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  • Features
  • Customer Reviews
  • 4.9/5

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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.

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
Learn how to Add Energy to Drums
Learn how to Add Energy to Drums

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 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

      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.

      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


      J. Kriske

      September 30, 2023

      Just wading back in

      I don't currently own a hardware version of the distressed to A/B this with, but I do have fond memories of working in a studio that had one. This is an equally fun and useful tool. As others have said, it's fantastic on percussive sounds. I'm looking forward to trying it on other things!

      J. Kriske

      September 30, 2023

      Just wading back in

      I don't currently own a hardware version of the distressed to A/B this with, but I do have fond memories of working in a studio that had one. This is an equally fun and useful tool. As others have said, it's fantastic on percussive sounds. I'm looking forward to trying it on other things!

      A. Sis

      September 27, 2023

      Best Drumbus Comp!

      Can’t mix without this Plugin on my drumbus chain. Makes it punchier, crispier and saturated! One of the best plugins of UAD!

      A. Rosell

      September 27, 2023

      Fab Fav Compressor

      Best compressor I've got for anything rock! Sounds amazing and gives you enormous power and depth to your tracks.

      M. Dellit

      September 27, 2023


      Impossibly good on everything!

      M. HARRIS

      September 26, 2023

      Nice Work!

      UAD did a good job with this one!

      T. Cherry

      September 20, 2023

      Amazing plugin!

      I’ve always wanted to analog version of this and to now have it! Perfection! Once again y’all knocked it out the park!

      C. Kim

      September 8, 2023


      My go-to compressor for Drums and vocals.Worth every penny!

      T. Jackson

      August 8, 2023

      Just decent

      Seen a lot of guys on YouTube recommending use it on a few vocals it’s ok but I expected more

      V. German

      August 5, 2023

      Incredible device!

      Great on drums, vocals, and grand piano

      W. Rice

      July 22, 2023

      Love it

      Use it with my LA2A between dry and comp for parallel compression sounds great in my DAW

      G. Bernhardt

      July 17, 2023

      Great compressor

      Just as good as my rack mounted EL8's...

      A. Ayer

      July 17, 2023

      Wonderful and versatile

      This is a great compressor. It can be used very effectively on any source material. Drums (oh yeah) vocals (definitely) bass, guitar, synth etc. it’s like a fully customizable 1176 and la2a in one box. Bottom line it sounds fantastic.

      A. Martínez

      July 7, 2023


      I have got a great work experience with the distressor, getting to control my dynamic signals range to another level and and many other functionalities because of the versatility of this processor... thanks

      R. Embick

      July 3, 2023


      not expecting such a useful compressor, details that are so helpful - my new favorite product from you folks - actually, I really love all the gear that you have come up with that I've got.

      A. Cengic

      July 1, 2023


      EL8 Distressor is simply amazing! This plugin brings the magic of the Distressor hardware unit into the digital realm. The sound is truly authentic, and the distortion and compression options are outstanding. It allows me to add warmth and character to my recordings, whether it's a solo instrument or an entire mix. The user interface is intuitive and easy to use. EL8 Distressor has become an essential tool in my production, and I can't imagine working without it. Simply incredible!"

      J. LACRUZ

      June 30, 2023

      Fantastic Emulation .Good

      I use it on my main tracks. Definitely one of the best plugins to have!

      J. Mateo

      June 28, 2023

      The one to beat

      This is hands down one of my most used compressors in my collection. It can work on almost everything you slap it on and even for livestream's it is always on my master bus so i dont clip and get very versatile and transparent compression.

      G. Mahn

      June 19, 2023

      Rich and Versatile

      The EL8 rocks! Rich, warm tone and versatile options make it useful on a wide range of instruments and situations. It is a cornerstone in my primary DAW templates.

      G. Udvarhelyi

      June 16, 2023


      I thought it will be great, but maaaan!!! :)))