20 Best Compressor Plugins For Mixing 2024

20 Best Compressor Plugins For Mixing

For this post, we mixed all kinds of comps that we believe would work very well for mixing! You will find all sorts from Opto, VCA, FET, Vari-Mu, LA-2A, Parallel, Digital, Multiband, Multiband Dynamics, or even Diodge-Bridge compressors! 

Contents show

20 Best Compressor Plugins For Mixing 

1. UAD API 2500 Bus Compressor (Bus Compressor – API 2500 Emulation)

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UAD API 2500 Bus Compressor

The 2500’s all-discrete circuit approach features two types of compression, a Thrust® circuit, and the flexibility to sound great on anything from a drum crush to the 2-bus. It earned a reputation for its exceptional tone-shaping abilities.

Also, it has two distinct compressibility options. In the New configuration, a feed-forward layout is used, resembling the path most recent VCA-based compressors take. A compression effect is achieved by using the uncompressed audio signal as the sidechain input signal.

A feedback design is employed in the ‘Old’ mode, which is more common in older compressors. The compressed audio signal is the input signal to the control sidechain. The compressed audio is used as the input signal for the control sidechain. The final compressed sound is less jarring, smoother, and more engaging.

Key Features:

  • Loud Thrust Filter
    The loud thrust filter gives your signal a greater dynamic range which is great.
  • Wet/ Dry Parallel Processing
    Unique in its combination of classic analog and digital qualities, the UAD API 2500 Bus Compressor offers an incredibly versatile control set for optimized parallel processing. This specific model features both wet/dry parallel processing architecture that allows you to use one or the other controls – making it possible to find the exact tone on any source you are working with.
  • Medium Thrust Filter
    This filter allows users to tailor the frequency and shape of the attack, allowing for a more precise range of tones with no unwanted artifacts or overshooting. The API 2500’s Mid Thrust Filter adds a spectacular element to its already impressive portfolio, making it one of the most sought-after pieces of mastering gear on the market today.

Compatibility:
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:
The UAD API 2500 Bus Compressor is a great tool for any mixing engineer. It was designed to provide the same sound and power as the classic analog hardware units. Its versatile design makes it perfect for applications like stem mixing, drum buses, and subgroups.

One of its most notable features is the Thrust control. The Thrust control allows you to blend in different bus compressors’ characteristics that provide clarity, punch, and presence – ensuring your mix has an overall balance and tone

With three controls, you can easily adjust the attack, release, and threshold levels to perfectly tailor the sound to your needs. Try it out on your next project – you’ll be surprised at what it can do.

2. Pulsar Audio Pulsar 1178 (FET Compressor – Urei 1178 Emulation)

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Pulsar Audio Pulsar 1178

Pulsar 1178 is an emulated FET compressor with modern tweaks that give it a pleasant interface, convenience, and a lot of versatility.

The plugin is an emulation of the Urei 1178 compressor, which was the stereo version of the famous 1176. Both were recognized for their punchy and aggressive sound. Pulsar has included a sleek sidechain EQ, an optional saturation stage, and a mix knob in addition to capturing the tone.

The upper section of the plugin has a parametric sidechain EQ and a graph to display the gain reduction. In the lower section, you will find the main parameters for the compressor. In addition to being a stereo compressor, Pulsar 1178 also lets you compress in mid/side mode, which makes for a fabulous stereo image manipulating experience. Also, Pulsar offers a variety of presets you can choose from.

Key Features:

  • Sidechaining
    You can have both internal and external sidechaining in Pulsar 1178. Both of them make use of the elegant four-band EQ. In addition, the EQ has impressive cutoff bands with slopes as steep as 48dB per octave, giving this plugin a versatility and efficiency that could rival the most modern digital compressors.
  • Sleek GUI
    We would be lying if we said there is no use of modern metering on a hardware unit. Sure, we can and should use our ears, but having visual confirmation to make sure you’re not just hearing things after having had too many coffees is a blessing. Likewise, the resizable interface of Pulsar 1178 feels like it was made to make life easier with its gain reduction graph and peak meters.
  • Saturation
    The plugin has four kinds of saturation: Clip, Warm, Triode, and Tape. Each is distinct and adds a unique trait to the sound, even without the compressor enabled. Furthermore, the calibration knob lets you control the saturation from barely noticeable to heavy distortion. A small amount of the Clip or Triode saturation adds clear, top-end enhancements, which sounds great on drums, vocals, and even full mixes.
  • Oversampling
    Pulsar 1178 has oversampling ranging from 2x to 8x for alias-free sound. In addition, it lets you select real-time and offline oversampling rates separately. To save CPU resources, we suggest using a lower value for the real-time oversample.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit or 64-bit and macOS 10.8 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

The combination of the unique compression and the saturator makes Pulsar 1178 adds sheen to the high-end and an overall aggressive yet natural sound. We suggest trying it out on vocals and drums in particular. It is worth noting that the plugin is moderately pricey. And if you’d like to know more, check out our detailed review.

3. Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor (Great Especially For Mastering – Emulation of the original Hardware Compressor)

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Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor

This plugin emulation of a hardware classic reproduces the compressor’s original sound while bringing versatility to your workflow.

The Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor presents two-stage compression and complete dynamic control. The signal enters the Optical section and feeds the Discrete compressor with three different transformer modes: Nickel, Iron, and Steel. You can also choose to use the plugin in stereo or dual-mono situations.

Key Features:

  • Optical Compression
    With a fixed ratio of about 2:1 and no attack or release controls, this optical compressor works as the chain’s first step. Lower the threshold knob to start getting some gain reduction on the loud peaks. While mixing a bass, this will sound better cranked up as you look for a less dynamic sound. While mastering, though, about a dB and a half of gain reduction in this stage will be enough.
  • Discrete Compression
    This second compressor has six-step attack and recovery controls, which will be great for transient-heavy material, such as drums. The Dual recover function releases the gain reduction in two steps, the first being very fast and the second a lot longer. This process helps avoid a pumping sound that can be unpleasing in some situations.
  • Nickel, Iron & Steel
    Each of these transformer modes adds a slightly different texture to the sound. Nickel sounds brighter, with an even frequency response across the whole spectrum. Iron slightly bumps the low-end. Steel opens up the low-end a lot more and gives the sound a boomy feel.
  • Separate parameters
    Both stages of compression offer threshold and make-up gain controls, which provide precise two-stage dynamic processing.
  • Side-Chain
    You can apply side-chain filtering so the plugin doesn’t get triggered by the frequency range you select. Initially, the default was set on 90 Hz, so the low-end wouldn’t start the compressor. With the plugin’s native version, the Side-Chain Filter became available.

Character and Sound:

This hardware emulation sounds robust, bringing life into otherwise dull recordings. The output transformer modes offer increasingly deeper low-end control, great for bass and kick drum or distinct low-end heavy music. However, this is a very transparent tool, adding little to no distortion, even at wild levels.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats running on macOS 10.9 or higher and Windows 7 or higher.

Summary: 

The already classic hardware becomes an essential plugin. Validated by some of the greatest artists and studios of our time, the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor is a must-have. Whether you’ll use it for mastering or mixing, the two-stage workflow helps you achieve breathing compression that improves a recording.

4. Kazrog True Iron (Vari-Mu Compressor – Emulates 6 Classic Line Transformers)

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Kazrog True Iron

True Iron is a fabulous-sounding transformers emulation with a minimalistic interface.

As with any similar plugins, there aren’t many features we can talk about other than the sound itself. And fortunately, Kazrog’s True Iron is a beast when it comes to sound. It adds weight and even subtle brightness to the sound you could use for individual tracks or even full mixes.

Further, you can crush the audio to make it sound distorted as well. Also, consider checking their other great variable mu-plugin compressor True Dynamics.

Key Features:

  • Input Impedance
    The Unity/Boost toggle controls whether you want to listen to the effect without any volume change or whether you want the Strenght knob to increase the volume as well. While Kazrog recommends the latter, the first can be helpful when you want to listen to what’s happening to your audio without the loudness changing your perception.
  • Six Transformers
    The plugin features six transformer emulations, including UTC 108 X, Malotki E4M – 4001B, Western Electric 111C, Haufe V178, Marinair LO1166/A, and the UTC O-12. Each has a subtly different harmonic distortion that becomes more obvious with the 2x crush.
  • DNA Mode
    The DNA button under the transformer selector activates a deeper frequency response emulation. It makes the sound even more authentic. However, it does use some extra CPU, so you might want to use it sparingly.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9.5 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

In conclusion, we think if you are after a saturator that sounds highly close to the hardware transformers, True Iron is difficult to beat. Furthermore, the plugin is CPU efficient enough for moderately powerful computers to handle an instance in every track with ease. The simplicity and the sound quality make it an easy recommendation.

5. Cytomic The Glue (Digital VCA Compressor)

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Cytomic The Glue

The Glue, By Cytomic, is designed to provide your mixes with that final punch and tightening.

Inspired by SSL 4000 hardware, The Glue is a clear-sounding plugin with a wide array of applications. Whether in compressing single tracks, busses, or entire mixes, this plugin will give you enough versatility to create the industry’s tried-and-true bus compression effect.

An excellent addition that wasn’t part of the original circuit is the Side-chain function, which allows you to either use internal or external sources at selectable frequencies across the entire spectrum.

Key Features:

  • Range Knob
    This control limits the amount of compression without considering the threshold value, making for a more natural-sounding result. It is a way to countermeasure the fixed several fixed control voltages present in the original hardware design. You can use the other parameters in this compressor to achieve hard compression and then use the range knob to dial it back to the sweet spot.
  • Peak Clip
    This button engages a waveshaper with zero attack and release times, medium knee, and infinite ratio. It cuts out the peaks at -0.5dB and audibly distorts the sound. If you have the MakeUp gain too loud, it will generate a harsh sound on the transients. The best alternative is engaging the Peak Clip when the Range knob is also active so that the compressor stops overreacting to the transients and leaves enough room for the Peak Clip to work smoothly.
  • Oversampling
    The Glue offers up to 16 times real-time oversampling, which expands the sample rate to a maximum of 705.6 kHz. You can use these options while mixing and monitoring. It will introduce latency and increase CPU usage, but it will give you a more precise definition of the high frequencies. Alternatively, you can choose to oversample when rendering. Here you can go up to 64 times, or 2.8 MHz, for incredible frequency clarity.
  • Factory Presets
    The Glue comes with 14 categories and 80 presets – it’s great especially for drums,  guitar,  vocals, mastering.

Character & Sound:

The Glue offers genuinely transparent sound, with the classic grit of VCA compression. If you push it too hard, it will distort, especially with the Peak Clip engaged. The plugin comes with a collection of astounding presets for drums, bass, guitars, strings, keys, lead and backing vocals, side-chain, and mastering.

These are very helpful when you need a hand to find a starting point for your compression but can sometimes convert into set-and-forget settings. You can always fine-tune these presets into something that precisely fits your track.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available as AU, AAX, RTAS, VST for macOS 10.8 and above and Windows XP or later.

Summary: 

The Glue is an outstanding alternative to the classic SSL-4000 sound due to its increased versatility. You will find yourself using this compressor in numerous busses and instruments, but it also does what the name proposes, effortlessly gluing your entire mix together.

This plugin is an attractive addition to your collection of VCA compressors.

6. Arturia Bus FORCE (Parallel Compressor / Channel Strip)

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Arturia Bus FORCE

Bus FORCE is a parallel processor effect that was created to improve the sound of anything.

A parallel processor effect called Bus FORCE was developed to enhance any sound. With ultra-powerful parallel processing that is easy to use, Bus FORCE is intended to ignite the energy of your mix, from subtle tweaks to forceful cranks. Whatever sort of music you are composing, use this plugin before any other plugins.

Key Features:

  • VCA-style Compressor
    The VCA-style compressor offers a beautiful analog-like tone, can be rather forceful and provides basic high-pass or peak sidechain filtering. Last but not least, the saturation stage allows for effective control over saturation character and tone. Although it’s rarely subtle, the overdrive may be turned to severe levels.
  • 3 Busses in Parallel
    Three parallel buses with separate level controls are present in the plugin. The Compressor processor is always connected to the Compression bus, as the name would imply, while the Saturation processor is always connected to the Sat bus. The remaining processors can then be added to whichever buses you desire, but this decision is not free. For instance, if the compressor is on the Sat bus and the Equalizer is on the Comp bus, the eq must also be on the Sat bus. While making this work might be challenging, it makes sense in theory.
  • Filter Processor
    The Eq may also be placed in the Dry bus, however, the filter processor can only be used in the Comp and Sat buses. The filter could have been freely allocated to various busses if it had been placed before the Eq.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in standalone mode and VST2, AAX, and AU plugin formats.

Summary:

Bus Force’s parallel processing paradigm is minimalist and enables CPU configurations that would otherwise be challenging to design, even though bussing can be painfully unpredictable.

Consider a single effect that can be applied to each track individually, from the snare to the synth, to the bus channels for beautiful dynamics, and to the stereo master for that quick gloss you’re looking for. Therefore, if you take the time to set it up properly, it will pay off with some fantastic outcomes.

7. Tone Empire OptoRed (Opto Compressor)

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Tone Empire OptoRed

A fabulous fit for vocals and bass, OptoRed is a faithful hardware emulation yet with a transparent sound.

OptoRed is based on a classic American tube compressor. Its most important use is for leveling a track. For example, if you have a bass track that has several loud transients and dips, bring in OptoRed and let it work its magic; you’ll have a clean, balanced track in no time.

Of course, it also sounds phenomenal on drums, percussions, synths, and more. Since it doesn’t have an attack or release parameter, utilizing its wet/dry knob is how you control the sound.

Key Features:

  • Internal Side-Chain – The bottom section of the compressor’s interface is the Sidechain section. When turned on, it listens to a filtered input. The Freq parameter lets you select a low-pass filter from 20 Hz to 200 Hz. So, this section is best left reserved for bass-heavy instruments like bass synths, bass guitar, or drums.
  • Built-in Limiter – The “Comp/Limit” toggle switches between a smaller compression ratio and a gigantic ratio, effectively turning the compressor into a limiter. There are obvious uses of a compressor, but we also suggest using it on bass synths/guitars as they often require a heavy amount of compression.
  • Transparent – Despite emulating a hardware unit, OptoRed doesn’t add coloration, i.e., saturation or distortion, to the audio. Instead, it focuses on being extremely transparent while still employing the compression character of a tube Opto compressor.

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

While there is a lack of several standard parameters, the compressor makes up for it by having a fantastic sound with universal application. It doesn’t impart any noise or distortion in the name of coloration, and yet, it functions how you’d expect. The only complaint could be the somewhat high price.

8. Tone Empire FireChild (Vari-Mu Compressor 2)

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Tone Empire FireChild

Tone Empire FireChild Vari-Mu is a software plugin that emulates the sound and behavior of a vintage vari-mu compressor.

Vari-mu compressors are known for their smooth and natural sound and are often used on vocals, drums, and bass. The Firechild plugin allows you to adjust parameters such as attack, release, and ratio to achieve the desired sound.

Key Features:

  • Stereo and Mid-Side modes
    The plugin can be used in stereo and mid-side modes, allowing more flexibility in mixing and mastering and creating better and more customized stereo width in your tracks.
  • Easy to use
    The plugin has a simple and intuitive interface, making it easy for beginners and professionals. It’s easy to understand and tweak the parameters to get your desired sound.
  • Tube Modules
    The Tone Empire FireChild Vari-Mu plugin includes many tube models designed to emulate the sound of different vintage tubes, including custom, British, German, and US tube models. However, the custom tube model is designed to give you the most versatility, while the other tube models emulate the specific characteristics of their corresponding countries.
  • Model Selector
    The plugin includes a Model Selector feature that allows you to switch between different compression settings quickly. The Model Selector feature has four settings: A, B, C, and off, such that these settings are designed to emulate the sonics of classic, modern, and vintage tune compressors, respectively.

Compatibility:

The plugin works with any DAW that supports VST, AU, or AAX plugin formats. It is available for Windows and Mac operating systems so you will need a computer running Windows 7 or higher or macOS 10.7 or higher.

Summary:

Overall, the Tone Empire FireChild Vari-Mu plugin is a versatile software compressor with various features and options that allow you to achieve the desired sound, including vari-mu compression, adjustable parameters, vintage emulation, tube models, and a Model Selector feature.

9. Waves Abbey Road RS124 Compressor (Vintage Tube Compressor Emulation)

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Waves Abbey Road RS124 Compressor

This compressor can make your tracks sound better by just loading it.

The RS124 is a classic custom-made compressor from Abbey Road Studios that was created when they were modifying the components of the Altec 436B as an attempt to replicate the American sound. This plugin is meant for use on individual tracks in a mix but sounds pretty good on full mixes.

It’s also super simple and makes an excellent solution to bring excitement to any track or bus.

Key Features:

  • Sidechain high-pass filter
    You can add a sidechain HPF to keep your lower frequencies from being compressed. You can set the filter up to 200 Hz so that the compressor hits the mid and high frequencies and get a cleaner and rounder low-end.
  • Super fuse switch
    When turned on, the super fuse automatically matches the attack and release times and adds some subtle distortion, making the sound more aggressive and up-front. Use this option on guitars, 808 bass, or pop/rock vocals.
  • Auto-hold
    You can improve the sustain of your signal with the auto-hold feature, which makes the attack and release times slower, causing the audio to last longer at a consistent level.
  • Cutter and studio modes
    Each mode alters the prefixed attack time for the compressor. For example, you get a slower attack time with studio mode, which gives you a more aggressive sound and more notorious harmonic excitement. When switched to cutter mode, the attack time becomes faster, and the compression slightly more subtle.
  • It just sounds good
    You’ll be able to notice an instant improvement in the sound as soon as you open one instance of the plugin. This is because its default settings are, in most cases, ideal, already limiting your time tweaking it to get a better sound to just asking yourself whether you like what it does to the signal or not.

Compatibility:

Abbey Road RS124 Compressor is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.

Summary:

The Abbey Road RS124 Compressor honors an impeccable classic by carefully recreating the reaction of the original unit. It doesn’t really need you to do anything, as it sounds noticeably better on its default configuration.

This is not the kind of compressor to use for subtleties, although it can be pretty subtle on its own, it’s better to use it for its color and particular sound to get the best out of it.

10. Lindell Audio SBC (Bus Compressor 2)

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Lindell Audio SBC

The Lindell Audio SBC accurately recreates the sound of a vintage analog bus compressor while adding modern conveniences like NUKE hyper-compression and THD®. 

There is a wide and punchy stereo version emulated in detail in the first release, and a multi-band version with even more flexibility is coming soon as a free update.

It’s always been a fan favorite on drums, mix bus, vocals, and any other source that needs aggressive compression without losing its natural sound or dynamics. The SBC plugin expertly recreates this timeless classic while incorporating cutting-edge digital-only improvements.

Also, it adds some final “glue” and polish to the whole mix thanks to its quality tone and wide range of customization options (including a series of carefully curated filters and knee options).

Key Features:

  • NUKE Hyper-Compression
    The “NUKE” option in the Lindell Audio SBC is designed for users who need intense control, layering, and array-style compression capabilities. It offers incredibly accurate dynamics processing even with extremely fast attack times and adjustable threshold point values. The NUKE option allows for great flexibility, allowing you to improve your sound or dial it down for a more subtle effect. 
  • Manual and Auto Gain Makeup
    This versatile setup allows for manual adjustments when precise control or fine-tuning is needed. Then it provides the auto settings when users want to quickly achieve a good sound without needing to adjust every parameter. 
  • Lowcut and High Boost Filter
    The Lowcut filter provides a way to control the low-end frequencies of a signal by cutting off frequencies below a certain threshold, which helps to reduce any low-end buildup. The High Boost filter is also there to add extra clarity and presence to the high-end frequencies of a signal. 

Compatibility:
The Lindell Audio SBC is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:
This compressor gives a nice sound, making it ideal for live drum buses, especially in rock and metal genres. Even while the SBC excels across all genres, it is a good instrument for rock mixers who want to give their master mix, individual tracks, and subgroups a more forward and aggressive feel.

11. Arturia Comp DIODE-609 (Diode-Bridge Compressor)

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Arturia Comp DIODE-609

If you listened to any album or hit song in the last 40 years, you’ve probably heard the distinctive sound of the Neve® 33609.

Arturia decided to create a plugin for your DAW that you can easily use, to recreate the iconic sound of its real-world counterpart.

The plugin allows you to experience one of the best compressors available on the market that shaped songs such as Californication by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Instant crush by Daft Punk, Cornerstone by Arctic Monkeys, and many others. 

The plugin also features an extensive FX library for you to explore, boasting many presets that could help you out when you are in a tight spot. These presets can help you tighten drums, adjust vocals, pan your back vocals, and perfect your mix overall. The signature transient sound that it produces adds character to every sound you add it to.

Key Features:

  • Stereo Processing
    Diode-609 features Mono and Stereo audio tweaking for the compressor and the built-in limiter. This feature allows you to decide exactly how wide or narrow you want your output signal to be. It also features linkable Left and Right channels that work on both sections. Stereo Processing is a great way to fine-tune your instruments in the mix, allowing you to create that crisp guitar sound in the middle of your listening field while also keeping the ambiance in the background. This specific sound works wonders in any genre, as You can also use it to provide that bouncing effect to techno songs and an Orchestra Hall feeling to more mellow genres.
  • Advanced Sidechaining
    Comp Diode-609 is the perfect sidechaining tool that allows you to fine-tune audio coming from an internal or external output. You can tweak the look-ahead control and even tweak your vocal space with a sidechain equalizer. To prepare for a sidechain transient, You can tweak up the look-ahead controls to 5ms, so you don’t lose that punch of the kick drum you used. It also allows you to have pumping elements in the mix, to create an outstanding dynamic track. This setting is perfect for kicks or snares, as it can give life to the drums, creating a sound identical to live drums playing in the same room with you.
  • Perfect Compression

    DIODE-609 can add remarkable harmonic richness and tightness by using its built-in dual compression panels, perfect for bus channels. You can also use this feature on your drum channels and even your stereo master. You can fine-tune the attack options on the compressor, allowing you to choose if you want a slower or a faster attack for that perfect tight punch. A slower attack might be better for a smoother genre, like jazzclassical music, and blues, while the faster attack rate is best for RockMetalHip-Hop, and other aggressive genres.

  • Mid-side Processing
    Mid-side processing allows you to fine-tune the stereo field to your liking. You can configure each side of your mix individually, allowing you to create a great dynamic that is truly unique. The plugin also allows you to separate the mid-field from the sides, which increases the depth of your compression configuration. Mid-field tweaking is often used to force the low-end of the sample you are using to be in the center, which frees up the sides of your mix, reducing muddiness in the final product.

Character & Sound:

The compressor provides a warm, crunchy sound that Producers have used for 40 years in the music industry. It can generally be applied to any instrument or vocal, as it adds a specific familiar character that is pleasant for your ears. 

Compatibility:

Comp DIODE-609 is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, AAX, and NKS formats.

Summary:

Diode-609, made by Arturia, is the perfect compressor for people who want to take their mixes to the next level. The diode bridge working system allows for careful and precise tweaking of the Audio signal.

The available knobs and settings allow for incredible results in all genres, specifically those that use live music. Arturia designed it to be enjoyable and easy to use, featuring in-app tutorials and support for almost every DAW available on the market. 

This plugin is an excellent addition for anyone new to audio production. Still, the more complex options allow for outstanding results if you take the time to learn how each knob operates. Having this in your plugin catalog will surely help you in future track-making and expand your mixing possibilities.

12. UAD Teletronix® LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection (LA-2A Compressors)

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UAD Teletronix® LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection

UAD Teletronix® LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection

UAD Teletronix® LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection

Source: UAD

The greatest collection of the most renowned optical compressor ever is the Teletronix LA-2A Leveler Collection.

Universal Audio was somewhat expected to use the chance to explore some of their other vintage compressor plug-ins after releasing the revised 1176 Classic Limiter plug-in collection. However, the most recent “analog classic” plug-in to enter its second generation is the Teletronix LA-2A.

It’s unquestionably a timely step, especially because the original plug-ins are older than ten years and that plug-in authors now have access to substantially more CPU resources than they did previously.

The Teletronix LA-2A optical compressor was one of the most admired hardware optical compressors of its era, known for its melodious, smooth compression.

The well-regarded late 1960s “Silver” version of the LA-2A, a more recent version from the mid-1960s “Gray,” and an extremely rare early 1960s LA-2 were made available by Universal Audio as plug-ins.

Key Features:

  • Two-Knob Compressor
    The attraction of the Teletronix LA-2A hardware and plug-in must be its constrained control set, which is maybe the antithesis of the adaptability provided by a VCA compressor that can change appearances.
    It is essentially a two-knob compressor, with a Gain knob to boost the signal back to unity once compression has been applied, and Peak Reduction works as a kind of Threshold control. The plug-extra in’s Limit/Compress option, which has some control over the compression ratio, is included in both the Silver and Gray versions.
  • Peak Reduction
    The trigger threshold can be changed using this parameter to determine how much signal compression is applied. Lowering the threshold results in more compression when the value is increased. The values on the front panel knobs are arbitrary and do not correspond to any particular dB level. To acquire the desired compression, turn this control clockwise.
    Set the VU Meter knob to Gain Reduction to keep an eye on the peak reduction amount. Peak Reduction needs to be changed separately from the Gain control. The signal is still tainted by the circuitry even when Peak Reduction is set to its lowest value, and the Gain control can be used to change the output level.
  • Emphasis Control
    The unique Emphasis control input, which helps innovatively adjust compression performance and colour, and the obvious absence of “picture collapse” when you push the compressor harder are notable upgrades over the original heritage plug-in. In addition, the sidechain signal’s filtering is increased when the Emphasis control is turned counterclockwise.
    As a result, the sidechain signal’s lower frequency content is gradually reduced by the Emphasis filter, making the compression less sensitive to those frequencies and more sensitive to the high-frequency information. Therefore, the higher frequencies are increasingly compressed when sidechain filtering is increased.

Compatibility:

The OS requirements for this plugin are Windows 7 or higher for PC and macOS 10.9 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/RTAS/AU/AAX formats and supports 32 and 64 bit systems.

Summary:

It’s encouraging to see Universal reevaluate major products to maintain its position as a market leader in the face of growing competition from other plug-in developers. For example, the LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection is the pinnacle of software mixing and a wonderful representation of what music plug-in compression might sound like because it has 64-bit compatibility.

13. Overloud Gem Comp76 V2 (FET Comp/Limiter – Urei 1176 Emulation)

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Overloud Gem Comp76 V2

Double the compressor for double the control with Overloud’s take on the Urei 1176.

When you first open the Comp76 v2, you will see one of the compressors matching the functionalities of the hardware unit, including the famous All ratio mode. However, there is a section below the compressors that adds several more drastic features to the plugin.

First, let’s talk about the mid/side mode toggle switch, which adds another compressor in the GUI for convenience. This feature, which wasn’t available in the original hardware, lets you add compression to the mono and the stereo information of your audio separately. Although, we would have loved to see a dedicated left and right channel compression mode as well. Second, we have the Parallel knob, which is essentially a mix knob to get a parallel compression effect. And the third idiosyncrasy is the LF Sens knob, which controls the low-frequency sensitivity of the compressor. Let’s talk about the rest below.

Key Features:

  • Multiple Revisions
    The Urei 1176 saw several revisions, each improving on the sound quality of the hardware. And so, in Comp76 v2, the first knob on the lower section labeled “REV.” lets you select various revisions of the hardware unit. The first one, ‘A,’ is the original version and has the warmest sound with a high noise floor. The one labeled ‘D(LN)’ is the newer black version with a cleaner sound. Similarly, the third one, called ‘F,’ is the newest revision of the hardware with the most transparent and cleanest sound.
  • Harmonics Control
    The Harmonics knob lets you control how much distortion the compressor should introduce in your audio. The saturation results from the emulation of the transformers in the original hardware, so a little bit of it makes your audio sound warmer.
  • Quick Reaction
    Just like the hardware unit, Comp76 also offers super-fast attack times ranging from 20 to 800 microseconds. This ability makes the compressor capable of catching the quickest transients in your audio. However, it doesn’t limit the usage of this plugin to only percussive sounds — 1176 has been used on just about anything, even for its subtle saturation, if not the compression itself.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows Vista or higher 32-bit or 64-bit and macOS 10.9 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX (only AAX64 for both OSes).

Summary:

There isn’t any FET compressor plugin that gives you the option to select from three hardware revisions. So, we think that is a huge advantage the Comp76 has over the competition. Furthermore, its CPU usage is also relatively low, making this plugin a considerable candidate for your use.

14. FabFilter Pro-MB (Great For Mastering As Well – Multiband Compressor)

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FabFilter Pro-MB

FabFilter remains a leader in software plugin innovation and development with this ultra-flexible multiband compressor.

The most significant feature that sets this multiband compressor apart from the rest is its ability to create a free band anywhere you like. That means, if you want a band from mid to high-frequencies, there is no need to create three bands to set the middle one where you need. Instead, you just create one band exactly where you want, and the rest of the frequency spectrum remains untouched.

Key Features:

  • Six Bands
    The FabFilter Pro-MB has a maximum of six bands. Each band could be created and moved freely, so there is no crossover between bands. Of course, if you prefer the traditional crossover system, the Pro-MB easily lets you snap the bands together as well. This innovative method of band manipulation does help save a lot of time.
  • Multiple Processing Modes:
    This plugin has both compression and expansion modes. And FabFilter offers mid/side modes, stereo control per band, and gating to top it off.
  • Global Mix
    The Pro-MB has a global dry and wet knob that could be useful for NY/parallel compression. Your DAW can automate the knob as well. Automation of the mix knob is instrumental if you have to engage the multiband compressor in the middle of a song without the effect sounding obvious.
  • Linear Phase mode
    Speaking of using the compressor in the middle of a song, the Linear Phase mode offered by this plugin is remarkably smooth. With up to four times Linear Phase oversampling, moving the band around in the middle of playing audio will create no audible artifacts at all. This feature is also great for using the multiband in a mastering chain.
  • Crossover Slope
    As with most multiband compressors, the Pro-MB also offers multiple options for the crossover slope steepness. The steepness ranges from 6 dB per octave to 48 dB per octave. It is great to see a relatively large range for the steepness. It makes the plugin suitable for both subtle mastering uses to surgical sound sculpting.
  • Great GUI
    One of the best things about this plugin is that the graphical user interface is freely resizeable. And not only that, but the UI is also very intuitive to use. Almost every change you make in the parameters gets reflected in the beautiful, large graphical view. This includes various processing modes, gain reduction, etc. In the background of this view, you also get a customizable frequency spectrum. Overall, the aesthetics give this plugin a very modern and meticulous feel deserving high praise.

Compatibility:

The FabFilter Pro-MB is compatible with Windows (32-bit and 64-bit) and macOS 10.10 or higher (only 64-bit). The plugin comes in VST 2/ 3, AU, AAX Native, and RTAS for Pro Tools.

Summary:

This plugin’s intuitive and innovative nature makes it a highly commendable candidate for any kind of multiband compression needs. Even if you are just starting, the plugin makes sense as soon as you get the hang of the interface. Along with that, the filters are exact and smooth. The only issue you could have with this plugin is the price. However, if you have a regular need for a multiband compressor, we think it’s well worth the investment.

 15. Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp By Softube (Unique Compressor)

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Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp By Softube

An all-in-one solution for the basic audio production needs.

Plugins that contain different effects and uses inside a single window are awesome and can be the perfect tool for most production styles. It’s nice to have all you’ll need in a single window, which can lead to significantly less CPU power consumption.

Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp was created in collaboration with Dave Derr to simulate the versatility behind the ELI distressor and provide meaningful colorations to your track.

Key Features:

    • Preamp
      The “Preamp” section offers up to 18dB of gain boost, and it can be used to gain stage your track with the authentic character of a hardware unit. You can even disable the preamp distortion with the “Clean” option, while the “Bad!” indicator will force clipping whenever possible.
    • CompSat
      One of the main sections of the plugin is called “CompSat,” and is arguably the heart of Mike-E. It works the same way as a distressor, but with additions like a longer attack time and additional emphasis circuit. Of course, the “Drive” knob will add any distortion values promptly, with the nearby LEDs indicating the amount of saturation added to your signal.
    • Emphasis
      The “Emphasis” parameter is divided between three modes: “HF” emphasizes the high frequencies in the saturation circuit, “HF2” does the same but in the entire CompSat circuit, and LF enhances the lower frequencies in the compressor circuit. Switching between these profiles can make the plugin sound warmer and “creamier,” displaying a nice tape-like tone.
    • Extended features
      As with other Softube plugins, Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp also offers extended features. These can bring nice parameters to complement the already included ones, expanding its functionality and making the overall response of this effect to be much more modern and precise, just like plugins are expected to.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 to 12 (64-bit only) and Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in VST, VST3, and AU plugin formats.

Summary:

Softube always brings exciting software that will certainly improve or add character to your tracks. And besides being a recreation of studio equipment, Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp is a nice plugin to have constantly around.

The saturation quality is superb, with subtle nuances that only the genuine or any tube unit could deliver. The different segments are interlinked and behave well if added jointly, making this a versatile and consistent audio-shaping tool.

16. Brainworx Elysia Alpha Compressor (Mastering Compressor 2)

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Brainworx Elysia Alpha Compressor

The Alpha Compressor emulates an analog compressor, endorsed by its creators and coded by Brainworx.

At first, the UI can look confusing and off-putting. Even so, these are all precise parameters that together make this one of the best mastering compressors there are. It is not a versatile compressor, per se, but it does what all mastering compressors claim to do. The difference is it does it so elegantly you almost don’t notice it’s there.

Key Features:

  • Frequency Selective Compression
    The side-chain knobs in this compressor engage the frequency-oriented compression it was designed to do. This allows the Alpha Compressor to work as a de-esser or as a groove emphasizer, depending on the project’s needs.
  • Feed Forward
    This button changes the order of the side-chain. Disengaged means side-chaining will act after the compressor. Engaged means it will act before the compressor section. Each has a different flavor, with Feed-Forward sounding like there is some kind of extra compression applied.
  • Auto Fast
    This option is present for both the attack and release parameters individually, on both channels. It uses the adjusted parameters set on the bigger knobs and improves their efficiency by going further. Attack will now be almost instant, and release will change the envelope curve considerably. Perfect for catching high-speed transients and breathing life back into the mix.
  • Warm
    This button adds very subtle sound shaping to the compressed signal. It is a slew rate limiter that adds controlled overtones to the sinewave. Brainworx says they decided to make it elusive because of the mastering nature of the plugin.
  • M/S
    The Mid/Side processing in the Alpha Compressor stands out for its ability to handle these as unlinked fields. If a mix has a different attack and release, or even tonality on the mid and sides, this plugin can handle it better than any other. The result will be an audibly better master every time.

Character and Sound:

This is a very clean-sounding mastering compressor. The Warm button is very subtle, and Soft Clip can cause excessive distortion. But there are extreme settings that you can use to achieve different yet desirable sounds. A good example is drum subgroup compression.

If you click the two Auto Fast and Feed Forward buttons and lower the threshold, you’ll start hearing the spatial elements a lot more. You can get up to 20db of gain reduction in this extreme mode. This will make the drums sound as if the microphones had been set a little further from the source, which gives a nice natural room effect.

Compatibility:

This behemoth is available as VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU for macOS 10.9 and higher and Windows 7 and up, 64-bit only.

Summary: 

This is hardly an ordinary compressor. Its soft, discrete, and transparent approach elevates it to mastering royalty. The price-tag is reasonable, although out of range for a lot of producers. This is one of those plugins that have a special place on any engineer’s wishlist.

17. CLA-2A Compressor / Limiter (Electro-opto Compressor)

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CLA-2A Compressor / Limiter

CLA-2A is Waves Audio’s model of the classic electro-optical tube compressor by Teletronix.

This classic compressor model is part of Chris Lord Alge’s classics series. Its original peer was created by Jim Lawrence, who served in the Navy during WWII operating military radars and was passionate about radio and broadcasting.

The idea that gave birth to the creation of this piece was that he was annoyed about having to ride the gain manually to achieve a consistent broadcast level so he made the LA-2A so that it would do it automatically. This model of the classic compressor delivers a crisp high-end and nice build-up in the mid-range and sounds best with guitar, bass, and vocals.

Key Features:

  • Easy-to-use
    The CLA-2A compressor mimics the appearance and functionality of its original hardware peer, keeping the attack and release times prefixed, letting you switch between the compressor and limiter, giving you the classic gain and peak reduction knobs, and changing the VU display.
  • High-frequency distortion
    A dial at the bottom lets you add harmonic distortion to the high frequencies of your signal, giving it a crispier color. You can blend the amount of distortion or keep it flat to get a clean response from the plugin.
  • Transparency 
    The compressor can handle very extreme settings without crushing your signal or generating artifacts. When you set it to the limiter, it brings everything up pretty even. 
  • Character
    This compressor is suitable for achieving transparent results. It also gives you lots of harmonic distortion to add to your signal, which brings up the high-mids and higher frequencies of the signal and colors it in a unique way that increases punch and brings life to any source

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.

Summary:

The CLA-2A plugin has many things that make it a fantastic tool to keep around, like its unique tone character, the ability to achieve a flat response, or the fact that you only need to move a few knobs to get an outstanding sound out of it. It’s the simplest yet most effective compressor for vocals and guitars.

18. Slate Digital MO-TT (Multiband Dynamics – OTT Recreation)

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Slate Digital MO-TT

The renowned preset OTT on Ableton Live’s multi-band compressor is synonymous with contemporary electronic music.

The effect adds clarity, punch, and body to just about any instrument using upward and extreme downward compression in order. You can find similar effects by various developers, including the beloved OTT freeware plugin by Xfer. However, they don’t truly attempt to give comprehensive control over the effect. Slate Digitals MO-TT seeks to change that.

MO-TT accurately recreates the iconic sound of the original OTT preset in Ableton’s multi-band processor. However, it also adds various features alongside a gorgeous user interface. The plugin features two modes: easy and advanced.

The easy mode is excellent for people who want to try the presets with the fundamental controls readily available. Conversely, the advanced mode (pictured below) offers a lot more control, like changing the band frequencies, boosting or cutting each band, etc.

Key Features:

  • Band Customization
    There are three bands in MO-TT, each allowing you to change its crossover frequency. Furthermore, the lowest and highest bands will enable you to change the frequencies of their outer ranges. So, you’re essentially getting a five-band dynamics processor, albeit the lowest and the highest bands don’t allow adjustments.
    Likewise, you can change each band’s input level and threshold controls for both types of compression: upward and downward. Upward compression is an expander and works by boosting the volume of the signals that go below the threshold. Conversely, downward compression cuts the volume of the signals above the threshold.
    You’ll also find input gain, stereo link, mix amount, attack, and release controls per band.
  • Filter Slopes
    MO-TT offers
    a global filter slope control that changes the steepness of all the bands’ crossovers. The control provides three options: 12 dB/octave, 24 dB/octave, and 48 dB/octave. Choose a lower value if you want adjacent bands to affect each other more, creating a gluing effect. Contrariwise, a steeper slope keeps the processing surgical and is excellent for controlling a specific sound (like a hi-hat) while mastering.
  • Global Features
    The plugin comes with several other global features and controls. The user interface provides a handy frequency spectrum analyzer that helps you customize the bands. Similarly, you’ll find a global input gain and a stereo link fader. The latter fades the plugin between stereo and dual-mono modes.
    MO-TT provides side-chaining features with both internal and external modes. Likewise, you can make the plugin listen to the full spectrum or only the range the bands are processing. A pair of attack and release sliders simultaneously control the settings on all the bands. And you can switch between three Timing Style behaviors: classic, smooth, and smack.
  • Preset Library
    MO-TT includes three “quick set” presets: OTT, Hip Hop, and Vox. These are ideal for use in the easy mode, where you can adjust the mix amount per band and get instant results. However, if you want more changes, you can access the preset library by clicking on the folder icon at the top left. The library features many built-in presets categorized into groups: master, instruments, vocals, drums, and FX. Each category contains several handy presets that you can customize to match your taste.

Compatibility:

MO-TT is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

MO-TT is essentially the OTT preset/plugin for people who like customizations. However, it’s also equally appropriate if you prefer simplicity, thanks to its easy mode. Similarly, you’ll receive an excellent collection of presets covering a variety of usage.

Overall, it’s an awesome plugin for electronic music, pop, rock, RnB, etc. You could use it to add clarity to dull samples or recordings, iron out annoying peaks in the frequency spectrum, and more.

The only fault you could bring up is that it’s quite steep-priced for what it does. Still, it’s an unbeatable plugin if you find the OTT preset indispensable and prefer flexibility.

19. Brainworx bx_console AMEK 9099 (Compressor / Channel Strip)

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Brainworx bx_console AMEK 9099

The AMEK 9099 is a fantastic mixer based on the highly versatile Amek 9098i. With a limiter, equalizer, noise gate, and exciting GUI, the Channel Strip by Brainworx will create many vintage vibes for any production.

Achieve complete control of the mixing process with an incredibly versatile console emulator; bx_console AMEK 9099 will deliver all the controls needed for any production at your fingertips. AMEK 9099, apart from offering handy and intuitive knobs, also shines any signal with musicality. With massive lows, you can push the mixing plugin for pleasant, smooth changes in the signal.

Key Features:

  • Filters
    The plugin has six controls regarding its filters. HPF On and LPF On work intuitively on enabling the low and high-pass filters. HPF x 3 is a modern feature in the plugin that shifts the high-pass filter’s band by a factor of three. An LPF / 3 feature will turn the low-pass filter’s band by a factor of 1 / 3. The HPF works on the 20 Hz – 900 Hz range and an 18 dB slope value. The LPF will present the same dB slope value of the HPF but operate in the 1.5 kHz – 30 kHz range.
  • Dynamics
    AMEK 9099 has a gate, limiter, and a compression section. The most exciting feature in the gate segment is the gate invert, which will enable you to hear the signal parts that the gate would attenuate. Apart from the standard gate controls, the plugin also has a Gate HPF and LPF interaction, activating additional filters on the gate and controlling the cutoff frequency. The Ambiance is an exciting feature in the compression segment that will output the difference between the compressed and input signals.
  • EQ
    The plugin features four bands to fill the HF, HMF, LMF, and LF ranges. An HF Sheen function is fascinating for broadening the curve from the steep and widening the HF shelf. Both LMF and HMF can switch from Peak to Notch filtering. An exciting LF control is the LF Glow, which works the same way as the HF Sheen, but focuses on the lower range.
  • Master
    In a mastering segment of the plugin, you will have access to many exciting parameters. V gain is a virtual gain function that adds noise to the signal. A phase control will invert the signal’s polarity. You can also select between seventy-two different channels in the Console Channel Numbers. An exciting fact is that each channel has a unique character. You can also modify the spatial texture with the featured controls in Stereo Mode.

Compatibility:

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

Summary:

Brainworx bx_console AMEK 9099 is a complete console emulator that will provide any mix with full dynamics, EQ, and mastering controls. It has parameters for noise gates, compressors, limiters, and many EQ functions.

With an outstanding mastering performance, the plugin also has a role in stereo width and texture by allowing you to operate specific controls related to spatial functionality accurately.

20. Eventide Omnipressor (Dynamic Processor/Compressor)

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Eventide Omnipressor

Because Eventide only produced TDM plug-ins, the ordinary musician was unaware of its existence. By making some of its current plugins native, the firm is now entering the mainstream.

Since its debut in 1971, the Omnipressor rack unit has been utilized often on commercially successful recordings. The lead guitarist for Queen, Brian May, was one of our very first clients. His sound was never the same once he added the Omnipressor to his equipment.

Dynamic gate, compression, capping, and expansion modifier of expert caliber. Even better, the Omnipressor can reverse the envelope of a sound, turning loud noises into quiet ones and vice versa and this plug-in is based on the original Eventide Omnipressor, launched and utilized for decades in hit albums.

Key Features: 

  • Interface
    The primary needle is located in the center of the interface, there are three options for this: input, output, and gain. The gain parameter displays both the right gain and the left attenuation, Along with this, green and red LEDs stand in for attenuation and gain, respectively with the intensity of the glow indicates how much the gain has changed.
  • Dynamic Reversal
    The dynamic inversion option is found in the last section. Signals that are below the threshold are amplified here, while those that are over it are muted, as you shift control, this behaviour gets crazier. Dynamic inversion’s boost and attenuation functions, when coupled, can produce some bizarre results, by altering the release time to provide a dampening effect, we could virtually completely remove the assault of many sounds with a quick attack setting.
    Any other sound that has pauses may be treated to produce intriguing pumping and swelling effects. Utilizing the bass cut setting to balance things out, I found this to be very helpful on kick drums and loops.
  • Controls
    The Omnipressor’s function control system is the first thing you’ll notice when you load it. From the gate entirely counterclockwise via expansion to a unit set at 12 o’clock, it operates as a nearly continuous control once you pass through the compression ratios from full limits to a quarter as you turn to the right.

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

The Omnipressor is a processor with a lot of personality when used more frequently. Limit controls offer a non-threshold-based alternative for fine-tuning gain behaviour, while flexible Attack and Release controls enable quick and smooth results.

We also particularly enjoyed the metering on the gain side, with the LEDs offering rapid and straightforward feedback. Although it might not be the first option for clean processing, the Omnipressor has a fantastic taste selection. It’s wonderful to see this venerable design in the native plug-in form.

Bonuses:

1. BABY Audio IHNY-2 (Parallel Compressor 2)

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BABY Audio IHNY-2

IHNY 2 by Baby Audio is a simple-to-use parallel compressor with a distinctive audio character.

Since 2019, Baby Audio has been creating and delivering audio plugins, and the firm celebrated its third anniversary yesterday. IHNY-2, an improved version of their initial plugin, I Heart NY, was produced to commemorate the occasion.

The IHNY-2 claims to provide sounds that no other plugin can with strong, modern-sounding parallel compression controlled by manipulating a “node” in an XY display panel.

Key Features:

  • Harmonics
    While a Shape adjustment gives an Equalization curve, accentuating the high- and low-frequency content of the audio, a Harmonics setting generates harmonic saturation and is controlled by volume compression, increasing saturation in proportion to the amount of compression used.
  • Tilt
    When regulating bass-heavy content while treating the high end more softly or vice versa, a Tilt control causes the compressor to work harder on either the low or high end of the sound. Last, a function offers a means to stop the compression from being done above or below a user-defined cutoff threshold.
  • Tweak Panel
    The Tweak Panel offers a few fresh features and settings that were missing from the original. The anticipated attack, release, and ratio settings are there, and a Punch control offers a mechanism to save the transients from being lost when using strong compression.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in standalone mode and VST2, AAX, and AU plugin formats.

Summary:

Compression may be easily overdone despite the plugin’s reputation as a gentle giant. Overall, the trade-off between straightforward design and comprehensive functionality is successful. The adjustment part, however, needs to be improved and made more accessible, in our opinion.

However, the launch price of $39 is just somewhat higher than the initial pricing and offers good value for money because you receive additional features for the higher price.

2. Waves PuigChild Compressor (Fairchild 670 Emulation)

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Waves PuigChild Compressor

PuigChild by Waves is another famous FairChild compressor emulation that will give you great sound and ease of use.

Waves PuigChild is another plugin from the Jack Joseph Puig collection that emulates vintage studio equipment. In general, this software comes in two versions: 670 і 660. But you only need to know here that 670 is a stereo version, and 660 is a mono.

Regarding this plugin’s functionality, it accurately repeats analog equipment but does not load you with many settings. In particular, you will have controls for gain and threshold, output signal, and the well-known Time Constant switch responsible for attack and release. Let’s now take it all in order.

Key Features:

  • Adjust The Gain And Threshold
    This plugin is simple – you will have two controls, Gain and Threshold. Add the required amount of signal with the first one and determine the amount of compression with the second one. If you work in the stereo version of the plugin, you will have mirror settings.
  • Time Constant Settings
    If you have already dealt with plugins of this type, you know that the Time Constant parameter is responsible for fixed attack and release. In particular, the first positions will give you faster settings. In turn, 5 and 6 will have longer attacks and auto releases.
  • Balance Your Signal
    Of course, you will have an Output Gain knob, which you can regard as a Make-Up Gain. It is because the more you apply compression, the plugin will reduce the more your signal. Therefore, thanks to this control, you can compensate for the loudness.
  • Analog Hum
    Like most Waves plugins, PuigChild also can add analog hum. It will be possible thanks to the switch in the lower left corner. Specifically, there are 50 and 60-hertz options, which refer to the different cycles from the power supply of analog equipment in Europe and the United States.
  • Left/Right 0r Lat/Ver
    The stereo version of this plugin can work in several modes: Left/Right, Linked, and Lat/Ver. The first will allow you to apply different settings for the right and left channels, and the second – to do it simultaneously for both. As for the latter, it is a type of Mid/Side processing.

Compatibility:

Waves PuigChild is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.15.7 or higher. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

PuigChild by Waves is from the category of those plugins that seem to have been around all the time. Overall, this is a great emulation of FairChild, which will not annoy you with many settings because everything here is quite straightforward: gain, threshold, time constant, output and mod switch. In addition, you will get two versions, both for mono and stereo signals.

Best FREE Compressor Plugins Out There 2023

1. BPB Dirty LA (LA-2A Compressor)

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BPB Dirty LA

The BPB Dirty LA compression effect plugin is now available on the Bedroom Producers Blog as a free download for Windows and macOS DAWs.

For those who appreciate the sound of classic limiting amplifiers, we present BPB Dirty LA, a free compressor effect. This plugin is aimed to achieve the same musical-sounding compression with a more streamlined process. If you ever need to saturate the signal completely, we’ve included one of their Dirt algorithms to assist you in doing it.

This compressor is not a direct software replica of any existing hardware model, but rather it draws upon the best features of numerous established hardware designs. They optimized internal algorithms and the control method to get as close as feasible.

Key Features:

  • Peak Reduction Knob
    With the Peak Reduction dial, you can adjust the threshold value and hence the degree of signal compression. Once satisfied with the compression, you can easily compare it to the dry signal by setting the Output knob to the same level.
  • Algorithm
    They optimized their Dirt method to provide transparent saturation, which enhances and warms up the signal while somewhat taming the transients. It pairs nicely with the compressor and is especially useful for making the bass and drums in a track stand out.
  • Oversampling
    Activating the plugin’s Dirt setting causes it to oversample internally by a factor of 4. Turning off Dirt prevents oversampling, which in turn reduces CPU use. In addition, they’ve ensured the plugin uses as little processing power as possible, so you may run numerous instances simultaneously without slowing down your projects.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 8 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST/RTAS/AU/AAX formats and supports 32 and 64 bit systems.

Summary:

It’s a flexible plugin that you may use in various ways to suit your requirements, including as a parallel compressor and mix glue on the master bus. With Dirty LA’s default settings, you receive a fast attack time and a moderate compression ratio; however, switching to limiting mode will increase both of these values. It’s free, which is always nice, and it uses very little CPU, even when oversampled four times.

2. Analog Obsession BUSTERse (SSL Compressor)

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Analog Obsession BUSTERse

Analog Obsession’s BUSTERse plugin can be your main tool for “gluing” mixes.

Now, what do you use the bus compressor for anyway? First, it allows you to shape transients, and second, to get the effect of “gluing” the mix as a whole. The SSL Bus Compressor is a very popular equipment for this, which was part of the console. But now, there are enough plugins that emulate its operation.

Such is the free software BUSTERse from Analog Obsession. Its main feature is that, in addition to the compressor settings, it has many additional features that will help you affect the character and dynamics even more. Let’s now try to take them all apart.

Key Features:

  • Familiar Compressor Settings
    If you already have experience with SSL-style compressors, then the set of basic settings will not discourage you. In particular, there is the usual Auto Release, Ratio from 1.5 to 10, Attack from 0.1 to 30 milliseconds, Make-Up Gain, and Threshold control.
  • Dry/Wet Control
    Unlike many paid plugins, the developers have also implemented the Mix knob, which implies selecting the ratio of Dry and Wet signals. This parameter can be very helpful if, for example, you want to do a parallel compression for drums.
  • Additional Mods
    At the top right of the plugin window, you will get three buttons that are responsible for mods. In particular, the first Main will work like the usual bypass. Also, here is the Turbo, which will bring the plugin to work more similarly to the original unit. And in addition, there is an Xformer mode to get more saturation.
  • Sidechain Filter
    The Sidechain section makes your work with the plugin most exciting. You can use it to influence how the compressor perceives frequencies. For example, there is a High Pass Filter here and two Mid and HF knobs.
  • Transients Shaping
    On top of that, the Sidechain section has another set of TR controls to help you influence the transients a bit more. For example, you will find a Tilt control that will boost the high frequencies and cut the lows, or vice versa. In addition, there are also separate Mix and Boost knobs.

Compatibility:

Analog Obsession BUSTERse is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.

Summary:

Analog Obsession’s BUSTERse plugin may seem a bit complicated at first. But if you learn how to use it, it can become a powerful tool for bus compression. This software will allow you to “glue” the mix and influence the transients in the best way. And the fact that it’s free is wonderful.

3. Variety of Sound density MKIII (Mastering Compressor)

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Variety of Sound density MKIII

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.

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.

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.

4. Analog Obsession VariMoon (Vari-Mu Compressor)

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Analog Obsession VariMoon

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.

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.

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.

5. Analog Obsession Britpressor (Channel Compressor)

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Analog Obsession Britpressor

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.

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 well known 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.

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.

6. AudioDamage Rough Rider 3 (Bus Compressor)

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AudioDamage Rough Rider 3

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.

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.

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.

7.  Xfer Records OTT (OTT-Style MB Compressor)

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Xfer Records OTT

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.

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.

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.

8. Melda MCompressor (Versatile Compressor)

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Melda MCompressor

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.

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.

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).

9. Analog Obsession SPEComp (SSL-Style Compressor)

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Analog Obsession SPEComp

Analog Obsession’s SPEComp plugin helps you bring the body of your mix or individual instruments.

Now we will show you a plugin that can be your to-go solution for controlling the dynamics of instruments or entire mixes. It is another free software from Analog Obsession, which you can support on Patreon. It is inspired by SSL but with some modifications and features

In terms of functionality, it is quite easy to use this plugin. Especially if you know what sound you want to achieve and are familiar with the compressor settings. There aren’t many controls, but that’s all you’ll need.

Key Features:

  • Apply Compression
    On the left side of the plugin window, you will have the necessary controls to implement compression. These include a Threshold with a range of -15 to +15 decibels and Make-Up from 0 to +15 dB. There is also a Ratio knob from 1 to 10.
  • Control Dynamics
    As for the right part of the plugin, here are the settings responsible for the dynamics. For example, it is Attack from 1.5 to 100 milliseconds. You will also see Release from .05 to 2 seconds.
  • Set The Knee
    Another important regulator here is the Knee. It determines how much compression will kick in. So a smaller knee will give a more punchy sound. If you crank it out, the dynamics will be softer.
  • Hidden Mix Control
    This knob is pretty hard to see, but it’s there. Under the VU Meter, you can see a small regulator responsible for balancing wet and dry signals. So if you have too much compression, you can mix it with the original sound.

Compatibility:

Analog Obsession SPEComp is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.

Summary:

It’s a pretty versatile compressor that you can apply to anything. That’s how we can characterize the SPECom plug-in from Analog Obsession in a few words. There are few settings here, but they are effective for many scenarios. For example, you can apply a lot of compression to individual instruments or add a very small amount during mastering.

10. Analog Obsession LALA (LA2A-Style)

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Analog Obsession LALA

The LALA plugin from Analog Obsession gives you smooth compression that’s great for vocals and bass guitar.

The LA2A-type compressors are among the most popular studio units. They provide smooth compression with a slow attack, which is ideal for processing vocals and bass guitars. Through years of digital music production, dozens of plugins have been created that emulate their operation. And now we’re going to talk about a free one.

It is another Analog Obsession product called LALA. You will immediately see by its design that it is a reference to the original LA2A compressor by Teletronix. You will have the same main Gain and Peak Reduction knobs and additional features. We’ll talk about them below.

Key Features:

  • Extremely Simple Operation
    As with other similar plugins, you get an extremely simple operation. It comes down to only two knobs, Peak Reduction and Gain. With the first, you can select the amount of compression, and the second helps you balance the output signal.
  • Sidechain Section
    On the left side of the plugin, you will see some additional features. For example, there is a High Pass Filter from 20 to 500 hertz. You can also adjust the compressor’s sensitivity to medium and high frequencies, thanks to the corresponding knobs. And, of course, there is an External Sidechain button.
  • Adjust The Balance
    If you want to use this plugin for parallel vocal compression, you will have the option to do so. That’s because the developers have implemented here the Mix function, which is not present even in some similar paid plugins. So use it to find a proper balance.
  • Three Nice-Looking Skins
    Another cool thing about this plugin is that it has three skins. Specifically, these are White, Vintage, and Modern. It’s not a big deal, but it’s nice. Choose the one that pleases your eye the most.

Compatibility:

Analog Obsession LALA is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.

Summary:

Analog Obsession’s LALA is an unusually straightforward plugin that helps you get smooth and musical compression. However, the settings on the left side of the window may be a bit confusing if you are a beginner. You can even leave them untouched, using only the two main knobs. But, overall, the plugin can easily compete with paid products regarding sound quality.

11. ADHD Leveling Tool (Opto Compressor)

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ADHD Leveling Tool

Looking like a classic compressor, the ADHD leveling tool is a free plugin that does surprisingly well in capturing the sound of a classic compressor unit.

The developers of this plugin claim to have carefully engineered this plugin for optimum performance on vocals. It can also be used on instruments like guitar, bass, etc., to duck down some peaks and add more punch and character to the mix.

Key Features:

  • 4x oversampling, which ensures the highest output quality.
  • Attack and release times are adjustable, which is actually a plus point over most plugins discussed in this article.
  • The ADHD also offers a VU meter to control the attack and release times.
  • The peak reduction ratio is adjustable.

Compatibility:

The ADHD leveling tool has support for most Windows and Mac operating systems. It comes in VST/AU formats which makes it not available for Pro Tools. It supports both 32 and 64 bit systems. 

Summary:

Overall, this plugin does impressively well for a free plugin. It obviously is not up to par with plugins discussed on this list when it comes to emulating classic compressor sound signature. However, if you are looking for a free plugin that makes a decent attempt at that, then the ADHD leveling tool is the go-to.

12. ViatorDSP Bedroom Compressor (Diode-Bridge Compressor)

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ViatorDSP Bedroom Compressor

Landon Viator managed to create a free plugin that allows you to experience the benefits of a Diode Bridge Compressor in an easy-to-use interface that anyone can get into.

Featuring only six knobs, this plugin is great for quick mixing of your samples if you are in a rush. Although easy to work with, it can provide some fantastic results, with its standard features giving each sound a high-quality compression. The plugin takes pride in its ability to combine side-chaining with the high-pass filter, making sure the bass in your mix isn’t impacting your compression rate.

You can also blend your samples by mixing the dry default sound with the newly compressed sound you’ve created. For its small size, the plugin boasts some pretty significant features that we will list down below.

Key Features:

  • High-Pass Sidechain
    After choosing your compression rate,
    you might want to add a High-pass sidechain to your sounds to allow some bass to pass through the compressor unaffected, resulting in a clean high tone with full bass that isn’t limited to the threshold you’ve set. Although this is typically used on Drums, to improve the kick in the mix, you can break the rules and use the Sidechain to create a totally different experience.
  • Threshold
    The compressor has to kick in at a specific dB value, determined by the threshold limit you set in the plugin. A great way to tune the threshold is to start high and gradually reduce the level until you are satisfied with the sound. A low enough threshold level would result in a quiet, almost lo-fi-like sound that works great for background drum samples following the lead melody.
  • Blend
    Blending is typically used as the final configuration, enabling you to fine-tune the proportion of the dry unprocessed signal. The “wet” signal results from the various compression effects applied to the sample. If you don’t want a full compressed sound, you might find it better to set the knob at 40-50%, creating a sound that has the best of both worlds without having to go back and tweak additional knobs.
  • Make-Up Gain
    If you feel that the output signal isn’t as strong as you wanted it to be, or the compression added to it has dampened it significantly, try increasing the Make-Up gain knob to return some of those lost decibels. Altering the output gain also changes your sample by adding that gritty, warm sound, which is highly recommended for instruments such as the guitar because it fills the stereo field with beautiful fuzzy noise.

Character & Sound:

The sound this plugin creates can vary depending on the compression or output gain you want to add to your samplesA high enough increase in the output gain will result in a fuller, grittier tone recommended for string instruments, although you can also use it to create some coarse vocals that stand out from the final mix.

Compatibility:

ViatorDSP Bedroom Compressor is available on Windows and macOS, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST3 and AU formats.

Summary:

The Bedroom Compressor is a great free variant that can easily rival other free compressors on the market, and it’s a great alternative if you are on a tighter budget. The plugin only features six knobs for adjustments, it’s great for beginners, but it can get the job done even for experienced professionals.

The attack speed and high-pass filter settings are great additions that allow you to determine what exact sound you want to end up with. The compressor has an on/off button, allowing you to quickly compare the before and after sound.

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