The configuration of the unit is somewhat easy to follow. It is pretty straightforward and easy to get a nice sound out of it. The Distressor seems to have a distinct sound to it. While it isn't the most versatile compressor in terms of different sounds you can get, it does work well in a few different situations. It isn't too hard to figure out what everything does on this unit and while I haven't seen the manual, one should be able to figure this unit out somewhat easily.
The compression produced from this unit is clean and it definitley has its own sound to it. I have used it on guitars, bass guitar, back up vocals and drums. Of these applications I would say it probably sounds best on drums to me. My favorite thing about this compressor is that it is hard to get the same kind of compression from anywhere else. It has become treasured by engineers because of this unique tone and works in a number of different situations.
I've been using the Empirical Labs Distressor EL8-X for about three years and I have grown quite fond of these when trying to mix. I always hope to have a few of these on hand as I like to use them on a few different things at once - sometimes on both kick drum and snare drum and bass guitar. These are very reasonably priced and for such a high end compressor. The Distressor has made a name for itself in the industry as one of the go to compressors in modern recording.