5 Best Sidechain Compression Plugins (Updated 2021)

Here is the complete list of the best sidechain VST plugins for music production (updated for 2021):

  1. OneKnob Pumper
  2. Kickstart
  3. Shaperbox 2
  4. Trackspacer 2
  5. LFO Tool

Sidechaining is arguably the most prevalent mixing technique used in modern electronic music.

Characterized by it’s signature “pumping” sound, sidechaining is the perfect tool for track separation in your music

Most modern compression VST’s come with a sidechain feature built in, and a lot of the time, it’s the only thing you need.

But sometimes, if you’re going for the perfect sidechain compression, a standalone plug in can help massively.

While we’re on the topic, check out our best compressor plugin guide.

1. OneKnob Pumper by Waves

waves oneknob sidechain compressor plugin

The OneKnob pumper is an awesome tool to get some dynamics going.

You don’t get a lot of options, just one knob, however this makes it extremely simple to use.

The limitations of the OneKnob Pumper are also it’s biggest strength.

OneKnob Pumper tends to be the go-to solution for four on the floor rhythms and EDM tracks.

This is because it’s not sidechaining a compressor, but rather, the track volume.

This makes it the perfect tool to get a heavy and defined sidechain pumping.

The plugin also doesn’t require an input signal, which means that you don’t need to route your kick drum track in, to get the plug in working

2. Kickstart by Nicky Romero

nicky romero kickstart sidechain compression plugin

Kickstart by Nicky Romero is similar to the OneKnob Pumper, having only one knob to adjust the dry/wet.

However, with Kickstart you have broad selection of preset curves, tailored for four to the floor productions.

Making this a really good, quick and easy, side-chain pump plugin.

Although the first look at the user interface might suggest that Kickstart is a side-chain plugin, that is not exactly correct.

Just like the OneKnob Pumper, it is a volume automation utility, rather than an actual side-chaining device.

You don’t have to send any additional signal to the plugin’s input in order to get the desired pumping effect.

Kickstart however, uses different volume ducking curves to achieve the effect that we typically associate with side-chain compression.

3. Shaperbox 2 by Cableguys

shaperbox cableguys sidechain compressor plugin

The ShaperBox plugin is definitely one of the more in-depth plug ins from this list, as it has so many great features.

You can draw your own side-chain curve, or you can choose one of the side-chain presets at the bottom.

ShaperBox also has a compressor which can be triggered by an input source, meaning you can side-chain by both volume automation and compression.

What sets this plugin apart however, is the fact that you can side-chain 3 different frequency bands separately.

This means that if you want to side-chain the lows of a bass, but want to retain the attack of the high end, you can use a steeper curve for the high end and a more gradual curve for the low frequencies.

4. Trackspacer 2 by WavesFactory

trackspacers 2 wavesfactory plugin

Trackspacer is a sidechain effect that ducks the incoming signal out of the way of the sidechain signal…

What makes it special is that it does this across thirty-two separate frequency ranges.

Making it closer to a dynamic EQ than a compressor, but a dynamic EQ that responds to the specific frequency bands of the sidechain signal.

It’s a simple concept that is wonderfully realized in this plugin.

Why duck the whole bassline away from your kicks when you can just duck the frequencies the kick uses and keep the rest of the bass intact?

Being lauded by leading industry professionals as an essential mixing tool, Trackspacer can be used on much more than just kick and bass.

Trackspacer is great for melodic elements too.

Say for example you have a melody and a chord channel that are taking up a similar frequency range.

Selecting your Melody as the sidechain input, and ducking the chords in time with the melody is a great technique to use, to help separate the tracks.

All you have to do after selecting the input is adjust the threshold (Amount) and your tracks will be ducking faster than the annoying quackers in the pond.

Trackspacer is the perfect tool for creating space in the mix for your elements.

It breathes life and creates interesting dynamics and contrast in your mix.

If there’s one plugin that you take away from this list, it should be Trackspacer 2 by WavesFactory

5. LFO Tool by Xfer Records

LFO tool xfer records sidechain compression plugin

LFO Tool has a wide array of potential use cases.

Whether it’s to add an LFO modulating a parameter, or in this case, adding a sidechain effect, the Xfer records LFO Tool is a versatile beast.

Assigning the LFO Tool to automate the gain of your channel at a quarter note rat, will create a sidechain like pumping effect.

The great thing about this plugin is that you have in-depth control over the curve of the LFO.

For a regular four on the floor sidechain pattern, the LFO Tool feels right at home.

It starts to struggle when you need to sidechain an irregular rhythm however.

It’s possible, however, to set slower rate and draw in the individual volume cuts, but other tools on this list are much better at this than LFO Tool.

TIP: Sidechaining your reverb tails to your kick, can help with track dynamics, as well as track seperation.

Finishing Up

Here is the essential list of the best sidechain VST plugins for music production:

  1. OneKnob Pumper
  2. Kickstart
  3. Shaperbox 2
  4. Trackspacer 2
  5. LFO Tool

Sidechain compression is an essential technique for any production process.

Whether it’s to create some separation between two clashing sounds, or to create a heavy pump feel in your dance music banger, you need to use sidechaining.

The amount of sidechaining options and plugins on the market are numerous, but you shouldn’t forget the stock compressors that come with your DAW.

A lot of the times, a stock compressor has better and more versatile application than any specific vst

Hopefully this article has helped to gather your thoughts on which is the perfect sidechaining device for you!

If you liked this list, make sure to check out some of our other spicy articles.