is great sounding overall, but the idea of emulating the originals didn't really do it for me. Whether it's lack of skills or just the love of one trick ponies that does it, I just feel better using the right thing for the right job instead of trying to get the same results with an emulating unit. I'd eventually have to have a bunch of Distressors to do the jobs anyways. One of the jobs I think the Distressor does very well is emulating a dbx 160VU. It has great grab and plenty aggressiveness to add punch and smack to snares and kicks. Also for ambience tracks it has something interesting to offer. The british mode is a VERY cool feature and can really crush anything thrown at it! I strongly recommend that you order the units with the british mod. It is a great, and very useable, toy! Just don't expect to get all the vintage comps in a box - expect a very versatile compression unit that, with the cooooool addition of great distortion circuit, will handle a lot of different compression-jobs.

AcoosticZoo 24th January 2012 02:54 AM

Empirical Labs distressors
Adds color/warmth. Very cool unit. All round great work horse with great sound. A joy to use.

Extremely versatile compression curves. It's handles a broad spectrum of uses from subtle compression duties to enhancing "snap"/bite in percs/drums/vocals via british mode.

I would recommend getting two units and stereo linking them.

High quality results and good value for money. I love it.

Josef Horhay
Mixing Engineer

muziqfreek 11th February 2012 06:17 AM

What's to be said about this modern classic that hasn't been said already? Instead of talking about emulations of VCA this and opto that, FET yadda yadda, I'm going to review this as a retrospect of using one for many years.. Its an everyday tool thats used on the way into the DAW when tracking vocals, instruments and keys/drum machines.. used on the way out on busses when processing and mixing and is pretty much a staple part of the way I work.. For either simply controlling dynamic range, or imparting extreme compression & distortion the distressor covers a lot of bases.. I still need other compressors in the rack to achieve certain things (Can't live without a Summit TLA100!! lol) but if it were my only compressor it certainly wouldn't be a disaster!! heh
Its idiotproof in operation and dialling in sounds (& recalls) is a doddle, with large dials and a simple 0 to 10.5 (YES!! It goes over 10!! lol) for the input, attack, release and output knobs.. for me the lack of actual values only helps the ear focus on what you're actually doing to the sound and isn't a problem..
The massive LED meter shows Gain Reduction that can be seen from across the room and my only gripe (that isn't really an issue) is that it can't be switched to show output level.. but that's largely irrelevant but does knock it down from a perfect 10 score!!!
So.. from tickling the meter through signal shaping to all lights on distortion madness and more the Distressor is a hugely capable tool, worthy of a place in every studio... Go out and buy one now.. actually go and buy a matched pair, with all the mods done to them, you'll never sell them as long as you're making music!!

countrymetalguy 5th February 2014 12:31 AM

my go to Compressor for drums
The EL8 is an amazing compressor for drums and rock guitars. Ive owned two of em for years and they are my go to compressor for kick and snare as well as rock guitar. If your new to the unit, starting with all your knobs set at 5 is a good starting point to get sounds. then start messing with the ratio buttons and listen to the magic! The nuke feature is awesome for adding dirt to your two buss. This is a compressor everyone needs in there rack.

jml designs 7th January 2020 06:17 PM

The only thing better than buying one, is buying two.
My absolute desert island comp.
I hear there are folks out there who don't like these, I question those folks.
To each their own but what's not to love? It's truly a swiss army knife. It does not have "one sound", in fact it is known for versatility and dare I say, unlimited versatility? I can emulate every classic comp out there with this one box (well, a lot at least) and havent found a source it doesn't work well with. It's quiet and does exactly what you want.

One con is that they are not all the same. Consistency between models seems oddly off which is strange, because their topology doesn't change from unit to unit, maybe they changed capacitor brands or values somewhere down the line? One of my new ones sounds very different from an older one I have. My advice here is that if you're going to by two, buy sequential seril #'d pair directly from them. Other than that, you can't go wrong with this unit I just love it on everything.