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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

      A. Hartsook

      May 24, 2023

      Fantastic Emulation For a Ton of Uses

      I've always been hesitant to try the distressor because my instinct was that it did approximately what other compressors did, just not as well. If I have emulations for optical compressors and FET compressors, why would I want a distressor? I was very wrong. This is such a unique design and the utility of it is incredible. I find myself reaching for it way more often than I ever thought I would. Fantastic tone & compression

      C. Thalman

      May 22, 2023

      So much like the hardware.

      I have two Distressors and now I feel like I have 20.

      C. Rodgers

      April 13, 2023

      Great Product

      I have never used the real thing, but this plugin definitely sounds more expensive than its price tag. If you’re worried about it not sounding identical to the real thing (who’s to say it doesn’t?), then just pretend it’s called something else and BAM you have an amazing new, high-quality compressor/saturator! You can find a place for this thing pretty much anywhere. 10/10 would recommend.

      M. Grodzki

      April 6, 2023

      Real Good

      Buy it. You can use it everywhere

      M. Hui

      March 18, 2023

      It’s for real

      I don’t notice the difference from the hardware and if you can good for you but to me it sounds and reacts as I would expect the hardware to. The real point is who cares if the end listener likes the song and whether they know or care if you used a plug-in or not. Save yourself a couple grand if you’re like me and can’t afford 10’s of thousands on outboard hardware. This one is a must buy.

      T. Hugh

      March 1, 2023

      Best Compressor for Vocals

      I use this on all my lead vocals. Definitely one of the best plugins to have!

      E. ARRUDA

      February 21, 2023

      Maximum utility.

      I was crazy about the Distressor. I was very surprised by his harmonic distortion in the right measure, especially in the vocals and drums.

      M. Heist

      January 30, 2023

      Good for vocals

      read some really good reviews and thought I would give it a try. It is really simple to use and makes it easy to sit vocals where you want them in the mix

      A. Cunha

      January 22, 2023

      Amazing Distressor

      Amazing sound on this plugin definitely can hear a huge difference. Really love it.

      M. Sarpkaya

      January 12, 2023

      İts a magical compressor

      Great valueable sound and texture

      P. Birladeanu

      January 11, 2023

      The perfect compressor!!!

      THIS! This right here is my go to plug-in anytime for compression. Awesome in every way you wanna use it.

      S. Lopez

      January 8, 2023

      What more can you say!!

      Grab It!!!

      A. Sizonenko

      January 7, 2023


      This is the best emulation of the hardware unit I have ever used.

      E. Peterson

      January 6, 2023

      Killer on drums

      Amazing on drums is the killer feature of this plug-in . Also good on bass and guitar but I always have it on drums since I bought it.

      A. Viktorovich

      January 6, 2023

      The Best

      Of all the emulations I've tried, Distressor UAD is the best!

      R. Marquez Cruz

      January 4, 2023


      Extremely useful , the HP on the audio path is surprisingly great and the distortion is awesome. Lovely overall

      A. Fylling

      January 4, 2023

      Just nuke it!

      Sounds great! Hella phatt.. mix in the dry!

      c. rosario

      January 2, 2023

      Just like the real thing

      A definite must have tool
      Plug and play

      V. Trendel

      January 1, 2023

      Great, great and great !!!

      It' a really cool an amazing product to mixing !

      R. Kristensen

      December 31, 2022


      Great on most of my sources.
      I especially enjoy it on acoustic guitar.