The 8 Best Compression VST Plugins on the Market (2022)

best compression vst plugins 2020: cover image

“What are the best compression VST plugins out there in 2022?”

Compression is an absolutely essential part of mixing. To put it simply, compression automatically levels out the peaks of your track, making the waveform more even and with less “spikes” in volume.

It can easily turn a dull, unbalanced mix into a professional-sounding masterpiece. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, poor compression can completely ruin a track.

When searching for a new compression VST plugin, producers usually ask themselves the same question: “are there any free alternatives?”

The answer is: yes and no.

There are many free compression plugins out there, a few of which have a decent selection of additional features and are, for the most part, enough to get the job done.

However, there comes a point where you have to step up your game and invest in a high quality, professional compression plugin. It’s the only way you’ll truly ever compete in the shark tank that is the music industry.

Luckily for us, compression VST plugins can be relatively cheap nowadays, so in this list I’ve included plugins for a range of budgets.

So without further ado, here is my rundown of the very best compression VST plugins on the market in 2022.


The 8 Best Compression VST Plugins on the Market in 2022

best compression vst plugins 2020: fabfilter pro-c 2

1. FabFilter Pro-C 2

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Features

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Who this plugin is for: Producers looking for a professional, powerful compression tool that covers all bases while still giving incredible results.

FabFilter’s “Pro-C 2” is easily one of the most popular, highly acclaimed compression plugins out there, and for good reason.

In my opinion, the main reason FabFilter is considered the gold standard of compression plugins is it’s versatility and wide range of sonic capabilities. What do I mean by this? I’ve used this plugin for lead vocals, trap snares, orchestral scores, rock guitars, ambient foley loops, finals mastering touch-ups of EDM tracks, the list goes on. The Pro-C 2 covers all bases when it comes to compression, and then some.

Having said this, this plugin is far from a “jack-of-all-trades”. The Pro-C 2 gives breathtaking results, and the range of compression parameters give an insane level of accuracy and flexibility.

Granted, this is definitely not the cheapest compression VST plugin on this list (it’s mid-range priced). But it’s all-encompassing nature means you will not need any other compression plugins, so is well worth the money.

FabFilter Pro-C 2 Features

• 8 program-dependent compression styles

• Animated level knee displays and accurate peak/loudness metering

• Side-chain EQ section + freely adjustable filter section

• Up to 4x oversampling

• Program-dependent attack and release curves

• Smooth lookahead (up to 20 ms) (can be disabled for zero latency processing)

• Intelligent Auto Gain

This product is available for both Windows/Mac and 32-bit/64bit.

Click here to check best price + more info / reviews.


best compression vst plugins 2020: grip valve drive compressor

2. GRIP Valve Drive Compressor

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Features

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Who this plugin is for: Producers looking for an AFFORDABLE compression tool that is light on CPU while still giving stunning vintage and modern results.

Valve drive compressor is a powerful dynamic processor is probably best described as a hybrid plugin.

This compression tool can be used as an authentic, vintage emulation of 60’s German tube compressors, especially if you’re looking for that warm, rich, old-school sound. Alternatively, it can also be used to create clean, modern, compression – giving it a very flexible “hybrid” feel.

The valve drive emulation features 2 further drive options – Triode mode as Pentode mode. Triode will add even harmonics and expand the warmth and depth of the sound, while Pentode will add odd harmonics and give a “crunchier” sound.

This dual-functionality gives you a ton of options when it comes to compressing your sounds, and at such an affordable price, you definitely get more than your money’s worth.

GRIP Valve Drive Compressor Features

• 2x Oversampling for Aliasing-Free Sound

• Valve Drive Emulation of German Vintage Tubes

• Triode and Pentode Drive Modes

• VCA Compressor Model

• Mix Control for Valve Drive and Compressor

This product is available for both Windows/Mac and 32-bit/64bit.

Click here to check best price + more info / reviews.


best compression vst plugins 2020: pulsar audio MU

3. Pulsar Audio – Mu

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Features

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Who this plugin is for: Producers looking for an emulation of a legendary tube compressor/limiter that gives classic tube compression results with pinpoint accuracy.

The main difference between Mu and the previously mentioned GRIP plugin, is that Mu is a compression tool entirely dedicated to emulating a classic, extremely high-end hardware compressor, the Manley Variable Mu.

I actually remember first using this plugin and how immediately impressive the compression quality was. I’m always a fan of emulations that take advantage of the digital world to go beyond the real hardware, while still remaining faithful.

For example, back in the day many engineers would mod the original compressor with a high-pass filter. To improve on this, Pulsar Audio have actually integrated a full equalization section, as well as look ahead/behind transient capabilities.

Pulsar Audio describe this plugin as “impressively transparent with a touch of warmth“, and I couldn’t agree more.

Mu Features

• Faithful tube compressor emulation

• External Sidechain

• Optional M/S encoding and decoding

• Look Ahead / Behind feature

• Flexible Sidechain Equalizer

This product is available for both Windows/Mac and 32-bit/64bit.

Click here to check best price + more info / reviews.


4. Denise Audio – Dragon Fire

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Features

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Who this plugin is for: Producers looking for truly unique compression plugin, offering an intuitive, flexible way to compress your sounds.

The key concept of Dragon Fire is a single-channel compressor which responds to an EQ curve you can sculpt within the plugin. The aptly-named “Push-Pull” graph offers a creative way to control the tonal balance of the sound, while simultaneously shaping the dynamic response of the compressor.

For example, boosting the EQ curve at 200Hz will feed more of the 200Hz input signal into the compressor.

This novel approach to compression gives you a staggering amount of sonic control over the sound.

After playing around with this plugin, I can honestly say I’m somewhat blown away. Dragon Fire is a truly unique plugin, offering an intuitive, flexible way to compress your sounds.

I never thought I’d say this, but this single-channel compressor actually offers MORE flexibility than your traditional multi-band compressor.

Denise Audio – Dragon Fire Features

• Compressor responds to input EQ curve

• Ability to blend between different response curves

• Solo frequencies for seeking frequency bands

• Can add saturation and clipping

• Huge range of unique presets

This product is available for both Windows/Mac and 32-bit/64bit.

Click here to check best price + more info / reviews.


best compression vst plugins 2020: vengeance sound multiband compressor

5. Vengeance Sound – Multiband Compressor

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Features

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Who this plugin is for: Producers looking for high quality multiband compression with a huge amount of functionality without breaking the bank.

Multiband compressors can be a game-changer for a lot of producers, and identifying a specific frequency focus point for compression can absolutely transform a mix.

This multiband compressor from Vengeance Sound allows you to choose from 1 to 4 band mode, meaning you can use up to 4 independent compressors and limiters on one sound.

You may be thinking: “If this plugin is 5-stars across the board, why isn’t it at the number 1 spot? What’s the catch?” I’d say mainly because I wouldn’t recommend this plugin to beginners to music production, as there would be a steep learning curve to overcome. Advanced producers with experience in multi-band compression will find a massive amount of creative potential in this plugin, but the engine is very complex and detailed.

Price-wise, this compression VST plugin is around the mid-range mark, and while it’s still not a cheap choice, it’s considerably under-priced based on the expansive functionality of the plugin. Definitely one of the best compression VST plugins out there.

Vengeance Sound – Multiband Compressor Features

• Up to 4 band mode

• High quality 6db to 96db filter models

• Hard-/soft knee mode, optional autogain, optional autorelease for every compressor

• Graphical Ratio / Threshold curve display

• Up to 4 limiters (one for each band) + 1 mastering limiter

This product is available for both Windows/Mac and 32-bit/64bit.

Click here to check best price + more info / reviews.


IK Multimedia T-RackS Bus Compressor

6. IK Multimedia T-RackS Bus Compressor

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Features

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Who this plugin is for: Producers looking for a high-precision emulation of a classic compressor with an unmatched level of accuracy.

IK Multimedia are renowned for creating incredibly high quality, beautifully sampled VST plugins, such as their amazing multi-use plugin SampleTank 4. I’ve been an die-hard fan of IK for a while now, and their attention to detail in their sound design is spectacular.

This bus compressor is no different. It’s another emulation of a worldwide known British large-format mixing console from the ’80s – and you really wouldn’t know the difference. In all honesty, this might be the most accurate and authentic sounding emulation compressor plugin out there.

As is tradition, IK have added a few new features not found on the original hardware. For example, the “Grit” option reproduces a slightly increased 2nd harmonic distortion of an out of calibration unit, adding a lot of extra character to the sound.

Due to the true-to-original design of the plugin engine, this bus compressor plugin isn’t packed with features. It has to be said that given the modest amount of parameters and functions, the price is quite high. With IK Multimedia’s T-RackS Bus Compressor, you are paying for the unbeatable sound quality over intricate sound customization.

IK Multimedia T-RackS Bus Compressor Features

• Works within the T-RackS CS Standalone application

• High-quality oversampling

• High-precision and high-transparency digital processors

• Accurately analog-modeled vintage classic devices

• Full-latency compensation support

• Supports sampling rates up to 192 kHz

This product is available for both Windows/Mac and 32-bit/64bit.

Click here to check best price + more info / reviews.


Sonible smart:comp

7. Sonible smart:comp

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Features

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Who this plugin is for: Producers looking for a visual-based, intelligent compression plugin capable of fast, accurate compression analysis.

Smart:comp by Sonible is another incredibly popular, acclaimed compression plugin with a unique, innovative twist.

This plugin has a “spectral compression” feature that can give some pretty mind-blowing results. This feature continuously analyzes the input signal across over 2000 frequency bands, acting like an intelligent, ultra-high-resolution multiband compressor that dynamically smooths any tonal imbalances. Smart:comp is essentially “listening out” for sonic anomalies and clashes, and then cleverly compressing the mix to iron out these imperfections. On top of this, this all happens from a click on a button.

I’ve seen a few other plugins that can do this, but none even come close to the accuracy and precision of Smart:comp. This automated, intelligent compression can then be tweaked within the plugin with a great range of parameters such as ratio, sensitivity, attack, release etc. Due to it’s intuitive design and ease-of-use, this is a fantastic plugin for both beginners and more advanced producers. Easily one of the most best compression VST plugins on the market.

Sonible smart:comp Features

• Intelligent compression parametrization feature

• Over 2000 bands accuracy

• Frequency-dependent ducking in sidechain mode

This product is available for both Windows/Mac and 32-bit/64bit.

Click here to check best price + more info / reviews.


JST - Gain Reduction 2

8. JST – Gain Reduction 2

Sound Quality

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Features

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Who this plugin is for: Producers looking for a lightweight vocal compression plugin with an awesome range of vocal-orientated parameters.

Compression is arguably one of the most important factors when it comes to vocal mixing. A well-compressed vocal track can turn flat, dull, imbalanced vocals into a spacious, smooth, radio-ready performance.

Gain Reduction 2 from JST is focused solely on vocal compression, with some additional features for perfecting your vocal tracks. As this is just a vocal compressor, the amount of compression parameters isn’t that high, and this plugin certainly lacks the versatility of some other plugins on this list. However, the compression modes do sound damn good on their own.

In my opinion, the main attraction of this plugin is the additional features it has such as warmth, breath, air and sibilance. These parameter focus on vocal nuances and can really clean up a vocal performance. For example, sibilance is essentially a smart, easy-to-use de-esser function.

If you’re looking for an all-round compressor, this product is not for you. But if you’re looking for a plugin that can shape vocal tracks in various ways (including compression) I’d definitely recommend checking this one out.

Gain Reduction 2 Features

• Detailed feedback visualizer

• Heavy/Light Compression Modes

• Sibilance de-esser feature

• Breath feature – Intelligent control of breathing in between syllables

• Warmth, Clarity, Body and Air parameters

This product is available for both Windows/Mac and 32-bit/64bit.

Click here to check best price + more info / reviews.


Pulsar Audio - Smasher

Honourable Mention: Pulsar Audio – Smasher

Sound Quality

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Features

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Who this plugin is for: Producers looking for a CPU-light, extremely basic compression plugin with a vintage, old-school sound.

Smasher is a custom modification of the classic hardware Urei 1176 compressor module.

I would say this is a fairly niche product when compared to the other plugins on this list. Smasher excels at compressing raw, gritty sounds of rock or punk music, in particular drums, basses and guitars, giving way to a simple, yet extreme “British mode” compression.

This plugin has a very vintage, “all-in” design, meaning any personalization or fine-tuning is basically absent. But if you’re looking for dirty compression and fuzzy saturation results, this plugin should definitely be on your radar.

Smasher Features

• All-buttons-in FET Compressor Plugin

• Uncomplicated interface

• Low CPU consumption

This product is available for both Windows/Mac and 32-bit/64bit.

Click here to check best price + more info / reviews.



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