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  • EMP-EL8X

    Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor Single-channel Analog Distressor with Harmonic Distortion

    Single-channel Analog Distressor with Harmonic Distortion, 8 unique curves, and sidechain EQ

    The Empirical Labs Distressor EL-8XM single-channel analog compressor adds some distinctive British flavour to an already outstanding unit! The EL-8XM provides the aggressive “all buttons in” characteristics obtained from the classic LN1176, courtesy of an onboard British Mode switch. While the Distressor can function very smoothly and transparently, the addition of the British Mode allows it to take on a very “un-subtle” character, giving you the best of two compressors in one! If you want the functionality of a Distressor plus an aggressive “British” vibe, choose the EL-8XM!


    • “All buttons in” British Mode switch with LED

    • Frequency response: 2 Hz to 160kHz in clean audio mode (+0, -3 dB). The response is shaped in distortion modes (Dist 2, Dist 3)

    • Dynamic range: 110 dB from max. output to min. output in 1:1 mode.

    • Distortion ranges between .02% and 20% depending on distortion mode and release times set on the front panel

    • DC coupled output – High-quality input caps

    • Input impedance: 20K ohms

    • Output impedance: < 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 dependent on the ratio.

    • Metal chassis

    • Dimensions: 1.75″ H x 10″ D x 19″ W

    All buttons in

    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 unit 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.

    As aggressive as you want it to be

    The Distressor 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 lights come on a lot more. The Distressor will no longer behave smoothly, nor like 1176.

    Using the British Mode

    Put the unit in the 1:1 ratio and turn on the British Mode Switch (flip it up and the LED should be lit). That enables it. To sound like 1176 the only constraint is to keep the attack well under 4 on the Distressors – their attack can go much longer than 1176. Now you will find that the unit has a new attitude! The attack and release will generally be more aggressive and the unit will get in and out of the way very quickly. Interestingly, the unit will be slightly less coloured when not compressing. Use this ratio to “skim” peaks. This means that most of the time it may not be doing anything, but when it does “hit” the signal, it will smoothly push back the signal and then get right out of the way again. If you are hitting the Gain Reduction all the time with the British mode on, you are going to be really “squashing” the signal. On the other hand, the Distressor will sound fairly subtle when compressing all the time in 2:1 mode, especially with a slower attack (>6).

    The Distressor

    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 ’60s and ’70s. 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.


    Number of Channels



    Ratio (Button), Input, Attack, Release, Output


    1:1 to 20:1 (And “Nuke”)

    Frequency Response

    2Hz-160kHz (-3 dB)


    1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4″, 1 x 1/4″ (Stereo Link)


    1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4″, 1 x 1/4″ (Stereo Link)

    Rack Spaces









    12.1 lbs. (Shipping Weight)

    Manufacturer Part Number