Empirical Labs Distressor Plugin – The Arousor


Some 20 years ago, Empirical Labs released their first compressor under the name ‘The Distressor.’ It was actually their first product, and one that put this company on the map.

Ever since then, a plugin version of this compressor was almost demanded by producers. Several years ago, Empirical Labs announced that such plugin is in the works, leaving a huge number of people to wait impatiently for the release.

After moving the date several times, only creating more hype, Empirical Labs finally launched their Arousor plugin. This software met all the expectations and then some.

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After waiting for so long, we finally received an Empirical Labs Distressor plugin, and boy is it good. The level of control it offers and all the features that are included make this plugin a very serious tool.

As a matter of fact, a good number of professional producers have started using it just because of its impressive performance. Today we are going to go a bit deeper and discuss what exactly makes it so good.

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An Overview

One of the best things about the Arousor is the fact that Empirical Labs took all of the controls that came on The Distressor and added a few more to give it extra flexibility. The end result is a very capable compressor that can seriously alter the end result of your mix.

In all seriousness, it does all the regular stuff well, but it is also capable of performing some not so linear tasks.



The overall layout of controls, and the appearance itself is pretty much in line with Empirical Labs hardware. If ever used any of their gear, you will feel right at home. The four main controls that dominate the interface are the In, Attack, Release, and Out knobs.

The Soft Clipping section is where you will find a broadband saturator feature which allows you get any peaks under control with ease and efficiency. One of the most interesting features is the Attack Modification.

This nifty parameter is used to shape the shape the install attack, giving you a whole new dimension of control over the mix.

'The Distressor' Controller view

Detector Sidechain Parametric EQ is also there with three control knobs that dictate Boost/Cut, the frequency and the BW. To the right of this cluster you will find a Blend knob, while on the left there is a Cutoff knob.

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The expectations resulted from the incredible amount of hype were set pretty high. Empirical Labs managed to reach and overdeliver on all accounts.

The Arousor is very user friendly, and no-nonsense kind of compressor. They have spent a lot of time removing audio artifacts and their potential causes in order to release a product that completely ironed out, and offers superb performance.
This software met all the expectations and then some.Empirical Labs claims that the Arousor is foolproof, and that there is no way you can mess up the mix. This is partially true. Playing around with the controls gives you instant rendering of the mix, and you can feel what is good and what can be done better.

If you are wondering whether the Arousor is on the level of The Distressor, that is something you are going to have to find out on your own. In our eyes it definitely brings the same tonal qualities, but not everyone is convinced.


  What we like

The overall fidelity this compressor brings to the table is impressive. Arousor is one smooth plugin to say the least. Everything works, and you get a lot of control over the sound of your mix. Whether you are an enthusiast or a professional producer, this plugin will be a powerful tool in your tool box.


  What we don’t like

The only thing we can complain about is the price. We feel that the Arousor costs a bit too much for a VST plugin. The market is very competitive, and there is a number of compressor VSTs that are nearly as good, but cost way less.

All things considered

At the end of the day, if you are looking for an Empirical Labs Distressor plugin, the Arousor will give you exactly that. It brings great performance on all levels while also being completely glitch free.

The plugin is being constantly updated, so we can count on seeing many improvements over the next several years.

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