Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor

Single-channel Analog Distressor with Harmonic Distortion
Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor image 1
Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor image 1
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Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor
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Like Having Several Different Compressors In One!

The Empirical Labs Distressor 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 Distressor 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.

Additional Media

EL8 Distressor Cue Sheet
EL8 Distressor User Manual
Signal Processing Buying Guide

Tech Specs

Number of Channels 1
Controls Ratio (Button), Input, Attack, Release, Output
Ratio 1:1 to 20:1 (And "Nuke")
Frequency Response 2Hz-160kHz (-3 dB)
Inputs 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (Stereo Link)
Outputs 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (Stereo Link)
Rack Spaces 1U
Height 1.75"
Depth 10"
Width 19"
Manufacturer Part Number EL8

Customer Reviews

Based on 11 reviews
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My fav comp

I have 2 of these. I pretty much track everything I can through them. They also live on my drum buss when mixing. Can't say enough good things about this unit. www.intheredrecording.com
Music background: Producer/Engineer/Guitarist


This piece of equipment has become a vital part of my recording process! All of my friends in the Nashville area use this piece for recoding just about everything! If figured that if Nashville is using this then I should be using it! The controll over the vocals that I've been able to record with the Distressor has just been unbelievable!! I can't believe I went all this time without it! I can literally set it and that's it!!
Music background: Studio Engineer/Singer/Songwriter

Hearing is Believing

This has got to be the most versatile, best sounding, most intelligently built compressor on the market for under $2k. There's nothing like it at this price point, and it is SERIOUSLY worth every penny. After running bass, vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and room mics through it, I've realized "how did I get by without this before?" Not even the best VST compressor I have (and I have tons of em) can compete with ONE pass on this thing. It could take fifteen minutes for me to find compression settings on a VST comp that really grabbed the sound in all the right ways, tightening it up just enough, making it pop and have some attitude. Yeah--takes about 2 minutes with the EL8, AND it sounds better. Sometimes I'd chain multiple VST compressors doing less reduction each to get a smoother sound, to some avail. However, ONE PASS though the Distressor and it all became clear - analog compression truly sounds better. In all ways. The distortion modes are fantastic, the Dist3 sounds great on guitars, I love the bandpass detector for acoustic guitars and picked basses and certain snares. It's a monster. I mean, truly a monster. It blows other compressors out of the water that are twice and three times its price. Versatility, quality, and just straight up SOUND. It's my new favorite piece of gear.
Music background: Recording Engineer / Mixer / Musician

EXCELLENT! Compressor.

A few months ago I bought a new Distressor and it didn't take long to decide that 1 was not going to be enough. As a Result I just purchased my Second Distressor. I have these paired with a set of Vintech x73i MicPre/Eq's and the sound is nothing short of AMAZING! The Distressor is so easy to use and the Sound is Completely Professional. You can go from Very Smooth to Extremely Hard Compression withing seconds. I can easily understand why every major studio has at least one pair of these units in there racks Turned On and In Use. Highly Recommended!
Music background: Traditional Country Singer, Songwriter, Musician, Live Sound and Home Recording Engineer.

Could be my favorite!

This is a piece of gear that can make you a better engineer. Really hard to make it sound bad, and really easy to make it sound amazing. Love it on snare, gtrs, and drum overheads/rooms. Definitely worth the investment and then some. In fact, get two.
Music background: Recording/mixing engineer, producer

Sweetwater Advice

Mike Arango

Whether you're 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 falls short. Add to this the Distressor's unique "Nuke" ratio and programmable 2nd- and 3rd-order harmonics and you have an instant studio classic!

Thomas Leahy

I use my Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor on every type of sound source. It's not just one of the most versatile compressors I've used, it has a unique tone. While the Distressor can be clean, when I drive it, I get some of the most musical sounding distortion possible. Even when I run it at 1:1, it adds a nice fatness to my sound, which also makes it excellent for DI applications.
See also: Compressors, Empirical Labs, Empirical Labs Compressors / Limiters, Empirical Labs Compressors / Limiters