12 Best Analog Styled Compressor Plugins for Music Producers

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Best Compressor Plugins By Type

|| LA2A || Diode Bridge || Bus || Mastering || 1176 || Vocal || Multi-Band || Distressor || Analog || Bass Compressors || Transparent ||

The technique of balancing the loudest and softest components of an audio signal is known as compression. While it may appear easy, these concepts are based on a variety of circuitries that produce sounds that are rough, aggressive, colorful, or transparent and polished. With so many Compressor plugins available today, determining which one specializes in analog compression can be challenging. In this article, we're going to dive into the types of compressor plugins that offer the true analog character, along with the top 12 analog compressor plugins available in 2023.

What is an analog emulation compressor plugin?

An analog emulation compressor plugin uses digital technology to mimic the sonic characteristics of old hardware compressors. They are able to closely replicate the same warmth, depth, and presence as hardware analog compressors, while also providing consistent results and the ability to recall. Besides providing smooth balanced compression, they add realism to your ITB mixes.

Why are there so many analog compressor plugins in the market?

Analog emulation plugins allow upcoming producers and engineers to recreate the sonic characteristics of vintage hardware compressors in their DAW recording sessions and mixes, without having to spend a fortune on buying analog gear or booking expensive studios which have them.

Additionally, analog compression plugins also introduce harmonic saturation and some of them emulate the natural hum found at 50 and 60Hz, adding realism and coloration that can bring life and dynamics to your sound.

With advanced side chaining options, a plethora of custom presets, and an excellent GUI, they are worth checking out!

Are the Free analog Plugins Actually Any Good or Should I Invest?

Free plugins are a good starting point if you're unsure of which plugin to invest in. However, the free ones are limited in terms of features, quality of emulation, and support. Attention to detail, regular updates, and customer support are common benefits of paid plugins. If you need something more robust, though, a premium plugin could be well worth the cost in the end.

What Are The Best Analog Styled Compressor Plugins?

Here's the complete list of the best analogue styled compression plugins:

  1. Royal Compressor
  2. SKNote Disto
  3. Slate Digital FG-Stress
  4. Empirical Labs Arousor
  5. Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp
  6. Universal Audio EL 8 Distressor
  7. Pulsar Audio Smasher
  8. Waves Audio CLA 76
  9. Universal Audio 1176 Classic Limiter
  10. Waves V-Comp
  11. Arturia Comp Diode-609
  12. Plugin Alliance Lindell Audio 354E

1. Royal Compressor

Compatibility: VST, AU, AAX Compatible ( Windows 8/10, 32 & 64 bit. Mac OS X 10.10+, 64-bit only) Intel AMD Processor equipped with SSE2.
Price:
$154

Pros

βœ… Instant Analogue Colour.

βœ… Random saturation algorithm creates genuinely creamy and pleasant saturation. Great for fattening your drums.

βœ…Β Reacts well when used in tracking vocals, bass, and synths as they fall within the slow to medium-fast times of this plugin.

βœ… Free second-hand version with vintage broken knobs and all is worth trying out before committing.

βœ…Β Elaborate ‘Release' and ‘Hold' parameters inside the recovery section. ‘Hold' retains the closest value & is great for strings & pads.

βœ… Excellent performance. Upto 8x upsampling with hardly any latency.

Cons

❌ Doesn't react well to quick transients. A lot of peaks don't pop out, especially your snares.

❌ Too colorful to be applicable in multiple production scenarios; especially too colorful for the full mix.

❌ Unless you're primarily going for an analog sound, $154 is overpriced.

If you're looking to add the classic sound of variable-mu compressors to your digital audio workstation, the Royal Compressor may be the way to go. Similar to Abbey Road's RS124 compressor plugin, the Royal Compressor was modeled around three EMI RS 124 units.

This is a great option for capturing nuance because of the highly detailed “Recovery” part and the three different attack models it supports.

While the royal compressor plugin is great for most things, it is slow to detect transients (particularly with drums). It works well on male vocals and gives your bass sounds an air of refinement and fullness.

Surprisingly, it has a consistency that is unusual. Like with any tool, excessive use of this compressor is unnecessary. There is still a decent amount of body added to the sound even with the input dial set to 1.

Though we didn't think it was great for clinical mixing, because it was too colorful for corrective work. However, try slapping it on a group bus for adding a bit of analog mojo and presence.

Sound Examples

Vocals + Synth (Before Compression)
Creating an Instrument Group, we've applied the compressor on the group as well as the individual tracks.

Fretless Bass (Before Compression)
A fretless bass played by fingers is used to display the details captured between the fast-moving fretless notes.
Chords+Melody (Before Compression)
A melody is played over some chords to show how the compressor reacts in a melodic environment.
Vocals + Synth (After Compression)
The Input is set at 1 and the Attenuator is set at -5. Model A attack is chosen along with a fast release at 2. The Autogain is switched off and the Saturation is set to 100%.
Fretless Bass (After Compression)
The Input is set at 1 and the Attenuator is set at -5. Model A attack is chosen along with a fast release at 2. The Autogain is switched off and the Saturation is set to 80%.
Chords+Melody (After Compression)
Aggressive Compression brings out the intensity in the playing. Notice how the intent of the player gets captured by the compressor.

2. SKNote Disto

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.11+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit, 32-bit.
Price: $49

Pros

βœ… ‘Hottitude' adds & bypasses distortion, while the ‘Warmth' knob helps you roll off unpleasant highs within the ‘Fatso.'

βœ… Engaging the ‘Trafo' button provides an analog transformer-like feel, which can be great for group buses.

βœ… 2 separate Hi-Passes for removing the low end from the detector(left) and the output signal(right), depending on whether you want pre-saturation HP or post.

βœ… Great price point to get into the world of distressors. Bang for the buck!

Cons

❌ Without the ‘Warmth' knob engaged, the inherent distortion is quite harsh. Might work on say, metal guitars; but not always.

❌ Gain knobs are very sensitive, while scrolling with the mouse, making it unsuitable for micro-adjustments.

Empirical Labs' Distressor and Fatso were two of the earliest and most influential dynamic processors, and the SKNote Disto takes a shot at these two legacy devices.

The top two rows of the user interface are styled like the Distressor, while the bottom row is styled like the Fatso. Standard and Out of Order are the two character modes available here, each with its own processing and effect settings.

The ‘Hottitude' is an interesting function within the Fatso which allows you to add and bypass distortion, while the ‘Warmth' knob helps you roll off squeaky highs. Engaging the ‘Trafo' button next to it provides an analog transformer-like feel to your tracks.

Overall, the Disto can add punch, saturation, harmonic depth, and body to your audio. However, the drawbacks are that the distortion is harsh, without the ‘Warmth' knob and its input and output gain knobs are very sensitive, making it unsuitable for micro-adjustments.

However, it's an excellent price-point to get in at if you're looking for a good Distressor on a budget.

Sound Samples:

Before
On drums
On bass
On distorted guitars
After
No compression, just hottitude and distortion to the kick and drum bus
Adding compression and hottitude to make the bass fatter and rounder
With just a subtle amount hottitude for more body and distortion for coloration

3. Slate Digital FG-Stress

Compatibility: Win8+, macOS 10.14 Mojave+, Apple M1 Supported, 64-bit Only. Supports VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX Native formats.
Price: $149

Pros

βœ…Licensed emulation of the original Empirical Labs Distressor.

βœ… Simple in theory. 1176-style compression-the more you crank the input, the more comp. you get, as the threshold is fixed.

βœ… Detector boasts an HPF at 86Hz for controlling the kick & bass, and a bell EQ at 6kHz, placed perfectly for taming vocal sibilances.

βœ… You can link and move the Input and Output levels in tandem by holding down ‘Shift' which allows for clinical compression.

βœ… Simplified GUI. Extremely easy to understand.

βœ… Great for parallel processing your dry drums or vocals with the mix knob.

Cons

❌ Like Universal Audio, It's only available for Slate Digital's VMR, which can be an issue.

❌ While mid-range compression on vocals is transparent, it could've been less harsh, especially as it moves VCA to Opto.

Slate Digital has attempted to produce a replica of the distressor used in the Empirical laboratories. Like many other slate plugins, the FG-stress is included in their digital mix rack.

This distressor emulation is intriguing since the ratio curves vary in personality and topology, bringing with them a new kind of compression. It has a mix knob, two types of distortion, and interesting detection settings.

The detection setting basically has a high pass filter, a mid-scoop/boost and a ‘link' option which come in handy. While the vocal/mid-range compression is transparent, it could've warmed up the harshness better, given that it can move from VCA to Opto.

The presets include famous Distressor settings like the 10:1 Opto compression for bass and the full mix presets, which are worth checking out.

4. Empirical Labs Arousor

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.7 Lion+, 64-bit Only. Supports VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX Native formats.
Price: $199

Pros

βœ… Easy to understand controls and signal path. Fairly clean UI with time settings on top & side-chain EQ at the bottom.

βœ… Sounds great on bass in parallel compression, especially when you crank the saturation & ‘Rivet' it.

βœ… ‘Attack Modification' gives you aggressive comp. without choking your drums. You can dial to 10, get the punch & pull down the wet.

βœ… Can emulate the LA2A, 1176 & Dbx within the presets. Worth trying out if you're looking for a FET, Opto, or VCA-style Distressor.

Cons

❌ None!

Again, the guys at empirical labs have gone and done it! They've recreated their iconic distressor unit in digital form and named it Arousor. Like its hardware inspiration, this plugin is incredibly flexible in terms of input and output, and it easily outperforms the majority of the other distressors out there.

It looks like the real distressor and can produce distorted sounds similar to the renowned analog version, so it's an excellent alternative for those who appreciate the distressor sound but can't buy the original.

Compared to its analog predecessor, it is more flexible in terms of ratio, providing for more rounded compression that can achieve both transparent and gritty effects.

The two Opto modes provide in-depth features and flexibility, while the ‘Soft-Clipping' and ‘Attack-Modification' sections are elaborate. It can also emulate the LA2A, 1176 & Dbx quite well, as found in the presets.

Also, this software version has a built-in sidechain with detector EQ, making it worth checking out even if you own the hardware!

Sound Samples:

Before
On drums
On bass
On vocals
After
With a distressor on each element of the drums adding compression, distortion, and transient shaping
Adding compression and distortion.
Leveling with soft compression

5. Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp

Compatibility: Win10+, macOS 10.13+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit
Price: $199 list price ($99 on Sale)

Pros

βœ… Preamp is separate from the CompSat section. Cranking the Preamp above 12dB adds soft-clipping & smooth saturation to vox & guitars.

βœ… Unique Multi-stage preamp design. Triode-type sat. affect the signal at low gain & a second clip-circuit flattens the peaks at high levels.

βœ… Long 100ms attack is quite useful for slow strings and vocals to pass through, as they get creamy saturation in the CompSat section.

βœ… Great for increasing the perceived loudness of a track by adding depth, dimension, and bass extension, without adding too much actual gain.

βœ… Can be used as a module within Softube's amp room. Great for electric guitars. Can't stress enough!

Cons

❌ Emphasis mode is quite intricate. Would've been better to have visual feedback as un-trained ears can't make full use of it.

Next on our list is the Mike-E comp, a fantastic plug-in created by Empirical Labs, the designers of the original Distressor hardware units, and Softube, one of the top hardware emulation companies.

Even when the saturation setting is set to maximum, E comp's saturation adds aggression and increases perceived loudness without increasing the gain or losing snap. One of the first things we noticed is the depth, dimension, and bass extension, which are phenomenal!

The emphasis section has three settings- HF makes it sound warmer and more like tape. HF2 triggers the compressor more when highs set in, to make it smoother. LF attenuates the highs entering the compressor, making the compressor less-responsive to the highs.

6. Universal Audio EL 8 Distressor

Compatibility: Windows 10+, macOS 10.13 high Sierra+, 64bit only. VST, AU, AAX.
Price: $149

Pros

βœ… Very close emulation of the original hardware. Hard to tell the difference.

βœ… Quite rare to find such realism. Can make drum busses alive and full by tweaking just the attack, release, input & output.

βœ… Dist2 and Dist3 control second and third-order harmonics. Engaging them can add character and grit to your vocals in the chorus.

βœ… The famous Dbx160 Slow attack-fast release, soft-knee comp. It works great on a full mix here and helps to let the mix breathe more.

βœ… The headroom control keeps your overall gain stage under check as it's easy to go overboard.

Cons

❌ Can't think of any!

Universal Audio provides its own, and very close, a recreation of the Distressor. As we would expect from UA, this model is quite close to the original hardware, with very minor audible variations.

This plugin is based on the empirical labs EL8 distressor and is only available for UAD hardware and Apollo interfaces. It is a complete representation of Derr's iconic hardware.

It's an exceptionally faithful simulation of this device, with the exception of being a touch more thump, dirtier and snappier, as opposed to the hardware, which provides more clarity.

The ‘Nuke' button basically results in brick-wall limiting. The mid-boost/cut bump responds well to vocals, helping you shape them the way you see fit.

Dist2 and Dist3 control second and third-order harmonics, adding character and grit, and the ratio and threshold are controlled by the Ratio function.

A UAD version is believed to be the sole true replication of the empirical labs el8 distressor, and it is one of the best plugin emulations of this analog classic.

7. Pulsar Audio Smasher

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.8 Mountain Lion+, 64-bit Only. Supports VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX Native formats.
Price: $49

Pros

βœ… British distortion's tight sound is ideal on metal, hip-hop, dubstep, rock, or aggressive vocals, adding attitude and bite.

βœ… Immediate grit, aggression, character-filled sound. Great for most drum mics & bass variations.

βœ… Very simple two-knob design, given that you mix predominantly by ear.

Cons

❌ Quite aggressive and hard to tame. But that's the basic function of the plugin.

The availability of all buttons in Smasher sets it apart from other 1176 emulators, as it's going all-out aggressive, rude, and gritty compression at all times! You can add aggression and character to anything that you pass through this machine- be it drum overheads, bass, metal guitars, or rap vocals.

Importantly, it mimics the midrange-heavy and distinctively characterized sound of the ‘1176 blue', instead of the ‘blacky.'

With just an input and output knob, and ration and threshold auto-set, there's little confusion on how to use it. However, you can mix in the dry signal with the plugin's rough and distorted compression using the mix knob, which is necessary, given how extreme the compression is.

Overall, a very simple two-knob design, which is easy to use, given that you mix predominantly by ear and are used to judging gain reduction by VU meters.

8. Waves Audio CLA 76

Compatibility: Win10+, macOS 10.15.7+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit.
Price: $249 (usually on sale for $29)

Pros

βœ… Extremely fast compression. Can catch the fastest of transients. Well suited for guitars, bass, vox, & drums in most styles of metal.

βœ… Following the Attack and release speeds on the VU meter as you're tweaking is fairly convenient with its large meter & legible digits.

‘Blacky' is great for a powerful sound in pop, hip-hop, or rock/metal, while the ‘Bluesy' is wonderful for adding depth to vox & pianos.

βœ… Analog 50Hz & 60Hz options are quite useful for adding subtle hum to your tracks.

Cons

❌ Can't think of any!

Blackey and Bluey allude to the Rev A and blue stripe versions of the original hardware, and Waves Audio's copy of this legendary FET compressor is one of the most accurate recreations of the original.

The ‘no compression' mode allows you to bring the original gear's color to your signal without compressing it. It basically bypasses the comp. and your signal passes through the FET gain reduction element, resulting in the famous characteristic FET distortion.

The ‘all ratios' in mode replicate all of the original gear's classic settings and buttons, along with the 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and 20:1.

The Blackface is excellent for most drum scenarios, especially if you're going for a forceful sound in pop, hip-hop, or rock/metal, while the Blue Stripe is wonderful for adding depth to voices.

Before
On Piano



On Vocals+ Mix Buss

On Guitar
After
We set theΒ fast attack to 6, the release to 7, and the hum to 60Hz.
As you can hear, the 1176's FETΒ compression adds subtle distortion, while letting the notes ring out longer.
For the atmospheric vocals here, we set the release at 7, attack at 1, and sent a copy of the vocals to the preamp section alone. With ‘Comp Off', we bypassed the comp. and our signal passed through the FET gain reduction element, resulting in characteristic FET distortion.
We mixed both with a volume fader ratio of 1:3.
We drove the Input to -3dB to feed more signal and set the ratio at 20:1, giving us a Threshold point of -12dBFS.
We dialed the attack down to 3 and release to 7, where the crispness of the guitar strum is maintained but the spikes are toned down just enough to fit in with the other instruments.

9. Universal Audio 1176 Classic Limiter

Compatibility: macOS 10.15.7+ Windows 10+. 64bit only. AAX Native, AudioSuite, VST, AU, SoundGrid.
Price: $299

Pros

βœ… Extremely believable replication of the original hardware! Instantly noticeable crunch and punch on electric guitars and drums.

βœ… Classic tricks like Attack at 1 and Release at 7 sound great on drums here, adding attitude and bringing them to life.

βœ… ‘Bluestripe' on vox. with a 4:1 ratio and attack & release at 12 O'clock yields the well-recognized 1176 presence and brightness.

βœ…The most extreme 20:1 Ratio on drum busses and bass sound phenomenal! You can use it in parallel comp. with the mix knob.

Cons

❌ Can't think of any.

Universal Audio, the company that made the legendary piece of equipment in the first place, was expected to have its own take on the digital world for it. In fact, they have a whole package with Rev A, Rev E, and blue stripe versions of the unit.

These digital versions are exact copies of the hardware compressor, with no extra features. As expected, it's pretty simple, sounds very natural, and you can hardly tell the difference between it and the hardware.

Previously Universal Audio plugins were only available to hardware owners but now Universal Audio plugins are natively available on any device with both perpetual licenses and a subscription service called UAD Spark.

10. Waves V-Comp

Compatibility: Win10+, macOS 10.15.7+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit.
Price: $29

Pros

βœ… Believable Diode-Bridge compression for $29! Can't ask for more!

βœ… The Analogue percentage dials are quite useful in dialling in exactly how much colour you need.

βœ… Limiter Level controls with 800ms attack variations are quite innovative & useful as they can also be tried on vocals and synths.

βœ… Great for most drum bus, mix bus, and master bus applications.

Cons

❌ Not always the best option for capturing micro-dynamics. We recommend to listen carefully to the Analog percentage as you add it to sensitive material.

As it sounds great on groups of instruments, the Waves V-Comp, which is a diode bridge compressor, is mostly used on the drum bus, mix bus, and master bus. By making use of the program-dependent fast and slow attacks on drums and bass, you can immediately inject analog characters into your mix bus.

As a milder alternative to the 1176 FET plugins we've seen so far, the Waves V-Comp can be used to get good vocal takes as well. However, it is important to listen to the diode bridge distortion on this plugin carefully, as it's not always the best option for capturing micro-dynamics.

For instance, the Waves Fairchild660/670, which is a Vari-Mu compressor plugin, is a perfect candidate for capturing minute pitch changes and micro-dynamics perfectly.

Before

On Drums

In the sound example, the dry drums lack definition. You cannot hear the top skin of the snare separately from its body. The body of the kick is too wide for the high hat to cut through.

On Bass

We wanted to introduce more pick attack on the strong beats so the bass could cut through the mix.
After

Parallel Drums (WET) Fast limiter

We set the ratio to 3:1 and release set to 800ms making the snare more cohesive, resulting in a gain reduction of -18 dB. With this, you can hear the drumstick’s attack on the snare's top skin.

Parallel Drums (WET) Slow limiter

With the limiter, we used a fast attack and release of 800 ms. We set the limiter threshold at +12 dBu. Setting a slow attack allowed enough frequencies to pass through, making the snare more wholesome.

Bass Ratio 2:1

The ratio is at 2:1 and the input is set to 13.8 dB. We took the output down to – 4.2 dB and set the analog at 25%
With the limiter deactivated, you can notice how the gravity of the bass is more focused on the lower mids as opposed to the low frequencies.

Bass Ratio 3:1

Notice the bass being a bit lighter than in the first sample. That being said, there is more intent in the higher frequencies here.

11. Arturia Comp Diode-609

Compatibility: Win10+, macOS 10.13+, 64-bit Only. VST, AU, AAX, NKS.
Price: $99

Pros

βœ… Ideal for usage on the master, mix bus, or any other bus channels in your project with its analog warmth & recognizable Neve color.

βœ… Harmonic overtones are accentuated in the compression in a subtle way, adding more realism & thickness to your vox and synths.

βœ… Extended fine-tuning options. Generally, analog plugins don't have so many parameters for precise compression.

Cons

❌ Can't think of any, especially at this price point!

The Comp Diode-609 from Arturia is another diode bridge compressor plugin that emulates the sound of the iconic Neve 33609 diode compressor and limiter.

The Neve 33609 has been used for decades for mastering or two-bus compression, as it can add an innate analog warmth and the recognizable Neve color to anything you pass through this.

The best settings may be quickly and easily accessed via the presets. The user-friendly interface mimics the original Rupert Neve hardware device and is a treat to work on.

Among its many features are two diode compressor/limiter modules, a mix control for simple parallel compression, an attack speed toggle for each module, and m/s processing to improve the stereo image.

Before
We've actually placed this compressor at the end of the drum bus processing chain and automated the threshold in M/S mode.
After
The threshold, attack, and release hit the downbeats, compressing the mid more aggressively than the sides to create a sense of dynamic stereo width.
In this part, we've automated the mix knob to include this M/S movement to transition from the song's A section to B section.

12. Plugin Alliance Lindell Audio 354E

Compatibility: Win8+, macOS 10.11+, 64-bit Only. Supports VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX Native, AAX AudioSuite formats.
Price: $149

Pros

βœ… Analogue sound coupled with the added flexibility of setting the crossover freq. in MB format allows for better decision-making.

βœ… Soft vocals, atmospheric pads, & strings can be brought to the fore by pressing the nuke button.

βœ…'Nuke' button is great at adding tons of gain reduction. Ideal for cranking rock vox, bass, & drums, as you add ‘dry' with the mix knob.

βœ… Great for complex M/S techniques within the bands while separating freq. spectrums in the mix.

βœ… 6dB/Oct. freq. slope is quite gentle. Ideal for use on the mix bus, as the bands, flow smoothly into one another.

Cons

❌'Link' button doesn't preserve the ‘offset' in the bands. So instead of reducing your relative threshold, it snaps to current band's threshold value.

❌ $149 might be steep for an occasional user. But a regular user won't complain as it offers a ton of possibilities.

The Lindell Audio 354E, a diode bridge compressor with multiband compression capabilities that faithfully recreates the sound of the classic Neve 2254E, is now available as a plug-in, courtesy of Plugin Alliance.

While Multiband compressor plugins, with their plethora of tweakable options, don't generally fall within the ‘analog' flavor category, this one by Lindell is a pleasant surprise.

If you want to add a compressor to your stereo master, this is the way to go about it. Our favorite feature is the ability to independently modify the compression on each band, as well as tweak the crossovers and filter out low frequencies in parallel.

With its wealth of extra capabilities, this diode bridge compressor excels at transient control, stereo field enhancement, and more.

Subdued input signals can be brought to the fore by pressing the nuke button; by blending the clean and compressed signals with the mix knob, lost nuances can be restored.

Before

On Stereo Master

After

Compressing the M (mid image) on the low band, we compressed the S (side image) in the high-frequency band, while using Stereo compression on the mid-band.
Not only enhances the stereo image & space but also adds different harmonic compression in each band.

Summary

To recap, here's the complete list of the best analog-styled compression plugins:

  1. Royal Compressor
  2. SKNote Disto
  3. Slate Digital FG-Stress
  4. Empirical Labs Arousor
  5. Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp
  6. Universal Audio EL 8 Distressor
  7. Pulsar Audio Smasher
  8. Waves Audio CLA 76
  9. Universal Audio 1176 Classic Limiter
  10. Waves V-Comp
  11. Arturia Comp Diode-609
  12. Plugin Alliance Lindell Audio 354E

Overall, analog compression plugins are a must-have when you're working with many real instruments which were tracked in a studio, or MIDI tracks that need warmth and life to be breathed into them.

Using a standard run-of-the-mill compressor won't do the trick for you as it won't allow for sophisticated decibel gain to analog saturation-based maneuvers, which is the USP of an analog compressor plugin.

Analog compressors are used heavily in most styles of non-electronic music, where multiple recorded instruments exist within specific frequency belts. They also work in doing glue to groups of instruments and work wonders in the stereo mix and mastering process as well.

Plugins like the Universal Audio 1176 Classic Limiter, Waves Audio CLA 76, and Arturia Comp Diode-609 are emulations of real hardware that you're bound to stumble upon in professional studios. Owning a plugin that emulates that sound, is an excellent asset for any producer who is working in the box.

Using these plugins can also be a smart way to access the sound of revered hardware compressors without the need for expensive and space-consuming hardware, let alone the cost of maintaining them.

While the Waves Audio CLA 76 and Waves V-Comp are the cheapest options for beginners to get their feet wet, we would suggest looking at the Arturia Comp Diode-609, Pulsar Audio Smasher, and the SKNote Disto as they are all fantastic plugins that fall within $100, and can immediately add a professional quality to your recordings.

However, if you're looking for a single purchase, we recommend going for the one that suits your specific needs.

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