Searching for the best analog-style compressor plugins out there? Look no further, Beat Lab is bringing you the list of the best compressors to use in your productions. Read Below.
What Are Analog-Modeled Compressors?
Analog-modeled or analog-style compressors are software plugins made to emulate the circuitry of their hardware counterparts. Hardware compressors are known for the musicality they add to signals run through them.
Hardware dynamic processors are used to add character, depth, grit, presence, punch and/or warmth to your music. Those traits are what people are chasing when they talk about ‘analog’ sound.
It’s a result of how the hardware is built. Physical circuitry is subject to degradation and over time certain processors develop sounds unique to their product line.
Thanks to modern technology, developers are able to capture and recreate those characteristics found in classic analog hardware. This article will share with you the plugins recreating analog-style the best.
Waves API 2500
The Waves API 2500 aims to recreate the original version of the API 2500. It does so gracefully and at an affordable price point. The API 2500 compressor is a mainstay in world-famous recording studios, and often found in multiple stereo configurations.
It adds serious punch, movement, and a specific tone to full mixes and group busses alike. The Waves plugin sounds just as good as its hardware original. It utilizes API’s patented Thrust technology; with that tech it can glue your mix together like no other.
Slate Digital FG-Stress
In 1993, the Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor came onto the market and changed everything. It is one of the industry’s most unique and most sought-after compressors.
Part of the Distressor’s beauty is in the varying ratio characteristics. Each one sounds like a different compressor, so you basically get 7 compressors in one.
The plugin does the hardware great justice. It is extremely quick and imprints loads of color onto music. It basically sounds good on everything. Slate Digital is one of the hottest new acts on the block for processing plugins. With the FG-Stress they’ve made sure they are staying on top.
Waves SSL G-Master
Anyone with studio experience or a friend who’s been in one has heard of the SSL console. Well the coveted desk units come in plugin form by Waves – the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor.
The plugin captures the sound of the analog unit and is loved for its gluing effect. Renowned engineers use it as a go-to for making mixes bigger, more powerful, and punchier.
It’s the real-deal mix finisher, and it does a standup job at taming dynamics or adding punch to drums. Don’t sleep on Waves, they have sales year-round so cash in now.
Universal Audio 1176 Classic Limiter Collection
The 1176 limiting compressor is a legendary console introduced in 1967. It has been used on major recordings throughout musical history and was a breakthrough in modern recording.
It was the first true-peak limiter with all-transistor technology and ultra-fast FET gain-reduction. Universal Audio’s 1176 Classic Limiter Plugin Collection comes with three variations of the 1176.
Super fast attack and release times make the 1176 perfect for taming high energy frequencies. Throw it on drums, throw it on bass, it will sounds great.
Universal Audio LA-2A
The LA-2A is another staple in recording history. It was released in the
Universal Audio again gives you three variations with its plugin, this time using the infamous Teletronix processor. This will make it buttery on vocals especially, but good on everything else.
Softube Tube-Tech CL 1B
Denmark’s Tube-Tech compressor is revered for a reason – it’s endlessly been used to turn anything it touches into velvet.
Softube’s emulation faithfully recreates the smoothness found on the analog equipment. It’s highly musical opto tube-compression at its finest.
The CL 1B will produce a similar tone to the LA-2A but with a more modern flare.
Vertigo Sound VSC-2
If the VSC-2 Quad Discrete Compressor is the “Mercedes of VCA compressors,” then the plugin version is the Tesla. Every detail has been included in the plugin, it’s beautiful.
At the tip of your fingers and in virtual form you can use it on anything. The VCA coloration increases the harder you push the compression. It can achieve a uniquely satisfying precision punch not found in other compressors.
Plugin behemoth Brainworx is known for their quality range of plugins, and the Elsyia Impressor does as it suggests – impresses. It is a powerful emulation of the original hardware.
The compressor employs gain reduction limiting, anti-log curvature, and negative compression ratios. That combination of odd features add up to create one of the most interesting plugins on this list.
Kush Audio UBK-1
The UBK-1 is an emulation of an emulation – the UBK Fatso hardware recreates Empirical Labs’ Fatso compressor/saturator.
The boutique compressor offers three sections for processing named Saturation, Compression, and Density. Dial in each one to shape your tone.
With five independent compression curves, multiple parallel configurations, headroom/intensity controls and sidechain filtering this plugin is a pure beast. This will slam your music straight into the analog world.
Universal Audio Chandler Limited Zener Limiter
Chandler Limited’s TG12413 Zener Limiter emulates the legendary hardware used in recording the Beatles and ink Floyd. It is a nod to the EMI TG limiters used in the infamous Abbey Road Studios.
This creature is so fierce it can be used for tracking, mixing, and mastering alike! It will truly shine when used on drums and/or taming high frequencies.
Essentially, it will turn your spikes into lovely gel, so use it accordingly to bring in a warm vintage character.
Waves DBX 160
The DBX 160 is a classic in the recording studio. As a product of the 1970’s it is very present in recordings of that era and known for its punchiness when used on drums.
The unit is famous for its simplicity, and out-of-this-world compression coloration. The circuitry is truly unique and not found in other VCA compressors. Its sound is recognizable, and sought-after.
The plugin elaborates on the hardware versions a bit offering some more control parameters for awesome effect.
IK Multimedia Vintage Tube Compressor/Limiter Model 670
The Fairchild 670 earned itself a place history immediately when brought to the world. One of the first Vari-Mu compressors of its kind, it utilizes 20 tubes.
The product is always smooth and warm. Everything it touches turns to gold. The plugin version blesses sound with the same touch.
Engineers run audio through the Fairchild without compression simply to give it that warm gel feel.
Native Instruments Vari Comp
Manley Labs stepped into the scene with its Variable Mu compressor/limiter in 1994. Since then, they have released other incredible gear, and that has been turned into plugins.
The plugins are excellent emulations. The analog Vari Mu set the bar, and the plugins follow suit. The transparency, the cohesion, the ease – it’s all beautiful.
Universal Audio Neve 33609
The powerhouse that is Neve released the 33609 in 1969 and it has been in professional studios ever since. It imbues signals with as little or as much of its signature color as you want.
UA fantastically captures the sound of the hardware in plugin form. It’s super musical and easy to use. It works well in subtle situations or extreme circumstances.
Slate Digital Virtual Bus Compressors
Slate Digital’s subscription based-service is incredible, you can pause it anytime, and it’s far cheaper than thee total cost of their lineup of plugins.
Included in it is their Virtual Bus Compressors which are fantastic recreations of classic analog gear. The VBC Grey emulates the SSL 4000 Console Compressor, the VBC MU is a hybrid of the Fairchild 670 and the Manley Vari Mu, and the VBC Red emulates Focusrite’s original Red 3 Stereo Compressor.
Use all three on your master buss and prepare for your jaws to drop.
Klanghelm MJUC is a hybrid tube compressor that emulates a number of classic variable mu compressors. The plugin offers three models to choose from and capture the sound of different generations of vari mu compression.
Each model allows to shape the tone and tweak to your liking. Each model represents a tone from the 50’s, 60’s and modern eras. Different coloration and saturation will apply to each model.
Universal Audio Fatso
The Fatso emulates the pure rich sound of magnetic tape. This is yet another Empirical Labs recreation, so you get class A transformers and tube circuit emulation too.
The Fatso is quite appropriately named, it gives you awesome fat sound. The original tape simulator/compressor feel carries over into the plugin and the control parameters give you total power. Use it creatively, use it technically, use it subtly, or use it to the max!
iZotope Ozone 8 Vintage Compressor
iZotope released Ozone 8 in 2017 and it has been a blessing ever since. Its Vintage Compressor module is a force to be reckoned with. Despite looking modern it puts out a truly analog sound. It has subtle warming characteristics and sweetens most things that run through it.
Unlike the rest of the compressors on this list, this does not emulate any hardware counterpart. That’s no matter, it still packs a serious punch an will give you a fresh crunchy sound.
Slate Digital FG-401
One last honorable mention from Slate Digital, the kings of subscription-based plugin suites – the FG-401. This hybrid emulation was inspired by many different VCA compressors like the SSL 4000, Empirical Labs Distressor, and the DBX 160A.
It’s smooth, rich, and buttery. If you take advantage of the Virtual Mix Rack you can have it all to yourself. Run anything through it and you won’t regret it.
Waves Renaissance Compressor
Waves Renaissance collection is a series of true-to-form plugins that keep it simple and analog-style. This compressor emulates an Opto compressor, and sounds lovely on everything you run through it.
It’s been used on countless hits and is a favorite among professionals. You get transparent sound with a signature tone coloration. Check it out!