15 Best Compressor VST Plugins 2022

|
15 Best Compressor VST Plugins

Music Industry How To is supported by readers. When you buy via a link on our site, we’ll possibly earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

From normalizing dynamics and adding dirt and grit to vocal tracks, to making guitars cut and “gluing” drums together, compressors serve a variety of key functions in the mixing and mastering phase.

Ask any producer, and they will probably tell you that they can’t live without compression.

That makes compressors highly desirable, especially plugins that offer that vintage warmth.

So, in this guide, we’ll be looking at the best compressor VST plugins available.

Here's a summary of our picks:

Best Overall:

Top Pick

FabFilter Pro-C 2

  • 8 program-dependent compression styles

  • Highly versatile

  • Value for money

Best Premium Option:

Tube-Tech Compressor Collection

  • Compression for multiple genres

  • Works well on vocals

  • Beautiful interface

Best Budget Option:

CFA Sound GRIP Valve Drive Compressor

  • Extremely affordable

  • 2 flavors of drive

  • Features 2x oversampling

But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:

Free Ebook 5 Steps To A Profitable Youtube Music Career Ebook Sidebar

Free eBook: Discover how real independent musicians like you are making $4,077 - $22,573+ monthly via Youtube, let me know where to send the details:

FabFilter Pro-C 2 by FabFilter – Best Overall

FabFilter Pro-C 2 by FabFilter – Best Overall

You’ve got a couple of choices of compressors via the much-lauded developer FabFilter, but it’s fair to say both are well loved by users everywhere and would make excellent choices for most applications.

But first, FabFilter Pro-C 2 is a versatile compression tool suited to most applications you can think of, be it a vocal track, drums, masters, or otherwise. Pro-C 2 will handle just about anything you throw at it.

This plugin offers up eight program-dependent compression styles with classic compressor controls, as well as smooth lookahead, up to 4x oversampling, variable knee, hold, range, external sidechain triggering, intelligent auto-gain and auto release, variable stereo linking, and mid / side processing.

In addition, you get access to a sidechain EQ section and customizable HP and LP filters along with a freely adjustable filter, program-dependent attack and release curves, Audition Triggering, three interface sizes (small, medium, large), and more.

As many producers will tell you, FabFilter Pro-C 2 has got everything a digital compressor should have, and some would even argue that it’s the best of its kind (I can’t refute this claim).

As far as this being our best overall pick, trust me when I say it wasn’t an easy decision. There are a lot of other great software compressors on this list that are well worth a look. But so far as “no regret” plugins are concerned, it ranks high on the list, and with eight compression styles, it’s hard to go wrong.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Tube-Tech Compressor Collection – Best Premium Option

Tube-Tech Compressor Collection – Best Premium Option

Softube’s Tube-Tech Compressor Collection includes the Tube-Tech CL 1B as well as the CL 1B Mk II.

Considered a “modern classic,” the Tube-Tech CL 1B optical compressor feels right at home on vocal tracks but is versatile enough to be welcomed on genres of all persuasions and flavors – pop, rap, hip-hop, EDM, classic rock, and more.

The CL 1B Mk II is an update on the original along with all the modern favorites like sidechain low cult filters as well as parallel mixing. That said, it’s best thought of as an entirely different device, because it has received an overhaul both in terms of audio and visual elements.

The developer took advantage of the best component modelling and signal processing technology to capture a punchy, detailed sound of the original units.

Overall, Softube is well-known for transmuting famous hardware units into highly usable, great sounding, beautiful looking digital emulations. The Tube-Tech Compressor Collection offers up both the CL 1B and CL 1B Mk II for maximum flexibility.

It might cost you a little more than the rest, but what you get in exchange is a powerful set of compressors that are great all-arounders for a variety of uses.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

CFA Sound GRIP Valve Drive Compressor by Resonance Sound – Best Budget Option

CFA Sound GRIP Valve Drive Compressor by Resonance Sound – Best Budget Option

Resonance Sound’s CPA Sound GRIP Valve Drive Compressor is a dynamic processor with a hybrid design. While emulating 60s German vintage tubes, it also combines modern VCA compression for a wonderful mix of old and new.

Use the vintage compression for classic warmth and the digital circuit for a transparent, clean, and pristine compression. With a mix control, you can even dial in the “New York” / parallel compression for added versatility.

In addition to compression, GRIP works splendidly as a valve drive effect for drums, bass, and even vocals, whether to add warmth, edge, or crisp. There are even two flavors of drive – Triode (for added harmonics and warmth) and Pentode (for some serious crunch).

GRIP also features 2x oversampling for aliasing-free sound.

All things considered; GRIP is quite versatile. At this price, I’m not sure you could ask for a whole lot more. If you like compression with character, then this one is certainly worth a gander. While it might not be able to hold a candle to our best overall and premium picks, this is still a quality, competent compression with a great sound.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

TDR Kotelnikov GE by Tokyo Dawn Labs

TDR Kotelnikov GE by Tokyo Dawn Labs

Tokyo Dawn Labs’ TDR Kotelnikov GE has a reputation that precedes it, because at this point, it’s been around for quite a while. But it was among the first digital compressors / dynamic processors that could even compete with hardware compression and deliver a neutral, transparent effect.

Mastering engineer Dan Suter thought the plugin was in the same league as hardware like the STC-8 and Titan, and mastering engineer Michael Hynes said it was the first software compressors that didn’t annoy him.

This wideband dynamics processor / mastering compressor is an iteration on the TDR Feedback Compressor line, and it has taken on the best aspects of the compressors that have come before it – including the control scheme, as well as individual release control for peak and RMS content.

Its transparency makes it perfect for stereo bus compression, in addition to other common and critical applications.

GE stands for Gentleman’s Edition, and this version of Kotelnikov features several improvements. Access to various equal loudness workflows, sidechain high-pass filter, and the ability to specify ratio in a frequency-dependent manner are the most obvious and noticeable upgrades.

There’s also a Yin / Yang function that lets you manipulate the harmonic pattern during compression, as well as an “insane” quality mode for boosted fidelity.

Unlike most VST compressors, Kotelnikov isn’t emulating any vintage hardware, giving it a unique edge not often found in this type of module.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

MModernCompressor by MeldaProduction

MModernCompressor by MeldaProduction

Based on MeldaProduction’s MDynamics engine, the MModernCompressor was designed for ease of use while offering additional features.

This plugin comes with a powerful metering system, output peak level display, gain reduction, ITU-R BS. 1770-1 and EBU 3341 compliant loudness, as well as a loudness distribution graph. You also get up to eight channels of surround processing, adjustable up-sampling (1x to 16x), and MIDI controllers with MIDI learn.

This compressor offers a modern approach to a dynamic processor. It will analyze your input and offer potential settings to help you achieve best results. That makes it a handy tool for mastering too.

MeldaProduction has several other compressors taking the best aspects of various popular compression tools. If you like MModernCompressor, you might enjoy checking out some of the others Melda offerings too.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

CLA-76 Compressor / Limiter by Waves

CLA-76 Compressor / Limiter by Waves

Waves’ CLA-76 Compressor was inspired by the mid-60s Classic A line level limiting amplifier. With “Blacky” and “Bluey” versions, CLA-76 gives you a superfast attack (as fast as 50 microseconds), an “ALL” control for the powerful “All-Ratio-Buttons-In” mode, and even a modeled pre-amp distortion for extra bite.

Producer and mixer Jacquire King said he uses it a lot, mixing engineer Mick Guzauski loves the “all buttons down mode,” and mixing engineer Stuart White said he doesn’t know what he would do without the CLA-76.

Ideal for drums, the CLA-76 can make your percussion tracks boom and bite. Check out the video below to hear how the plugin compares to the real hardware unit it was based on (fun experiment!).

Learn more: Waves

SSL G-Master Buss Compressor by Waves

SSL G-Master Buss Compressor by Waves

Waves’ SSL G-Master Buss Compressor was based on the master buss center compressor aboard the legendary SSL 4000 G console with its IC input and twin VCA gain-reduction amplifier design.

Known for its ability to “glue” tracks together, this compressor is great for giving your drums added punch, taming excessive piano dynamics, and perhaps most importantly, tightening up final mixes. It even includes presets from Grammy-award winning mixer Chris Lord-Alge.

Producer and engineer Enrico De Paoli loved the compressor on everything, producer Kenny Beats said he’s been using it daily for the last 10+ years, and producer / engineer Mike Hedges thought it was a great tool for bringing character and cohesion to mixes.

The SSL G-Master Buss Compressor is very easy to use. So long as you don’t resort to extreme settings, dialing it in is a cinch. There’s little doubt in my mind you can improve the sound of your mixes with this compressor.

Learn more: Waves

FabFilter Pro-MB by FabFilter

FabFilter Pro-MB by FabFilter

FabFilter’s Pro-MB is a multiband compression and expansion tool, and that’s primarily what separates it from the Pro-C 2 plugin, also appearing in this guide.

Pro-MB offers unprecedented control, letting you create a new band at any frequency range you wish to alter. With the help of the multiband display, you can observe as the non-effected spectrum, and see that it’s left untouched.

This plugin also comes with a Dynamic Phase processing mode that works more like traditional multiband processing except that it doesn’t have latency or pre-ringing (but there are minor phase changes as the gain changes). Linear Phase and Minimum Phase modes are also included.

With up to six bands, Pro-MB gives you increased control over how your compression behaves. You can even set your kick drum to duck the low sub-bass of the bass guitar, or the vocals to duck the upper mid-range of the guitar.

See the powerful FabFilter Pro-MB in action in the video below.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FET Compressor by Softube

FET Compressor by Softube

Softube’s FET Compressor takes after one of the most sought-after compressors ever created. FET Compressor offers both aggressiveness and distorted bite when driven hard, and this is one of the characteristics producers love most about it. The compressor takes well to abuse, but Softube said that wasn’t enough and went ahead and added additional features for more sound shaping customization.

FET Compressor makes deep gain reduction. Even when pushed to the limit, it tends not to “pinch” the sound source it’s affecting. This makes it ideal for in-your-face vocals.

FET is also a go-to for drum mixing, especially on room mics, overheads, and sometimes on entire drum busses. The VST features a Parallel Inject control for parallel compression, as well as a sidechain filter.

But whether it’s vocals, drums, bass, guitars, or pianos, the FET Compressor can come in extremely handy.

So, overall, FET Compressor comes with input and output stage distortion, superfast attack time, lookahead, modeled “all buttons in” mode, continuous ratio and fixed ratio, parallel compression, detector low and high cut filters, external sidechain, and stereo with synchronized gain reduction.

Producer / mixer Fab Dupont thought it was a wonderful plugin, mixing engineer Koen Heldens said it was “in a league of its own,” and mixer / producer Steve Fitzmaurice loved that the plugin gave you a new way to “warp a sound” that the hardware simply didn’t.

If you need a compressor that goes from smooth and subtle to extreme and haywire (what it does best), then you’re going to love FET Compressor.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Multiband Sidechain3 by Vengeance Sound

Multiband Sidechain3 by Vengeance Sound

Vengeance Sound’s Multiband Sidechain3 was created to make the process of sidechaining simple and effective. It allows you to split your sound into two bands and use different settings for each. This helps keep your lower end clean while adding some dirt to higher frequencies. Vengeance Sound also threw in 32 Manuel Schleis presets.

Beat Magazine said the plugin will have a huge impact on the club scene, Keys Magazine thought it would become the standard for dance music, and Music Tech Magazine loved the envelopes.

Overall, Multiband Sidechain3 comes with 32 dance presets, two independent sidechain channels (low and hi), three filter types (digital, notch, steep), two-band EQ with smooth FFT, configurable main display with eight predefined scenes, sidechain trigger (with audio, MIDI, or host sync), and more.

As you may have guessed already, Multiband Sidechain3 is ideal for dance music. And if you love the sound of big, pumping synths, this plugin makes this effect easy to achieve.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Manic Compressor by Boz Digital Labs

Manic Compressor by Boz Digital Labs

Boz Digital Labs’ Manic Compressor offers parallel compression without complex routing. With six compressor modes and a comprehensive parallel routing setup, this plugin is powerful and versatile. With the wet and dry faders and an EQ section, parallel compression has scarcely been easier.

The six compressor modes make it possible for you to quickly switch between different compression types (Clean, Sheer, Gritty, Dig&Tall, Vintage, Smooth) to suit the track, bus, mix, or project. If you don’t like having to load up different VST compressors for different purposes, this plugin might save you some of the hassle.

Thanks to the parallel design and Loudness Relief, you can push Manic Compressor to its limits – it was even built for abuse (extreme settings)! Naturally, Manic Compressor is more so on the side of manic than subtle, and if heavy compression is what you want, heavy compression is what you shall receive.

Overall, Manic Compressor is very easy to use. The parallel compression setup saves time, the sound shaping tools are great for achieving desired timbres, and the Loud Relief feature is perfect for breathing some dynamic life back into your tracks post-compression. The plugin also has a very energetic, analog sound producers should love.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor by Softube

Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor by Softube

If you haven’t figured this out already, let me point out the obvious – Softube loves to find classic hardware gear they can create detailed digital emulations of. And of course, the Drawmer 1973 Intelligent Master Processor is this very concept in material form.

Mastering engineer Arjan Rietvink found it a great tool for gluing a mix together, producer Ron Harris thought it was easy to use, and producer / composer Brian Transeau thought it captured the essence of the Drawmer sound, with clarity, punch, and character.

This multi-band compressor will play the role of mastering engineer for you. All you need to do is take advantage of the Style parameter to select the ideal processing technique for your mix (Clarity 1, Clarity 2, Neutral, Gentle Comp., More Air, De-Rumble, Punch, Wide Mix, Ambience, and Vocal Enhance) and adjust the few onboard dials and switches (amount, air, mix, and gain). It doesn’t get a whole lot simpler than this.

Based on the 1973 Three Band FET Stereo Compressor, the award-winning analog compressor design gave producers both flexibility and precision to take their mixes wherever they pleased. In creating this plugin, Softube sought to comprehensively model the characteristics of the original.

As someone who loves efficient design, I must say that this concept is very appealing to me, and I find the compressor both customizable and effective.

Is it the right plugin for you? At the end of the day, you’ve got to be the one to decide!

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Drawmer 1973 Multi-Band Compressor by Softube

Drawmer 1973 Multi-Band Compressor by Softube

Okay, so obviously Softube’s Drawmer 1973 Multi-Band Compressor sounds like the Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor. But while they might be related, in practice, they are two different things (and you can also tell from the graphical user interface that the parameters and operation are different).

The Drawmer S73 is, in essence, the slimmed down version of this unit.

Producer Ron Harris found it to be one of the most versatile and best sounding compressors ever, BT thought it was glorious, and mastering engineer Arjan Rietvink thought it felt like a real analog device.

With the Drawmer 1973 plugin, you can micro-tune the dynamics of your sound, increase the width and loudness of your mixes, tame bass guitars, punch up a piano in a mix, and more, all with an analog character.

Softube enhanced the famous three-band compressor with mid-side processing and sidechain. Of course, it features a GUI modeling the original hardware (it’s honestly an improvement on the original), and it’s quite versatile to boot.

So, overall, this is a meticulously modeled three band FET compressor with precision controls, mid-side mode and sidechaining (not available in the original), with presets from the original Drawmer S73 and additional presets. It’s even Drawmer approved!

If you like the idea of the Drawmer S73 but want more control over the parameters, you will probably want this plugin instead (though it does cost a little more). Plus, if multi-band compression floats your boat, you’re sure to love this baby.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor by Softube

Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor by Softube

Softube’s Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor is a classic compressor with a natural and gentle touch. As with some of the other compressors on this list, the TLA-100A will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you in dialing in the right settings for your audio. It’s so easy to use, in fact, it’s quite difficult to use it incorrectly.

If you push it to the edge, it will greet you with a bit of warm, soft distortion, which depending on what you’re up to, might be exactly what you’re looking for. The original hardware unit didn’t have a Saturation knob, but this plugin comes with it, so you have additional control over the distortion.

For placing vocals and bass in your mix, the TLA-100A Compressor is bound to be the right choice. But you can also soften brash acoustic guitars, and of course, glue your drums too.

In addition, the TLA-100A Compressor comes with built-in parallel compression and detector filtering (low cut filter switchable to signal input), along with analog behavior of frequencies, phase, attack, release, distortion, and more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

U73b Compressor by Audified

U73b Compressor by Audified

Audified’s U73b Compressor is a recreation of a German broadcast compressor / limiter unit used frequently for mastering, especially the 20 years between 1960 and 1980.

Faithfully emulating the original hardware unit, Audified also enhanced the plugin with input and output gain to allow for speedier compression adjustment, a VU meter, and selectable sidechaining. Whether for mixing guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and voiceovers, or for mastering, the U73b Compressor is highly competent and great sounding.

All in, U73b Compressor comes with external sidechaining, auto output parameter, built-in IDEs with Effective Code, default calibration parameters, oversampling, and retina support.

With a simple design, you can easily dial in your ideal sound using the Release Time, IN, OUT, Key Input, and HPF parameters.

Grammy Award-winning mix engineer Dave Pensado says he uses U73b on most of his mixes, musician Craig Anderton thought it was the furthest thing from typical, and producer / programmer / engineer Bjorn Thorsrud thought it was the most musical compressor he’s ever heard.

Although it might fly under the radar a little, the U73b Compressor is a great VST with straightforward controls, surprising versatility, and smooth transparency.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In A Compressor VST Plugin?

We’ve looked at a very competent sampling of digital compressors – honestly, the best of the best – and assuming you match the tool to the application, and don’t botch up the settings, you’ll be able to dial in sounds you’re satisfied with.

But this can make it harder – not easier – to choose the right tool for the job. We know that Multiband Sidechain3 is ideal for dance music, and we’ve identified some of the compressors as being best for mastering (though they can often handle other tasks), but this still leaves a larger pool of possible options for the discerning engineer.

So, we suggest reviewing the following questions to help you find the best solution(s) for you.

What Will You Be Compressing?

Knowing what you’re going to be compressing can help you filter out compressors that either aren’t versatile enough or are a little too general to suit your needs.

At the end of the day, you might need multiple compressors to serve all your needs, but VST plugin selection should always begin with identifying how you’re going to be using the tools in the first place.

Some compressors really are great all-arounders. Some are more suited to just drums, or dance music, or mastering, and so forth. As much as possible, we’ve spelled out which are which in this guide.

So, consider what you want to accomplish. This will guide your buying decision.

Does The Compressor Do What It Says It Does?

Software compression has come a long way. It used to be that it was a cheap imitation of the real thing, but progressively we are getting to the point where VST plugin technology can do 80% of the job (or more) for a fraction of the price of real hardware units.

Now, this isn’t to say VST plugins have made analog gear irrelevant. That will probably never be the case.

But uncanny valley has certainly been reached, especially considering the way most people listen to music most of the time these days (compressed audio through earbuds, in-ear monitors, or headphones).

So, does the compressor do what it says it does?

In most cases, you should find that it does. If you happen upon especially old VST compressors, perhaps this will not be the case, but most if not, all featured here seem to hold up to scrutiny.

But you’ve got to be the final judge since you’ll be the one using the compressor.

Do You Like The Transparency / Coloration Of The Compression?

As you’re probably starting to see, compressors have different characteristics. Some are meant to be driven hard, which tends to increase harmonic content and saturation. Some are more transparent and subtle, but offer a nice, clear compression.

Of course, there are other flavors of compression, or there would be no reason for a plugin like FabFilter Pro C-2 to come with eight different compression types.

If you’re an experienced producer, chances are you already know what you like and shouldn’t struggle with finding what you’re looking for.

For less experienced producers, it might be good to think in terms of vintage / modern. Where vintage circuits tend to add their own character to your tracks, modern compressors are more transparent in adding loudness overall.

At the end of the day, though, we’re talking about sound quality, and whether you like the quality of the specific compressor you’re thinking about buying, or not. So, give your top selections a listen and identify what you like most. It can’t hurt to listen to additional audio samples either.

Does The Compressor Have The Right Features?

There’s nothing wrong with minimal compressors. Their operation is simplistic, and they are easier to understand, especially if you already have experience with compression.

That said, there are some plugins with unique features. For instance, FabFilter Pro-MB features one of a kind multiband (per band) functionality we don’t see any other plugin offering.

If you’re comparing one compressor to another compressor, you are in essence comparing apples to apples, so it wouldn’t be unheard of to do a straight comparison across the board. While this works for the most part, there can be “under the hood” features that would be much harder to compare, and just because two compressors have the same features doesn’t mean they sound alike.

Features can be a selling point. But features probably aren’t the first thing examine in making a buying decision. Consider the other factors mentioned here first, then take a closer look at features.

Can You Afford The Compressor?

While there are a few affordable / budget compressors featured here (they’re still quality plugins), many of them cost $100 to $200+. If you’re only buying one compressor, then maybe budget isn’t too much of a worry. But if you plan to buy multiple plugins for different applications, you should certainly filter your buying decision through your budget before hitting that “purchase” button.

As we always like to remind our readers, going into debt for VST plugin purchases is shortsighted and unwise. Spend responsibly, and you won’t regret your purchases later.

Top Compressor VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

Do you feel well-equipped to take on this purchase? You should, because we’ve covered everything, we can think of to help you find your perfect compressor(s). And while you’re never “stuck” with one compressor, because you can always pick up another later, we do want you to feel satisfied with your purchase and ready to take on a mess of new projects.

And while shopping can be fun, don’t forget to take your toys out of the box and take them for a spin. It might seem like a good idea to whip out your shiny new compressor for a client, but if it doesn’t work, or if you find it harder to dial in than you thought, you could end up embarrassing yourself unnecessarily.

And with that, my work here is done. Happy recording!

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

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