The Empirical Labs Distressor is the Swiss Army Knife of outboard compression. Its unparalleled flexibility and impressive feature set put it in a class of its own and, in a market where vintage designs still hold most credibility, have earned it a reputation as a modern classic.
The Empirical Labs is a versatile compressor that uses digitally-controlled analog circuitry to model a range of compression styles. Rather than simply increasing the severity of compression, each of its eight ratio settings are paired with a unique compression profile, in some cases completely switching between circuitry to achieve this.
Its variable controls for attack and release cover an incredibly wide range, with attack times from 50us to 50ms and release times from 500ms all the way up to 20 seconds. This allows the to emulate the characteristics of many different classic compressors such as the lightning fast response of field-effect transistor (FET) designs, or the gentler movement of a tube-based or optical circuit. In addition to these standard features of the EL-8 base model, the EL8-X offers an upgrade modification to incorporate the ‘British Mode’ setting. This is based on the now-legendary ‘All Buttons In’ mode of the 1176, which has an extreme compression sound and very particular envelope characteristic. The EL8-X model also includes the Image Link setting, allowing two linked working on a stereo source to maintain absolute left/right balance at all times.
In addition to being a highly versatile compressor, the also doubles as a harmonic distortion generator. Independently of the compression circuit,second or thirdorder harmonics can be added to the signal, imparting the subtle distortion flavors of vacuum tubes and analog tape.
Although its chameleon-like adaptability is one of its core features, the can impart its own color and attitude, adding a modern and slightly gritty sound that breathes excitement into anything it touches.
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