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.
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
Take a Listen
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
July 20, 2018
Will THE REAL DISTRESSOR PLEASE.....
I have been using the Slate version and after hearing the real difference at Conway, I bought it! Now after using it I notice an even bigger difference. It's a smoother warmer distortion....Read More
July 15, 2018
The majority of my career has been on analog desks mixing with outboard gear. It's only been the last couple years I've been moving to a more hybrid mixing setup. The Distressor is one of...Read More
July 15, 2018
Great comp for guitar
Works well with guitar, transparent to smashing the signal.Read More
July 14, 2018
Modern day 1176
Beast!! Sounds great on almost anything. This hands down is a must have if you want you mix to stand out.Read More
July 9, 2018
The best emulation of one of the best and most versatile compressors ever made. A must-have.Read More
July 4, 2018
It’s my new go to for snare and kick.Read 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
Will THE REAL DISTRESSOR PLEASE.....
I have been using the Slate version and after hearing the real difference at Conway, I bought it! Now after using it I notice an even bigger difference. It's a smoother warmer distortion. BEST PLUG OF THE YEAR! Thanks Again UAD! Note: This is how we made the kicks mixed with sinewaves sound so killer. The kids call 'em 808s and 909s. I bought my Roland 808 Drum Machine for 50 bucks at a pawn shop in the 80s. I sampled it to DAT and sold it in the LA RECYCLER for 1500. Still have the Tape. - Gilroy
The majority of my career has been on analog desks mixing with outboard gear. It's only been the last couple years I've been moving to a more hybrid mixing setup. The Distressor is one of my "go to" boxes for several pieces of the mix. I was really missing not having the distressor working "in the box". Finally I can use the same settings as the real box and have it translate into exactly what I get from the hardware. Thanks UA!
Great comp for guitar
Works well with guitar, transparent to smashing the signal.
Modern day 1176
Beast!! Sounds great on almost anything. This hands down is a must have if you want you mix to stand out.
The best emulation of one of the best and most versatile compressors ever made. A must-have.
It’s my new go to for snare and kick.
Works like magic
Whether you are a novice or pro, you can’t go wrong with this! It’s an amazing compresser with a generous dose of distortion to tame even the most unruly tracks in your mix. I use it to fatten vocals, drums and to make guitar tones cut thru the mix!! It works like a charm and I will never let go of this anytime!
YES YES YES this is really the best plugin for me.
This plugin I use everywhere.On drums, on basses, on vocals etc.
UAD is out of control
Worse than Apple I tell ya! I bought this thing in a bundle sale because I have a UAD plug-in problem. You own me because I own you, all you’re plug-ins anyway. The Distressor is well…the one and only DISTRESSOR! It does anything to everything and back again. Drums are boom-bastic, bass can get downright dirty, and everything is just covered in saturated bliss OR not depends on what you're trying to achieve but the Distressor excels at bringing sounds to life by crushing the shite out of them! I’ve never owned this “swiss army knife” but now I know why it’s in just about every studio and I’m thankful (kinda) UAD partners with the studio “staple” hardware manufacturers to bring these tools to the average Joe. EL/UAD partnership makes perfect sense as EL has overtly bragged about emulating UA’s classic hardware for years. Either way, a clean yet dirty little plug that yields drastic results with the smallest adjustment which is probably why some users have a difficult time with it. It's not a one knob, one (amazing) trick pony like the LA2A, therefore you have to listen carefully as you dial in your desires. It’s for that reason I don’t necessarily track with it…just yet. It’s very easy to do more damage than good in the wrong unexperienced hands (ears) which is likely a big chunk of UAD’s audience-me included. It can be transparent but again, you can go down a slippery slope with the saturation and the ratios during a perceivably transparent vocal tracking session-can’t undo it so I save it for the mix. Still honing my skills with this beast but it works wonders on everything in parallel which UAD caught onto thus adding a “mix” knob. Distressor does a phenomenal job emulating LA2A/1176 but there is still some sonic differences that I can’t quite put my finger on but its close. You could spend hours in this sonic playground with a drum loop that could send you into psychosis but you only have 335 more hours to dial it in before the DEMO expires. Couldn’t pass it up during this sale. If you have a creative bone in your body, you want this.
AMAZING on drums!
This is by far the most amazing compressor I've ever used on drums. It really make the kick slam and the snare pop!
This is truly the most versatile tool in my arsenal!
Beware...if you demo, you will purchase!
It’s a Distressor...the Swiss Army knife of compressors. An incredible tool that has been missing from my itb toolbox for years!
once you try it is impossible to do without it !!
The best compressor ever
I love using this on everything. Particularly Vocals, Guitar & Bass. Before this I was fixated on the 1176 which is fantastic. But now that I started using this plug it’s added a sweetness that didn’t exist from teletronix or the 1176. I’ve never used one until recently so I look forward to seeing what else can be done with it.
Hands down the best Distressor emulation
I've used all of the Distressor emulations relentlessly trying to find the character of the hardware. This does it. The others don't come close.
Changes everything about how I produce...
Simply put, this thing has completely changed my sound forever. In the best possible way ever!
The rumors are true
The rumors that you need a Distressor are very true and now that i have the UA plug in version, i can use them all over my sessions instead of only being able to use my pair. Its a MUST HAVE plug in, they nailed it
Whatever you throw on this beast rocks. Its not an emulation - its the original!
I have only had the opportunity to work with this compressor on a few sessions and I have never used the real hardware but, what I can tell you is, it is flexible, it is extremely versatile and it sounds great on everything I've used it on, from drum bus to vocals to parallel compression on the 2 buss. I was able to dial in exactly what was needed. Awesome doesn't cover it. Impressive!
This compressor is very versatile and sounds amazing!