Empirical Labs® EL8 Distressor
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.
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
Take a Listen
Learn how to Add Energy to Drums
Grammy-winning engineer Vance Powell (Jack White, The Dead Weather) and the Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor plug‑in.
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 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.
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
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.
“The UAD EL8 Distressor feels just like the hardware, giving me results that I’ve been missing in the box.”
– Jacquire King (James Bay, Kings of Leon, Tom Waits)
“The Distressor is capable of such radical compression tones, that it becomes its own instrument. I’m confident the UAD version will become just as useful as the hardware.”
– Joe Chiccarelli (Jason Mraz, Beck, The Strokes, Morrissey)
“The Distressor is the perfect all around compressor, and no studio should be without a few of them. Now with the UAD Distressor, you can have as many as you need!”
– Vance Powell (Jack White, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs)
“From subtle compression to destruction, the Distressor handles everything with style.”
– Hector Delgado (A$AP Rocky, Selena Gomez, Lana Del Rey)
“The Distressor truly is the desert island dynamics tool, for controlling levels or creatively reshaping instruments into sounds that couldn’t be heard otherwise.”
– Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House, Future Islands)
Watch The Reviews
5-Min UAD Tip
In this video, learn how the EL8 Distressor compressor can transform your mixes into something truly special.
March 18, 2023
It’s for real
I don’t notice the difference from the hardware and if you can good for you but to me it sounds and reacts as I would expect the hardware to. The real point is who cares if the end...Read More
March 1, 2023
Best Compressor for Vocals
I use this on all my lead vocals. Definitely one of the best plugins to have!Read More
February 21, 2023
I was crazy about the Distressor. I was very surprised by his harmonic distortion in the right measure, especially in the vocals and drums....Read More
January 30, 2023
Good for vocals
read some really good reviews and thought I would give it a try. It is really simple to use and makes it easy to sit vocals where...Read More
January 22, 2023
Amazing sound on this plugin definitely can hear a huge difference. Really love it.Read More
January 12, 2023
İts a magical compressor
Great valueable sound and textureRead More
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
Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor Compressor
It’s for real
I don’t notice the difference from the hardware and if you can good for you but to me it sounds and reacts as I would expect the hardware to. The real point is who cares if the end listener likes the song and whether they know or care if you used a plug-in or not. Save yourself a couple grand if you’re like me and can’t afford 10’s of thousands on outboard hardware. This one is a must buy.
Best Compressor for Vocals
I use this on all my lead vocals. Definitely one of the best plugins to have!
I was crazy about the Distressor. I was very surprised by his harmonic distortion in the right measure, especially in the vocals and drums.
Good for vocals
read some really good reviews and thought I would give it a try. It is really simple to use and makes it easy to sit vocals where you want them in the mix
Amazing sound on this plugin definitely can hear a huge difference. Really love it.
İts a magical compressor
Great valueable sound and texture
The perfect compressor!!!
THIS! This right here is my go to plug-in anytime for compression. Awesome in every way you wanna use it.
What more can you say!!
This is the best emulation of the hardware unit I have ever used.
Killer on drums
Amazing on drums is the killer feature of this plug-in . Also good on bass and guitar but I always have it on drums since I bought it.
Of all the emulations I've tried, Distressor UAD is the best!
R. Marquez Cruz
Extremely useful , the HP on the audio path is surprisingly great and the distortion is awesome. Lovely overall
Just nuke it!
Sounds great! Hella phatt.. mix in the dry!
Just like the real thing
A definite must have tool
Plug and play
Great, great and great !!!
It' a really cool an amazing product to mixing !
Great on most of my sources.
I especially enjoy it on acoustic guitar.
Perfect tool for color compression
Amazing must-have , giving simultaneously punch and warm shine to the audio !!
The ultimate drum comp
Love it on drums and bass.
One of the best!
A B comparisons to the hardware are just mind-blowing. Thanks UA! We need more stuff from Empirical Labs!
Tried and liked it a lot on drums, bass and shouted vocals. Good to have it in my arsenal!