Dave Derr, designer of the instant-classic analog Distressor, says his high-end audio company is ready to move “furiously” and “excitedly” into the digital domain.
Dave Derr of Empirical Labs got his start in audio as an analog man at a digital company, testing circuit components for Eventide Electronics’ breakthrough hit, the H3000 UltraHarmonizer.
When he invented the instant-classic Distressor compression unit, he remained an analog man in what was an increasingly digital world. It was the late 1990s, and in a time before widespread clones of the iconic LA-2A and 1176 compressors, Dave Derr used analog FET circuits to emulate them, squeezing their charms into a brutal swiss army box dubbed the EL-8.
It went on to become, arguably, the most popular boutique analog compressor of all time. To walk into a well-appointed modern studio is to see a Distressor somewhere in the racks.
When I asked Derr about what was to come next for his company, I teased him slightly, playing devil’s advocate as I am obliged to do, in the hopes of prompting a poetic wax about his die-hard love of analog magic:
“Dave – I love the Distressor,” I said, “But tell me: Why should I care about an analog compressor now? And why should I care about one in ten years? Why stay so committed to analog?”
“Actually, its funny you say that,” Derr responded without so much as a pause. “We’re pretty much in the process of going all digital right now.”
“I worked in an digital company – Eventide – for years, and I love digital. For one thing, there’s the consistency and the repeatability. And then, you can do things in digital that you could never do in analog. That’s very appealing….