Empirical Labs® EL8 Distressor

Empirical Labs® EL8 Distressor


You have no items in your shopping cart.


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
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

      K. Morris

      November 13, 2018

      Essential piece, amazing sound, faithful to the real thing

      One demo and I was ready to buy this. By far the best EL8DC software I've ever heard. A colorful, easy to use utility everybody should have. Thank you UA and Empirical Labs!

      C. LAURENT

      November 12, 2018


      Just beautiful, this plugin is very very great, tried in demo of 14 days I will buy it. So good in my voice, thx UAD

      J. Wilkinson

      November 8, 2018

      Great emulation of an industry standard

      I own the original, and this comes very close! I love the addition of the dry/comp dial - just like on the eL9. Really useful on kit and and bass guitar - it's my go to for these instruments. The distortion section adds that little extra crunch on bass guitar that I love:) Very happy with it.

      M. muñoz

      November 7, 2018


      He podido usar el hardware y este plugin es casi como el original.

      C. Edmonds

      October 28, 2018


      What I meant to say in my review was: The UAD Distressor is absolutely the best software emulation of a hardware signal processor ever done as of October 2018. The Distressor happens to be an incredibly versatile and useful compressor in its own right, which makes the fact that UAD has modeled it so mind-blowingly well even more enjoyable and useful to have.

      M. P

      October 28, 2018



      C. Edmonds

      October 24, 2018


      It’s pretty simple. If someone asked me what the best software compressor available was, I’d have to say the UA Distressor. Name a better compressor in the box. You can’t.

      J. Oliveira

      October 23, 2018


      It´s a swiss knife compressor. Everything is fatter and wider by using this Plug-In.

      J. Oliveira

      October 23, 2018


      It´s a swiss knife compressor. Everything is fatter and wider by using this Plug-Ing.

      C. Hutchison

      October 22, 2018


      Distressor is my only outboard piece of gear. Been using it for years. Now with the plug and being able to use it on multiple tracks is an absolute dream come true.
      I say this with no hyperbole: I have been waiting for this plugin for years. Thank you, UAD. It's perfect. (And the wet/dry knob is just a fantastic addition)

      T. Christmann

      October 15, 2018

      Distressor to go

      I wanted to gig with a distressor using mainly for lead vocals in a live front-of-house situation; and in conjunction with an apollo twin it even fit's into your backpack.

      D. Marais

      October 12, 2018

      Grit and cream to perfection

      What a beautiful plugin, UA. Again, you provide us with the magic we need to weave beautiful spells with our sound. Thank you!!

      K. Korolev

      October 11, 2018

      A real Distressor inside the box

      I’m a big fan of the Distressor, this plug-in is mind blowing how it gives you the same sound as the hardware... as usual I have no words thank you UAD

      J. North

      October 6, 2018

      Spot On

      Ahh this thing sounds like the hardware. Don't tell anyone.

      UAD User

      October 4, 2018


      I love my analog Distressor, and once again UAD nails it with their digital version.

      W. McMiller

      October 1, 2018

      In the pocket

      I first experienced the Empirical Distressor Hardware at Prince's Paisley Park studios and immediately put this plugin in my wishlist. When I plugged this in on my lead vocals, the focus and warm was just like the studio! I threw all other compressors out! Even on my vocal buss, all the voices were in your face and I could still dial in the dynamics. Love it!

      N. Sharif

      September 9, 2018

      Another great UAD plug in

      Very nice plugin. Makes the instrument stand out

      N. Sharif

      September 9, 2018

      UAD are the best! Period

      I'm using it on drums and bass and made my mix a day and night difference ! Compared it to the real thing and it's very difficult to differentiate.
      Thank you UAD team for this great plug in.

      H. Ataka

      September 8, 2018

      Sharp sound!

      Delicious distortion, sound that comes out earlier, this has both.

      C. Howat

      August 23, 2018

      Better Than The Hardware

      I never really loved the Distressor, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m better at dialing in tones now, but with the wet/dry mix knob, I can dial in the exact tone I want. Great for drum close mics and vocals. No British mode but maybe in a future version.