Which compressor Plugin to use in 2021 can be really troubling…
What if someone could show you the top 18 compressors and explain to them so that you could easily pick one?
We will highlight dependable VST compressor plugins that could better your production efforts!
But why should you get a compressor?
Compressor plugins are indispensable tools for every musician and sound engineer. They let you control the dynamics of the tracks in various ways that unleash many creative possibilities.
In today’s market, you can find compressors of all kinds: some are very easy to use and targeted to beginners, others are very versatile but feature dozens of digital buttons and knobs, and there is always the battle between those that are modeled after an analog compressor and those that come with a unique design.
Whatever your wish might be, you can find the perfect match for you right below!
But before I show you which plugins are definitely worth trying, let me first explain the difference between the various kinds of compressors?
First of all, let’s start with FET compressor plugins.
FET stands for field-effect transistor, and it was used in famous hardware compressors that were used for aggressive and fast compression. These are perfect for drums and vocals.
Optical compressors on the other hand are more gentle and slow, and they are really good for sweeter vocals.
The third type is tube compressors, that digital emulation has made them much more affordable. These are great for coloring and saturating your sounds.
VCA compressors are those you want to have a clear and punchy sound, as well as for glueing a mix together.
Finally, digital compressors are the best kind if you want really transparent compression. By digital, I mean those that are not modeled out of analog hardware.
But bear with me a little more, to explain another important concept: sidechain compression.
Sidechain compressors are made to compress an instrument in relation to the other instruments of the mix. That makes the mix easier to glue together and be in one piece.
Whatever you choose, compressors are of huge importance, so you’d better get one!
The 18 best Compressor VST Plugins of 2021 include:
A pacesetter in its own right, the Pro-C 2 by FabFilter is a good bet for your money particularly if you want to upgrade your DAW’s compressor.
To begin with, it is impressively versatile offering up to eight different program-dependent compression algorithms, namely Clean, Classic, Opto, Vocal, Mastering, Bus, Punch, and Pumping.
Each delivers a distinct compression style all with beautiful sound and character.
But, probably the real kick lies in smooth lookahead, up to 4x oversampling, intelligent auto-gain, and auto release controls.
Let’s not forget, it also avails a variable knee, range, hold, external side-chain triggering as well as variable stereo linking and mid/side processing controls.
Most importantly, everything is housed under a redesigned retina UI for intuitive metering with real-time displays for optimal workflow.
Summing up our list, the MSpectralDynamics is designed to thrust users to a world of unique spectral processing.
Thanks to fine-tuned algorithms, it can level out the spectrum, forestall collisions between tracks, and eliminate noise besides offering other creative opportunities.
Primarily, it works in the spectral domain thereby enabling users to engage distinct frequencies.
In the process, it can reduce the perceived loudness of booming frequencies hence delivering exquisite sound.
While it handles an avalanche of standard tasks, it features a simple interface with easy to use controls.
The result is hassle-free tweaking whether one goes deeper or keeps to the surface.
Other than that, it includes the characteristic ultra-flexible level follower, Automatic release modes, peak hold, RMS length, lookahead, custom attack and release shapes.
All things considered, the MSpectralDynamics is an all in one solution for unleashing limitless creativity.
If you are looking for an AI-based compressor to even out tonal imbalances, Sonible –smart: comp is by many standards a frontrunner.
Generally speaking, it has been tailored for on-the-fly custom compression.
To be clear, it boasts of two types of compression, namely Regular (time-domain) and Spectral.
In use, Regular-activated in a click suggests suitable settings for parameters such as threshold, ratio, attack, and release.
On the other hand, Spectral analyzes the input signal over 2000 plus bands.
In the process, it dynamically balances tonal imperfections.
That’s not all. Sonible also features frequency-dependent side-chain ducking.
So when functioning in side-chain mode, it checks for potential spectral collisions and works to avert them by bending affected frequency ranges within the input signal.
Other handy offerings include attack and release shaper for better creative flexibility, smart auto gain for consistent loudness perception, and the ability to develop factory profiles for content-aware processing.
And the best part is- while it is intelligent, users retain control, so the final result is purely the work of their hands.
For all it is worth, the Pro-MB delivers nothing less expected of a plugin powerhouse like FabFilter.
While it is easy to set up and control, it packs immense power for on-the-go dynamic multi-band processing.
Designed to save time and effort, it brings forth a new approach in the form of Dynamic Phase Processing.
So, while it retains the same frequency response as a conventional multi-band processor, it rids off latency or pre-ringing.
Specifically, it offers six processing bands that can be placed anywhere in the spectrum.
And there is an additional possibility of snapping them together to create the conventional crossover system.
Granted, it can work out any form of dynamics processing be it high transparent compression, limiting and expansion, or even pumping upward compression.
Other key features include up to 4x linear-phase oversampling, accurate real-time frequency analyzer, Smart Parameter Interpolation, interactive help, SSE optimization, and more.
Overall, the Pro- MB boasts of an effective combo of top quality processing and favorable workflow for a transformative compression.
IZotope plugins are very famous and popular among audio engineers, and it is easy to see why if we check out the Ozone 9 Dynamics.
This compressor plugin lets you separate up to four frequency bands and apply limiting, compression, and expansion.
Needless to say, this plugin is both a compressor and a limiter, and it features precision metering that lets you fully control every little dynamic.
The Interactive Threshold control lets you place threshold points for both limiter and compressor, while Mid/Side Processing allows you to process different parts of it.
Advanced features include Adaptive Release mode that automatically calculated release time, as well as Learn mode that can automatically set crossover frequencies.
Finally, the Detection Filter allows you to tweak even more the way Dynamics tackles incoming sounds, while you can also play with the detection circuit modes that come with RMS, Peak, and True Envelope detection.
If you’ve worked with many VST compressors, you may have noticed some take unnecessarily long to start and tweak.
Well, with DynOne II, the experience is quite the opposite.
To overcome the concern, it is designed with fixed bands to allow mixing right in the compressed signal.
Again, it includes min-max values for attack and release, so depending on the nature of the signal (transient or not) it can apply adaptive timing values.
Don't forget, its exquisite crossover filters are customized to interact without raising phase alignment issues between the bands.
Of course, that remains a pipe dream with conventional multi-band compressors.
Isn't that amazing?
To enable enhanced control, it offers everything from stereo linking percentages to variable RMS vs peak detection as well as smart adaptive controls.
If everything else falls short of your expectation, no doubt, the beautiful retina interface will receive full marks.
Now, the Softube CL1B is considered a modern classic for all the right reasons.
As a vocal compression tool, it is built with a versatile edge that makes it a go-to pick for wide-ranging genres.
Talk of classic rock, pop, rap, and hip hop…
the list goes on and on.
You can apply it to beef up instruments, even out vocals, or enrich your low-end in no time.
Wondering what gives it the magical kick?
Well, the CL1B is an advanced recreation of a luxury studio hardware equivalent but with modern tech enhancements.
Since the latest component emulation and signal processing techniques were used during its creation- achieving detailed and punchier sound is no mountain to climb.
Besides, it features high-resolution graphics making it look stunning of different screens.
Looking at it, you’ll want to get started at first glance.
Now let’s take a look at a very successful take at simulating the EL8-X Distressor, a famous hardware compressor of the mid-90s…
The FG-STRESS by Slate Digital is a very flexible compressor, as it contains multiple different compressors, just like the original. Those include eight unique compression curves (VCA, Opto, and tube) into a single plugin.
Moreover, you can profit from digital technology that has inserted even more features.
The FG-STRESS includes distortion generators and detection filters that you can add to each curve, a high-pass filter for sidechain and the signal path, as well as parallel compression via a dry /wet knob.
Pro presets have been made for those of you who are just starting out with compressors.
To sum up, the FG-STRESS is a highly recommended plugin for those of you who want a single compressor that packs various curves for maximum flexibility.
Like the legend it emulates, UAD SSL G Bus Compressor is built for delivering powerful and punchy mixes with better cohesion and clarity.
As you might expect, it brings out emulated nuances and circuit behaviors among other trademark SSL elements, making it a complete end-to-end model.
Interestingly, it harnesses impressive features such as Side Chain Filtering, Mix, and Headroom controls for altering the overall operating level.
By all means, you'll appreciate specially optimized characteristics suitable for compressing a whole mix.
UAD SSL 400GBUS Compressor offers everything from dynamic and transparent control to aggressive textures with peak limiting.
With its simple and intuitive UI, you can tune all you want in no time.
It is also equipped with fixed Attack and Release controls as well as program-dependent Auto Release function to add the functional range.
It allows custom enhancement possibilities.
Thanks to the internal side-chain filter- accurate tailoring of low-frequency response and limiting low end pumping are a few touches away.
Beyond that, there is the Mix control that caters for inline Dry/Wet processing ideal fast parallel compression either on a drum or vocal bus.
Above all, it makes available presets from accomplished artists to add to your creative potential.
Kotelnikov by Tokyo Dawn Records is essentially a wideband dynamics processor that takes advantage of digital audio’s capabilities.
It offers a high-quality 64-bit multi-rate processing structure that allows you to precisely edit your dynamics.
The compression is applied in a really fast way, but that doesn’t make it sound artificial and fake. There is no audible latency and you can really trust your ears with this one.
It is particularly transparent and that makes it ideal to be used at the mastering stage. Plus, it is optimized for stereo as it comes with advanced stereo linking options.
Other features include independent release controls for peak and RMS events as well as a flexible sidechain high pass filter
One of its top features is the Delta preview mode that previews the difference between the compressed and your original signal.
What’s more, Kotelnikov lets you rescale the user interface so that it can better fit your screen.
Ever tried manipulating dissonant frequencies with conventional static EQ?
Chances are that you’ll end up meddling with the integrity of the original material.
Unnatural sounding recordings and lost time- are all you will reap.
Now, with Sonox Oxford Dynamics, you’ll be in for a whole new experience.
Designed to offer just the right processing threshold in use, it comes with five Oxford Type-3 EQ curve bands.
The bands offer proportional-Q essentially allowing world-class control with distinctive transparency over individual sources, instrument groups, and more.
With all these features, you may imagine the controls to be overwhelming.
But a clear and informative graphical interface streamlines everything to guarantee a smooth workflow.
Having issues dealing with dynamics on your mix bus?
The Softube Weiss Compressor or limiter could be the solution.
Available independently or as part of the Weiss DS1-MK3 collection, this plugin is tailored to focus squarely on the crust of sound.
With fast and intelligent functionality, it pretty much offers the last chance to make or break a track.
To that end, it boasts of unrivaled versatility thanks to elaborate controls over elements such as attack and release times, knee settings, ratio, threshold, filters, and more.
Again, it can manipulate the perceived loudness of track to desirable levels without dragging in unwanted artifacts.
The result is clean, sweet, and dynamic sound at high levels.
And for further flexibility, the plugin presents two new advanced limiter algorithms.
It doesn’t stop there.
Softube Weiss also features new visualizations to allow users to see with precision the details of effects on audio signals.
Moving on, the PSP VintageWarmer 2 can best be described as digital emulation of a single/multi-band analog-style compressor.
Speaking of which, it brings the delightful taste of warm analog sound with everything housed in a straightforward interface.
Whether you want to engage it for single, multi-band compression or brickwall limiting- VintageWarmer 2 packs has all it takes.
Of interest, is the attention-to-detail present on its overload elements.
That means, the processor can generate analog tape-recorder-like saturation effects.
That aside, you'll be happy to know that it includes professional and PPM metering as well as overload indicators all guaranteeing premium results.
Topping VintageWarmer 2’s impressive features is the comprehensive collection of presets that offer the much-needed inspiration when the controls become overwhelming.
In all fairness, Presswerk deserves a spot among effective dynamics processors considering all it has in store for users.
First, it is set in an intuitive UI that gives hands-on control over all the sound details.
Then again, it blends the classic analog feel with diverse modern touches to make it more adaptable to contemporary compression needs.
Well, that is just but the surface because it features all you might expect from a pro-grade plugin.
Speaking of which, it comes side-chain ready.
That means, you can create all the space necessary in your mixes or explore creative options with keying/pumping effects.
Beyond the above, Presswerk boasts flexible compression curve and envelope, soft knee, compression ratio, attack and release settings which enable users to make the most of audio.
That’s not all.
It can also make tracks sound louder, deal with harsh peaks, and prevent distortion when output levels fly out of control.
Other vital features include; the M/S mode, Dual Phase Rotation, variable detection topologies, and internal parallel compression.
If you are tired of the classic compressor plugins and you are looking for something different, I would recommend that you check out the Vulf Compressor by Goodhertz.
This compressor plugin has been modeled out of the compression section of an analog Japanese sampler.
As you can imagine, this compression is a great creative tool for those who want to shape their tone. In addition to that, it brings out a warm, analog-like sound.
The Vulf Compressor creates tape-like effects, but you can also use it effectively as a limiter and an equalizer.
It is very good with drum kits and I would advise you to try it with percussion sounds first. Plus, it is really easy to use, thanks to its simple and intuitive user interface!
All in all, the Vulf Compressor is a great tool both for musicians that love experimenting and for sound designers that want to create new and unique sounds.
The Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor Plugin is a result of the cooperation between Softube, a renowned audio software company, and Chandler Limited, the company behind the original Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor hardware.
This plugin is an accurate digital remake of the analog compressor, that is faithful both to the sound and the look of the original artifact.
But what makes it actually stand out?
This compressor has everything you need to use compression in a creative and fun way, that not only corrects mistakes but adds tone, color, and style to your recordings.
You can use it through every stage of the musical production, and it can even substitute other plugins such as EQ, distortion, and transient designer.
In essence, the Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor by Softube is perfect if you are into tone shaping and sound designing and you are looking for a compressor plugin to help you with that.
What about a compressor that could deliver sweet analog-like sound and would be perfect for handling drum and bass sounds?
The FET Compressor plugin by the famous company Softube meets all the previous requirements!
It has been modeled just like the analog compressor, with each unit modeled separately to replicate both the sound and the behavior of the original hardware. That includes fast attack time, light distortion, and “all buttons in” mode.
But it doesn’t stop there! This plugin takes advantage of digital technology to add even more features such as an external sidechain with a low cut and parallel blending.
Despite its advanced digital functions, it is CPU friendly, ensuring that it won’t crash your computer.
The big and explosive sounds it creates, along with its intelligent features, make the FET compressor an ideal tool if you want to tweak both drum kit and bass guitar sounds.
Sometimes you need a plugin that will do a very specific job to help you tackle certain problems in the mix…
And what if there was one that could sort out the problem of frequencies that conflict, and help you create some space in the main track?
Well, that’s what the Trackspacer by Wavesfactory has been made for!
It’s certainly not a common compressor, as it works in a pretty particular way: it carves the frequencies that the main track needs into a different track in real-time.
If you need to fine-tune the result, it has low-pass and high-pass filters, as well as a set of advanced controls.
You can set the attack and release time, along with choosing the part of the stereo field that you want to apply it to. The frequency display also helps you visualize the changes you made.
In short, the Trackspacer does the job really fast, providing you with clear and precise mixes.
In your quest for the best compressor plugin, perhaps the first thing that should guide your decision is how well it designed to settle your needs.
As ever, each option will produce varying results depending on different factors during application.
Ultimately, whatever is optimized to suit your area of the application say vocals, drums, mixing, or mastering- go for it.