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
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.

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

      W. Schmidl

      September 20, 2019

      very good

      works like the original hardware. Very good.

      t. taeksu

      September 18, 2019

      매우 융이한 플르그인중 하나

      기타 사운드 에 적합하고 사용 빈도가 매우 높다.
      적당한 파워와 펀치감을 주며 색을 더럽히지 않고 자연스럽게 끌어 올려주는 독특한 마력이 있다.

      M. Hunter

      September 17, 2019

      Great Drum Compressor

      I did not see what all the fuss was about until I tried the demo, this is a MUST HAVE for drums and everything I have tried it on. Very nice, You Need this plug in!

      r. sveinungsen

      August 12, 2019

      Very Natural

      I use this all the time on acoustic instrument. Sound so smooth ang making the transient nice and smooth.

      D. Tetmyer

      July 24, 2019


      Love the push this gives sounds

      A. Vax

      July 19, 2019

      best emulation of classic hardware

      I've compared real deal with Slate FG-Stress, ELI Arousor, SOR8, Sknote and UAD Distressor. Slate and UAD are really close but release is better on UAD. So I've get the Distressor.

      A. Vax

      July 19, 2019

      best emulation of classic hardware

      I've compared real deal with Slate FG-Stress, ELI Arousor, SOR8, Sknote and UAD Distressor. Slate and UAD are really close but release is better on UAD. So I've get the Distressor.

      J. Bryant

      July 14, 2019

      Replaced my hardware

      REALLY close to my hardware piece that I was selling off IF it worked on the Unison side. It does!! I can also run 10 instances with additional my satellite quo and quad interfaces!

      C. Bevins

      July 3, 2019

      Perfect emulation!

      I use the real thing all the time for vocals. But not anymore, this plugin nails the sound.

      o. duran

      June 25, 2019

      Great sound

      Great on drums, vocals & bass guitar

      B. Schumacher

      June 25, 2019

      Not close enough to the hardware

      Attack phase sounds so much better on the actual hardware unit. Especially obvious on drums

      R. Costa

      June 21, 2019

      My Favorite compressor!

      Thank you, I love it!

      L. Santini

      June 19, 2019


      Sounds so similar to the real deal that I can’t hear any difference! And it’s easier to use as well...

      A. Tomashenko

      June 16, 2019

      Perfect for drums and vocals

      The best emulation you can get. Sounds fantastic on drums and vocals, use it in every project.

      L. Adler

      June 14, 2019

      Big, fat and awesome...

      Truly makes my mixes sound larger than life.

      J. Roecker

      June 14, 2019


      Great tones and dirt come out of this plugin with ease!

      r. passuti

      June 14, 2019

      master of compression!!!!

      if you know the original hardware, you can understanding what I mean!

      T. Qumok

      June 10, 2019

      Swiss army knife of comps

      After demo'ing it and reading many reviews I finally bought it. It's a great investment.
      I produce my own music, which is metal, and the distressor is used everywhere. It's the only compressor I like on my vocals.

      P. Daly

      June 9, 2019

      Mmmm.... butter

      Butter those bass lines into submission

      P. Pendlebury

      June 4, 2019

      Immediate Goto

      Drums / Bass buss glue on every project from now on. Fantastic.