The Empirical Labs Distressor is an automatic gain (or volume) control device (AGC in engineering terms) designed for pro audio (music) applications. Basically, it electronically controls the volume of just about any source in a very pleasing, and musical manner - adding fullness, intelligibility, and especially in the Distressor's case - excitement. This type of device is often called a limiter ompressor audio industry people. Its most probable uses will be in recording studios, live sound situations, movie sound production, and radio broadcast production. Unlike most analog compressor/limiters the Distressor is a digitally controlled audio device and actually incorporates several products into one by utilizing digital controls to switch totally different circuits in and out. Years of beta testing and redesign went into the Distressor as will be the case with all Empirical Labs products.
- Classic knee sound - With modern noise specs and improved performance. Really grabs.
- Programmable analog distortion/warmth - helpful in the pristine but unforgiving digital world. Three audio modes providing 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, more 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 & differencefrequencies from pumping the upper frequencies of source material.
- 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.
- Eight unique curves - From the 1:1 mode that simply warms up signal with low order harmonics without intentional compression, to the
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 valued) light controlleddevices, such as the LA2A etc. See manual to emulate other compressors of old.
- 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.
- 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 ¼ inch phone ins and outs - XLR fully balanced, transformerless design, pin 2 hot. Changeable by user to pin 3 hot!
- All metal film and Roederstein resistors in the audio path - top quality components. Many mil spec. parts.
- Interface and features found nowhere else.
- Hand wired, calibrated in USA. Shipping weight 11.25Lbs.
Besides offering a wide range of control and unique features, the Distressor offers a warm, vintage sound by using a custom designed gain control circuit. This warmth
or vintage sound has become an important issue in the last 15 years, as the super clear and linear digital technology does very little (or nothing) to soften harsh
sounds nor emphasize the bass frequencies in music sources. Older analog tape, vinyl records and tube equipment on the other hand, could not be prevented from coloring the sound, often to the frustration of recording engineers. However, many people have now realized that this coloring can be extremely pleasant and musical
. The current digital technology is often referred to as cold
among other terms, although we prefer the term unforgiving
to describe the negative side of the linearity
. The Distressor offers several modes that color the signal, even without compression (or gain control). These extended modes were designed to allow emulation of some very old and some very expensive vintage gain control units (compressors & limiters) and deliver a classic knee
sound all its own.
About Empirical Labs
Empirical Labs Inc. (ELI), designs and produces professional audio equipment and software. This includes equipment used in recording studios, live sound, broadcast studios and other audio production facilities etc. They also make software for digital signal processors. This product, was designed in 1994, tested and revised for several years, and released in early 1996. The Distressor is the first in a series of audio products from ELI that will offer original features, ease of use, long product life, and a very musical audio path.
Empirical Labs was started in 1988 and functioned mainly as a recording studio and electronics consulting firm. The founder, Dave Derr, was also employed at the time by Eventide as an audio engineer. Dave was part of the core design team for the H3000, H3500, and DSP4000. His experience at Eventide proved valuable for his later work. Dave was exposed to great engineering and the modern world of digital signal processing (DSP).
In 1998, Empirical Labs closed the doors of the recording studio. The sales of the Distressor had flourished after a shining review appeared in the December 1996 issue of Mix magazine. Later that year, the company picked up and moved to a larger facility to meet their increased production requirements.
Another goal of Empirical Labs is to make their products less prone to obsolescence and be easier to update, modify or repair. Instead of entire new products that may be outdated in 2 years, their thinking is to make a few great products that can be supported and upgraded for decades.
Empirical Labs' engineers & technicians are encouraged to play with and use their designs along with other expert beta-testers. The word Empirical in its most positive interpretation means, fashioned from experience. Empirical Labs considers real world use to be one of the best resources in developing innovative, user-friendly and robust designs. Before final release, all of their products will be extensively tested in the environments for which they are designed. They will not throw products out there and see what sticks.
Their Philosophy is very simple - but very hard to live up to:
Empirical Labs wants to make products that work a little easier, a little better, and a lot longer - and make sure they are fun to use.