We pick ten of our favourite compressor plugins, from affordable all-rounders through to top quality analogue hardware emulations.
There is nothing so indispensable for a mixdown than a good compressor. In the days of hardware studios, producers and engineers got by with one or two carefully chosen compressors but these days, with all that’s available in the box, we’re spoilt for choice.
There are compressors for almost every aspect of the mixdown (and even the recording, should you wish). Compressors can of course control dynamics (as they were originally developed to do) but they can do so much more depending on the type of compressor involved.
Compressors can be used sparingly or heavy-handedly, or anywhere in-between.
There are compressors for affecting single sounds, such as vocals or bass. There are compressors that work best on the buss for “gluing” sounds together. There are multiband compressors for when you want to tackle only part of the frequency spectrum of a track.
And there are mastering compressors meant for the final mix. Among this myriad of compressor types there are compressors that are transparent and those that are decidedly not, capable of adding warmth and colour. Compressors can be used sparingly or heavy-handedly, or anywhere in-between.
So where to start? In 2014 we published our first round-up of compressors. Many have since been released, and some were overlooked, so we thought it was time to compile a new list. They run the gamut of free to quite expensive, so there’s something here for any budget. As always in Ten Of The Best, the plugins on our list are presented in ascending order of price. Happy squashing!