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Empirical Labs® EL8 Distressor

Empirical Labs® EL8 Distressor

Regular Price: $299.00


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Regular Price: $299.00


You'll Save 40%

You have no items in your shopping cart.

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

      L. Adler

      June 14, 2019

      Big, fat and awesome...

      Truly makes my mixes sound larger than life.

      J. Roecker

      June 14, 2019


      Great tones and dirt come out of this plugin with ease!

      r. passuti

      June 14, 2019

      master of compression!!!!

      if you know the original hardware, you can understanding what I mean!

      r. passuti

      June 14, 2019

      master of compression!!!!

      if you know the original hardware, you can understanding what I mean!

      T. Qumok

      June 10, 2019

      Swiss army knife of comps

      After demo'ing it and reading many reviews I finally bought it. It's a great investment.
      I produce my own music, which is metal, and the distressor is used everywhere. It's the only compressor I like on my vocals.

      P. Daly

      June 9, 2019

      Mmmm.... butter

      Butter those bass lines into submission

      P. Pendlebury

      June 4, 2019

      Immediate Goto

      Drums / Bass buss glue on every project from now on. Fantastic.

      P. Uszyński

      May 31, 2019

      My new go-to comp

      For quite some time I had a feeling that I'm missing a really good comp in my mixing chain. Previously I was using Waves H-comp ("character" compression) and C1 ("transparent" compression), then I started demoing some comps from UA. Distressor is the one that made my things (mainly vocals) really shine. You can make it characterful, you can make it transparent and gentle, in case anything is missing, you can always go to something else, like 1176 or LA-2A.

      And yes, I'm a UAD acolyte, the only non-UAD things in my mixing chain for now are FabFilter Q-3 and iZotope RX tools, because UAD simply beats everything I tried.

      E. Stokes

      May 28, 2019

      My Favorite Plugin

      I love this plugin on kicks! It's Like Magic to me! But I use it for other stuff as well! Amazing!!!

      C. Piper

      May 28, 2019

      To be honest I was looking to get a hardware unit of the distressor but then a friend of mine invited me to his Studio to try out this uad plug-in. So we did that a b comparison and I honestly can say it was so close this comparison right here actually had me go and get the Apollo twin quad core. Enough said I have beat around the bush for years on uad not anymore.

      R. Gun

      May 13, 2019

      Yes, VCA at it´s best

      The better 1176.
      Very wide usablility. Nuke is not All-button-mode of 1176.

      R. McKean

      May 12, 2019

      Outstanding is an overused word

      ... but if you want a compressor that will make your drums pop and pump, this is the one.

      I. Batista

      April 16, 2019


      Sometimes I wonder how the audio world survived all those years without Distressor!

      S. Potaczek

      April 11, 2019


      I own the real thing and use it every day. The plugin is okay, but when pushed hard (which is kinda the point of the distressed portion of this box), it starts to show. Not overly impressed with one compared to say the LA2A collection. Decent, but the gift of the hardware is that it stays quite invisible unless you don't want it to (whereas the software version feels more heavy-handed).

      L. Lively

      April 6, 2019

      Sold my hardware unit

      i owned the hardware for about 8 years, i own two other software emulations.......The UAD Distressor emulation......Lets just say, i processed a few drums through it and i think GOOGLE translate said "it's time to sell your hardware" when i pressed play. This and the manley massive passive made me a UAD believer.

      R. Patrick

      April 4, 2019

      Love It!!

      It adds so much to my tone!!

      P. Gharapetian

      March 29, 2019


      long awaited plugin version of this classic. i'm so happy to have this and it does sound just as amazing as the real deal!

      S. Allí

      March 25, 2019

      my new lover

      i really like the way that give live to drums , control synths and even voices

      J. Auguste

      March 25, 2019

      Tight Punch

      Love this compressor. The fact that I could use this on multiple channels while mixing is plus for me without having to purchase multiple units. Great addition to my setup.

      J. Willis

      March 22, 2019

      This kills

      Nails the hardware tone and now being able to put a ton of Distressors all over my mix?! I’m in love