Empirical Labs® EL8 Distressor

Empirical Labs® EL8 Distressor


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The world’s most popular compressor, exactingly recreated for UAD and Apollo.

Introduced in 1993, the Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor is revered in studios all over the world as the modern, “must-have” compressor. Versatile, super fast, and offering tons of color, the Distressor picks up where the legendary UA 1176 and Teletronix LA-2A compressors leave off — a modern tool that’s equal parts utilitarian and creative, as heard on thousands of hit records.

The only authentic Distressor plug-in endorsed by Empirical Labs’ founder Dave Derr, the UAD Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor is available exclusively for UAD hardware and Apollo interfaces. An exhaustive end-to-end emulation of Derr’s iconic hardware, the UAD EL8 Distressor is the only faithful emulation of this true “desert island” compressor.

Now You Can:

Track and mix with the only authentic emulation of the EL8 Distressor — the world's most popular modern compressor

Radically shape guitars, drums, and vocals with nearly infinite gain reduction variations

Harness plug-in-only features like Dry/Wet parallel processing and Headroom for user‑customizable operating level

Creatively color instruments and vocals with famous “Dist 2” and “Dist 3” modes

Embellish, pump up, or destroy bass, synth, and room mics with custom detector filtering

Mix with presets from Joe Chiccarelli (The Strokes), Vance Powell (Jack White), Jacquire King (Kings of Leon), Jimmy Douglass (The Rolling Stones), and more

This is the fastest and most accurate Distressor emulation out there. -Dave Derr, Founder of Empirical Labs

Take a Listen

Take a Listen
5-Min UAD Tip
5-Min UAD Tip

5-Min UAD Tip

In this video, learn how the EL8 Distressor compressor can transform your mixes into something truly special.

The Only End-to-End Distressor Emulation

The Only End-to-End Distressor Emulation

The Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor Compressor plug-in provides all the features and coveted sound of the original Distressor design. UA’s team of DSP experts started with a complete circuit trace and component study of Dave Derr's selected golden unit. Simultaneously, the team analyzed three more Distressors representing the lifetime of the product — ensuring one of UA’s tightest circuit models to date.

When comparing Distressor software emulations, contrast the original hardware’s ultra-fast attack time to quickly hear where most plug-ins fail, and the authentic UAD Distressor succeeds.

The Right Ratio

The Right Ratio

The crux of the Distressor are its staggering variations in compression —
1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 6:1, 10:1, 20:1 and Nuke — each delivering unique tones and curves. Use the 1:1 ratio to gently warm up synths or strings without compression, while adding musical low-order harmonics. At the other extreme, the Nuke limiter setting is famous for adding explosive excitement to room mics, or energizing a entire mix.

Distortion Modes

Distortion Modes

The Distressor's iconic Dist 2 and Dist 3 modes feature a wide palette of compression coloration, letting you shape sources with even or combined even/odd-order harmonic distortion. From delicate thickening to burnished tape to fully saturated, the Distortion Modes, combined with low-frequency filtering, let you focus the Distressor’s textures.

Powerful Sidechain Controls

Powerful Sidechain Controls

The Distressor’s sidechain control lets you easily focus your dynamics. High Pass filter unwanted low frequency pumping and breathing — perfect for drum bus processing. Band Emphasis works to tame strident vocals or can laser in on harsh “power region” instrument midrange peaks, or use both together.

You can also run the Distressor on buses, linked or unlinked, for flexible imaging. Exclusive plug-in features like Dry/Wet Mix offer easy parallel compression on a mix bus or instrument group. Finally, the Headroom control lets you optimize the Distressor’s overall operating level to your playback system.

Watch The Reviews

      Key Features

      Painstaking, end-to-end circuit emulation of the iconic hardware designed by Dave Derr, exclusively for Universal Audio

      Provides the entire circuit path and control set of the original Empirical Labs hardware

      Features seven fixed ratios, including Optical and Nuke, Distortion Modes, and Detector Modes

      Plug-in-exclusive features include Dry/Wet parallel processing and Headroom for user-customizable operating level

      Customer Reviews

      Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor Compressor

      Overall Rating

      B. Warsaw

      July 13, 2020

      Love It

      I’ve been the proud owner of this plugin for a while and it’s amazing. It feels like the hardware (at least to me) and simply a wonderful tool. Thank you UAD!

      J. Bin

      July 11, 2020

      Pure gold!

      This emulation is amazing! I use it on vocals, guitar, bass, drums.. pretty everything!

      J. Marshall

      July 6, 2020

      Great emulation

      Really liking this emulation so far. Been checking it out on drums, bass, and electric guitars. Really versatile, as expected.

      A. Hicks

      July 3, 2020

      Perfect Vocal Compression

      This is absolutely perfect for getting vocals to stand up front in the vocals without sounding too squashed. On sale, the price is just unbelievable for the quality!

      L. Szekely

      July 2, 2020

      very usefull

      Very usefull ! drums, bass etc..

      A. Richardson

      July 1, 2020

      Love it

      My drums sound so dope now

      S. Heidemann

      June 30, 2020

      Been looking forward to this!

      I have actually just been starting with UAD plugins, but this is exactly the joy and sonic quality I was looking for! Purchased the API 2500 as well which I love already and couldn't let the Distressor slide. Good choice!

      j. campos

      June 29, 2020

      Must Have

      UA's modeling of this classic piece of gear comes very close to the hardware and in my opinion is a must have for anyone serious about recording, mixing or mastering audio.


      June 26, 2020

      Multi purpose tool

      Very efficiant and useful in a lot of situations

      S. Cupellaro

      June 25, 2020

      Veramente fantastico

      Suona come L originale....grandi!!!

      A. Reverberi

      June 24, 2020

      You never know

      I don't know why I held back so long before grabbing the EL8. Surprisingly good, surprisingly versatile.

      B. Stamnes

      June 24, 2020

      Classic kit, perfect modeling

      Sounds sensational, easy to use, well priced.

      R. Leon Junquera

      June 22, 2020

      Opto setting...

      Is just great

      D. DeBerry

      June 22, 2020

      What works , works

      Distressor are great on rounding out your sound. The GOAT.

      D. DeBerry

      June 22, 2020

      What works , works

      Distressor are great on rounding out your sound. The GOAT.

      D. DeBerry

      June 22, 2020

      What works , works

      Distressor are great on rounding out your sound. The GOAT.

      A. Petrini

      June 22, 2020

      Just Awesome

      This plugin brings life to everything I put it into. A must have in my opinion.

      G. Porrino

      June 17, 2020


      Does exactly what it's supposed to, and for a lot less dosh. Excellent.

      M. Kleimert

      June 16, 2020

      Compressor with attitude

      I like plugins that have their own personality and sound. The Distressor is such a plugin. Having worked with the hardware version I must say you really nailed it

      M. Montañana

      June 15, 2020

      Impecables armónicos

      Al aplicar distressor...se logran armónicos que empujan frecuencias fantasmas. Increíble