Empirical Labs Distressor

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by LaBassGuy, Nov 27, 2012.


  1. LaBassGuy

    LaBassGuy Supporting Member

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    Aug 26, 2008
    What are your thoughts on the EL8 Distressor compressor for use in a live setting?

    I have an SWR Marcus Miller Preamp with four knob compressor. What does the EL8 bring to the table aside from basic compression? What effects are you able to simulate with it?

    Can it create that squashy natural compression you get from a tube amp?

    Thanks for your comments.
  2. LaBassGuy

    LaBassGuy Supporting Member

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    Really? No comments? I thought people raved about this.
  3. RedMoses

    RedMoses Supporting Member

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    The Distressor sounds incredible, very versitile, i have used it several times for recording when i worked at a studio, you really cant get a bad sounds out of it. I have not used one live but i dont see why you coudlnt, only reason i dont have one is its VERY expensive, over a Grand! and an overkill for live setting, unless you have the budget...
  4. HolmeBass

    HolmeBass Supporting Member

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    I think it would be *excellent* in a live rig. It would make your rig pretty darned expensive to replace, perhaps insurance would be in order.

    I've only ever used one in a studio environment and it was pretty much magical for bass.
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  6. Tractorr

    Tractorr Supporting Member

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    The distressor is known as one of the most versatile compressors on the market. It can get almost any compression sound you want with the correct settings. It is based on 1176 and some of them have the 4 button mode which simulates pushing all 4 buttons on an original 1176 for super squash mode (more useful for things like room mics but who knows maybe you find a use for it on bass).

    If you got the cash then it is a great tool, but there are a lot of other compressors (pedal and rack) that can get you very close (probably won't notice the difference live) for a fraction of the money. For instance the MXR bass compressor pedal is based after the 1176 as well. Of course, this pedal cannot do all the things that a distressor or 1176 can do but it probably does most of the things a bass player would want one to do.
  7. LaBassGuy

    LaBassGuy Supporting Member

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    Can you guys elaborate on what it does aside from basic compression? What can it do that my four knob compression on the Marcus Miller preamp can't do?

    The second and third order harmonic stuff they discuss--is that really musical and enough reason to buy it?

    In short, I am torn between a new outboard rackmount preamp and the distressor.

    Not sure if the distressor brings enough tone coloring options to justify that comparison with a preamp.
  8. Tractorr

    Tractorr Supporting Member

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    I haven't ever used a Marcus Miller so I don't know what it is capable of, but considering a new Distressor costs more than a new MM that should give you a hint (and this is not some overpriced piece of gear because honestly outside audio circles who knows what a Distressor is).

    The distortion circuit is pretty mild this is not a distortion box. Though much of the literature says tube like distortion, it is referring to class A mic preamp type of distortion not overdrive tube bass amp distortion. Personally, I think it is probably overkill for a bass rig.

    I suppose a better question is what sort of bass tones are you going for?
  9. LaBassGuy

    LaBassGuy Supporting Member

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    What I am looking for is a vertitile tone shaping tool--not a fuzz or distortion preamp. But something that can give me some tube warmth, that squashy tube compression you get from an Ampeg for instance, that round fat tone. This would pair nicely with my clean and hi fi SWR pre.

    I am not looking for distortion sounds. I was referring to Distressor's 'distortion' as it's ability to emulate that tube compression and saturation somewhere in my signal chain.

    It's either the Distressor or a tube pre like the Demeter 201s to give me some traditional warmth and roundness.
  10. Tractorr

    Tractorr Supporting Member

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    You know what you might want to try, is a lot cheap, and you can return easily if you don't like.

    http://www.mercenary.com/fmrpbc.html

    Mercenary is more of a pro audio place but they know there stuff and are straight shooters. I have bought from them in the past and they are super helpful about everything. If you are looking to spend the Distressor money you should really talk to them and find out about all of your options.
  11. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member

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    ^^^ I agree with that. I have owned and reviewed both the Distressor and the PBC-6A, and honestly I think you get more "bang per buck" from the PBC. The Distressor is a bit more versatile, and it gets you the admiration of any home-studio recordists that happen to see your rig, but the PBC has all the warmth and fatness at half the price.

    The distortion (including both warm/fat coloration and outright overdrive) is the big difference between these units and the comp in the Marcus preamp. I haven't used that preamp yet, but I've read about it, and the comp in it is designed for a more mild sort of warmth, not obvious thick color.

    That said, I would personally feel silly carrying $1300 to $2000 worth of rack gear, occupying three rack spaces before you even add a power amp, just in the pursuit of emulating tube amp tone. At that point, I say buy a tube amp.
  12. lowfreq33

    lowfreq33

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    I agree the Distressor is overkill for a live bass rig. The PCB is a good choice. Another suggestion would be the ART Pro VLA II. It's sort of a poor man's 1176. Opto compressor with a tube gain stage, and you can chain the two channels together for a pretty fat sound. At $299 it's a pretty good deal. The only downside is it's two spaces, but as long as you've got room in the rack I'd say it's worth it. http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/art-pro-vla-ii-tube-compressor
  13. jimfist

    jimfist Supporting Member

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    Just for those fans out there, the EL8 owners manual and suggested usage and descriptions of emulations is here:

    http://www.empiricallabs.com/manuals/distressor_manual.pdf

    I came into a pair of EL8s as part of a home studio gear split, and being a bassist, I use the EL8 in my bass rig for overall compression duties. :hyper: Note that I am probably the FURTHEST thing from a Marcus Miller type of guy as I like it heavy, grungy, fat and aggressive a lot of the time, so my personal tastes and use of the EL8 probably don't translate well with respect to the OP.

    As the owner's manual describes, the EL8 is a great "swiss army knife" of various types of classic compressor emulations and tube/tape distortion generators. If your budget is a concern, then certainly you may find the EL8 is not so much of a "bang for the buck" item. That said, though, it might be just what the doctor ordered, and if you can get your hands on one, try it out and see what you think - hopefully, though, in the hands of someone who understands the different modes and such.

    The EL-8 is certainly a desirable and unique piece of gear, and worth every penny IMO - GREAT in the studio for recording retro drum ambient mics!. I do agree with others here, though, that you might be able to find that little extra something you're looking for at a much lower price with stuff you can find at your local big box guitar shop.

    Speaking personally, I've spoiled myself rotten over the last couple of years with gear. Between the EL8 and the Fractal Audio AxeFx, I'm not hurting at all for light-weight alternatives that can produce as much tube tone as I could ever need - and I'm an SVT Classic owner (as well as SWR Red Head). My back says "thank you".

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