Expand Your Arsenal of Compressor Plugins

You’ve made your track using Mixxed samples, but you just need some picks of top compressors that you can use to control its dynamics. We couldn’t possibly end our Explain Compression series without giving you a list of our favourite compressor plugins.

Be sure to read our Explain Compression series so you’re in the know of the terminology we’re using!

Explain Compression

How Do Compressors Work?

5 Types of Compression and When to Use Them

What is Compression Used For?

What are the Different Types of Compressors?

Let’s dive into our top 5 best compressor plugins!

Top 5 Compressor VST Plugins

FabFilter Pro-C 2 – $179

FabFilter Pro-C 2, FabFilter

Pro-C 2 has made its way to the top of producers minds and is a staple in the music production world.

It packs a user-friendly and informative interface, the versatility of its eight compression styles and the high degree of control on offer.

Pro-C 2 offers 8 different compression styles:

Clean (feedforward, low distortion, program dependant)

Classic (feedback, program dependant, warm vintage style)

Opto (slow, soft knee, linear style optical compressor)

Note: linear = no distortion due to waveform morphing, and non-linear = distortion due to waveform morphing.

Vocal (dedicated vocal style designed to bring vocals to the front of your mix, no ratio or knee settings) which makes it one of the best compressor plugins for vocals!

Mastering (dedicated to mastering, designed to be transparent, catches fast transients with low levels of distortion)

Bus (designed to glue multiple channels together)

Punch (designed to sound good on anything)

Pumping (the sister of the punch setting, brings power to drum tracks or other percussive sounds)

The Pro-C has extensive attention to detail. Features such as a continuously variable knee and an envelope “hold” parameter give you a versatile toolset to bring your music to life – the way that you want to.

Other features such as solo auditioning of the compressed signal, the ability to pan the dry and wet signals independently of one another, as well as a full-screen mode to drive your attention towards only the task at hand makes the Pro-C 2 compressor our favourite by far. A creative and useful tool that you should be looking to invest in at your soonest opportunity, as well as being on of the best sidechain compressor plugins.

iZotope Ozone 8 Dynamics – $129.00

iZotope is somewhat of a revered plugin god-like deity.

Their tools provide spaces that make mixing and mastering much easier for newcomers to understand (if you can forgive the price) so that you can get your music on the net faster! Within Ozone 8brings precise dynamic control with a plethora of choices to make your music as enticing as possible.

In-depth fine-tuning of your mix with incredible accuracy ensures that your audio sounds just as magnificent as you please. Ozone is designed to be a mastering compressor, so it brings a lot of transparency and also houses mid/side processing features. The scope of possible dynamic wiggle room is off the charts! iZotope also houses a lookahead feature for even more precise compression.

You can tune the incoming signal to have more or less effect on the compressor detection algorithm via the detection filter, and by using the high pass and tilt modes – you can attenuate or increase the effect the signal will have on the compressor modes themselves! The learn mode feature also enables opportunities for crossover points in multiband mode! One of the best mastering compressor plugins, as well as the best multiband compressor plugins for sure.

PSP VintageWarmer2 $102.68

PSP VintageWarmer2, Source: PSP

The PSP VintageWarmer2 offers soft compression or brick wall limiting opportunities from one fantastic tool to the next.

An analogue-style plugin that brings options for multi-band or single-band compression, PSP have gone and improved a near-flawless plug-in. The design is very close to the 1.65 version. There are differences, however, with some added controls.

These include a brick wall limiting button that’s very useful for mastering (no signal will break a 0dB threshold) and an auto release feature that tailors the release time to the incoming signal. Not to mention the FAT feature (frequency authentication technique) which is a double sampling processing system that makes sure there are no errors and ensures all frequencies are kept distinguishable from one another.

In short, it avoids aliasing errors. Errors can occur when signals are sampled and the signals can become aliases of one another – undistinguishable – so the FAT feature works to ensure the signal remains smooth and clear when you drive the compressor hard.

A drawback here, however, is the CPU usage. It’s a lot, but it does a wonderful job.

Waves CLA-76 – $28

Waves CLA-76, Source: Waves 

The plugin reiteration of the UA Urei 1176, which is one of the most renowned hardware compressors, offers incredibly fast attack and release times due to the FET circuit. The interface is the twin of the analogue 1176 unit.

With fast attack and release times, CLA-76 is useful for any sounds with heavy transient information like percussive sounds.

The plugin also houses presets of the like from Chris Lord-Alge to give you the sound of the real 1176 hardware.  

CLA-76 can add a lot of punch to your drums, so it’s a great compressor to have for the likes of EDM music…

This compressor allows you to feature analogue hum at fifty or sixty cycles per second, and you can have entirely different characteristics on your sound/track – depending on whether you choose “blacky” or “blue”.

“Bluey” champions the Blue Stripe model which gives a more refined sound with hotter gain staging. “Blacky”, however, is the plugin iteration of the 1176-LN model. Blacky features less noise with a smoother response which adds a cleaner colour. 

Waves CLA-2A – $35.99

Waves CLA-2A, Source: Waves

Based on the UA LA-2A, a powerful optical compressor that features a tube output stage for makeup gain, this plugin offers slower attack and release times make for added sustain effects and the compressor itself adds iconic warmth thanks to the tube component.

Designed for use on sounds and tracks with fewer transients, this optical compressor can be used to treat bass and vocal tracks because of its smooth gain reduction and the warmth of the tube.

Like the CLA-76, the CLA-2A also allows you to feature analogue hum at fifty or sixty cycles per second!

And that, my friend, is our top 5 compressor plugins wrapped up!