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The 7 Best Bass Compressor Plugins (& Free Plugins)

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Compressor plugins are used on bass to control the dynamic range and decibel level of the bass in a mix. They help to balance the volume of the bass with the other elements in the mix, increase sustain, and support other instruments well, while still retaining the unique punch, which characterizes a bassline. Compressors also help to even out the playing dynamics of the bassist, reducing the impact of accidental volume fluctuations, which are quite common. While any plugin can claim to do this, only the best (paid and free) bass compressor plugins, actually give you the results. That’s why we’ve spent hours hand-picking a list of the 7 best paid and 4 free bass compressor plugins available, so you don’t have to scour the internet for them.

What Are The Best Compressor Plugins For Bass?

Here’s the complete list of the best bass compressor plugins available:

  1. Softube CL1B
  2. Waves CLA3A
  3. UAD 1176 LN
  4. Waves Bass Rider
  5. Slate Digital Custom Opto
  6. Waves Vitamin
  7. Waves RBass
  8. TDR Kotelnikov (Free)
  9. Melda Productions MCompressor (Free)
  10. Rough Rider 3 (Free)
  11. Xfer OTT (Free)

1. Softube CL1B:

Compatibility: Win10+, macOS 10.12+, M1 with Rosetta, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit. Supports VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats. Supports DSP hardware for ProTools HDX.
Price: $149

Pros

✅ Suits most bass frequencies. Can preserve the color in overdriven bass too, making it perfect for classic rock, EDM, rap, & Hip-Hop.

✅ Soft and musical leveling of bass, without artifacts. Cranking the signal adds tube warmth to the higher harmonics & finger plucks of the bassist.

✅Run your bass through. the ‘Fixed’ setting of 1ms attack & 50ms rel. Tweak it to taste in ‘Manual’ mode with 0.5ms to 300ms attack & 50ms to 10s rel.

✅like Fairchild660’s time constant, fix/manual fixes your attack at 1ms, with variable rel. So your bass transient goes through a 2 stage recovery. Great for avoiding pumping in smooth basslines.

✅ Excellent GUI suited for viewing on 4K & UHD screens.

Cons

❌ Might be considered pricey, if you’re not too passionate about owning an analog compressor plugin.

This compressor has a classic, yet versatile sound that responds very well to bass, which makes it perfect for a wide range of genres from classic rock to EDM to rap to Hip-Hop. It’s a sound that’s worth having handy in your DAW as a plugin.

When applied to your tracks, the CL1B can enrich and add warmth and smoothness to your bass and vocals. It’s also great at fattening your drum buses.

Being an Opto compressor, it tends to grab hold quickly and then slowly reset, giving a transparent treatment to transients while providing a soft and musical leveling for the larger body of the material. 

Not only is the CL 1B great for bass and vocals, but it also works well on acoustic guitars.

The updated Mk II version has been completely redesigned using the latest technology to give it even better sound quality and additional features like side-chain low-cut filters and parallel blending. 

Not only does it sound amazing, but it also looks gorgeous with its high-resolution graphics, best experienced on 4K and UHD screens. The GUI is specifically worth mentioning as it gives you the feeling of using an analog compressor. 

The Mk II version also includes the legacy version so you can continue to use it in your old sessions if you’re a Mk1 user. The CL 1B is also Console 1 ready, making it a seamless addition to your mixing ecosystem.

While some could complain about the price, you need to realize that most high-quality analog emulation plugins are in the $100-150 price range. 

2. Waves CLA3A:

Compatibility: Win10+, macOS 10.15+, 64-bit. Supports VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Price: $29

CLA3A 1

Pros

✅ Realistic sounding emulation of the famous Teletronix LA3A solid-state opto compressor at an affordable price.

✅ Its quick response & harmonic overtone enhancement make it excellent for DI tracked-bass compression.

✅ ‘Hi-freq’ dial works great on bass harmonics above 1kHz, enhancing the player’s subtle finger movement.

✅The CLA3A’s limiter works great on Reese bass and processed growl bass, in an effects chain, containing saturation & other effects.

✅ Developed with Grammy-winning engineer CLA, giving a lot of industry-standard presets + additional video tips.

Cons

❌ Simple two-knob design without graphics, make beginners have to trust their ears.

The CLA-3A is a compressor plugin that is modeled on the famous Teletronix LA3A solid-state opto compressor hardware unit from the 1970s. The CLA-3A was developed in collaboration with Grammy-winning engineer Chris Lord-Alge, which gives us a list of his chosen industry-standard presets to start off from.

The CLA3A is generally known for its quick response and subtle harmonic distortion, which makes it especially effective on bass, electric guitars, and vocals. 

Based on a simple two-knob design that controls the input gain and the peak reduction, the CLA3A is quite uncomplicated. You first dial in the necessary peak reduction, after which you match the dry signal with the input knob. 

It also has a trim control for quick level adjustments, as well as a sidechain frequency filter, which is quite elaborate. The ‘hi-freq’ dial works on frequencies above 1kHz, raising the voltage amplifier gain in the gain reduction circuit. This basically leaves the frequencies below 1kHz unaffected. 

Dialing away from the ‘Flat’ position makes it more responsive to higher frequencies, causing more pronounced compression. The CLA3A also has near-zero latency. 

The plugin has been modeled on the original hardware unit in order to accurately replicate its unique sonic characteristics, including total harmonic distortion, variable release times, and the hum caused at 50Hz and 60Hz respectively. 

Bass (Before)

Bass (After)

Notice the grit and stereo width with the limiter mode & 60Hz engaged

3. UAD 1176 LN:

Compatibility: macOS 10.15.7+, compatible with M1/M2 processors. Windows 10+. 64bit only. AAX Native, AudioSuite, VST, AU, SoundGrid UAD, UADx, LUNA, UA Connect.
Price: $149 

Pros

✅ One of the closest emulations of the legendary 1176 FET compressor you can find.

✅ Can literally catch any transient with an ultra-fast attack time of 20 µS (.00002 seconds) Great for catching dynamic nuances in funk bass.

✅ Ideal for tracking Bass. Track DI bass using the Apollo at -12 to -6dB. Slap the 1176 RevE on it & the meter starts going off at -18dB.

✅Can handle most styles of aggressive & dynamic bass playing, with Ratios of 4:1 to 20:1. Shift select ‘All’ buttons to ‘Blast’ your bass!

✅ Being well-documented, a lot of industry presets+tips are available for beginners on UA, in forums & across the internet.

Cons

❌ It’s difficult to do something ‘original’ with it as it has been heavily used & documented for 40 years.

The UAD 1176 LN is modeled on the legendary 1176 FET compressor hardware unit and is known for its super-fast attack and release times, which have become a staple of rock-n-roll for the last 40 years.

Being modeled on the transistor circuitry, it is known for its ultra-fast attack time of 20 µS (.00002 seconds) which adds character, attitude, and vibe to whatever you pass through it, as well as providing a “hot” quality to the sound due to its amplifiers and transformers. 

Being extremely simple in design, it has four main control knobs: input, output, attack, and release. The input knob adjusts both the compression threshold and the level of the signal being processed, while the output knob sets the final signal level. 

The attack knob and the release knobs work in a reverse way. Turning them clockwise towards ‘7’ gets you to their fastest settings. The VU meter displays either the amount of gain reduction or the output level, depending on the setting. 

One of its standout features is the ability to select different ratios for compression and limiting, with options of 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and 20:1. These radio buttons allow you to choose the degree of gain reduction you desire, with lower ratios producing a more compressed sound and higher ratios producing a more limited sound.

1176 is also famous for its “All Buttons In” mode, which activates all four ratio buttons simultaneously and creates a distinct sound that is highly sought after.

Characterized by harmonic distortion, this setting sounds great on drum overheads, condenser room mics, bass, electric guitars, and aggressive rock vocals. It’s also a great way of highlighting a track within a dense mix.


4. Waves Bass Rider:

Compatibility: Win10, macOS 10.15.7+, Waves V 14, 64-bit, Supports VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Price: $29

bass rider

Pros

✅ A fader-dependant plugin, optimized for mimicking the natural envelope of bass freq. in upright, acoustic, electric, DI, & synth bass.

✅While a comp. works between inner-dynamic levels of the signal, bass rider works note-by-note. So your note’s ADSR remains untouched.

✅ While confusing to conceptually understand as to why it doesn’t ‘compress’ it is extremely easy to apply with Range, Rider & Output controls.

✅ Artifact knob boosts the thumb slaps and bass pops in your bass playing for added dynamic value.

✅ Good to use in conjunction with another FET like an 1176 or a Vari-Mu/Tube compressor for adding specific characters.

Cons

❌ Can’t think of any!

The Waves Bass Rider works differently from a standard compressor, in that it doesn’t actually change the attack, release, or transients. It simply moves the volume fader up and down to maintain a consistent gain within your bass track. 

The horizontal ‘Target’ fader works like a VU meter for the bass signal. By playing through different sections of your song, the target gives you the decibel range of your track. Setting the Target to half of the loudest and softest notes will get you going, as it’s the perfect point to operate from.

Beyond this point, the ‘Range’ fader works like a standard Threshold on a compressor. Setting the lower and higher faders gives you the range of signal being affected. However, note that there is no compression happening here, only a readjustment of gain. 

The artifact knob helps accentuate the fret buzz, thumb slaps, and bass pops for added dynamic value. Try keeping this value down initially, as the ‘Target’ might consider a loud artifact as part of the bass line.

Similar to a compressor, the output can be used as make-up gain. While every function sounds similar to a compressor, it’s quite surprising to know that it isn’t one.

Bass (Before)

Bass (After)

Notice the pronounced artifacts, and how it doesn’t compete with the kick when the drums come in.

5. Slate Digital Custom Opto:

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

Pros

✅ A modern LA2A emulation with added features. Tonal settings like the ‘Airy’ let you highlight the airy percussive hi-freq. in the bass in a chorus for added openness.

✅ Making the bass, tighter or looser in a mix is easier with the ‘Speed’ knob that controls the attack and release times at once. 

✅ ‘Aggro’ gives saturation while the ‘warm’ adds a bit of tube sound. Both sound great with Hip-Hop or Trap bass.

✅ Has a naturally clean & transparent sound, as most good Opto compressor plugins do.

Cons

❌ $149 is seriously expensive for an LA2A emulation + added features.

Do we really need one more LA2A Opto emulation plugin? While the audio world might be saturated with the number of LA2A emulations in the market, it’s not a bad idea to revamp the legendary compressor with a few added functions.

The standout feature or USP of this plugin is the tone knob, which allows users to adjust the tonal balance of their tracks between Flat, Smooth, Warm, Aggressive, and Airy. This is particularly useful for shaping the sound of vocals, instruments, and entire mixes.

The other additions are the Ratio and Speed knobs. As we all know, the LA2A is known for its minimalist design, devoid of attack and release controls. With the addition of a Speed knob that controls the attack and release times at once, the Custom Opto makes life much simpler for a lot of new users. 

In terms of pros, the Custom Opto compressor has a clean and transparent sound, making it ideal for subtle compression that enhances rather than distorts the source audio. 

It also has a simple and intuitive interface, making it easy to use, even for beginners. However, with a perpetual license priced at $149, we find it quite expensive for what it offers. 

6. Waves Vitamin:

Compatibility: Win10, macOS 10.15.7+, Waves V 14, 64-bit. Supports VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Price: $29

VitaminBass 2

Pros

✅ Works well on adding width in the higher frequencies affecting the bass harmonics. This brings out the plucks and slaps quite well.

✅ Great for gong below 45Hz. The bass extension sounds like you’ve added an extra subwoofer, but devoid of the spill!

✅ Adds serious clarity and roundness in the low end. With the ability to narrow the stereo width of the bass, you can make the bass more focused.

Cons

❌ Can’t think of any!

Waves Vitamin breaks down the spectrum into 5 bands. It works really well on adding width in the higher frequencies which occupy the bass harmonics. 

Adding body to the low band and low-mid band sounds strikingly good with the vitamin, taking away the need for extra compression to enhance these frequency ranges. 

While being marketed as a multiband harmonic enhancer and tone-shaper, it does much more than just that. The way to use this for bass is to put it on the master channel, where you have a sum of bass guitar, kick drum, bass synth, and some sub-oscillators if you’re dealing with EDM.

With the low band crossover at around 78-82Hz, you can’t help but notice the clarity and roundness it brings to your low end. The best way to work with it is by soloing the low band and adjusting it to your mix.

The most noticeable character is the bass-extension. The Vitamins sounds like you’ve added an extra sub woofer, which is being fed ultra-clean bass frequencies, without the boom or the distortion, which is generally the case with a lot of plugins.   

With zero latency processing and stereo-width possibilities in each band, the vitamin is worth putting on your mastering chain as well.

Bass (Before)

Bass (After)

The Crossover of the Lows at 90Hz and Lo-mids at 500Hz have been chosen and boosted.

7. Waves RBass:

Compatibility: Win10, macOS 10.15.7+, Waves V 14, 64-bit. Supports VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Price: $29

RBass 4

Pros

✅ Extremely easy to use. Very effective & highly used on bass by engineers. 

✅ By generating harmonics of the fundamental, MaxxBass® technology replicates low-frequency audio on systems that would otherwise struggle.

✅ Easy to boost the musical bass frequency of the song at the bottom with a clear ‘Freq’ slider.

Cons

❌ Can’t think of any!

One of the easiest plugins to use on our list is also one of the most effective and highly used on bass and low-frequency material. The Renaissance Bass is renowned for its ability to enhance the low end and produce a fuller, more resonant sound that can be clearly heard even on smaller playback devices. 

Utilizing MaxxBass® technology, this plugin is able to replicate low-frequency audio on systems that would otherwise struggle to reproduce it by generating harmonics of the fundamental sound.

In a nutshell, adding the RBass brings out the hidden harmonic overtones of the bass. With a simple, intuitive interface featuring only three adjustable controls for frequency, intensity, and output gain, the RBass can be used by anyone. 

An intensity slider is placed at the heart of the plugin, which generates the internal harmonics and shows the amount of harmonics created. The number below it states the number of harmonics generated.

At the bottom, we have a frequency dial that states the exact frequency at which the harmonics are being added. 

To get the best out of the RBass, its recommended to have an inactive parametric EQ or a spectrum analyzer before it is able to analyze the frequencies coming in. Choosing your frequency slider based on the exact frequency where the bass or kick is peaking should be the ideal place to start.

Additionally, the RBass offers clip-free performance and a selection of presets created by leading industry producers and engineers such as Lu Diaz and Michael Brauer. At $29, there is very little to complain about the RBass.

Bass (Before)

Bass (After)

Standard settings of dialing the intensity to around 2.4, affecting 87Hz.

What Are The Best Free Compressor Plugins For Bass?

Here’s the complete list of the best free bass compressor plugins:

1. TDR Kotelnikov:

Compatibility: Win XP & macOS 10.9. VST, VST3, AU, AAX. 32, 64-bit.
Price: Free

tdr

Pros

✅ Has a wide dynamic range control, which spans the full range of the bass guitar/synth’s frequencies and its harmonics.

✅ The nuanced compression is so sophisticated that it outweighs some of the paid compressor plugins in the market.

✅ Great on bass, as it doesn’t morph the original tone and punch. Keeps the bass transparent, while tucking it into the mix in a. subtle way.

✅ Individual release control for peak and RMS is invaluable for funk & slap bass. This lets you zoom into the nuances of the slap and pop, accentuating the dynamic differences.

Cons

❌ Very steep learning curve for a beginner. It’s a legitimate pro-level plugin, with no shortcuts.

The TDR Kotelnikov is a free compressor plugin that outweighs some of the paid compressor plugins out there. Touted as a mastering compressor,  it is a dynamics processor that offers exceptional dynamic range control while maintaining a high level of musical flexibility. 

With a subtle yet powerful sound, the Kotelnikov can significantly alter the dynamic range while preserving the original tone and punch of a musical signal. This makes it ideal for stereo bus compression and mastering applications.

As a descendant of the TDR Feedback Compressor line, Kotelnikov includes several unique features such as individual release control for peak and RMS content and advanced algorithms. 

The interesting thing about the Peak Crest feature is that it allows you to work on the release times of your Peak and RMS separately. For example, if you’re working on a vocal track, it’s best to dial the Peak crest all the way to the right, so you can activate the release RMS function. This way, you get additional control over your RMS over the course of your track.

You can do the exact opposite for your drums, by dialing the Peak Crest all the way to the left. This allows you to sculpt the immediate snare hits or cymbal crashes by working on the Release Peak knob.

The Kotelnikov is a purely digital compressor, designed from the ground up rather than attempting to emulate any existing device. We were extremely impressed with this compressor and recommend going for the paid GE version, which opens up even more possibilities.

Bass (Before)

notice how the smoothness increases with the soft knee from ‘dry’ to ‘wet’.

Bass (After)

Tight compression with Peak Crest:4dB, Soft Knee:2.5dB. Ratio: 2:1.


2. Melda Productions MCompressor:

Compatibility: Linux(via wine), Windows 8 onwards(32 & 64-bit) and macOS 10.14 onwards(64-bit). VST, VST3, AU & AAX.
Price: Free

Mcompr bass

Pros


✅ Refined compression with volume maximization makes it especially useful for EDM basses like the reese bass and growl bass.

✅ Adjustable compression shape is its USP, which allows great flexibility on bass guitars, as low freq. & higher harmonics can follow diff. custom shapes.

✅Upwards/Downwards compression within ‘custom shape’ by using ‘Handles’. Drawing your up/down comp. makes it intuitive & easy to understand.

✅ Bass can be automated via MIDI using multi-parameters inside Melda Prod. interface. The bass comp. in the verse can be automated to evolve slowly as it reaches the chorus.

✅Up-Sampling can be adjusted from 1x-16x, enhancing overall clarity.

Cons


❌ Can’t think of any!

The MCompressor features an adjustable compression shape, making it the most precise compressor on our list. It can handle a range of tasks, from eliminating distortion to creating unique audio effects. 

The metering displays provide output peak level, gain reduction and loudness measurements that are compliant with ITU-R BS.1770-1 and EBU 3341 standards. The compressor also has a dynamic range analysis graph for precise adjustments and the ability to work automatically if needed.

Additionally, the MCompressor offers adjustable up-sampling from 1x to 16x for crystal-clear sound. Its MIDI compatibility allows for the automation of all parameters, and it offers hard, linear, and soft knee options with adjustable sizes. 

Overall, this free VST plugin is a taste of what the company has to offer. The paid compressors by Melda Productions are top-of-the-line engineering tools that are totally worth checking out.  

Bass (Before)

Bass (After)

With an 8:1 Ratio with attack at 10ms and release at 14ms, we set up the Auto-Compress mode.

3. Rough Rider 3:

Compatibility: Windows, Linux and macOS. VST, VST3, AU & AAX. 64-bit.
Price: Free

RR3bass

Pros

✅One of the most successful free compressors. More than half a million downloads over 10 years!

✅ Extreme compression with ratios of 1000:1 are rare to find. Great for adding girth and attitude in dubstep bass, metal, and funk bass.

✅ The super-fast attack can catch quick transients in fast-moving basslines. Can also detect quick-moving dubstep-bass transients and compress them precisely.

✅ Beginner-friendly UI. Quite easy to learn and understand compression parameters.

Cons

❌ Non-transparent. Beginners need to be careful about not going overboard.

❌ RR3 isn’t as sophisticated, refined, or professional-sounding as Kotelnikov on our list of ‘free’ plugins.

Rough Rider 3 is a compressor that is not known for being transparent, but rather for adding its own unique color to audio. With a ratio that can reach 1000:1, it excels when oversaturated. 

Audio Damage has also improved upon the previous version, Rough Rider 2, by adding an external sidechain input and the option to turn off the “Full Bandwidth” button, which bypasses the “warming” filter. The metering has also been upgraded to be more accurate.

The compressor’s highly responsive attack ranges from 0 to 100ms and the release goes from 0 to 1000ms. These settings make it ideal for adding punch to drums or making guitar riffs roar. 

While useful on bass, be careful about the ratio and speed, as it can get muddy quite fast. It can also be used on a drum bus or in parallel on vocals. Overall, the Rough Rider 3 is a versatile compressor that can be a go-to compressor for aggressive compression.

Bass (Before)

Bass (After)

Extreme Ratio of 153:1. Attack: 4ms, Release: 126ms.

4. Xfer OTT:

Compatibility: Version 1.3.5 is compatible with Windows & macOS(Intel + M1). VST, VST3, AU & AAX. 64-bit.
Price: Free

OTT 1

Pros

✅Modelled on the OTT in Ableton for non-Ableton users.

✅ Extreme upwards and downwards compression. Great for bringing out attitude and punch in EDM basses.

✅ The upwards and downward compression can be very effective in Dubstep, Trap and Electro production.

✅ Highly potent ‘Depth’ control to transform your bass audio. Carefully tweak it to taste as you can go overboard quite fast.

✅ Visual ‘Multi-Band Compressor’ yields higher precision. Also makes it easy to comprehend for a beginner.

Cons

❌ The attack and release can’t be independently controlled. RR3, MComp, & Kotelnikov are better suited to it.

❌ Suited for users with prior knowledge of upwards-downwards compression.

Xfer’s OTT, a multi-band compressor that performs both upward and downward compression, is a rival to Ableton’s popular OTT unit. It compresses the frequency bands tightly, increasing the volume of softer signals and lowering the volume of louder signals. 

This tool is simple to use for adding smooth distortion to specific frequency bands and can produce harsh, EDM-style effects that bring audio to life.

Correctly utilized, OTT’s powerful two-way compression can make any instrument stand out in the mix. This feature is especially effective in Dubstep, Electro, and Trap genres where the bass needs to both display a wide range of sounds and penetrate the mix.

While the single ‘Time’ knob may seem to limit, the ‘Depth’ knob compensates. The ‘Depth’ control allows for smooth distortion at moderate rates and exaggerated, squeaky effects at higher rates, making it a unique selling point for this plugin.

Bass (Before)

Bass (After)

With 75% Lows and 25% Highs, notice the cavity in the bass at 65% Downward Comp.

Summary

Here’s the complete list of the best bass compressor plugins available:

  1. Softube CL1B
  2. Waves CLA3A
  3. UAD 1176 LN
  4. Waves Bass Rider
  5. Slate Digital Custom Opto
  6. Waves Vitamin
  7. Waves RBass
  8. TDR Kotelnikov (Free)
  9. Melda Productions MCompressor (Free)
  10. Rough Rider 3 (Free)
  11. Xfer OTT (Free)

FAQ:

When Should I Compress Bass?

You should compress the bass when you want to even out the level of the bass in a mix or add sustain to the bass. However, you should avoid compression if you want to preserve the dynamic range of the bass or if the bass already has a consistent level. But be careful as too much compression can result in a loss of punch and definition.

What compressor types are best for bass?

There are a few different types of compressors that are commonly used for bass frequencies:

  1. Optical compressors: These use a light-dependent resistor to control the level of the signal. They tend to have a smooth, natural sound and are often used for bass because they can add sustain without affecting the attack of the notes.
  2. FET (Field Effect Transistor) compressors: These use a field effect transistor to control the level of the signal. They tend to have a fast attack and can add a lot of punch to the bass.
  3. VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) compressors: These use a voltage-controlled amplifier to control the level of the signal. They tend to have a very precise and transparent sound, making them a good choice for a wide range of applications.

While these are based on hardware circuit types, there are plugins like the Waves RBass and Waves Vitamin, which work on a patented psycho-acoustics technology called MaxxBass that makes the brain perceive harmonics of the fundamental bass frequency, that might not even exist within your track. 

Universal Audio’s AMPEG B15N plugin adds extraordinary low end on DI Bass, which removes the need for re-amping in the modern age.

While these plugins aren’t compressors per se, they’ve become industry standard applications for all things low-end; whether it be a kick, sub-bass, bass synth, bass growl, or a fretless bass guitar. 

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