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empirical labs
distressor - model el-8

price : $1,300.00


el-8 stereo pair - no mods

price : $2,600.00


el-8x with brit mod

price : $1,475.00


el-8sx stereo with pre-installed "british mode" option

price : $2,850.00

Distressor Specs:
*Classic knee sound - Delivered with modern noise specs in an indestructible, digitally-controlled, single-height box. Really grabs.

*Programmable analog distortion/warmth - Helpful in the pristine but unforgiving digital world. Three audio modes provide 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 (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.

*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 most valued) "light-controlled" devices, such as the LA2A. Manual provides complete setting instructions for emulating other compressors of old. Its like getting several totally different compressors in one.

*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.

*All metal film and Roederstein resistors in the audio path - Top quality components, mostly military grade.

*Unique "Binary Stepped Interface" - Provides hundreds of options with very few controls.

*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.

*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" phone ins and outs - XLR fully balanced, transformerless design, pin 2 hot. Changeable by user to pin 3 hot!

*Hand wired, calibrated in USA. Shipping weight 12 Lbs.

Empirical Labs - Science for the Artist Using the Distressor for the first time:

Adjusting the compression - :
5 5 5 5 Start with 6:1 ratio and set all four knobs to 5, the midway position. This is a great starting place for anything. Push the ratio button until the LED's cycle to the 6:1 ratio (Yellow LED). Adjust input to drive into more compression. The harder you drive, the more knee you'll hit, and the greater the ratio will be. Only 2 LED's should be lit - the "BYPASS" LED and the 6:1 LED (not counting any Bargraph LED's). If you need more obvious compression, push ratio button to progress to higher ratios. If you would like lower ratios, the very long knees of 2:1 & 3:1 are silky smooth. The 2:1 ratio has a +15 dB knee, where the ratio gradually increases! The 10:1 is a special ratio employing "opto-mode." It closely emulates vintage "light controlled" compressors (like the ubiquitous LA2a). Continuing to through higher ratios, the unit will scroll around "Nuke" back to these lower ratios. If you must cycle through 1:1 while unit is in use, do it quickly since compression will be turned "off" and the signal will swell to its peak input levels, possibly becoming dangerously loud. Waiting for a pause in the input before changing ratio is a safe thing to do.

Distortion Settings:
Distortion settings should be used when subtle analog distortion is desired. Dist 2 mode produces "Class A" type warmth, producing mostly 2nd harmonic when compressing (tube distortion is known for its 2nd harmonic) and Dist 3 adds 3rd along with 2nd harmonic. Dist 3 looks and sounds very similar to tape distortion - it gradually flattens out the top and bottom of the waveform. If you want a digital signal to sound like an analog tape signal, try 2:1 mode with Dist 3 engaged, and compress 1 - 3 dB (as displayed on bargraph). Tape goes in and out of saturation quickly, so fast attacks and decays are appropriate. If you want to make it sound like over-saturated tape, you could try one of the higher ratios and drive the input to produce 1 - 5 dB of compression. With the quick release, 2nd harmonic will still be strong in Dist 3 mode. More than 3 to 5 dB of reduction will sound less like tape, more like compression.

Example Settings:
Vocals1 - Turn off all distort modes if you're going to tape, however the Highpass (HP) in both the detector and audio paths may be useful. Set ratio to 6:1, attack 5, release 4. Adjust input to produce anywhere from 3 to 17 dB of compression. Sometimes the band emphasis setting is effective for those dynamic, "piercing" vocal passages. With the band emphasis on, you will often find you need less overall compression to hold a signal in its place. In mixdown, the 10:1 mode is outstanding with its program dependent curves.

Bass - Start at 4:1, turn attack on 5, release 5. You can distort if you want, but caution must be observed if you are going to tape.

Electric Guitar - Wide range of settings can be used. To get rid of edgy attacks, use quick attack, medium release. To smooth out solos, you can try the band emphasis in the detector to pull up the low, softer notes and push back and sustain the higher and often thinner notes.

Acoustic guitar - Several engineers have told us that the Distressor is one of the best sounding units for acoustic they've ever heard. Use 6:1, [ 7, 2, 5, 7] settings (i.e. Input 7, Attack 2, release 5, output 7). Highpass is often useful in both detector and audio modes. The fast attack will get you a "glassy" full sound since the pick noise will be attenuated and the sustain lengthened.

Drums - Generally, you'll keep the attack over 4 or 5 to keep transients, and play with decay to get more or less "in your face" sounds. Because of the wide range of attack, the Distressor puts the drum "percusiveness" into the engineers control. Snares/Kicks/Toms - Try 6:1 [6,5,5,6].

Shorten decay if you need to bring up "after ring." If a tom has too much attack, turn attack down between 0 - 4. Since you can load on compression without sounding funny, watch out for "mic leakage."

Room mics - For radical treatment, try 20:1 or Nuke, [10, 6, 2.5, 6]. The "Nuke" ratio was developed primarily for room mics, but persons have found it useful in many areas. Nuke has a high threshold but when the signal hits it, a nuclear blast won't budge the output level. It is brick wall limiting, keeping any normal signal within 1 dB or so. Just patch in a room mic while recording drums (or other instruments) and slam the meters. Try attack on 5 and release on 3. Fifteen to twenty dB of compression is starting to sound about right for the John Bonham thing, but don't be afraid to run the gain reduction meters right off scale. You will find the output a little lower than the other ratios in Nuke. Better have quiet mic pre's too - for 20 dB of compression can bring the noise floor up by 20 dB. The release should be quick (< 3) for the largest sound, but slower releases can often be effective when mixed in with the rest of the kit. Room ambience can be made to "swell up" on the tom and snare rings later, filling in behind the close mics. If you want to add "grunge", experiment with Dist 2 and Dist 3.

Freq. response is 5 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.
Time constants - Attack range 50uS - 30mS. Release range .05 sec to 3.5 seconds, normal mode and up to 20 seconds in 10:1 opto mode.

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