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
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.
June 16, 2021
So far so good it brings life to your Mix this plugin is Magical.. See for your self!!!!!Read More
June 14, 2021
Identical to the hardware unitRead More
June 11, 2021
I finally own it!
The Distressor has been on my list of must own plugins. It’s been great for tracking vocals and acoustic guitars. I finally purchased it last week and it will be used on every session....Read More
June 7, 2021
Great emulation of an essential tool
What more can you say? The flexibility of being able to run multiple Distressors with fast easy routing is a dream come true.Read More
May 25, 2021
I have the hardware version of the Distressor, but only a single unit. When I started incorporating a Brauer style template within my mixes I was struck by how wonderful it is to be able to...Read More
May 21, 2021
The Classic for my Vocals
After using this classic compressor as hardware gear for so many years for my vocals in our Primal Fear mixes in the past, it was a must for me to purchase it as a PlugIn! What can I say,...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
So far so good it brings life to your Mix this plugin is Magical.. See for your self!!!!!
Identical to the hardware unit
I finally own it!
The Distressor has been on my list of must own plugins. It’s been great for tracking vocals and acoustic guitars. I finally purchased it last week and it will be used on every session.
Great emulation of an essential tool
What more can you say?
The flexibility of being able to run multiple Distressors with fast easy routing is a dream come true.
Really annoyed. I paid £200 for this a week ago and now it’s on sale for £91!
I have the hardware version of the Distressor, but only a single unit. When I started incorporating a Brauer style template within my mixes I was struck by how wonderful it is to be able to utilize it in stereo while mixing. I worked the demo periods and resets to my advantage for awhile trying desperately to avoid buying this thing since I have a HW unit. Alas, I am only human and this plug has me in its throes.
The Classic for my Vocals
After using this classic compressor as hardware gear for so many years for my vocals in our Primal Fear mixes in the past, it was a must for me to purchase it as a PlugIn! What can I say, it was all worth it as the emulation really is very close to the hardware gear. As a matter of fact it hast crashed twice today but I hope this happened only randomly.
Adds a great deal of punch to your mix!! A must have!!
Drum bus and vocals
Makes my drums come out of the mix very well and I didn't expect to use it on vocals so much. Love it!
Needs more practise using this, but already I'm lovin- it!
Great on so many things
What can you say about this compressor except that it is great on so many things. Feels just like using the real thing too. Love it.
This plugin is doing really great job, my music sounds more punchy when I have Distressor in it. Thank you
I owned the EL8-X for years and sold it to invest in the UAD platform and I am pretty impressed with this compressor emulation. I used the distressor for tracking all the time on vocals and it’s amazing and this works just as good!
It IS a Distressor
It sounds and behaves exactly like the hardware. It actually sounds way better than the Empirical Labs Arouser. Worth every penny!
Distressor is fantastic!
Works great on just about anything! Truly my most versatile compressor. This is a beast of a plugin that really is a workhorse for me. Makes me wonder how I got by without it!
Fantastic emulation of the hardware unit! This thing rocks!
I love what this thing does to drums, guitars, bass, gritty vocals and busses! Sounds and responds exactly how I remember the hardware does.
One of the best !!!
What can I say? It's the real deal - used it straight away on a bass and drums mix and it just get's you to where you want to go...quickly.
Bass DI sound so much thicker
I haven't used this as much as others but it is always on the bass DI track. Adds to the low end like nothing else I've tried
Essential and intuitive
When I’m in the right mood, nuke ratio is so sweet on the drum bus. Overall, a relentlessly un-fussy compressor. Each control obeys intuition, with each knob and button doing basically what you want and expect. A true utility player. Good sound sounds.