Best Compressor Plugins: Top 9 Picks for 2020

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If you are serious about mixing, a compressor is an essential tool that you can’t be without. There are a variety of software compressors that you can get your hands on, each with a different specialty and its own way of reacting to signals.

You could go the digital route if you’re looking for a beautiful, clear tone and open-end parameters. There’s also compression plugins that emulate analog gear if it’s a classic, warm sound you’re after. No matter what sound you’re trying to achieve, you’ll find a compressor that can help you get there. To help narrow down your choices, we’ve put together a list of some of the best compressor plugins that are currently available.

9 Best Compressor VST Plugins

  1. FabFilter Pro-C 2
  2. Softube Tube-Tech Complete Collection
  3. Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov GE
  4. PSP Audioware PSP VintageWarmer2
  5. iZotope Ozone 9
  6. McDSP 6030 Ultimate Compressor
  7. Sonible smart:comp
  8. Boz Digital Labs Manic Compressor
  9. Waves CLA Classic Compressors

1. FabFilter Pro-C 2

FabFilter FabFilter Pro-C 2

If you’re looking for an incredibly versatile compressor, check out the FabFilter Pro-C 2. You’ll find all the features you would have with a traditional compressor along with many extras. The Pro-C 2 offers lookahead gain reduction, Stereo Link control, mid-side processing, 4x oversampling, and eight distinct compression algorithms, all on an amazing interface.

With the variety of compression algorithms to choose from, you can run the gamut of compression from clean to colored for all of your mixes. You can achieve a wide range of sounds from these unique algorithms, which include Bus, Pumping, Vocal, Mastering, and Punch.

FabFilter has updated their I/O metering and gain reduction capabilities to ensure that your mixes adhere to loudness standards. You’ll be happy with how fast the compressor works without overwhelming your CPU. The Pro-C 2 is a one-stop shop for all your compressor needs. 

Pros

  • Helpful sidechain EQ
  • A wide variety of compression styles 
  • Exciting interface

Cons

  • Colored compression styles don’t really match up to vintage compressor plugins

2. Softube Tube-Tech Complete Collection

Softube Tube-Tech Complete Collection Compressor Plugins

The Softube Tube-Tech Complete Collection comes with two EQs and a compressor that will help you get the job done. The stand-out in the collection is the Tube-Tech CL 1B, a classic compressor emulation that mixing engineers are drawn to. It’s often used for mixing vocals, but its capabilities extend far beyond that. If you’re looking for super smooth compression with an impressively transparent tone, the CL 1B is where it’s at.

Softube has copied the features found in the original hardware, and they’ve also included some additional parameters. These include release, threshold, gain, ratio, and attack parameters in addition to a parallel compression parameter. This means you won’t need to make an extra aux track for parallel compression of your signal. You can also take advantage of its sidechain low cut switch.

The Soft Tube-Tech C1 1B should be at the top of your list if you are looking for a vintage tube compressor plugin that will give you smooth and transparent results.

Pros

  • Super flexible
  • Authentic vintage controls
  • External sidechaining capability

Cons

  • Pretty pricey for what you get

3. Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov GE

Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov GE

If you’re looking for an affordable software compressor that can give you wideband dynamic control, the TDR Kotelnikov from Tokyo Dawn Labs is perfect for you. You might be familiar with the TDR Kotelnikov Feedback Compressor, which was the inspiration for a number of the controls found on this VST plugin. The control scheme is user-friendly with a basic, intuitive interface. The peak and RMS content also feature individual release controls. Its precise algorithms are comparable to pricier compressor plugins you can buy today.

If you want to take it up a notch with some extra features, you can fork out a little more for the Gentleman’s Edition. One notable feature on this version is the ability to set the compression ratio based on the incoming frequencies. You’ll also find a sidechain high-pass filter to help you achieve more precise compression.

This plugin stands out because it doesn’t try to copy any particular type of compressor. It’s a great example of a moderately-priced digital compressor with modern sounds and excellent features.

Pros

  • Super affordable
  • Lots of interesting parameters
  • Transparent digital compression

Cons

  • Not the best option for characterized compression
  • Doesn’t have an auto release feature

4. PSP Audioware PSP VintageWarmer2

PSP Audioware PSP VintageWarmer2

PSP Audioware has developed a great reputation based on the quality of their wide range of plugins. The PSP VintageWarmer 2 stands out among their VST plugins because of how authentically it mimics analog equipment. The VintageWarmer 2 has your mixing and mastering needs covered if you’re looking for warm analog saturation and compression.

 You’ll have access to three different plugins, including the MicroWarmer. This is the most basic of the three with all the standard compression controls. This is an ideal option for beginners as it’s super user-friendly and ideal for adding compression and saturation to individual tracks. The next option is the VintageWarmer, which is perfect for brick wall limiting and multi-band compression. It comes with some additional release settings and EQ shelves for frequency selection. It also won’t take up a lot of CPU. Finally, there’s the VintageWarmer 2 with its exciting FAT mode, which double samples the audio input and gives you a fatter overall analog sound.

You can expect for the VintageWarmer 2 to exhibit tape when overloading. No, it’s not the best option for a clean sound. However, you should definitely pick up this plugin if you want to exhibit complete compression, coloration, and saturation to your mixes.

Pros

  • Ideal for mixing and mastering
  • Awesome auto-release mode
  • Gorgeous analog sound

Cons

  • Not backwards compatible
  • Not the best option for clean compression

5. iZotope Ozone 9

iZotope Ozone 9

You may already be familiar with iZotope’s awesome collection of audio restoration and mastering plugins. They have developed a great reputation based on these high quality, intuitive plugins. With the Ozone 9, you get incredible dynamics plugins that will give you ultimate control over your sounds.

In the Dynamics section, you’ll find a limiter/compressor plugin that will give you the ability to perfectly craft your sounds. It’s primarily a mastering compressor, so this means you’ll have extra tools than what you would find on a standard compressor. These include mid-side processing, look-ahead times, and advanced metering.

One cool feature is the built-in detection filter. This will help you determine what impact the incoming signal will have on the compressor’s algorithm. You also have the option of utilizing the high-pass mode if you want to use the compressor only with signals above the cutoff point. Whatever you’re trying to achieve with a compressor plugin, the Ozone 9 can get you there.

Pros

  • Ideal for mixing or mastering
  • Great selection of advanced features
  • Very versatile

Cons

  • Might be too pricey if you’re just wanting a traditional compressor plugin

6. McDSP 6030 Ultimate Compressor

McDSP 6030 Ultimate Compressor Native

If you’re an indecisive mix engineer, the McDSP 6030 is a great set of compressors for you. You’ll get a total of 10 different compressors in a user-friendly, modular format. It’ll give you just what you want from dynamic range control technology. McDSP built some of these compressors from scratch, and the rest are emulations of the original hardware.

Beginners will have an easy time working with the 6030, and more advanced mix engineers will find all the functionality needed for their compression needs. Whether you are aiming for clear or colored compression, you’ll find plenty of options to work with in the McDSP 6030.

Producers and mixers will be happy to know that it won’t take up much CPU at all. It also gives you sidechain support as well as mono and stereo versions. So if you’re not sure which compression plugin to go with, the McDSP 6030 has pretty much all your bases covered in one bundle.

Pros

  • User-friendly interface
  • Huge assortment of compression types
  • Unique modular format

Cons

  • Ratios don’t level out from unit to unit
  • You won’t find a numeric dB read out on the output knob

7. Sonible smart:comp

Sonible smart_comp

AI plug-ins have gotten more and more popular recently, and for a good reason. Both beginner and advanced music producers can take advantage of all these plug-ins have to offer. One great example of a spectral compressor that benefits from AI technology is the Sonible smart:comp. Most of the compressor plug-ins in this arena will give you sticker shock, but this option is surprisingly affordable.

The smart:comp gives you a user-friendly interface and won’t overwhelm your CPU. You can choose from nine distinct AI processing types to meet all your compression goals. Especially if you’re a beginner, you’ll appreciate the spectral graph feature, which shows the compression in real-time. This will help you see how exactly the compression is affecting the audio.

You’ll get all the compression controls you would expect along with a sidechaining feature. If your goal is colored compression, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But this is an awesome option if you’re in the market for a compressor with AI technology and crystal clear sounds.

Pros

  • Great value
  • User-friendly design that’s perfect for beginners
  • Awesome AI Algorithms

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a lot of presets

8. Boz Digital Labs Manic Compressor

Boz Digital Labs Manic Compressor Plugin

Boz Digital Labs has outdone themselves with the Manic Compressor. There’s tons of options to help shape your sound in a number of different ways. You’ll find six different compression types, which you can switch between seamlessly without changing the settings. This will help you to mix efficiently while maintaining your perspective.

The Manic Compressor features authentic parallel compression so that you can achieve a modern compressed tone. You’ll also have access to two EQ sections along with several Drive options to further shape your compressed signal. One cool feature is the three-position Beef switch, which gives you the ability to  adjust how the compressor responds to the input signal. This lets you dial-in either a fatter or thinner sound.

You’ll also find a few additional parameters like the Tone Signal Application and the Mid-Side panner to give you additional control over your sound.

Pros

  • Tone shaping and sidechaining capabilities are built in
  • Impressive parallel compression
  • Six different compression types

Cons

  • EQ is not super precise
  • Other parts of the plugin don’t offer parallel compression

9. Waves CLA Classic Compressors

Waves CLA Classic VST Compressors

Waves collaborated with Chris Lord-Alge, a top mixing engineer in the rock industry, to give you access to some of the best sounding compressors in music history. CLA Classic Compressors includes the CLA-76 Blacky, CLA-76 Bluey, CLA-2A, and CLA-3A. These all get their inspiration from classic hardware pieces that are still utilized in professional studios worldwide.

The CLA-2A is modeled after the LA-2A optical compressor. It gives you incredibly smooth and transparent compression that works ideally with vocals or bass. The CLA-3A emulates the classic LA-3A solid state compressor, which was popular in the 70s. In addition to its transparent compression curve and speedy response time, it gives your signal some harmonic distortion. This is a perfect compressor plug-in for bass, electric guitars, and vocals.

Finally, the CLA-76 gets its inspiration from the 1176, an A line level limiting amplifier from the 60s. You can choose between the distinctive Blacky and Bluey versions. Both options offer modeled pre-amp distortion, fast attack times, and an awesome All-In mode if you want to take your compression to the extreme. They both work with almost any instrument you can think of, but they are particularly suited for drums.

If you want to have a selection of classic compressors at your fingertips without going over budget, the CLA Classic Compressors bundle is an impressive option.

Pros

  • Can be used with all types of instruments
  • Authentic vintage analog compression
  • Access to four distinct compressors

Cons

  • “Analog” hiss might get on your nerves
  • Lacks transparency

Compressing On

Compression is an indispensable tool for modern music mixers and producers. There is no shortage of compressor plug-ins out there with a wide range of features and functionalities to meet your every compression need. With options ranging from standard to multi-band to analog to digital, all your bases are covered.

There’s no such thing as too many compressors, so add a few of these to your collection to expand your mixing horizons.

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