Empirical Labs Distressor EL8XS
Stereo Pair with Pre-Installed "British Mode" Option
Discontinued product listing:
The Empirical Labs Distressor EL8XS is a unique analog compressor that allows the user to add 2nd or 3rd order harmonic distortion to the signal, emulating tape saturation and the classic tube compressor sound of the '60's and '70's. The Empirical Labs Distressor EL8XS also offers advanced sidechain EQ, eight unique curves and Empirical Labs' exclusive "Binary Stepped Interface" providing hundreds of options with just a few control settings.
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 Empirical Labs Distressor EL8XS 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.
Empirical Labs Distressor EL8XS Specifications
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.
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!
Empirical Labs Distressor EL8XS SPECIFICATIONS
Freq. response: 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.