Fully updated for 2018, in this post we look at some VSTs that deserve the title Best Compressor Plugin! There’s something for everyone in here, be it expensive emulations of classic hardware compressor to affordable digital powerhouses.
So, is there actually THE ONE best compressor plugin?
Not really. Physical compressors as well as plugins produce better or worse results depending on the source material you are using them on. Some compressor are known to work wonders on drums, others are designed for mixing and mastering. The actual result is also highly subjective. I will like a certain compressor because you can really crush the drum breaks. You will think that they are over-processed and sound like garbage to your ears. I mean, just listen to Flying Lotus‘ old productions. I think they are amazing, but I can’t argue that the dude compressed his sounds a whole lot more than most producers would.
So take the list of the best compressor plugins with a grain of salt. Download the free ones and grab the free trials from the commercial releases if they are available. Try them on your material, judge for yourself and decide which one you finally choose to come back to in your productions. All we can do is give you the best possible list of compressor plugins that we think you should check out!
I’m a sucker for the legendary vinyl compression feature on the Roland SP303 and SP404 samplers. I have a SP404 sitting on my desk but often find myself loading up an instance of the impeccable Vulf Compressor to get the decidedly lofi and wonky sound that these maschines produce. If you dig lo-fi hip hop and classic Madlib and J Dilla type hip hop, this is probably the best plugin you can spend $100 on! It gets my personal vote for best compressor plugin! Check out our Vulf Compressor review for more details!
Waves API 2500
Waves’ vintage emulation of the legendary API 2500 stereo compressor is definitely one of the best modelled compressor plugins available. Primarily you want to use it on the mix buss. A classic for rock mixes, but also Hip Hop producers like Young Guru swear by the API sound which works especially great on the drums by giving them some grit. Buy now at Waves.
This one is a modern classic! A complete mastering compressor split into two modules – compressor and limiter. This thing works its magic by automatically keeping things hot and saturated without overcooking it. This plugin is easily the best compressor plugin for mastering duties and definitely delivers. Buy now via PluginBoutique.
The plugin has been around pretty much forever and comes in a couple of different flavours. The VintageWarmer2 is really nice on the mastering chain but you can use it whereever you see fit of course. You also get the MicroWarmer which offers more CPU-efficient processing for more typical compression duties.
I don’t use it myself, but a lot of our team members rock the FabFilter. FabFilter Pro-C 2 is a high-quality compressor plug-in for the most demanding engineers. Whether you need subtle mastering compression, an upfront lead vocal, that magic drum glue or deep EDM pumping.
Your DAWs built in compressor…
Is your head spinning yet? Don’t stress. If your budget is tight or you simply don’t have the time to dive into an extensive compressor testing session, then you have two choices. Obviously you can just pick one that you trust to do the job and forget about the rest. If that’s the route you decide on, then don’t forget that your DAW already has most likely already at least one compressor built-in. I use Ableton Live and while the glue compressor looks super boring, it actually packs a serious punch and gets the job done. NO matter if you’re working in Ableton, FL Studio, Logic, Reason, Bitwig or Beatmaker 3 – look up your built-in compressor and get to work!
ATK Colored Compressor (Free)
Here’s a free download that gives you classic compression with all the basic functions you come to expect of a decent compressor plugin. You can dial in Attack & Release and take advantage of adjustable threshold and makeup gain knobs. If you’re looking for some analogue mojo, try out the color and quality parameters. The ATKColoredCompressor is an excellent free alternative to higher priced vst compressors out there! You can grab your copy here.