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Empirical Labs Distressor EL-8S Review

After hearing for years about how versatile the Empirical Labs Distressor is as a compressor, I was “EL8ed” to get a chance to try a The answer is a resounding YES! Whether I was shooting for the speed of a VCA, the personality of an FET, the warmth of an Opto, or the coloration of a tube compressor, the Distressor never failed to come close to the originals.

After spending some time making the Distressor sound like compressors of old, I decided to see what it could do that those vintage units couldn’t. Wow! With its variable 2nd and 3rd order harmonic generators, built in sidechain equalization, and “Nuke” ratios, this thing sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Let me take that back, since it really sounds like something you’ve definitely heard, but didn’t know it: After engaging the “Nuke” switch and running a snare through the Distressor, I was greeted with an instantly familiar and wonderful sound that we’ve all heard on countless drum tracks.

Now that I’ve had a chance to try out this piece of kit, I’m never going back. Using digital switching relays to swap out components in an all analog signal path, the Distressor is truly unique in a marketplace overrun with DSP emulations. If you’re looking for a one trick pony, this is not your
compressor, but if you’re looking for versatility, step up to the Distressor.

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