by Simon Allen | Approximate reading time: 3 Minutes

Empirical Labs Arousor Plugin  ·  Source:


In a world where we see new plugins released every week, it’s unusual to see so much hype around a single release. Empirical Labs however, have been teasing us with partly hidden screenshots of this new plugin, periodically un-covering more of the full picture. Earlier this week we saw the complete screenshot for the first time, and now their website has been updated offering the plugin as a free trial download. If nothing else, it’s refreshing to see a plugin manufacturer market something so well. This story has only just begun though, as there’s now a minefield of mixed feedback.


To get a feeling for the amount of interest this plugin is creating, check out the topic on the Gearslutz forum here, which is now 60 pages long (last time I checked!). Amongst the pages of mostly positive and some unavoidable negative comments, there are a few key points to note. The first area of confusion which I wonder if the manufacturer wasn’t clear enough about, perhaps on purpose, is that this isn’t a direct emulation of the Distressor. The Distressor launched Empirical Labs and has become a highly regarded hardware analogue compressor. Although this plugin is similar in many respects to the Distressor, Empirical Labs themselves describe this plugin to offer “the creamy sound and ease-of-use of our own award winning hardware compressors”. Judging by the feedback so far, this plugin presents a more generic ‘Empirical Labs’ sound for mixing in the box. However, you can’t help but directly compare it to the Distressor, and some engineers who know the hardware well are inevitably making those comparisons. Is that fair or a scientific test though?


In addition to the obvious parameters and styling found on the Distressor, there are some very useful and apparently great-sounding features. The ‘detectors’ high-pass filter is fully sweepable all the way up to 1KHz, the embedded side-chain input is fully controllable, and there’s the typical mix-blend control you’d expect on a plugin. I think these are great additional tools that their hardware solutions don’t offer. The most exciting features however, are the attack modification and soft clipping processors. These appear to be highly effective, and in my opinion very much in line with modern mixing and mastering trends. Nice work, Empirical Labs.

It’s not praises all round, though. There are a number of ‘known issues’ which users are still reporting as more and more try the demo. To be fair, this is expected when releasing any new software these days, especially if this is your first release! There are so many versions of operating system and DAW available at the moment there are bound to be flaws, and for the most part the issues that have arisen aren’t major. There is an argument however that more beta testing could have taken place, and some potential customers will be reluctant to try the demo until these are resolved. Perhaps they should have been a little more conscious over building trust in their customers, especially as the asking price is apparently going to be 349 USD when the final release is posted. That’s a lot for a modern plugin which I don’t dispute if the quality is right up there, but users will expect near-flawless performance for that price.

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