It's a two-pack of EL8's, for stereo or dual-mono use! To clarify, there is not a stereo Distressor at this time - it is a "stereo pair", or two Distressors. Usually these are shipped together and are consecutive serial numbers, although any two Distressors should work just fine together.
The 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" or "compressor" by 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.
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" and "brittle" 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.
This unique analog compressor is hand-crafted in the USA using only the highest quality audio components. Each unit is calibrated, tested, burned in for a minimum of 24 hours, and finally vigorously QC'd.
The Distressor gets its name from its feature of incorporating harmonic DISTortion with a classic knee compRESSOR. The Distortion 2 setting introduces a 2nd order harmonic, which adds tube-like analog warmth to the signal. The Distortion 3 setting introduces a 3rd order harmonic, which simulates tape saturation (great for guitars, bass and drums.)
The Distressor is capable of emulating many of the classic tube and analog compressors of the 1960's and '70's. It has extremely high headroom, and is virtually un-chokable. Large easy-to-read knobs with high resolution numbering allow for quick setting and re-setting of Input, Output, Attack and Release controls. Ratio settings are easily selected through a simple button on the front panel with LED indicators. LED's also show gain reduction, and though much faster and more accurate than VU style meters, they offer similar resolution.
This is one of the most common areas of questions we get: "How do you use two Distressors in Stereo?"
This section describes the original phase linking shipped with Distressors. Stereo operation requires only two things:
1) That you hook up two (preferably) short 1/4" phone (guitar) cables plugged from Stereo Link input of one unit to Link output of second unit and vice versa 2) the unit has the Link function selected on the front (the RED "Link "LED in the Detector Mode should be lit) on both units.
Obviously, you should match all front panel settings on the two "left and right" units to maintain imaging. Using a calibration tone (such as 1 Khz) into both channels can help ensure level and G.R. matching. However, unlike most units, the user has the option to treat the left and right channels differently.
An example of this may be when one channel has a heavy low frequency source (such as a tom drum) that is causing both sides to pump. You could put the side without the L.F. source into DET HP mode to prevent that side from excessively modulating, allowing you to set the release a little faster on the side with the boomy tom.
Sometimes for room mics, keeping the units unlinked actually makes them sound more stereo. This is due to unique left and right ambient envelopes widening the stereo image.
NOTE: Empirical Labs now has a second link type - a more standard "Image Linking" that locks both channels to the same G.R. This requires a hardware change at the factory. Once installed, you have three methods of linking. Information on this modification (and the British Mode option) is listed below in the "Info Links."
* 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". Stereo Pair box dimensions 22.5" x 18.5" x 6 1/4"