For a lot of producers, compressors can be a bit perplexing at times, but they’re also an essential tool for nailing a tight mix down. They come in all sorts of flavours from analogue emulations to digital models, opto to VCA, coloured to transparent and so on. Finding the right tool set from the multitude of options out there can be slightly daunting so here’s a list of a few of my current favourites for various applications. This is by no means a definitive list and it’s purely plugins I tend to favour and use often.
Plugin Alliance Vertigo VSC2
Dubbed “The Mercedes of VCA Compressors”, the VSC2 is a analogue modelled emulation of the $6000 hardware unit from Vertigo. It was originally designed as a stereo bus compressor but the beautiful punchy sound you get from this plugin is just as at home on solo material in your mix as it is on the bus.
Fabfilter Pro-C 2
One of the most versatile compressors on the market, Pro-C 2 features multiple compression modes like opto, classic, mastering, punch and more, combined with Fabfilter’s trademark and extremely intuitive GUI, as well as very flexible side chain filtering, making for a serious tool no producer should be without.
There’s been a ton of buzz around this plugin for a while now, and with good reason. For the ridiculous price of 25€, this compressor packs a ton of great features in, features three different compressor models and just sounds fantastic in general. The density and punch settings are fantastic and you can dial in your sound even more by altering the timbre and drive of the compressor. A bit of a no brainer for sure, plus, you can pick up its little brother, the MJUC Jr for free.
Unfiltered Audio Zip
One of the most unique compressors I’ve ever come across, Zip has some very clever features including the ability to select between different detector modes such as RMS, peak and quietness values, four different compressor models and a unique ‘colour’ section. Being an Unfiltered Audio product, it also houses their trademark modulation system, allowing to control pretty much any parameter with any number of modular style generators including LFO’s, envelope generators, and step sequencers, which is rather unexpected on a compressor plugin but does allow you to get some very unique sounds out of it.
Slate Digital FG-Red (VBC Collection)
This is actually a bundle of three bus compressors that can be used separately or together in a virtual rack. While the FG-Red, modelled after a Focusrite Red 3, is my favourite of the three, the FG-Grey does a sterling job of modelling a SSL4000 bus compressor while the VG-MU is based on the Fairchild 670.
I’ve only listed five of my favourites hear, but I employ a ton of other compressors in my mixes. Just a few of my other ‘go to’ plugins at the moment include the Millenia TCL2, Brainworx BX_Opto, Acme Audio Opticon, Elysia’s mPressor, Slate Digital’s FG-Stress, SSL Duende Bus Compressor and Soundtoys Devil-Loc Deluxe.