Best Compressors – Hardware
The compressor unit finds its place in every studio, no matter if it is a hardware unit or a plugin. Trimming your dynamics is an essential process when handling an audio signal that has inconsistencies.
Mainly, compression reduces the dynamic range of your recording by bringing down the extent of the loudest elements, meaning the loud and quiet elements are actually nearer together in quantity and the pure volume variations are much less apparent.
The audio compressor unit can then enhance the general stage of this compressed signal. So the end result’s that the quieter elements sound like they’ve been boosted in quantity to be nearer to the louder elements.
The dynamic volume modifications of a recording are actually under more control, and a knock-on effect is that the general stage of the compressed recording might be elevated inside your mix. The recording may also sit inside your entire mix rather more easily.
We just want to let you know that we’ll list these best compressor reviews in no particular order. They’ll be randomized as we don’t wish to sort them from best to worst.
Listed below are our Top 11 Compressors for 2023:
1. WES Audio ngBusComp
The epic sound of the stereo bus compressor has been used on numerous recordings for over 40 years. Typically acknowledged as mix bus glue, this explicit compression sound has to become trade customary.
WesAudio has improved this design creating an entirely new stage of versatility with unbelievable fashionable DAW integration. The WesAudio ngBusComp Bus Compressor is a totally analog, twin mono, stereo, mid-side compressor, with digital recall.
The primary and most essential characteristic ngBusComp is its 100% analog topology with +27 dBu of headroom. No matter its digital management, the absolutely analog signal path gives prime VCA compression sound.
It consists of 4 THAT 2181 VCA within the signal chain, and one side-chain detector for every channel. ngBusComp detectors will be linked and unlinked anytime permitting true bus compression conduct, as twin mono compression when wanted!
Channels can be linked/unlinked anytime permitting you to have completely different settings on each channel.
The Mid-Side mix can be utilized individually for every channel, but if you want to change the balance of the entire track, you may engage the “parameter link” and the Make-Up gain of each channel shall be adjusted comparatively preserving similar volume differences.
Mid-Side operation lets you give your side channel completely different compression settings than the center channel! With ngBusComp, you may choose your output stage to be both electronically balanced or transformer balanced with exact output PAD.
- Stereo / dual mono can be used
- Headroom + 26dBu
- M / S mode switchable
- Two selectable output levels
WES Audio ngBusComp
A hardware compressor from WES Audio, the ngBusComp offers impressive performance and versatility. One of my friends owns this compressor and it delivers transparent and accurate compression across a wide range of audio sources. Multiple compression modes and sidechain options are available with ngBusComp, allowing the user to shape and control the sound in a creative manner. In addition to its robust build quality, the controls are intuitive to use.
- Very Transparent Compression
- Versatile Features
- Amazing Build Quality
- Expensive compared to the same class compressors
2. AMS Neve 33609
The Neve 33609 Stereo Compressor presents complete limiting and compression services for music recording, mastering, post-production, and broadcast purposes.
The mix of hand-wired transformers and gain reduction circuitry produces a sound high quality that’s usually duplicated but seldom achieved by every other compressor/limiter. Coupled with the unit’s unparalleled ease of use, this inimitable sound high quality has made the 33609 a worldwide studio customary for three decades.
The hallmark 33609 compression sound may be very easy, and excessive settings could also be used with the compression or limiting to stay comparatively clear. After a number of variations of this basic Neve compressor through the years, today’s 33609 supplies the most effective of each world: unique Neve 33609 sound, with enhanced internal and external I/O switching in comparison with the unique model.
The 33609 additionally utilizes a discrete output stage like the unique model, for a barely warmer sound that’s most popular by many professionals over earlier iterations. A number of items will be simply linked for multi-channel operation.
The 33609 options impartial sidechains for the compressor and limiter sections, with equally impartial threshold, recovery, and attack controls. The compressor includes a choice of ratios from 1.5:1 to 6:1 and a gain make-up management that comes before the limiter. The total gain discount is indicated on a shifting coil meter.
Very like the basic 1073 and 1081 microphone preamplifiers, the 33609 Stereo Compressor is commonly cited as a “desert island” compressor – one which is a wholesome sampling of the world’s prime engineers and producers would select above all others.
- Hand-wired Neve transformers
- Classic 2254 feedback compression
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 480 x 88 x 255 mm
- Weight: 5 kg
AMS Neve 33609 Limiter/Compressor
Professional studios have widely used the AMS Neve 33609 Limiter/Compressor for many years. Based on my experience with the compressor, it produces a warm and vintage sound. It provides a wide range of compression options with selectable ratios, threshold control, and flexible sidechain options.
- Vintage Sounding Compression
- Versatile Functions
- Amazing Developer
- The vintage sound might not be for modern recordings
3. Elysia xpressor
You’re searching for a stereo compressor. You need pristine sound and can’t settle for compromise when it comes to signal high quality. You don’t desire a one-trick pony, however, a versatile machine that covers all of the requirements and then some. And ruining yourself with a purpose to get it isn’t actually an option.
You’re searching for the xpressor. Its discrete audio path operating in fixed class-A mode combines a transparent and open sound with a great lot of punch. The clearly laid out features get you going immediately, whereas the prolonged options allow you to deal with dynamics like never before.
You’ve got a “warmth” button to rapidly add some further analog tone to your signal (nice for beefing up your drum bus or vocal tracks), in addition to a selectable side-chain filter to help ensure you’re not getting any mix bus pumping out of your heavy-hitting kick.
However, what actually separates this compressor from the remainder of the two-channel dynamics processors out there may be the unbelievable power and management that comes from the larger-than-infinity (negative) ratios and the Gain Reduction Limiter knob.
Stereo buss compression, processing single signals, approaching dynamics in inventive methods – the xpressor shines in many various purposes. And do you have to take your tools on the road, you’ll actually benefit from the rigid full aluminum enclosure reducing weight in half.
- Output Impedance: 68 Ohm
- Inputs / Outputs: XLR and jack
- Dimensions: 19″ 1 HU
- Weight: 2 kg
I have seen the xpressor in action and it sounds great. With the xpressor, you can precisely control audio signal dynamics thanks to transparent and precise compression. In addition to its unique features, it features a Gain Reduction Limiter and an Auto Fast mode, making it more flexible and creative. Intuitive controls and solid build quality make this device a pleasure to use.
- Very Flexible Compression
- Nice Construction
- Learning Curve
Check our full guide on Elysia models here!
4. Empirical Labs EL8 X Distressor
The Empirical Labs Distressor is an automated gain (or quantity) management machine (AGC in engineering terms) designed for professional audio (music) functions. Principally, it electronically controls the amount of nearly any supply in a really pleasing, and “musical” method – including fullness, intelligibility, and particularly in the Distressor’s case – pleasure.
This sort of machine is usually known as a “limiter” or “compressor” by audio industry folks. Its most probable uses will likely be in recording studios, live sound conditions, film sound production, and radio broadcast production.
In contrast to most analog compressor/limiters, the Distressor is a digitally managed audio machine and really incorporates a number of products into one by using digital controls to change completely totally different circuits out and in. Years of beta testing and redesign went into the Distressor as would be the case with all Empirical Labs products.
In addition to providing a variety of management and distinctive features, the Distressor provides a warm, classic sound through the use of a custom-designed gain control circuit. This “warmth” or classic sound has become a necessary issue within the last 15 years because the super clear and linear digital technology does little or no (or nothing) to melt “harsh” sounds nor emphasize the bass frequencies in music sources.
Older analog tape, vinyl records, and tube tools, on the other hand, couldn’t be prevented from coloring the sound, usually to the frustration of recording engineers. Nonetheless, many individuals have now realized that this coloring could be extraordinarily nice and “musical”. The Distressor provides a number of modes that color the signal, even without compression (or gain management).
- 1 Channel classic knee compressor
- Tube saturation
- Opto simulation
- XLR inputs and outputs
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Empirical Labs EL8 X Distressor
This highly regarded hardware compressor by Empirical Labs is renowned for its distinctive sound and versatility. To be completely honest, I never used this compressor, but a friend of mine has it and uses it on every recording – all for a good reason. There are a number of compression modes available in the Distressor, including optical emulation and vintage emulation, allowing for creative sonic shaping.
- Very Unique Compressor
- Sturdy Construction
- Great for Studio and Live as well
- Requires testing to find the best settings
5. Tegeler Audio Manufaktur Crème RC
Do you wish to softly and inaudibly balance the track or give it a specific rhythmic signature? The Crème’s VCA can do all this. Its attribute and highly effective sound can convey each mix to the next stage. The compressor can actually work hard, giving your mix an extra noticeable open and sensible sound.
The compression could be very harmonic in nature, the sound at all times stays clear, and the individual instruments discover their very own place within the mix. The usually lamentable lack of excessive notes in compression merely doesn’t occur right here – quite, the signal sounds like it has already been fed via an exciter.
Bass appears like a unified whole and refined with lean dynamics. The switchable high-pass filter within the side chain ensures that, when required, even heavy bass sounds don’t result in pumping.
Crème places the very best of each function into one device. The passive EQ has been lowered right down to the most popular functions: Bass boost, to offer higher definition to the bass, and treble boost, to offer the mix the mandatory shine. The boost has been made switchable to allow total recall and to reduce the boost to extra applicable ranges to be used on the master channel.
The bus compressor has just a few extra capabilities equivalent to a low-pass filter for the side chain and an extra ratio of 1.5:1 for particularly delicate compression. The position of the EQ and compressor within the mix can also be switched. Equally, the Crème is appropriate to be used in mastering as well.
- Balanced XLR inputs and outputs
- Internal power supply with high quality toroidal transformer
- Design: 19″/ 2 U
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 483 x 88.4 x 250 mm
Tegeler Audio Manufaktur Crème RC
A hardware compressor from Tegeler Audio Manufaktur, the Crème RC provides smooth and musical compression. Compared to other compression products, it offers a cleaner and more natural sound, enhancing the dynamic range of audio signals without introducing unwanted artifacts. It is easy to dial in desired compression settings with the Crème RC’s intuitive control layout. The build quality is solid, and the audio quality is excellent.
- Musical Compression
- Easy Controls
- Amazing Build Quality
- No advanced features compared to other compressors
6. Warm Audio WA-2A
Warm Audio has returned with one other rendition of one of the vital used compressors within the history of recording. The WA-2A, as the title provides away is a true-to-life model of the LA-2A, a tube leveling amplifier that has proven up on numerous recordings.
Recognized for its use in smoothing out vocals, solidifying bass, and bringing life to just about something that may be recorded, the LA-2A is an ideal device for the house studio and main league recording company alike. The issue being with the previous is the value tag and upkeep value of classic variations leaving the engineer on funds out in the cold.
The WA-2A operates on two 12AX7s, one 12BH7, and one 6P1 mini energy tube. Though the classic fashions use the 6aQ5, scarcity has prompted this model to use a unique energy tube. The tube utilized by Warm Audio was very similar and even can be changed by an authentic 6aQ5 if you happen to track down a working model.
Most of us know the interface of the LA-2A, therefore controls don’t warrant much discussion. It is strongly recommended to leave an air hole between different gears in your rack. On top of offering air to the unit, the vent grille’s within the top glow a slight blue from within.
The WA-2A incorporates virtually the exact controls on the front aspect as the LA-2A: A Limit / Compress change, Output Gain, Peak Reduction, Metering Settings, and Power change.
- Gain: 40 dB +/-1 dB
- Meter for gain reduction and output
- Dimensions 483 x 178 x 89 mm
- Weight: 5.44 kg
Warm Audio WA-2A
With the Warm Audio WA-2A, you’ll have the classic LA-2A opto-electric leveling amplifier emulated in hardware. I have worked with this compressor and found it to deliver a smooth and vintage sound. Simple and intuitive controls make achieving desired compression settings easy with the WA-2A’s single-channel design.
- Vintage Sound
- Amazing Clone
- User-Friendly Controls
- No advanced features
7. Chandler Limited EMI TG12413 Zener Limiter
The unique TG Limiter was designed to exchange each the Fairchild 660 and the EMI-modified Altec 436/RS124 – two licensed classics, revered for their dynamics-shaping prowess.
The Altec unit was recognized for its pure, natural compression, whereas the Fairchild – with its quick, sub-millisecond onset and very soft-knee compression curve – is maybe essentially the most lusted-after (and imitated) limiter ever made. The Chandler Limited EMI TG12413 Zener Limiter offers you the sonic mojo of those two classics – and goes a number of steps beyond.
The Chandler Limited EMI TG12413 Zener Limiter offers you the ability to impose your will on your dynamics. Beginning with the highly effective classic TG limiter circuits, Chandler Limited offers you added options and suppleness within the type of controls resembling switchable input impedance (for hard or smooth driving of the unit), 11-position attack, 21-position release, and side-chain filtering, in addition to Comp 1, Comp 2, and Limit settings.
COMP 1 is a 2:1 ratio with slower time constants than originally designed by EMI architects to mimic the Altec 436/RS124 EMI-modified Altec compressors. The Limit mode is far faster and designed to emulate the response curves of the revered traditional Fairchild 660.
COMP 2 is a brand new setting that places you midway between the 2 unique settings, primarily providing you with the compression curve of Comp 1, with the faster release instances attribute of Limit mode. Whether or not you utilize it for tracking or mastering, with its sonic pedigree and efficient controls, the Chandler Limited EMI TG12413 Zener Limiter is a must-have for big, punchy mixes.
- Adjustable Attack and Release Times
- High and Low Impedance Settings
- Vintage VU Meters
- Limiter, Fast, and Slow Compressors
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Chandler Limited EMI TG12413 Zener Limiter
It is a hardware limiter that mimics the iconic sound of EMI Abbey Road Studios’ vintage limiters. Despite not having experience with this compressor, I was able to make positive notes on recordings that were passed through it. With the TG12413, you can select transformer output options, adjust limit settings, and control threshold, gain, and recovery times.
- Colorful Sound
- High-Quality Design
8. Rupert Neve Designs Portico II
The Rupert Neve Designs Portico II Master Bus Processor helps you to improve, reshape, and polish your sound to perfection. Whether or not you wish to add ending touches to your master bus, level out a stereo group, or add new energy to mono sound sources, the Portico II Master Bus Processor provides you with the compression, limiting, and stereo discipline manipulation you want.
That includes customized input and output transformers developed by Rupert Neve, the Portico II Master Bus Processor executes the identical ultra-smooth Class A signal processing made well-known by the 5088 consoles and the Portico II Channel, in addition to 72V topology, which provides it monumental headroom whereas permitting it to combine seamlessly with just about any system.
When engaged, the compressor section can be utilized in each feed-forward and feed-back mode to supply a clear trendy response (feed-forward), or a smoother extra-musical classic response (feed-back). Peak mode adjusts the compressor’s attack to react to peak transients with a roughly 0.1ms reaction time.
When the Peak swap is disengaged, the compressor reacts to the RMS signal alongside the attack and release settings. SC HPF inserts a high move filter at 250 Hz into the side chain to cope with intense low frequencies that will skew the response of the VCA with certain songs and devices. “Mix” creates a parallel mix between the affected and dry signals.
Mixing the compressed and dry signals, it’s potential to extend the amount of quieter parts within the source materials (as an example, delicate snare brushing on a track with a lot louder hits), whereas sustaining a pure dynamic feel for the louder parts.
- Extensive level meter
- Ground lift switch
- Format: 19″ / 2 U
- Weight: 9.7 kg
Rupert Neve Designs Portico II
A hardware processor designed for mastering applications, the Portico II Master Buss Black from Rupert Neve Designs. The mastering process can be controlled precisely and transparently with this processor, which I’ve had the opportunity to work with. A true gem that can benefit every user and there is no doubt about the quality it provides.
- Precise and Transparent
- Very Versatile
- Great Design
- Not a cheap unit
9. Dangerous Music Compressor
It is no secret that sidechaining is your key to attaining wonderful outcomes with a compressor. The passive sidechain of most compressors, nevertheless, leaves one thing to be desired. In a real Dangerous style, the compressor offers you a greater answer: lively sidechain send/return circuitry that offers you tons of management, with no loading or impedance points.
You additionally get a Sidechain Monitor that permits you to monitor the signal, in addition to Sibilance Boost, which shaves shrillness with no post-compression hangover, and a 60Hz Bass Cut that tightens your track without hurting your low end.
Compressors fall into two primary classes: so-called “color boxes” able to drastically alter the sound, of which there are a whole bunch available, and the far harder-to-design “clear units” that manage dynamics without introducing apparent sonic points.
The Dangerous Compressor is decidedly within the latter class, delivering crystal clear compression that lets you simply alter and manage dynamics without drastically altering the unique sound.
However don’t let the word ‘transparency’ trick you into considering the compressor doesn’t sound lovely – like all Dangerous gear, the low end is large and highly effective, the mids preserve texture and element, and the top end is open and deeply engaging, even throughout very active gain discount.
This degree of open musicality is exclusive even among the many small fields of transparent compressors, placing The compressor in a category of its own where sounding clear and exquisite is not a paradox.
- External side-chain: XLR send and return per channel
- 2x XLR inputs
- 2x XLR outputs
- Format: 19″ / 2U
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Dangerous Music Compressor
Hardware compressor Dangerous Music Compressor is known for its transparency and precision. My experience with this compressor shows that it provides versatile control over audio signal dynamics. Smart Dynamics allows the Dangerous Compressor to shape a song’s sound with precision and creativity using multiple compression modes, sidechain filters, and sidechain filters.
- Very Flexible Compressor
- Innovative Features
- Hard Design
- Learning Curve
10. Warm Audio Bus-Comp
The Warm Audio Bus-Comp is an all-analog, two-channel, stereo VCA bus compressor-based mostly on classic circuitry that has supplied a smooth pure tone for many years now. That description comes from the corporate’s personal product manual.
What they don’t point out is that the traditional circuitry in question relies upon the legendary SSL bus compressor. It’s potential that Warm Audio isn’t capable of quoting the Solid State Logic model name or SSL abbreviation of their literature.
To impart the Bus-Comp with its boutique-caliber sonics, Warm Audio selected premium elements, comparable to customized USA-made CineMag transformers and THAT Corporation VCAs.
Utilizing environment-friendly, fashionable manufacturing methods, Warm Audio eliminated pointless costs from the models, keeping the value tag low without having to compromise high quality. Meaning you get all of the vibey VCA compression at a fraction of the value!
The Warm Audio Bus-Comp is deceptively easy, with six knobs for controlling Threshold, Attack, Ratio, Release, HPF, and Make-up gain. Nonetheless, this can be very versatile and able to deal with any stage of compression, from mild mastering-style compression to heavy over-compressed sounds, all whereas retaining a musical tone.
Different controls embody a compressor bypass switch for fast A/B comparison, exterior sidechain engagement, and transformers engage for including wealthy harmonics and coloration to the compressed signal.
- Output impedance: 50 ohms
- Input and output: XLR and TRS jack
- Built-in power supply
- Dimensions: 19″/ 1U
Warm Audio Bus-Comp
In this case, the Warm Audio Bus-Comp is a hardware compressor designed specifically for mixing and buss compression. In my experience, this compressor provides smooth, musical compression when gluing together multiple tracks. Easy-to-use controls make it easy to adjust the Bus-Comp’s compression settings. The audio path is of high quality, and its build quality is sturdy.
- Smooth Compression
- User Friendly
- Great and Sturdy Design
- No advanced features
Best Compressors – 2023 Additions
11. Bettermaker Mastering Limiter 2.0
The Bettermaker Mastering Limiter V2.0 has been upgraded to a better, more powerful, and more intuitive version. In order to bring you the ultimate mastering tool for music production, Bettermaker has invested countless hours in research and development.
New, improved mastering features have been added to the Bettermaker Mastering Limiter V2.0, as well as a completely redesigned control screen and plugin, in addition to presets from pro audio legends. Now you have the opportunity to take your music to the next level and give it that final touch that it deserves with this new version.
Redesigned control screen and plugin are two of the most significant changes in Bettermaker Mastering Limiter V2.0. It is easier to control the limiter using the new interface, which is more intuitive and user-friendly. Now you are able to control and tweak your music more precisely, enabling you to achieve the sound you desire.
Furthermore, the new version provides additional mastering features that enable you to have greater control over the sound of your music. As part of these features, there is a side-chain, M/S processing, and a new metering system, which will allow you to monitor the performance of your music more closely.
Therefore, the Bettermaker Mastering Limiter V2.0 is one of the most powerful tools available for mastering engineers. As a result of the new features added to the product, the redesign of the control screen and plugin, as well as presets from pro audio legends, you will be able to take your music to the next level and give it the final touch it has been lacking.
- Rack Spaces: 2U
- Power Supply: 12V DC Power Adapter (included)
- Height: 3.5″
- Width: 19″
Bettermaker Mastering Limiter 2.0
This is the latest addition of hardware compressors this year and unfortunately, we still hadn’t had a chance to try it out. But based on what we saw before from Bettermaker, this unit will slay even more compared to its older brother. Can’t wait to hear and try this one out!
- Improved Systems
- Updated Design and Display
- More User Friendly
- Not a cheap toy
We believe we compiled the 11 compressor units that can make your sound very unique and will improve its sound quality of it. We excluded the original Urei or Universal Audio 1176 and LA2A because we plan to dedicate a single article to both of them.
If you ask us which one of these units is the best, we are going to say it this way: for modern mastering limiting purposes, the new Bettermaker Mastering Limiter 2.0 will most definitively be the best. For budget mixing compressions, the WA-2A cannot be topped. The one we would swear our life on – Portico II. Further decisions should be made by you.
In case you are having any questions in regards to this topic, feel free to let us know in the comment section below and we will be more than happy to assist you!