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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

      G. Fricke

      September 20, 2022

      Cleaner Vocals

      The EL8 has been a nice addition to the signal chain creating cleaner vocals that require fewer takes and really help in the overall mix.

      I. Inkilä

      September 15, 2022

      This thing is becoming my favourite compressor

      It's very versatile and simply kills on vocals, the detection and colour features are great tools and the GUI is pleasing to look at. It also has a very good sound when automated to destroy tracks for more experimental sounds. Great addition to your arsenal, easy to use and sounds great. Simply a must have.

      P. Raebiger

      July 28, 2022

      simple a very good one

      Put the distressor on your vocals or parallel to your drums or what ever you want. Some tweaks and it sounds amazing good with character and weight. How it was mentioned: simple a very good one. Enjoy it!

      c. jinho

      July 23, 2022


      best classic comp

      I. Papagiannidis

      July 18, 2022

      Best for drums bass!!

      Favorite one for drums and bass! A classic! Best tool for mixing!

      L. Bates

      July 17, 2022


      I've put off getting it for 2 years and now i have it i have a crush on my drums))

      C. Klutts

      July 14, 2022


      This things adds the nasty with just a few twists but is also capable of subtle compression.

      I. Kravchenko

      July 14, 2022


      Super versatile and great sound!

      M. Peak

      July 11, 2022

      I Keep Coming Back to the EL8

      The main strength of the Distressor is how fast it is. Even on a 2:1 ratio, the attack and release times make it quick and smooth, especially for vocals. I've also used it as hard limiter. Add to this its detection and color features (such as distortion) and it is a great go-to compressor.

      M. Verblakt

      July 8, 2022


      Just like the hardware units. Put it on drumbus and Bam!

      e. rydberg

      July 2, 2022

      Just like the hardware

      I own a pair of EL-8X's. Now I can slap several of these on my mix without having to do the hybrid setup thing a few at a time to find the blended sound I want. thumbs up.

      J. Bullard

      July 1, 2022

      Toolbox Staple

      A must have in your arsenal, especially for drum parallel compression...distression*

      S. Ramsay

      July 1, 2022

      Such a vibe

      Added this to a track to try give it a bit of extra vibe and life. Works very well on drums and vocals. Have used on rhythm guitar bus tracks to make the stereo width sound fuller too. Love it, hopefully a UADx variant soon :)

      E. Ananda

      June 23, 2022

      No explanation needed

      There's a reason everyone loves this unit. and this plugin delivers it. so so good!

      K. Beleznay

      June 22, 2022

      Perfect sound

      good plugin! hot sound!

      T. Young

      June 18, 2022

      Recently purchased and already loving it on my mixes.
      UA has the best plug-ins

      R. Bond

      June 17, 2022

      If you could only have one

      Demo this plugin on my drum buss using a preset with a little adjustment I stop the song and immediately purchased this plugin!!!!!!!

      O. Viamontes

      June 17, 2022

      Great for tracking

      Just finished tracking vocals without the need of a preamp, thanks to the distortion modes… thanks UA

      F. Mico

      June 13, 2022



      J. Wade

      May 27, 2022


      A must have!