Empirical Labs® EL8 Distressor

Empirical Labs® EL8 Distressor


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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.

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
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

      D. Murphy

      July 21, 2021

      Must have compressor

      Add great tube saturation, energy and body to any source... excitement too. It's a classic.

      L. Tian Siung

      July 14, 2021

      Drum Bus!

      apply on every Drum Bus it is!

      B. Jarrell

      July 8, 2021

      I wish my wife was this dirty!!!

      Seriously! This is one of the rare few plugins that exist that you can slap on almost anything and get great results without all the hassle!

      M. Hagan

      July 6, 2021

      As advertised!

      I’ve wanted to pull the trigger on this plugin for some time. Well worth the wait. Definitely gives vocals more presence.

      A. Rudolph

      June 30, 2021


      Absolut authentische Plugin Version des Hardwaregerätes. Stabil und so gut bedienbar wie es ein Plugin sein kann.

      G. Amstel

      June 30, 2021

      Very good!

      It’s a very nice compressor!
      Works fine and sounds good!

      G. Amstel

      June 30, 2021

      Very good!

      It’s a very nice compressor!
      Works fine and sounds good!

      N. Dubo

      June 25, 2021


      Funciona realmente genial... Estoy a gusto con este gran compresor... YEAHHH

      S. Tavra

      June 22, 2021

      wunderbares Tool

      momentan nutze ich den distressor für Drums. wären die Klänge Bilder hätten sie klare scharfe Konturen und kräftige Farben. das Tool bringt einiges auf den Punkt. möchte es nicht mehr missen.

      z. valentine

      June 22, 2021

      Great sounding plugin

      This plugin really shines on everything. When I use it on vocals it does not flatten transients even at high gain reduction and the best of it is that it sounds great. Highly recommended.

      C. Greenaway

      June 21, 2021

      Great for the toolkit

      Excellent compressor that has a really wide range of uses, compression can be gentle or extreme, and I often use it with no compression, sending my tracks through the dist settings. Sounds great!

      L. Hutt

      June 18, 2021

      Must Have

      I've used the demo of this plug in a while ago and I've been wanting it for a long time. I finally pulled the trigger and I will never look back. Im very pleased and so are my clients. This is a must have for any chain.

      V. Bernardo

      June 18, 2021


      Great! Just slap it on and it always sounds better!

      k. king

      June 16, 2021

      Distressor Compressor

      So far so good it brings life to your Mix this plugin is Magical.. See for your self!!!!!

      M. Farina

      June 14, 2021

      Amazing comp

      Identical to the hardware unit

      N. Emberg

      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.

      E. Wells

      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.

      s. read

      June 7, 2021


      Really annoyed. I paid £200 for this a week ago and now it’s on sale for £91!

      R. Byers

      May 25, 2021

      Template Mainstay

      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.

      R. Scheepers

      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, 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.