When it’s time to buy a compressor you want the best of the best. No second rate plugins will do!
To help with your search we put together a list of the best compressor plugins available. In this article you will find our recommendations for the best multi-band compressor, best digital remake, best compressor for mastering, and more.
Click this list to jump ahead:
Overall Pick for Best Compressor
Best Vintage Sound
Best Digital Remake
Best Multi-Band Compressor
Best Compressor for Mastering
How We Chose from the Best of the Best
With so many great compressor plugins on the market it is incredibly difficult to pick the best. At some point the decision ultimately boils down a producer’s subjective opinion and the type of music they’re creating.
Even still, we think we nailed this list. Here’s how we put it together:
First, we emphasized compressors that sound amazing. Then we dove into recommendations from producers to find ones that stand out above the rest. Finally, we gave a tip of the hat to companies that were going above and beyond with their plugin design.
We don’t want you to take this list as gospel. Your ears might tell you something different and that’s okay. Instead, use it as a helpful guide to point you in the right direction when making the choice to purchase premium plugins.
Let’s dive in.
FabFilter’s Pro-C 2
FabFilter’s Pro-C 2 plugin is our pick for the best compressor VST.
You can’t do much better than this plugin for single band compression. It’s easy to use, highly visual, and light on computing resources.
The Pro-C 2 is also packed with features. It has everything you’d expect in a compressor plugin, plus eight modes meant to be used in different scenarios (for example, when mastering vs. mixing vocals vs. mixing drums). There is lookahead functionality, auto-gain and auto-release, and much more. The cherry on top: A great UI that has visualizers for both compression and sidechain EQ.
It sounds great. It looks great. It is great. It’s hard to go wrong with this compressor.
Waves CLA Classic Compressors
Waves developed the CLA Classic Compressors alongside Chris Lord-Alge, a legendary mix engineer and Grammy award winner. Inside you get not one, but four compressors – the CLA-2A, CLA-3A, CLA-76 Blacky, and CLA-76 Bluey.
These plugins are amazing for rock and really shine with electric bass, guitar, and drums. They’ve been heavily inspired by analog compressors and will help you replicate the sound found in classic rock.
However, if you’re more into EDM or hip hop production you’ll probably want to use another compressor.
Softube Tube-Tech CL 1B
The CL 1B plugin by Softube is a remarkably accurate digital emulation of the legendary Tube-Tech CL 1B analog compressor.
The analog version is beyond famous and has been used on countless recordings. The problem is that purchasing the hardware version of this compressor will run you $3,500. Ouch.
Here’s the good news: you can grab the digital version for $299.
The CL 1B gives a soft and smooth sound that is ideal for vocals, guitar, bass, and keys. If you’re looking to create a more aggressive sound this might not be the right compressor for you, but if you’re mixing hip-hop, pop, and anything else that calls for smoothness, this is a compressor you should definitely try.
The thing we appreciate most about FabFilter – and the reason two of their compressors made this list – is that they’re willing to think outside the box while designing AAA quality plugins.
Traditional multi-band compressors are hard to control because the frequency crossovers are static. You have your low, mid and high crossovers, and you’ve got to work within those frequency ranges. If it’s not perfect…well tough.
FabFilter decided to do away with static crossovers and created a multi-band compressor where the producer has complete control over the frequencies being compressed.
This plugin also comes with the rest of FabFilter’s…fabulous…features, including an attractive and easy to use UI, powerful processing functionality, and a long list of advanced functionality.
Waves API 2500
At this point we’ve already covered some great options for mastering. FabFilter’s Pro-C 2 and the Tube-Tech CL 1B will both do a phenomenal job, however we’ll add another plugin to the list: The API 2500 which has been digitally remade by Waves.
This compressor is recommended again and again in online forums for good reason – it’s one of the best compressor VSTs you can buy. It’s extremely well-suited for mastering and helps bring out the best in your mixes.