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.
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.
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...Read More
July 23, 2022
best classic compRead More
July 18, 2022
Best for drums bass!!
Favorite one for drums and bass! A classic! Best tool for mixing!Read More
July 17, 2022
I've put off getting it for 2 years and now i have it i have a crush on my drums))Read More
July 14, 2022
This things adds the nasty with just a few twists but is also capable of subtle compression.Read More
July 14, 2022
Super versatile and great sound!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
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!
best classic comp
Best for drums bass!!
Favorite one for drums and bass! A classic! Best tool for mixing!
I've put off getting it for 2 years and now i have it i have a crush on my drums))
This things adds the nasty with just a few twists but is also capable of subtle compression.
Super versatile and great sound!
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.
Just like the hardware units. Put it on drumbus and Bam!
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.
A must have in your arsenal, especially for drum parallel compression...distression*
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 :)
No explanation needed
There's a reason everyone loves this unit. and this plugin delivers it. so so good!
good plugin! hot sound!
Recently purchased and already loving it on my mixes.
UA has the best plug-ins
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!!!!!!!
Great for tracking
Just finished tracking vocals without the need of a preamp, thanks to the distortion modes… thanks UA
A must have!
Great compressor, very useful, great tool for every professional ...
J. ter Borg
Not just flexible and versatile, but also a visually well-designed tool that really helps to understand limiting and compression in general if you don't have a lot of experience.