The Best Compressor Ever Made? A Closer Look at the Empirical Labs Distressor

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As a recording studio owner and audio engineer, I have had the pleasure of working with many different types of compressors over the years. However, one compressor that always stands out as the best of the best is the Empirical Labs Distressor. In this review, I’ll dive into what makes the Distressor so special, and why I believe it’s arguably the best compressor ever made.


One of the things that sets the Distressor apart from other compressors is its unique features. The Distressor has three distinct distortion modes – Distort 1, Distort 2, and Distort 3 – which allow engineers to dial in just the right amount of grit and character for any source. Additionally, the Distressor has an Opto mode, which emulates the classic sound of an optical compressor, and a British mode, which emulates the sound of a vintage British console. These modes provide a level of versatility that is unmatched by other compressors, making the Distressor an essential tool in any studio.

Sound Quality:

The sound quality of the Distressor is truly outstanding. Its ability to add warmth, character, and punch to any recording is unparalleled. Whether you’re compressing a snare drum, a bass guitar, or a vocal track, the Distressor has a way of making everything sound better. The distortion modes, in particular, can add a pleasing saturation that can really bring a track to life. The Opto mode is also a standout feature, providing a smooth, transparent compression that is perfect for leveling out dynamic material without altering the sound too much. Overall, the sound quality of the Distressor is nothing short of amazing.

Ease of Use:

Despite its many features, the Distressor is surprisingly easy to use. The interface is straightforward and intuitive, and the controls are responsive and precise. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, the Distressor’s user-friendly design makes it easy to achieve the results you’re after. The ability to switch between the different modes on the fly also makes it easy to experiment and find just the right sound for any source. The manual is also very useful, giving very musical sounding starting settings for just about every popular instruments out there.

Pros and Cons:

As with any piece of equipment, there are both pros and cons to the Distressor. On the positive side, the Distressor is incredibly versatile, with a range of distortion modes and compression styles that make it suitable for any source. It also has an exceptional sound quality that can really bring a recording to life. On the negative side, the Distressor is not the cheapest compressor on the market, and its unique features may take some time to learn and fully utilize. However, these cons are far outweighed by the positives, and in my opinion, the Distressor is well worth the investment.


In conclusion, the Empirical Labs Distressor is without a doubt one of the best compressors ever made, and in my mind it may be the BEST. Its unique features, exceptional sound quality, and ease of use make it an essential tool for any professional recording studio. Whether you’re a seasoned engineer or just starting out, the Distressor is a compressor that you simply can’t afford to pass up, and with a 1u footprint, I would argue you should have at least 2.

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