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Best Compressor VST Reviews

Modern technologies make the process of making high-quality audio tracks easier and more efficient than ever before. Various hardware units that were used for adding some interesting effects to music in previous decades are now getting digitalized and obtaining new functions. A compressor is one of the most essential tools for any music producer. But how to choose the best compressor plugins? What features and capabilities should it provide?

Our pick
Best compressor plugins
FabFilter Pro C-2
Best compressor plugin
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.

Among its functions, you will find tightening up the dynamic range of signals that makes it easier to balance them with each other. This also helps to adjust transients so that the attack of kick or snare drums is expressed differently. The plugins also inherit the rich tonality of the old hardware compressors, allowing them to add harmonic content to the soundtrack.

What is compression in music?

Compressor VST is used to reduce the entire dynamic range of an audio track. It detects moments when the sound exceeds a specified level and then attenuates it by a certain amount. To put it simply, compressors equalize the difference between the loudest and softest parts of an audio track, thus giving you more balanced and well-sounding music. The best compressor plugin can have some extra features that can add various effects or be extremely thorough in terms of its main function.

Best compressor plugins review

Fabfilter Pro C-2 – best overall

Fabfilter Pro C-2 review will help you get acquainted with this software product. My article will be helpful if you are a novice producer, a professional musician, or just passionate about music creation. You will learn about its features, unique functions, as well as advantages and disadvantages.

Fabfilter Pro C-2

Main features

Fabfilter Pro C-2 plugin is a digital compressor that has 8 unique styles of compression, like Vocal, Bus, Mastering, Pumping, or Punch. Its Retina interface has animated level knee displays, with a customizable knee from hard to 72dB soft. This plugin also has a side-chain EQ section with HP and LP filters that can be customized and an extra filter that you may adjust freely. Furthermore, users can turn the smooth lookahead feature on and off to enable zero-latency processing. On top of that, this plugin has an intelligent automatic gain function, auto release, very fast attack times, and it can perform a hold of up to 500 ms.

The interface is adjustable by using 3 different sizes. Here you will also find a Smart Parameter Interpolation feature, a comparison function of undo/redo and A/B, and auto setting of all parameters accurately to the sample. You can even set a range of the gain change from 0% to 200%. Next, you can use the Audition Triggering function to detect parts of the audio track triggered by FabFilter Pro-C 2 and see the compression level applied there.

Fabfilter Pro C-2 mixers

How does It sound?

Customizable filters, smooth lookahead, and a wide range of the gain allow you to achieve a fairly high sound level. This so-called "polishing" is an essential part of making good music. As a result, the processed musical compositions sound much better and more pleasant. Separately, I would like to note that this plugin provides impressive peaks taming on drums and snares.

Summary

Fabfilter Pro C-2 contains all the tools you need to create quality music. The presets are created in a way so that everyone can use them, and you will gradually master more complex functions. The user-friendly and intuitive GUI will help you with this. The only drawback of Fabfilter Pro C-2 is that the system requirements for this software are pretty high. Otherwise, it's an excellent choice for beginners and professional music producers.

Tech specifications

  • Platform: Mac, Windows.
  • Formats: AAX, AU, VST, VST3.
  • System requirements - Mac: macOS 10.12 or later, only 64 bit.
  • System requirements - Windows: Microsoft Windows 7 or later, 32/64 bit.

TDR Kotelnikov GE – best budget

From this TDR Kotelnikov GE review, you will learn more about this modern compressor that combines high accuracy dynamic range control with musical versatility. You will find out what features it comprises, its advantages and disadvantages, and what sound this plugin gives in practice.

TDR Kotelnikov GE

Main features

Being the latest generation of such software, the TDR Kotelnikov GE plugin combines all essential features from its predecessors and modern solutions. For example, to increase the accuracy, the processing structure here is the 64-bit multi-rate one. Yin and Yang modes control the distortion behavior of the compressor. Delta preview feature allows you to monitor the difference between your original sound and the compressed one. Another advantage of this plugin is a new "Advanced" mode in which stereo linking is optimized for the stereo bus. On top of that, it has 10 extra user preset slots for personal customization.

The user interface is not fully customizable, but you can choose between 100%, 125%, and 150% rescaling. Next, we have 2 quality modes called "Insane" and "Live," with the main low latency as their feature. Various knobs and settings allow you to control over "low relax" slope, gain reduction limit, peak, and RMS events. Moreover, thanks to the versatile side-chain high-pass filter, you get a continuously variable control over slope and frequency. Also, some minor features, like inertia timing mode, equal loudness bypass, output gain trimming, or Left&Right sensitivity, complement this plugin's extensive set of tools and functions.

TDR Kotelnikov GE workspace

How does It sound?

TDR Kotelnikov GE does everything you can think of and even more. The compression itself is done very fast, and despite that, the sounding is natural and clear, without any artifacts. The dynamic processing feature works effectively, and the final sound has no "by-products," which can occur in some compressor plugins. And, of course, the advanced stereo linking mode is also worth mentioning, for it shows impressive results regarding RMS Compression. After I do the mastering with this plugin, my audio tracks become more distinctive, and the sound itself becomes much more pleasant to listen to.

Summary

Tokyo Dawn Records constantly improves this plugin with updates, but even now, it comprises a comprehensive choice of tools that help you compress the sound. And to figure everything out, you get extensive documentation explaining all its features. On the other hand, it may take a lot of time for you to master all its aspects and options, and this software can load your CPU very hard, so make sure your PC passes all requirements.

Tech specifications

  • Platform: Mac, Windows.
  • Formats: AAX, AU, VST2, VST3.
  • System requirements - macOS 10.9 or later, only 64 bit.
  • System requirements - Windows: Microsoft Windows 7 or later, 32/64 bit.

iZotope Ozone 8 Advanced – also a great choice

In this paper, I prepared for you an iZotope Ozone 8 Advanced review. This plugin has been on the market for 17 years and has won a large audience of fans around the world. People actively use it, and developers try to please their users with regular updates and new features. I will tell you in detail about the features of iZotope Ozone 8 Advanced, its advantages, and of course, we will not ignore the disadvantages.

iZotope Ozone 8 Advanced is not the current version, you can see a review of the new iZotope Ozone 9!

iZotope Ozone 8 Advanced

Main features

Ozone 8 Advanced plugin has a relatively wide range of functions and features. For instance, it has 16 different modules that can drastically change how your music sounds, along with vintage modules that will add old-school warmth, grit, and vibe to your audio tracks. Using the Master Rebalance feature, you can adjust the levels for each instrument individually in a stereo file. The Tonal Balance Control feature can automatically analyze and optimize your mastering process. In addition, you can switch between a modern or vintage vibe by changing loudness targets from CD to streaming. Also, the user-friendly GUI here follows modern trends, and its size is completely customizable.

Low-End Focus can adjust the clarity and contrast of low frequencies, and although I don't use it often, I'm glad it's there. The Match EQ was rebuilt according to modern demand to show a smoother preset workflow and better reference track matching. If you want to start mastering your tracks even faster, you can use the Master Assistant feature. Imager module grants you access to multiband controls and overhauled Stereoize mode. And on top of all that, Ozone 8 Advanced can be used as individual component plugins or as standalone software, depending on your goals and tasks.

iZotope Ozone 8 Advanced equalizer

How does It sound?

I've been using iZotope Ozone for quite a long time now, and my impression of it is mostly positive. With its help, my music sounds much better and takes far less effort to perform. A stereo mix allows adding more life to drums without any artifacts or damage appearing throughout the rest of the mix. By using not even the full potential of this plugin, I can easily enhance bass sounds, which add more clarity to my mix. Thanks to various modules and controls, I can implement various creative ideas and ensure a clear foundation for my audio track.

Summary

The main advantage of iZotope Ozone 8 Advanced is the extensive and versatile set of functions. Working with this plugin is easy (the interface is friendly and intuitive), and there are some unique features. The disadvantage of this plugin is typical for all programs of this type - increased hardware requirements.

Tech specifications

  • Platform: Mac, Windows
  • Formats: AAX, AU, VST2, VST3
  • System requirements - Mac: macOS 10.8.5 or later, only 64 bit
  • System requirements - Windows: Microsoft Windows 7 or later, 32/64 bit

Soundtoys Devil-Loc Deluxe

Today one can find the Soundtoys Devil-Loc Deluxe review, where one checks all the necessary information about this sound amplifier. Using its features, one can add presence and tube-like warmth that amplify the perceived loudness of any material and get virtual headroom above digital maximum. On top of that, it is compatible with 64-bit devices.

Soundtoys Devil-Loc Deluxe plugin

Main features

Usually, sound amplifiers do not possess many features, but the Devil-Loc Deluxe plugin has some of them. For starters, one can enhance the loudness of most of the known program material. The next feature is that this plugin is capable of creating a warm vibe, character, and dynamic excitement that can be heard from vintage analog amplifiers. Virtual headroom is an important parameter, and this amplifier is capable of going beyond the digital maximum. Since signal overload is an issue to be reckoned with, Devil-Loc Deluxe VST helps percussive peaks to pass without any problem.

Within this plugin, one will find 2 modes that ensure high flexibility and allows utilizing creativity to the fullest, namely Band-split and Direct. Another aspect these modes are responsible for is supporting optimal DSP usage. One can add various sound effects starting with subtle, tube-like harmonic characteristics containing warmth, presence, and thickness and continuing with straightforward saturation distortion emulating. With its vast tools, one can add to your clipped signals an additional dynamic range. Topped with a simple, utilitarian design, this sound amplifier is a good choice for all musicians: beginners and professionals.

Soundtoys Devil-Loc Deluxe workspace

How does it sound?

This plugin truly gets the meaning behind the vintage sound. By using it, one could create that extra dimension to the mixes. With additional depth, the audio tracks gained some juicy and rich color. Thanks to its high quality, it is really hard to get those annoying negative sonic artifacts, unless they are the goal. Creating epic music with pumping loud sounds was never that easy for me before this plugin. Magical, warm signals with a wide range of sounding, and simple design allows even an amateur to perform amazingly. It is especially good with drums and vocals. This plugin can be considered a great invention for any musician.

Tech specifications

  • Platform: Mac, Windows.
  • Formats: AAX, AU, VST2.
  • System requirements - Mac: macOS 10.10 or later, 64-bit only.
  • System requirements - Windows: Microsoft Windows 7 or later, 64-bit only.

Pulsar Audio 1178

I want to share a rather interesting tool with you, so I have prepared a Pulsar Audio 1178 review in this article. This software, created by Pulsar Audio, thoroughly emulates the original 1178 hardware in all aspects, from tonal color to compression character. Here you will find information about the most important features of Pulsar Audio 1178, and I will share with you my experience of how this plugin works.

Pulsar Audio 1178

Main features

Pulsar Audio 1178 plugin is a FET-style compressor that accurately emulates its hardware predecessor but also enhances it with modern technologies and functions that broaden your possibilities for sound mastering. Among its features, you will find 4 modes for the optional saturation stage: Tape, Warm, Triode, and Clip. Also, Full sidechain EQ supports a feature of monitoring the reaction of the compressor to specified frequencies.

I was pleasantly astonished by the function of changing the compressor response time. Unlike analog devices that compress the signal as it enters the compressor, the Pulsar 1178 allows you to shift this moment forward or backward with Look-ahead and Look-behind features. So, for example, you can activate the compressor 10 milliseconds earlier or later to get an interesting effect from the pre-compression and delayed compression of transients.

Pulsar Audio 1178 plugin provides Mid/Side encoding and decoding that help make the sound more distinctive. In addition, you can use very accurate and modern peak and RMS meters to monitor any essential indicators for your music.

Pulsar Audio 1178 equalizer

Besides, this plugin has a handy scrolling view feature that fits all its functions on 1 screen, and the smart GUI, which has draggable resize handles, adjusts itself depending on the output configuration. Topology Preservation technology maintains transparency of the sound and aggressive peak-eating behavior of the plugin.

How does It sound?

It is an excellent tool for changing transients to the required degree with high-quality sounding. 1178 plugin allows quick control over transients while giving a rich sound with colorful tones. It is also a good choice to make vocals more distinctive and aggressive. While working with drums, I noticed that it allows you to catch crashes in a flash and open up the top end of the signal while still preserving the natural sound. The bass and master compression is provided by transparency, speed, and sidechain EQ that helps to control the full frequency spectrum.

Tech specifications

  • Platform: Mac, Windows.
  • Formats: AAX, AU, VST2, VST3.
  • System requirements - Mac: macOS 10.9 or later, 4 GB RAM, OpengGL 2.0 compatible GPU, 1GB free disk space, 64-bit only.
  • System requirements - Windows: Microsoft Windows 7 or later, 4 GB RAM, OpengGL 2.0 compatible GPU, 1GB free disk space, 64-bit only.

Best free compressor plugins review

ADHD Levelling Tool

I present you with an ADHD Levelling Tool review. Here, you will find out about the features and system requirements of this plugin, and on top of that, I will tell you about its main advantages.

ADHD Levelling Tool

Main features

It is a simple compressor emulator with few features, but it does what a compressor should do. Above all its features, I would especially highlight such as 4x oversampling, 64-bit internal processing, and high accessibility as it is supported by a wide range of Windows and Mac OS devices. Also, the ADHD Levelling Tool plugin has 2 main knobs that control gain and peak reduction and 4 additional knobs responsible for dry/wet mix, ratio, attack, and release.

ADHD Levelling Tool mixers

How does it sound?

From my experience, this compressor is ideal for working with vocals. Moreover, you can add more character and tame the peaks on any track in your mix.

Tech specifications

  • Platform: Mac, Windows.
  • Formats: AAX, AU, VST, VST3.
  • System requirements - Mac: macOS 10.10 or later, 32/64 bit.
  • System requirements - Windows: Microsoft Windows 7 or later, 32/64 bit.

Klanghelm MJUC jr.

I have prepared for you a Klanghelm MJUC jr. review. You will learn the main features of this compressor, its functions, advantages, and disadvantages. I will also share my impressions of working with it.

Klanghelm MJUC jr

Main features

MJUC jr. plugin has 3 controls and 1 observing element. Knobs on the left and right control the gain of compression and makeup, respectively. Also, a timing switch with 3 positions determines the attack and release timings, the slew rate, and saturation. I liked it has a meter to display additional information and create a fitting image of the old-school compressor. Yes, maybe MJUC jr. does not have unique features, but it does pretty well with the basic tasks while being a freeware plugin.

Klanghelm MJUC jr

How does it sound?

Klanghelm MJUC jr. can do smooth leveling or heavy pumping effects, depending on your goal. By combining natural compression sounding with more straightforward sounding technologies and harmonics, I can get a highly deep and energetic sound. Usually, I use it on bass guitar and vocals, and it tames the peaks, so I get a nice and even loudness.

Tech specifications

  • Platform: Mac, Windows.
  • Formats: AAX, VST, VST3.
  • System requirements - Mac: macOS 10.9 or later, 64-bit only.
  • System requirements - Windows: Microsoft Windows 7 or later, 64-bit only.

FAQ

How to use compressors in music?

You can use it to make a track more consistent or to add more punch to certain elements of the mix.

When do I need to use compressors in my mix?

Compressors are used in a mix to control the dynamic range of a signal. For example, if you have a vocal track that is too loud in some parts and too soft in others, you can use a compressor to even out the volume.

What type of compressor is best for mastering?

Compressors are available in both hardware and software forms. The best compressor for mastering is the one that meets your needs best. For example, some are better for subtle compression, while others are better for heavily compressing audio. Therefore, it is important to experiment with different variants to find the one that works better for a specific project.

Do you compress a mix before mastering?

It depends on the specific mix and mastering process. However, in general, compressing a mix before mastering can help to achieve a more consistent sound throughout the song and can also help to bring out certain elements of the mix that may be buried underneath other sounds.
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