Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor

Empirical Labs

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Product Code: 2649
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The Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor provides all the versatility and power of the standard EL8 Distressor, but adds in two additional mods - British Mode and Stereo Image Link - for even more mojo and definition!

The Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor is the product that started it all for Empirical Labs. Born of founder Dave Derr’s love of classic compressors like the 1176, LA-2A and Gain Brain (among others), the Distressor incorporates his favorite sonic characteristics of these, along with other unique and interesting features that have made it a staple for audio engineers all over the world. With over 28,000 units in the field, it’s safe to say that the Distressor is one of the best selling high end compressors of all time... if not THE best selling. A prominent recording engineer recently wagered that there probably was not a top 40 record made in the last five years that didn’t have at least one Distressor on it.

Besides providing a wide range of control and a unique feature set, the Distressor offers a warm, vintage sound by using a custom designed gain control circuit. This “warmth” or “vintage sound” has become a major issue in the last few decades, as the super clear and linear digital technology does next to nothing to soften “harsh” sounds, nor emphasize the bass frequencies in music sources. Conversely, older analog tape, vinyl records and tube equipment could not be prevented from coloring the sound, often to the frustration of recording engineers. However, many people now realize that this coloring can be extremely pleasant and musical. Digital technology is often referred to as “cold” and “brittle” among other terms (although we prefer “unforgiving”).

Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor Features

  • British Mode
  • Stereo Image Link
  • Eight unique and distinctive curves
  • Three distortion modes
  • Stereo Linking

Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor Specifications

  • Freq. response is 2 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.
  • Input impedance is 20K Ohms, Output impedance is < 75 ohms
  • Time constants - Attack range 50uS - 50mS. Release range .05 sec to 3.5 seconds, normal modes and up to 20 seconds in 10:1 opto mode. Time constants are dependant on ratio.
  • Metal Chassis - single height 1.75" high, 10" deep, 19" wide.
  • Shipping info - 12.1 lbs mono, 24.2 lbs Stereo pair. Mono box dimensions 22.5" x 18.5" x 3 1/4".

Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor Includes

  • EL8X Distressor
  • Power Cable
  • Manual
  • 2 Year Warranty

Click here to view all Empirical Labs products

3 Reviews Hide Reviews Show Reviews

  • 5
    Love this! Can use it on so much!
    Preston Scott

    First note: plugins can get you 90% there. If you are lucky enough to spend an extra $ for the remaining 10% - well, you can experience the revelation between the software and hardware. Within the first couple days I put this compressor through its paces. It can be an invisible leveler, and/or as dirty as you want. You can push it really hard, and it still sounds great. Some compressors just spank for the sake of spanking when pushed hard. This compressor adds some harmonic color, and the "spank" really isn't a spank, but moreso that lovely distressor sound (crunch mixed with nice distortion mixed with smooth release mixed with snap). The opto setting is great on vocals, and bass. But you can put it on anything, and it will always work. The brit mode adds some more weight, depth, and an extra crunch (snap) with some harmonic distortion. Its just nice. Hard to put into words. But she likes to be abused, or not. You cannot go wrong with this.

  • 5
    Must have in every studio
    John V

    I generally like to use these on bass and drums but on certain occasions it adds the color to vocals that no other compressor can achieve. Very versatile.

  • 5
    Great total harmonic distortion in compression
    Surin Song

    The compression color in this gear sounds cleanish in a default mode, and you can add a variety of thd (total harmonic distortion) colors according to your purpose. My favorite ratio is 4:1, and I like to use it after LA-2A because DIstressor has an excellent role in polishing the raw tracks up. I prefer the overall compression color of Distressor to that of 1176.

What We Think


The Empirical Labs Distressor is the ultimate swiss army knife compressor. It's got just about all you could ask for out of a single channel compressor. There are a ton of ratio options including a smooth 10:1 optical setting, and the famous "Nuke" setting for an aggressive sound. I love the Nuke setting on a mono drum room tracks. It's also a great setting to use for parallel compression when you want to smash something and blend a little in. Speaking of aggressive, there are three distortion modes you can select from on this unit. These are great for adding character to your tracks if they're a little flat or couild use a push to help stand out in the mix. Another really helpful feature I love is the bell detector. I believe with this engaged, the compressor is focusing and reacting more to the 1k area of your tracks and helps to tame that area. This can be great for things like vocals or guitars that are a little harsh in that area and helps to smooth or even out your tracks. It almost works like a dynamic EQ. The attack and release controls are very flexible and I consider this to be the ultimate tracking compressor. I absolutrely love using this as my first vocal compressor. It's so smooth and in my opinion, a MUST BUY!

Wes DeLoach, Pro Audio Sales

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