A compressor is an integral part of any audio toolkit. They’re some of the most flexible pieces of gear available, with both complicated and simple features on offer, depending on your expertise.
Test the glue combination. Different circuit structures of analog compressors make some models more suitable for some tasks than others, and finding the best tool for the job will become more complex with the advent of digital compressors.
For years, plugins have attempted to emulate their analog predecessors, but they also bring several new developments to the field of gain reduction. Take a look at these fantastic plugins and see what a good compressor can do for you.
FabFilter Pro C2
The FabFilter Pro C2 has everything you need and more for those looking for a fantastic “do it all” compressor. This compressor manages to cram eight compression character models, lookahead gain reduction, 4x oversampling, mid/side power and the ability to affect each channel individually (or as a stereo pair with the Stereo Connection control) into one of the most incredible interface designs plugins have seen.
The Pro C2’s eight compressor modes allow you to add some color to your mixes. Version 2 includes five additional modes: Vocal, Mastering, Bus, Punch, and Pumping, which include personalized responses to fit the current project.
The new metering will be welcomed by mastering engineers. These meters have grown in size and precision, and FabFilter has modified the Pro C2 to conform to EBU R128 loudness criteria. When you add on the 4x oversampling and GPU acceleration, you’ve got one precise add-on.
The FabFilter Pro C2’s flexibility and functionality make it a perfect option for any engineer who wants a lot of equipment in one neat bundle.
Softube Tube-Tech Complete Collection
Two EQs and a compressor are included in the Softube Tube-Tech Complete Collection to help you get the job done. The Tube-Tech CL 1B, a classic compressor emulation that mixing engineers are drawn to, is the collection’s standout. It’s most often used for voice blending, but it has a lot more to offer. The CL 1B is the way to go if you want super smooth compression with an incredibly clear sound.
Softube has replicated the functionality of the original hardware while also adding extra parameters. Release, threshold, gain, ratio, and attack parameters, as well as a parallel compression parameter are all available. This removes the need for a second aux track to parallel compress your signal. You may also benefit from the low-cut sidechain turn.
If you’re looking for a vintage tube compressor plugin that delivers smooth and clear output, the Soft Tube-Tech C1 1B should be at the top of your list.
Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor
Engineers have preferred to use a stereo compressor on their master bus for a number of reasons, especially when searching for more “glue” in their blend or a certain coloration when blending into a compressor. For more detail, see our article on Mix Bus Compression.
The compressor from the SSL 4000 G console’s master section is one of the most famous examples. This emulation will carry the tone of those boards for retro coloration and the “glue” effect of this iconic console thanks to SSL and Waves. Waves incorporated modeled analog hum from the SSL 4000 G for even more coloration capabilities, building on the original’s precision.
This plugin is most widely used for master bus compression, but it also fits well for tightening up drums or piano. Check out the Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor if you need to apply more glue and polish to your mixes.
Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A
There are a couple of hardware compressors that have been studio classics, the Teletronix LA-2A is one such example. The LA-2A is a tube output level optical compressor and is known for its warmth and character, which can be found on countless albums, due to its slower attack and release times. The new producer of the reissue hardware, Universal Audio, knew that merely restoring the iconic compressor would not suffice. They took it upon themselves to model all of the popular sounds through their Teletronix LA-2A as part of their UAD plugins.
Instruments with fewer transients and voices are two of the most common applications of 2As as an optical compressor. This type of compression is widely used on bass and vocals, both for the smoother gain reduction and, in the case of the LA-2A, for the warmth of the tube output level.
The compressor is available in three different versions within the add-on. The LA2 has the slowest attack and release, comparable to many 1950s compressors, while the Gray and Silver versions have a medium-fast attack and release for a more typical response, similar to the iconic LA-2As. There aren’t many switches, much like the hardware. There are controls for output gain and peak reduction, as well as the option to adjust metering and turn between limiting and compressing.
Check this out if you want wet, tune-aided optical compression but don’t have the $3,000 to spend on the hardware. There’s a reason it appears in so many lists and liner credits.
Pulsar Audio – Mu
This plugin is for producers looking for a modern reproduction of a legendary tube compressor/limiter, that gives classic tube compression results with pinpoint accuracy.
The main difference between Mu and the previously mentioned GRIP plugin, is that Mu is a compression tool entirely dedicated to emulating a classic, extremely high-end hardware compressor, the Manley Variable Mu.
iZotope Ozone 9
iZotope’s amazing set of audio restoration and mastering plugins might already be familiar to you. They’ve built a good reputation thanks to their high-quality, user-friendly products. The Ozone 9 comes with amazing dynamics plugins that give you full control over your sound.
You’ll find a limiter/compressor plugin in the Dynamics section that will help you to finetune your sounds. Since it’s mainly a mastering compressor, you’ll get more features than you’d have on a regular compressor, such as mid-side sorting, look-ahead times, and advanced metering.
The built-in detection filter is another great function, and will assist you in evaluating the effect of the incoming signal on the compressor’s algorithm. If you just choose to use the compressor for signals that are over the cutoff stage, you should use the high-pass mode. The Ozone 9 will help you accomplish every goal you have in mind for a compressor plugin.
The Urei 1176 is one of the most widely used hardware compressors. It has a FET circuit that makes for extraordinarily rapid attack and release times, as well as “backward” attack and release potentiometers. When creating this plugin, Waves didn’t skimp on the specifics and kept the knobs exactly as they were.
The controls are modeled after those of an analog 1176. If required, analog hum may be applied at fifty or sixty cycles using the plugin. In CLA-76, various characters will be available based on the revision mode you choose. “Bluey” reflects the Blue Stripe revision, which gives the sound a little more edge thanks to hotter gain staging, while “Blacky” represents the 1176-LN standard. This mode gives your tracks a cleaner color because it has less noise and a smoother response.
This compressor can be useful for transient heavy material like percussion because of its rapid attack and release. The CLA-76 brings a lot of punch to percussion, which is perfect for when you need major drum sounds. The Waves CLA-76 will get you started with presets from Chris Lord-Alge if you want the sounds of the real Urei 1176. You’ll feel right at home if you’ve used the hardware before. Check out the CLA-76’s iconic sounds.
Best Multiband: Leapwing Audio DynOne
DynOne was designed from the ground up to provide you with 5 bands of high-quality parallel compression. Filters that are clear and customizable will help you monitor your audio levels without missing the subtleties of your sound. Attack and release configurations that are intelligent and responsive work within pre-set parameters to bring you closer to the sweet spot quicker and with less guesswork.
Given the assistance it delivers, it does not take away your artistic control, but if you’re the sort that won’t relax until all is just right, the vast choices, simple metering, and intuitive controls will get you there. A special weighting algorithm for precise control of your sidechain, as well as a Center-Side Mode to focus on your stereo area, are features you won’t find anywhere else.
DMG Audio Compassion
Dave Gamble’s stunning plugin is a Swiss Army Knife for compression, gating and extension, transient formation, and more, and is very probably the most powerful dynamics processor money can buy.
Of course, we’re just interested in the first of these features, and it’s no joke to suggest that no method of compression has yet to be developed that Compassion can’t handle.
In Main mode, 15 presets and 30 ‘Mods’ provide a broad variety of retro and contemporary types (Classic Opto, British Model 1, Drum Buss, and so on), while Advanced mode allows for in-depth tuning of any part of the simulated circuitry, from Threshold Bleed and Hysteresis to Attack/Release Coupling and beyond. It’s amazing.
Empirical Labs Arousor
Arousor is a software reimagining of Empirical Labs’ hugely influential mid-’90s hardware compressor, the Distressor, rather than a 1:1 emulation of the original version. It applies a range of improvements and additional capabilities to the original design and faithfully recreates the sound and spirit.
The Attack Modification knob, which non-linearizes the attack curve for “additional analogue mojo,” and the Soft Clipping section, which does awesome stuff with transients, are two of our favorite features.
Arousor is a phenomenal plugin that is a classic character compressor that works wonders on drums and bass in particular.