Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital)

Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

Among the sea of free plugins that is the internet, we venture to find the 11 best free compressor plugins in 2021.

Compressors are one of the crucial effects in music production, from the very early mixing to the final mastering session. A good compressor can be the difference between a smooth, dynamic track and a harrowing mess. But that’s not it; using a proper compressor for the right purpose can make your job much easier.

Hence, in this article, we have compiled multiple varieties of compressors, including the ultra-fast digital, coloring mastering compressors, the classic vari-mu, etc. Our suggestion would be to identify which kind of compressor you require and selecting one from each category. Of course, an honest try of each is the best way to decide.

Without further ado, let’s get on with our list.

The 11 Best Free Compressor Plugins 2021

1. Variety of Sound density MKIII

More Info & Download

Density MkIII is a smooth bus compressor ideal for gluing groups of instruments.

Variety Of Sound has developed many free plugins, and their Density MkIII is one of the most valuable plugins. While the sound may not exactly be akin to analog, the interface is designed to look similar to hardware bus compressors. You might find it handy for compressing sub-mixes.

Variety of Sound density MKIII - The 11 Best Free Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Stereo Processing
    The plugin features three processing modes: L/R, Stereo, and M/S. In L/R mode, the left and right channels are processed separately, whereas they are linked in Stereo mode. And similarly, in M/S mode, you can process the mid and the side signals separately.
  • Side-Chain
    The plugin lets you target the incoming audio signal or an external side-chain source by flipping the SC switch. Similarly, you can engage a limiter mode, which has a higher compression ratio. Note that it’s not a brick-wall limiter.
  • Timing & Range
    Density MkIII features six “timing” modes, setting the attack and release time to preset amounts found in esteemed hardware compressors. Similarly, the Range knob controls the maximum level of compression the plugin applies. Use it if your bus has loud but inconsistent transients that need preserving.
Density mkIII (master buss) by Variety Of Sound

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher for both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 format.

Summary:

The controls in Density MkIII can be a little limiting when compared to other compressors. However, if you like the smooth sound, the plugin is well worth keeping. The Range parameter also helps preserve loud transients, like drum strikes.

2. Analog Obsession VariMoon Review

More Info & Download

VariMoon is, you guessed it, an emulation of a vari-mu compressor.

Analog Obsession has been making emulated plugins for a while. And VariMoon is modeled after the legendary Fairchild 660 compressor. It features an easy-to-use interface with deep component emulation to deliver authentic sound. However, the interface differs by a good deal.

VariMoon has a fixed attack of 10 ms with six positions for the release, including two auto modes. Before talking more about VariMoon’s features, we would like to point out another Analog Obsession’s bus compressor BUSTERse, a great free stereo compressor with EQ and side-chain.

Analog Obsession Varimoon Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Variable Input
    As a vari-mu compressor, variable input is what it’s all about. So, the first knob, Input Attenuation, lets you set the input drive from -18 to +18 dB. You can use it to drive the internal circuit and get saturation. In addition, it also features a high-pass filter labeled HPF that has a range of 20 Hz to 500 Hz.
  • Threshold
    A feature that plugins of this nature don’t provide is a separate threshold. However, VariMoon employs a ratio control (DC Threshold) and an actual threshold (AC Threshold) with a range of 50 dB. It’s crucial if you want clean compression without a driven input.
  • Oversampling
    Finally, the Analog Obsession logo lets you enable a 4x oversampling to help you avoid aliasing caused by the saturation. However, since the plugin is relatively modest when it comes to saturation, you can get away without oversampling in most cases to save CPU.
VariMoon V5.0 by Analog Obsession (Fairchild 660 style Vari-Mu Comp)

Compatibility:

VariMoon is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.9 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.

Summary:

If you are after an analog-sounding compressor with plenty of features, look no further from VariMoon. The relatively fast attack makes it more of a clipping compressor than a gluing compressor, though. So, you will benefit from using it on vocals, instruments, and drum stems if you are looking to reduce harsh transients.

3. Analog Obsession Britpressor Review

More Info & Download

Get the sound of the Beatles and early Pink Floyd with this plugin.

Britpressor is an emulation of the classic British channel compressor that was the sound of many hit albums from the 60s and beyond. The plugin is actually a part of a three-plugins bundle called BritBundle, which includes a preamp/filter, a compressor, and a complete channel.

Analog Obsession Britpressor Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Limiter
    The plugin features a limiter as well as a compressor. However, it doesn’t function well as a mastering limiter. Instead, it is much more preferable for clipping off drum busses or instrument tracks to keep everything under control. The second needle meter shows its gain reduction.
  • Built-in Preamp
    The built-in preamp gives the plugin its warm sound. Furthermore, you can also drive the input using the three-band EQ provided. If you enjoy warm, saturated sounds, you can control which part of your frequency spectrum gets more treatment with ease.
  • External Side-Chain
    In addition to everything else, it also features an external side-chain input, which is infamous for ducking your synths or bass when the kick hits. Note that you can use the EQ we mentioned earlier to adjust the level of detected frequencies too.
Analog Obsession Britpressor Sound Demo

Compatibility:

Bitpressor is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.9 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.

Summary:

Using channel plugins is a great way to save time. If you don’t own one yet, the BritBundle is a great starting point. Further, with Bitpressor’s 4x oversampling capability, you will always get pristine quality. Not to mention the handy mix knob for easy NY/parallel compression.

4. BeatSkillz MAX1 Review

More Info & Download

Max 1 is a modern twist at compression with automatic ratio and release adjustments.

Some compressors go overboard when it comes to offering controls, providing you with knobs and wheels that are just too many to get quick results. Max 1 isn’t one of those; it’s the opposite. It features a simple GUI, logical controls, and great metering.

BeatSkillz MAX1 Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Peak/RMS
    The Peak/RMS button lets you switch between the two modes, which differ in reaction and detection speed. In general, you’ll want to use peak mode for shaping your transients, whereas you should reserve RMS mode for loudness control.
  • Automatic
    The most significant feature of this plugin is the automatic release and ratio. It listens to your audio and attempts to create the smoothest sound it can using its algorithm. This feature makes it an excellent choice as a time saver and as a beginner’s choice.
  • Saturation
    The Soft Clip button activates a clipper with a fixed soft knee. It helps keep the audio peaks under clipping level and adds distortion. However, whether you like the character of the saturation is up for you to decide.
MAX1 Compressor | FREE PLUG-IN WEEKLY

Compatibility:

Max 1 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.

Summary:

You will love this plugin if you require a compressor that doesn’t require too much time dialing in the various parameters. Surprisingly, the automated features work fabulously, so it’s not just another so-called “intelligent” plugin.

5. AudioDamage Rough Rider 3 Review

More Info & Download

Rough Rider 3 is a digital compressor that boasts a fabulous interface.

Having existed for over a decade, Rough Rider 3 remains a strong contender among the most reliable and quality compressor plugins. It features all the standard parameters you’d expect from a digital compressor and a filter to deliver a tube-like character. Note that it’s not a component emulation, though.

AudioDamage Rough Rider 3 Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Convenient
    Rough Rider 3 packs all of the essential compression parameters in a neat user interface. The Sensitivity section, which is the threshold, also contains a gain reduction graph. Similarly, most of the other parameters are named without acronyms or analogies.
  • Warming Filter
    The plugin features a “warming” filter, which sounds like a low-pass at around 12 kHz to help make the audio sound less bright or “digital.” However, if you don’t like its sound, you can turn it off by turning the button labeled Full Bandwidth on.
  • Side-chaining
    The plugin features an internal side-chain high-pass filter and an external side-chain input. You can use the high-pass to avoid pumping effects caused by the kick, whereas the external side-chain is handy for ducking the bass or other instruments when the kick hits.
Audio Damage Rough Rider 3 Compressor - Best Free Audio Plugins - Test and Review

Compatibility:

Rough Rider 3 is available for Windows 8.1 or higher, macOS 10.11 or higher, iOS 11 or higher, and Ubuntu 18 or higher. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and IAA formats.

Summary:

What we love about Rough Rider 3 is how it’s available in almost every significant OS. Hence, it is one of the most downloaded plugins on the internet. Its new transparent compression works well for gain leveling, and the nifty gain reduction meter helps visualize how much the plugin is affecting your audio.


Related Readings:

The 7 Best VCA Compressor Plugins 2021

10 Best Opto Compressor Plugins – Get That Pro Sound

Top 7 Multiband Compressor Plugins 2021

7 Best Vari-Mu Compressor Plugins For Busses And Full Mixes

The 11 Best Mastering Compressor & Processor Plugins (+ 2 Free Plugins)

Top 7 Graphic EQ Plugins – Why Are They Still Around In 2021? Find Out Here

10 Best FREE Delay Plugins In 2021 – More Capable Than You Think


6. SNFK Music SK100 Review

More Info & Download

This one’s a unique design that can handle both corrective and gluing compression.

SK100 combines a hard and a soft compressor in one and lets you use either one alone or both. There are identical sets of controls for each compressor on the interface. And it is a stereo compressor, so you could use this for compressing mix busses or mastering as well.

SNFK Music SK100 Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Hard Compression
    The Comp 1 section on the left of the interface features a hard peak compressor. It is primarily suitable for taming transients in mixes or drum stems. Note that it is a simple compressor with a hard curve that imparts no character of its own.
  • Gluing Compression
    The Comp 2 section features a softer, characterful compressor designed for transparent gluing while mastering or mixing busses. It has a peculiar curve design that makes the compressor sound much subtle. You will probably want to limit the gain reduction below 2 dB for preferable results.
  • Metering
    SK100 features a simple needle meter that can display each compressor’s gain reduction individually or both together. The design gives the plugin an analog vibe, although note that the sound isn’t an emulation of any sort.
Grab This Free Buss Compressor VST Plugin Now | SNFK SK-100 Dual Stereo Buss Compressor

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10 or higher, for 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3 and AU formats.

Summary:

The SK100 is a versatile plugin that can be a complete compression solution. Also, the plugin has been coded to optimize CPU usage, so you should have no problem using multiple instances per project. However, a few have complained of some bugs in their tests, so before involving it in your projects, give it a thorough try.

7. Audio Tools Leveling Tool Review

More Info & Download

This plugin is an emulation of a tube-based compressor from the 60s.

As you might have already guessed, we have another LA-2A emulation at hand here. However, despite the similar parameters, Leveling Tool sounds rather far from it. Instead, it has a unique flavor in its sound, and you can control how much of the character you want in your audio.

Leveling Tool has a needle meter that can display gain reduction or the output peak. Select either using the first toggle on the left of the interface. Speaking of which, we find the UI phenomenal to work with. It provides plenty of flexibility when it comes to compression.

Audio Tools Leveling Tool Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Side-Chain Filter
    Add a high-pass filter to the signal the compressor is listening to using the SC HPF knob. You can use it to eliminate the pumping effect on bass-heavy sounds and make the compression more transparent. However, if you are limiting for mastering, it’s best to avoid using it.
  • Sonic Character
    As we’ve mentioned, the sound of this compressor is unique and particularly interesting on vocals. You can use the Drive knob to increase the amount of tube saturation to your liking. This drive is supplemental to the internal drive generated by the audio gain itself. Also, make sure you use the 4X oversampling for extreme saturation.
  • Ratio Adjustment
    Unlike the hardware LA-2A, Leveling Tool lets you adjust the ratio smoothly from 2:1 to infinity or limiting. Purists might be aghast over the idea of modifying the perfect ratio of the hardware unit. However, having this flexibility makes the plugin versatile and a worthy addition to your collection.
FREE PLUGIN - ADHD Leveling Tool // Toolbox Tuesday

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10 or higher, for both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

We love how flexible this plugin is. In addition to everything we’ve mentioned so far, it also offers compression attack/release and a dry/wet knob for easy parallel compression. It makes Leveling Tool an appropriate compressor for just about every case.

8. TDR Kotelnikov Review

More Info & Download

Designed to be as transparent as possible, this mastering compressor is on par with most paid plugins.

Kotelnikov is the first on our list that doesn’t attempt to sound like any hardware unit. Instead, it is proudly digital, using the fast computing capability of computers to deliver the smoothest sounding compressor in the freeware market and beyond.

It employs an innovative mix of peak and RMS compression that lets it preserve the timbre and punch of the original audio. Furthermore, it also features extensive stereo processing options and oversampling to make the plugin that much more suitable for mastering.

TDR Kotelnikov Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • High-Pass Filter
    The Low Freq Relax section features a high-pass filter that can vary from 25 Hz to 500 Hz. Further, it offers four steepness slopes: 0 dB/oct, 3 dB/oct, 6 dB/oct, and 12 dB/oct. The first one turns off the filter, whereas the last one is the steepest and useful for avoiding low frequencies completely.
  • Stereo Sensitivity
    Despite what the name would lead you to believe, this knob doesn’t enable individual compression of each stereo channel. Instead, it is for controlling the stereo link of the detector. So, 0% means it only detects the mono signal, whereas 100% means it will follow the channel (left/right) with the louder audio.
  • Peak/RMS Threshold
    The Threshold knob controls the RMS threshold value. So, you will have to dial in a fair amount to start compression. On the flip side, the Peak Crest knob sets the peak threshold relative to the RMS threshold. It can be positive or negative, where a positive value increases the peak threshold over the RMS threshold. Thus, the peak compressor becomes less sensitive.
  • Stereo Processing
    The drop-down menu labeled “Stereo” in a default preset lets you select from six modes of stereo processing: Mono, Stereo, Sum, Diff, Left, and Right. Just to clarify, Sum and Diff are mid and side signals.
  • Oversampling
    It’s worth noting that this plugin employs oversampling at all times. It offers two processing quality modes: Eco and Precise. Eco utilizes an internal frequency bandwidth of 100 kHz, whereas Precise uses 200 kHz of bandwidth. Interestingly, though, it only oversamples the detected audio, leaving the rest of the audio completely untouched.
How to use TDR Kotelnikov for mastering | Mastering tutorial | Mastering Explained

Compatibility:

Kotelnikov is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX.

Summary:

The amount of features this plugin offers is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Even with the long list of features we’ve enlisted, our article barely even scratches the surface of its platter of versatility. We highly recommend giving this plugin an honest try, even if you own many paid compressors.

9. Xfer Records OTT Review

More Info & Download

Practically a household name, OTT brings a little delish to your sound.

Xfer Records’ OTT is a multi-band compressor and expander, which is all about making your sound fatter, cleaner, and overall better. Instead of providing you complete control, it employs a tried and true audio enhancement method to make everything sound rich instantly.

XFer Records OTT Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Three Bands
    OTT has a low, mid, and high band for compressing each separately. However, you cannot change the bands’ frequency crossovers. As a general rule, use the low band for adding depth and the high band for overall clarity. The plugin uses a chain of FX to provide optimal results.
  • Saturation
    In addition to compression, the plugin also features audio enhancers to add saturation to the audio. Each band has a unique kind of exciter to ensure the results you’d expect. Note that overdoing it can result in harsh sounds, so staying modest is a good idea.
  • Time Control
    You have probably noticed the Time knob on the GUI. It controls the compressors’ attack and release times. However, since they are both tweaked together, treat the knob as aggressiveness control. Higher values result in a smoother sound, whereas lower values result in hard, distorted sound.
OTT by Xfer Records Overview

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

If you produce electronic music, this plugin is a must. It has a reputation for sounding harsh and aggressive, making it a perfect complement for EDM, hip-hop, etc. However, even if you produce other, softer genres, you can still use it to enhance vocals, synths, strings, etc.

10. Melda MCompressor Review

More Info & Download

If you are after something insanely flexible, you’ll want to check this plugin out.

Melda Audio has always been surprisingly generous in its free plugins lineup, and MCompressor is a fabulous example of it. It boasts a fantastic resizable GUI with detailed meters and a graphical display of your compressor’s parameters and channels.

In addition to being conveniently designed, it also features multiple channels, an adjustable knee, and a custom compression shape. We will talk more about its standout features next.

Melda MCompressor Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Multi-Channel
    MCompressor supports up to 8 channels, making it ideal for sound designers working on 7.1 surround sound for films and games. However, it doesn’t stop there. MCompressor also features unlinked stereo and mid/side mode, making it an excellent choice as a mastering compressor.
  • Three Knees
    The plugin has three knee shapes: Hard, Linear, and Soft. And you can also adjust the amount of the knee using the Knee Size knob. Of course, the Hard shape doesn’t let you have any knee at all, but Linear and Soft knee each enables you to create a straight line and a curve.
  • Compression Shapes
    On top of the multiple knee shapes, you can also create a unique compression shape using a node-based editor. It lets you create smooth, curved compressions to intricate, rhythmic patterns. This flexibility makes MCompressor one of the best on our list.
MCompressor - FREE Compressor VST Plugin & Sidechain VST Plugin

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit or 64-bit and macOS 10.9 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

As one of the most feature-packed compressors on our list, we must laud MCompressor as a near-essential tool for every musician. However, it’s worth noting that installing this plugin requires you to download a bundle of plugins (which are also worth looking into).


Related Readings:

7 Best De-Essers – Remove Sibilance From Your Vocals

A Staple For Every Producer – The 9 Best Delay Plugins

The 6 Best Spring Reverbs – The Historics Make A Comeback

The 7 Best Harmonizer Plugins – Overdubbing, A History?

The 7 Best Sidechain Plugins – Why Are Ducks In Music?

The 10 Best Transient Shaper Plugins – Get Punchier Drums

10 Free EQ Plugins In 2021 – A Few Even Better Than Paid Ones!


11. TDR VladG Molot Review

More Info & Download

Rocking a Soviet Union-inspired theme, Molot is a coloring compressor with a tasty sound.

Molot is the opposite of transparent. Every feature imparts some sort of color and flavor to the audio, whether in the spectrum, dynamism, or saturation. However, that doesn’t make it a lousy plugin; quite the opposite. In addition to compression, it also features a limiter.

Similarly, it also features up to 8x oversampling for alias-free processing. And you also get a soft knee control, dry mix, and so on. However, as you’ll find out, it’s not the standard controls that make this plugin attractive.

TDR VladG Molot Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Stereo Modes
    The plugin features seven stereo processing modes: Mono, 2 Mono, R.S.chn, Mid, Side, M/S, and Stereo. We’ll skip the obvious from our description. 2 Mono is dual mono, R.S.chan is a mono mode with external side-chain input, and M/S mode unlinks the compression on the mid and side signals.
  • Input Filter
    The first knob, Filter, controls a high-pass filter on the input signal. You can set the frequency from 40 Hz to 260 Hz. Note that turning off the Filter doesn’t make the audio flat. Instead, it adds a smooth 3 dB low-shelf dip from around 500 Hz.
  • Alpha/Sigma Attack
    The two attack modes change how quickly the compressor reacts after the attack time has been reached. In Alpha mode, the compressor is highly aggressive, whereas, in Sigma mode, the compressor takes much longer to start compression. Thus, if you want compression on the transients, Alpha mode is the way to go.
  • Mid Scoop
    Another exciting feature is the Mid Scoop knob, which is a post-compression gain of multiple frequencies forming an intricate spectrum. For example, if you turned up the Mid Scoop knob, you will get a slight dip below 200 Hz, at 1.5 kHz, at 8.5 kHz, and a boost at 500 Hz, at 4 kHz, and above 12 kHz. However, the opposite isn’t true for turning the knob down. So, we suggest setting it by ear.
VladG Molot Vs TDR Molotok | Free Compressor Comparison | Free Plugin (2020)

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.9 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.

Summary:

We love the sound of this plugin and how it colors the audio, especially with the Mid Scoop parameter. Of course, staying subtle is a good idea, but don’t shy away from experimenting with dramatic levels of processing either. After all, Molot means Hammer in Russian!

Other Plugins With Great Feedback

1. Analog Obsession LALA Review

More Info & Download

LALA is a rather unsubtle emulation of one notorious leveling amplifier.

Analog Obsession has recreated the sound and some of the look of the early 60s LA-2A compressor/limiter and added some interesting features to it. The original hardware was beloved for its fascinating, fat sound sought after by many recording engineers.

LALA features a side-chain filter and a Mix knob over the original design. And its tube-emulation makes the sound undoubtedly warm and big, especially on drums and bass. Further, there are three skins available for you to choose from.

Analog Obsession LALA Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Limit
    Other than compression, enabling the Limit switch transforms the plugin into a limiter, which acts more aggressively on the audio. We recommend trying it out on bass instruments. A hard push on the Peak Reduction makes the tubes start sizzling and creating excellent saturation.
  • Side-chaining
    Something that wasn’t in the original hardware is the side-chaining features. You have a filter section that works on the internal audio plus an EXT switch to enable the external side-chain. The filters include a high-pass, a peak filter, and a high-frequency dip.
  • Oversampling
    Clicking on the Analog Obsession logo enables a 4x oversampling option. The logo turns red to indicate so. We recommend keeping it turned on if you are compressing/limiting busses or entire mixes, especially if there’s a lot of high-frequency content.
Analog Obsession LALA | FREE Teletronix LA2A Compressor Limiter Amplifier Plugin VST AU | Demo Test

Compatibility:

LALA is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.9 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.

Summary:

The LA-2A is an infamous hardware compressor, and it’s great to see its excellent emulation available for free. Other than for bass and drums, it also sounds fabulous on vocals and guitars. The plugin’s CPU usage is also relatively low, so you should not have issues having multiple instances in a project.

2. Klanghelm MJUC Jr. Review

More Info & Download

MJUC Jr. is an emulation of a variable-mu compressor, reflecting the sound of the 60s.

μ (Mu) is a technical term for audio gain. Hence, a vari-mu compressor varies or changes the audio level using transformers to achieve its tube-based compression. This technique makes its effect faster, smoother, and distortion-free. MJUC Jr. delivers the sound using in-depth emulation.

Klanghelm MJUC JR. / Vari-mu Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Analog Sound
    The plugin uses component emulation to recreate the sound of vari-mu compressors. Hence, using more compression introduces saturation, which you can use creatively in vocals, drums, etc. However, you can also use it on slower audio like the bass with equally good results.
  • Slew Control
    The Time Constraint slider lets you set the compression attack and release times. However, it doesn’t stop there — the emulation also enables you to change the slew rate of the transformers. Slew Rate is the maximum number of voltage changes in a range of time. So, it controls whether the audio is distorted.
Klanghelm MJUC Jr, IVGI & DC1A | FREE PLUG-IN WEEKLY

Compatibility:

MJUC Jr. is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Vari-mu compressors are generally preferred for fast, transient sounds when you desire less distortion or coloring. However, if pushed hard, they are also capable of producing transformer and tube-based saturation. MJUC Jr. does both quite impressively, and we think it deserves a try for sure.

2. W.A Production ComBear Review

More Info & Download

Bearing electronic music in mind, ComBear seeks to make the infamous parallel compression accessible to even the very beginner.

This plugin is one of the simplest on our list, and it is on purpose. It only has a limited number of relevant knobs to control the compression level, including an Input Gain and Compress knob. However, it employs frequently used compression setups, giving it the ability to adapt to many kinds of uses.

W.A Production ComBear Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Easy To Use
    As we’ve established, ComBear is designed to be easy for beginners and quick for advanced users. All you have to do is turn up the compress knob, set the mix level to where it sounds nice, and that’s it. If the compression doesn’t seem enough, the input gain can help add some drive.
  • Lightweight
    Further, the plugin stays extra-light on the CPU so that you can have many instances in your project without any issue. For example, if you compare it to commercial compressors where you might have to use multiple tracks for NY/parallel compression, ComBear wins by a long shot.
ComBear | FREE Paraller Compressor Win Mac VST Plugin!

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, for both 32-bit and 64-bit.

Summary:

The sound of ComBear is that of a fast compressor for bringing up pops and sizzles in audio. Hence, it fits electronic music. Of course, you could also use it for other genres. But we must admit it’s not the most imperative compressor out there.

3. MSG Stereo Buss Compressor Review

More Info & Download

Stereo Buss Compressor is a minimalistic compressor with a polished GUI.

Designed for compressing drum busses or even full mixes, this plugin works well for gluing multiple sounds together. And while the sound may not be the most analog thing you’ve ever heard, it does stay quite smooth and lightweight when used as a glue compressor. Further, the nice GUI is a bonus.

MSG Stereo Buss Compressor Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Limit
    Perhaps you have noticed already, but the plugin’s ratio knob can go up to inf:1. Hence, you could use this plugin as a limiter as well. However, we wouldn’t recommend it as a mastering limiter. Instead, use it merely to keep drum busses from overloading the mix.
  • Comprehensive
    Despite being a relatively simple compressor, it still provides all of the features you’d expect from a console buss compressor. You can adjust all the standard controls, including the attack and release, threshold, and ratio. Further, it has a needle meter to show the VU or the peak gain reduction.
  • Slight Coloration
    While the plugin is transparent for the most part, it imparts slight color and saturation when pushed harder. However, it may or may not be desirable. We can only suggest using your ears to see if you like what you hear; after all, it is a free plugin.

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher in 32-bit only. It comes in VST 2 format.

Summary:

If you are missing a simple compressor with a great GUI, Stereo Buss Compressor could be your choice. While the plugin is intended for busses and other audio with varying frequency content, it also functions fine for general vocal or instrument compression.

4. FXpansion DCAM FreeComp Review

More Info & Download

Yet another buss compressor emulation, FreeComp, focuses more on the hardware side.

The plugin is based on one of the famous British console compressors. Like the original unit, it doesn’t provide a release time parameter. However, everything else you might expect is available. The compression shape is rather peculiar on this one, so it introduces character for sure.

fxpansion DCAM FreeComp Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Saturation
    As with our previous plugins, FreeComp mostly stays transparent distortion-wise, but it starts sounding aggressive at a higher compression level. And the sound could be used creatively on vocals to give them a warmer feel as well. We would also suggest some dip at the higher frequencies to give it a more analog feel.
  • Auto-Release
    Instead of providing a release time control, it analyzes the audio transients above the threshold and calculates a proper release time. Hence, it might perform exactly as you imagine, but that is the point. Its automated release may end up sounding musical.

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.5.8 or higher, for both 32-bit and 64-bit.

Summary:

If you are after a coloring compressor that is simpler than, say, Molot, this could be a great start. Further, we also like how you can set the needle meter to display either the output or the gain reduction. It does buss compression well and can pleasantly surprise you in other uses.


Related Readings:

The 7 Best Vibrato Plugins To Add Some Life

Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins To See The Insides Of Your Audio

7 Best Exciter Plugins – Make Those Vocals Stand Out

Top 6 Limiter Plugins 2021 (And 4 Best Free Limiters)

Boring Vocals? Check These 11 Best Vocoder & Vocal Processors 

8 Best Filter Plugins – Analog Smoothness to Electronic Magic

Do You Have The Right EQ For Mastering? – Check Out These 7 Handpicked EQs

Producer’s Block? Check Out These Top 6 Chord Generators

10 Best Noise Gate Plugins – We Hate The Hiss Too


5. jsAudio jsCompShaper Review

More Info & Download

This plugin became one of the favorites of many music producers for its shaper/distortion combined with compression.

Once in a while, we face the limitation of many compressors; it starts pumping and adding strange artifacts to your sound. That’s when this plugin comes in. Using its compressor and waveshaper together, you can make the sound much more pleasant and natural.

Of course, you could also use either one of the two effects alone and still get great results. jsCompShaper has one of the smoothest sounding compression for buss compression or mastering. Not to mention its ample oversampling to keep your sound alias-free.

jsAudio jsCompShaper Review - Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins 2021 (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Pre-Emphasis
    The plugin features a three-band EQ where the low and the high bands are shelves. You can use this EQ to emphasize the input drive into the waveshaper. It becomes more of use when you want to create distorted sounds rather than for keeping the sound natural. Still, using the EQ negatively can reduce overly distorted sound from your high frequencies, for example.
  • Morphing
    This feature is what sets this plugin apart. The Shaping knob lets you morph between compression and waveshaping smoothly. So, you can have compression for the most part with a touch of waveshaping merely to keep the sound smoother. It’s also useful during mastering when you don’t want noticeable compression.
  • Mastering Ready
    We know that waveshaping or saturation can cause aliasing pretty quickly. Hence, jsCompShaper features up to a whopping 16x oversampling to eliminate any strange artifacts. Of course, that quality comes at the cost of CPU load, so it’s better reserved for a mastering session unless necessary.
FREE| Very Unique Compressor with overall Saturation and 3 Band Saturation

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher at both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 format officially. However, you can also find an experimental VST 3 on the official website.

Summary:

Whether for general compression or critical mastering polish, jsCompShaper is up to the task, delivering transparent and smooth results. Its waveshaper and morphing feature makes it even more appealing. However, the current non-resizable GUI is a little troublesome if you use a high-resolution screen.

7. Analog Obsession FETISH

Analog Obsession FETISH Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | mac, win

This plugin features a sidechain filter, a ‘SLAM’ function that is popular in the DIY producing world, and control over high frequencies, mid frequencies, and low frequencies. This compressor is all about creating a classic sound without the limitations of classic tools.

8. Semantic Audio SAFE Compressor Review

SemanticAudio SAFE Free Compressor Plugin Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | linux, mac, win

The SAFE Project was created as a response to the shortage of transferable semantic terms in the production of music. It also deals with the demand for a more intuitive way of controlling low-level parameters. One of the biggest results that this project has produced is a variety of plugins that let you load and save semantic terms from inside the audio production workflow.

This allows you to control the effects of your audio plugins in a super simplified way. All you need to do is type a term into the textbox, such as ‘bright,’ ‘warm,’ and if it is available on the server, the parameters of your audio will be altered to match it.

9. KINGTAO KT-C

KINGTAO KT-C Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win, mac

This plugin provides parallel compression, constant 2:1 to 10:1 ratios, VU meters for reduction and input, continuous attack, and release from 0.5 to 300ms and 0.05 to 10s, respectively, and two curves of compression.

10. DC1A Review

DC1A Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | mac, win

DC1A is a simplified version of the DC8C plugin, but offers some additional features, like stereo unlink and negative ratio.

This compressor runs with little more than an input and output knob and can provide near-invisible leveling, to heavy pumping to make your drum tracks punch.

11. TDR Feedback Compressor Review

TDR Feedback Compressor Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

This dynamic range compressor was carefully designed to compress sum and bus, and essentially ‘listens’ to the output it creates. This approach provides a very musical characteristic of compression, and can easily handle even the most complex audio signals.

These unique traits work in combination with a simplified audio-path and advanced signal processing methods., and the compressor is meticulously tuned to provide the most musical and intuitive operation possible.

12. GVST Gmulti Review

GVST Gmulti Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

This free VST compressor allows you to separate audio tracks into three frequency bands that are configurable, allowing you to process them individually. You are also able to adjust stereo width, compression, and level for each of these bands. 

Additionally, you can mute bands to change the settings for each isolation, and use the mix control to a/B with the base material.

13. Minimal System Instruments Ultra Comp

Minimal System Instruments Ultra Comp Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & downloadwin

This vintage compressor from Minimal System is ideal for novice musicians and professional producers alike, and features a super simple control panel, making it easy to use while still providing excellent sound quality.

This plugin can be used on your master buss or individual tracks.

14. Audiocation AC1

Audiocation AC1 Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | mac, win

This is a compressor that was developed by experts in order to produce fast response times and simulation of input with analog transformer. The super-fast control times lets you distort your sounds subtly or aggressively. 

15. NastyVCS (EQ/Comp)

NastyVCS (EQ/Comp) Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

This plugin can be described as a virtual strip of the console that brings a ‘nastier’ tone to your mixes. It is based on a totally unique compression unit and provides everything you could need to configure the tone and dynamics of your channels.

It features a crunchy pre-amp saturated dedicated input stage, as well as a limiter in the output stage.

16. MSI Stereo Buss Compressor

Minimal System Instruments Stereo Buss Compresor Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

This is the perfect plugin for producers that enjoy adding some finishing touches to their tracks. The Stereo Buss Compressor was based on the iconic bus compressors from classic analog machines that were the secret behind a host of classical releases.

Essentially, the job of this compressor is to blend the elements of your track together to make them sound more characteristic while still maintaining clarity.

17. whiteLABEL bolsteriser rev A Review

whiteLABEL bolsterisers Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

The bolsteriser plugins come from a time before today’s compression existed. They were created by an English experimentalist who has remained obscure for as long as he has been producing music and developed his original concept for the bolsteriser while having a nap on his lawn with his cat. 

Almost 90 years later, the bolsterisers have been recreated in digital form. In the early days of the bolsteriser, there was no functional language of audio compression, so some of the terms used with the bolsterisers are a bit dated.

18. Digitalfishphones BlockFish Review

Digitalfishphones BlockFish Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | mac, win

BlockFish is one of the more versatile compressor plugins out there and provides hundreds of ways to shape your audio. It is unique in that it simulates a physical compressor module, and allows you to adjust the ‘circuit board’ by removing the front plate, which lets you create your own unique sonic texture.

19. Ourafilmes Arsenal Compressor LE

Ourafilmes Arsenal Compressor LE Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

This is a complete vintage compressor plugin with internal sidechain filters and mid/side processing. It can be used to process any sound that you need to process dynamically or use the side chain capability to process specific tracks or frequencies.

20. Smack Labs SL63x

Smack Labs SL63x Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

This compressor was inspired by perhaps the most straightforward compressor ever created and offers quick compression via its fader slide.

An input knob was added to adjust gain staging since the plugin is dependent on programming. This subsequently influences the way the compressor functions.

21. eaReckon FR COMP 87 Review

eaReckon FR COMP 87 Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | mac, win

This series of compressors are based on the ANALOG87 series and features six high-quality analog AU and VST effects. In addition to these plugins providing excellent sound quality, they are easy to use. 

22. Sweetboy T-Sledge Review

Sweetboy T-Sledge Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

The T-Sledge plugin is a multi-band compressor designed for mastering tracks and features a level maximizer, peak limiter, and four limiters, compressors and expanders. It also features two types of dividing filters, meaning that it works similarly to a dynamics EQ.

This compressor offers a huge variety of features, from threshold and ratio control, to attack and release controls, and gain, input, and knob controls, to allow you to fully customize your tracks.

23. dlm D2 Compressor

dlm D2 Compressor Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

This is a versatile, do-it-all compressor that is super accessible to beginners and professionals alike, thanks to its simple interface. It can be subtle or heavy, dirty or clean, gentle, or quick – this is an all-round plugin.

24. Cana San Martin x10 Multiband Mastering Compressor

Cana San Martin x10 Multiband Mastering Compressor Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

This compressor plugin may appear extremely complicated and daunting but is rather easy to use if you have a basic understanding of compressors and their functionalities.

The CANA x10 compressor is a multiband plugin that lets you customize your audio tracks in just about every way possible.

25. Matthieu Brucher ATK Colored Compressor

Matthieu Brucher ATK Colored Compressor Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | mac, win

The ATKCOloredCompressor is a single-color plugin that features a peak power and RMS detection control, as well as a color selection that adjusts the gain around the threshold.

26. Matthieu Brucher ATKCompressor

Matthieu Brucher ATKCompressor Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | mac, win

THe ATKCompressor stereo plugin is capable of working one left/right or middle/side channels and can be configured to mix the compressed signal with the input signal.

27. Matthieu Brucher ATK Stereo Compressor

Matthieu Brucher ATK Stereo Compressor Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | mac, win

Similar to the previous plugin, this stereo compressor can work with left/right or middle/side channels and can mix the compressed signal with the input signal.

28. Bakuage BasicComp

Bakuage BasicComp Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

This is a premium CST3 plugin with a focus on natural dynamic range compression, and it is perfect for vocal tracks, drum tracks, or general mastering.

29. smacklabs SL543

smacklabs SL543 Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

The SL543 draws inspiration from a VCA dup compressor and provides both subtle and aggressive compression.

In its Feed Forward mode, it can be used to control dynamics more aggressively. The Feedback Mode gives more transparency for 2-bus dynamics.

30. de la mancha GTA

de la mancha GTA Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

This is a characteristic vintage-styled compressor that is designed to provide pure speed, brute power, and to make loud noises. It has been stripped so it is as easy to use as possible. And the unique vintage top coloring makes it stand out among other plugins.

31. Martin Eastwood Compressive CM

Martin Eastwood Compressive CM Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | mac, win

Compressive CM is a compressor modeled after an external side chain analog and features a brickwall limiter. The side features three-band EQ and controls for mid and side that offer complete audio dynamic control.

32. Synthescience Compressor Box

Synthescience Compressor Box Review - 37 Best Free Vst Compressor Plugins | Integraudio.com

info & download | win

The Compressor Box is a fundamental studio tool and provides effective features rather than ones that are more obscure.

Each switch and knob is presented in a clear way to make using this plugin as straightforward as possible and does not require you to think too much.

Pluginboutique.com Best Deals

What Are The Best Free Compressor Plugin For EDM Music?

OTT Compressor 

OTT stands for ‘Over The Top’ Compression, which makes it just perfect for producing EDM. Essentially, it compresses three of the frequency bands to the degree that is beyond ridiculous, leaving you with little to no dynamic range at all. It basically rebalances the sound and spreads it evenly across the spectrum of frequencies.

This plugin is perfect for modifying growling sounds that are too heavy in the bass, and can align the volume of the bass to the mids and highs to make everything ‘flatter.’ The effect it has on the overall track is a brighter, more punchy sound, which is great for EDM.

Plus, it can produce lots of reverb, especially at the end of a shorter sound, meaning that the sound will hit clearly. but the reverb begins the moment the sound stops.  

 

Conclusion

Compressors can be an eluding concept for most beginners. And even more so than the concept, choosing the right one can often be even more abstract. However, having a list of the best compressors in the market right now should aid selection.

If you are an absolute beginner, we suggest BeatSkillz Max 1 and ComBear for their unique automatic features. Let their algorithms take the wheels and focus on the sound alone for now. Further, they help you learn what works and what doesn’t in compression.

Next, if you already own compressors and are looking for something simple to quicken your task, we suggest jsCompShaper and Stereo Buss Compressor. The first one simplifies the process of obtaining smoother sounds, whereas the latter gives a convenient GUI with standard features.

And if you are already well-experienced, take your sound to the next level with VariMoon, Britpressor, LALA, and MJUC Jr. analog emulations. Or try the superb coloration of Molot for mastering. Each could be your secret sauce for a unique sound.

Finally, for music producers of every level, we suggest downloading Kotelnikov and OTT. Both are true gems of the freeware market that find use in almost every project! We hope this article has been useful in helping you discover your next go-to compressor.

Don`t copy text!