If equalizers are the bread, then compressors are the butter, and since technology has been evolving at such a fast pace it's time for a catch-up with the latest in compressor plug-ins.

All the plug-ins on our list are available in AAX, AU and VST formats for Mac and Windows. The list is in alphabetical order by product name.



 1176 Classic Limiter Plug-In Collection

Universal Audio 1176 Classic Limiter Plug-In Collection

Universal Audio's virtual recreations of analog gear are second to none, but their 1176 Classic Limiter Collection stands out as arguably the definitive iteration of the venerable UREI 1176, with meticulous modelling of the original circuitry to deliver all the vibe from the now-legendary FET compressor of yore. With the mk2 version not only have they updated the now classic 1176 Rev-E "black face" plug-in but UAD has also gone the extra mile to bring us the sought-after "blue stripe Revision A" and a rare 'anniversary' edition with exclusive mods including a 2:1 ratio option.



 Arousor Plugin

Empirical Labs Arousor Plugin

Launched a few years back in 2016, the Arousor finally brought the revered Empirical Labs compression sound to the plug-in universe. Although the character and essence of the plug-in are distilled from the Distressor, Arousor brought some new tricks to the party such as attack modification control and variable saturation, making it a brand new compressor and most importantly, one that stands on its' own merits.



 bx_townhouse Buss Compressor

Plugin Alliance bx_townhouse Buss Compressor

The bx_townhouse revives a unique compressor hand-built by the engineers at the famous Townhouse Studios back in 1978 by putting together a melange of parts that came from none other than Solid State Logic, a brand with quite a reputation when it comes to bus compressors. As expected, the bx_townhouse shines when compressing entire mixes but its distinctly smooth character can also excel on mastering duties as well. A great candidate for those "final touches" when sheen matters.



 DSM V3 Native Plugin

ProAudioDSP DSM V3 Native Plugin

Designed by former Sony-Oxford engineer Paul Frindle, the Dynamic Spectrum Mapper arrives in its third iteration and besides the usual bug fixes and a GUI makeover the DSM now can also work as an expander, which deepens its usefulness. However, what keeps Gearslutz members so amused by this plug-in is the innovative concept of a 'threshold curve' that the user captures from the incoming signal, which can then later be manipulated to work in numerous situations from mastering to de-essing to mic axis problem-solving and so much more. A brilliantly forward-thinking tool.



 El Rey

Acustica Audio El Rey

The processors coming out of the labs at Acustica Audio never ceases to amaze with their trademark emulation tech, but El Rey takes it up yet another notch. Made in collaboration with Studio DMI and super producer Greg Wells, El Rey is based on a vintage tube compressor but with significant tweaks added to make it truly singular. Under the rather familiar layout and control set lies a very peculiar combination of careful circuit emulation and artistic intent, all designed to elevate our mixes to the royal status they deserve.



 FG-Stress

Slate Digital FG-Stress

An official Slate Digital emulation of the legendary Distressor was arguably the most anticipated addition of late for their Virtual Mix Rack (VMR) plug-in, bringing a compressor that is considered to be a cornerstone of modern mixing to the masses with the FG-Stress module. Developed under the supervision of the Distressor-creator Dave Derr, the FG-Stress boldly claims to be a "digital replication" of the hardware with the addition of a handy mix knob and of course all the extra features provided by the VMR ecosystem. A clean Slate this ain't, but we wouldn't want it any other way.



 TDR Kotelnikov – Gentleman’s Edition

Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov – Gentleman’s Edition

If one is looking for a smooth, yet precise compressor the Tokyo Dawn Labs Kotelnikov must be seriously considered. This is a fast compressor but the meticulous code keeps the sound transparent, manipulating dynamics without artefacts and - almost unbelievably considering the quality on offer - it costs absolutely nothing at all! That said, if deeper controls are required, a "Gentleman's Edition" (featured) is available with more parameters to play with, at a very friendly price, making it a prime candidate for a go-to mastering compressor that's easy on your sonics and easy on your wallet, too.



 Novatron

Kush Audio Novatron

Kush Audio is second to none when it comes to fresh ideas and unusual designs but to our surprise they took a more traditional approach in offering a compression-chameleon with Novatron, a plug-in that can cover all your dynamics-related bases thanks to its Tone Shift and Mode parameters, which can significantly alter how it sounds and reacts to incoming signals. The slick design allows the user to go from subtle to prominent with only a handful of adjustments, so with this kind of sonic versatility on offer it's quite easy to understand why our community loves it.



 Pro-C 2

FabFilter Pro-C 2

The second version of the revered FabFilter Pro-C compressor surpasses the first and takes it up to a whole new level with five brand new compression modes and a fully-adjustable knee control to seamlessly address any situation where precise control over dynamics is required. If that wasn't enough, the (honestly already excellent) GUI was also improved further and now even includes a full-screen mode, so you can not only hear it but also see it in great big-screen detail. Simply Fab!




That wraps it up for now! Honourable mentions go to Klanghelm MJUC, Sonimus TuCo and sonible smart:comp. Needless to say there are many, many other great compressor plug-ins out there, so please leave a comment below with your favourites, and tell us more about how you use the ones on the list above.

For more discussion about compressor plug-ins, visit our Music Computers forum.