Your DAW’s built-in compressors

Free

Logic X compressor plug in, Vintage FET

Forgive us for stating the obvious, but before you go throwing money at fancy aftermarket compressor plugins it makes sense to master the fundamental techniques using more basic tools. There was a time that the standard compressors bundled into most DAWs were decidedly lacklustre – poor sound quality and awkward user interfaces were all too common – but those days are largely over.

As an example, let’s take a look at Logic’s built-in compressor. Until version 10.1, it was a capable but dull affair, with a typically drab interface that was unlikely to win it many friends. Recent GUI updates have finally brought the compressor up to date and earned it some of the attention it deserves. That might sound shallow, but in many cases the interface is just as important as the sound itself. What many Logic 9 users didn’t realise was that the biggest strength of the compressor plugin was hidden within the Circuit Type drop-down menu. The new GUI makes it much more obvious: selecting options such as Classic VCA and Vintage FET completely changes the behaviour and character of the compressor. As Federico Pepe explains, each of these compressor models is loosely based on a hardware unit, with the options including emulations of such classics as the Universal Audio 1176, DBX 160 and Focusrite Red 3. Effectively, the plugin is seven effects in one, representing most of the classic flavours of compression. They might not be painstaking emulations like, say, their official UAD equivalents, but they’re more than capable of doing the job in most cases and a great way to learn about the different sounds compressors can offer.

Until recently, Logic's compressor was a capable but dull affair, with a typically drab interface that was unlikely to win it many friends.

The story is similar in a lot of other DAWs. Ableton’s Compressor device, for instance, might not look particularly pretty, but it’s a very versatile effect (note that the Activity view in Compressor is an excellent learning tool, providing a real-time visualisation of the effect’s impact on your signal). DAWs’ built-in compressors rarely get much praise, but these days they deserve to be treated with respect.

12th July, 2015

Comments

  • Big fan of the UAD stuff, just want to point out that paying $299 for any of their classic plugins be it the La-2a, 1176 or the Pultec EQ’s is over doing it.

    UAD has frequent sales and promotions the biggest are around the Holidays and in June for the 1/2 year sale. The compressors will go as low as $99 and if you pair that with other coupons you can snag them very inexpensively. Another way to go would be buying a custom bundle. Like when you order say a Satellite or Apollo, spend another $300 and you can get 3 plugins of any value.

    At first glance you may think the UAD stuff is a lot of dough. And it is if you’re going to get the latest right when it comes out. But if you watch sales and buy custom plugin bundles you can really save. There’s really no reason to pay full price for the classic compressors. They are great tho and I def like the Silver La2a

    Report
  • great article! surprised DMG’s Compassion is not on this list. it’s pretty much my go to compressor for everything. oh, and no mentions of Waves’ compressors… that’s kinda strange.

    Report
  • Eric – we always list products at full retail price, but you make a great point. A lot of these plugins can be had for much less at sale time, including the Universal Audio emulations.

    Report
  • what no rocket

    Report
  • No [insert product name]? And no [insert product name]!?
    The hell with you people! 😛

    Report
  • But what about [insert product name]?

    In all seriousness, thats a great roundup.

    Report
  • Fabfilter bundles are in sale until August 1st, in case someone’s interested. No I don’t work for Fabfilter 🙂
    I’ve been eyeing the mixing bundle for some time, I’m very tempted.

    Report
  • Slate Digital’s Virtual Mix Rack is amazing. The 1176 emulation adds nice grit and sustain. Also, the new opto compressor from BrainWorx is so punchy, sounds killer in parallel.

    Report
  • Great list, I would also have to add any of the Native Instruments Compressors such as the Vari Comp and the Solid Bus Comp not to mention the Vintage Series VC 2A, VC 76, VC 160 as well.

    Report
  • Elysia comps are geat! The alpha compressor can save you good money in the mastering department.

    Report
  • Can’t see how you missed compressors like: Acustica Audio Murano and Titanium for example or MJUC, then what about Boz Audio, Slate Digital?

    IMO most important compressors were excluded from this article

    Report
  • Thank you for the article, but…what about Waves? Quite a glaring omission!

    Report
  • The thing with the UAD stuff is that you need the DSP accelerator. I don’t have a spare £1000 lying around…

    Report
  • I agree with Ralphonz on this one. As good as they may sound you left out the fact that UAD plug-ins won’t work without the hardware which raises the bar to 1.000 $ plus.

    And hey, what about waves? You don’t have to be fan of their vast product range but a Roundup without at least one of their plug-ins seems a bit strange… Actually I don’t like a lot of their emulations either but there are some true gems…

    Report
  • +1 for slate … The Neve type compressor really does something

    Report
  • I dig waves ssl stuff.

    Report
  • No Klanghelm MJUC ?! This comp is a steal !

    Report
  • Klanghelm MJUC. Excellent. For the price nothing to compare on the market.

    Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You currently have an ad blocker installed

Attack Magazine is funded by advertising revenue. To help support our original content, please consider whitelisting Attack in your ad blocker software.

Find out how

x