We pick ten of our favourite compressor plugins, from affordable all-rounders through to top quality analogue hardware emulations.
Alongside EQs, compressors are one of the two key processing tools when mixing tracks. The problem is, that’s about where the similarity ends. Whereas EQs tend to be fairly straightforward, with quite small differences from one model to the next, compressors are subtle, nuanced and occasionally radically different to each other.
A lot of that stems from the fact that even the way you use the compressor affects the end results: some are best for altering the transients of individual hits; others are best for processing entire mixes. Some are best for almost imperceptibly smoothing out dynamic variations in a recording; others are best used as in-your-face effects.
compressors are subtle, nuanced and occasionally radically different to each other.
One compressor could sound fantastic on kick drums but terrible on vocals. Another might work on any signal but only sound good when used for light compression. Some are clean and neutral, some colour the sound as soon as you run a signal through them, regardless of the compression itself.
Here we present ten of our favourite compressor plugins, including options for all of those scenarios and more. Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list. We’ve had to omit a few old favourites and new contenders to cut the selection down to 10, but we’ve tried to represent a broad cross-section of options, from affordable favourites to great all-rounders and emulations of classic hardware.
As always in Ten Of The Best, the plugins on our list are presented in ascending order of price.