Top 10 Best 500 Series Compressors: Best Models Shown!

Top 10 Best 500 Series Compressors


The need to make a modular rack system with outboard gear prompted the creation of the 500 series rack system within the late 1960s by API. It enabled audio engineers to customize their signal paths with compressors, EQs, and ultimately digital gear on compact, and sometimes transportable rack spaces.

Even at present, the 500 series lets even smaller studios make customized channel strips or effects chains. Larry Droppa, API’s present owner, created the VPR alliance certification. This makes it in order that any 500 series module launched after 2006 is assured to slot in and work with a 500 series rack.

Selecting a compressor relies on methods to maximize its uses, and what sort of sound you’ll wish to achieve. VCA compressors normally manage transients and provide transparency and aggression within the mix. VCA compression is helpful for recording percussion to supply a precise and punchy sound.

Mixing, mastering, and tracking are elements taken into consideration when selecting which kind of compressor is the best suitable for every process. For instance, FET compressors usually are not really helpful to use for mixing and mastering since they produce colorful sound traits.

Since they’re identified for aggressive and fast attacks, they’re extra appropriate for tracking and parallel compression. Then again, an optical compressor is ideally used to compress any sound source naturally resembling vocals, strings, and bass.

We just want to let you know that we’ll list these best 500 Series Compressors 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 10 Best 500 Series Compression Units for 2023:

1. SSL 500-Series 611 DYN

The Solid State Logic 611DYN E Series Dynamics Module for 500 racks reproduces the legendary sonic signature of an early 80s traditional, the SL 4000 E console channel strip, which was featured on numerous 1980’s recordings.

The SSL E Series Dynamics Module contains a compressor/limiter and an expander/gate, each of which returns faithfully to the circuitry and key elements which outline the sound of the unique SL 611E Series channel strip. A real RMS converter is used within the side chain whereas the gain aspect is an all-discrete design identical to the Class A VCA chip used within the authentic unit.

The compressor incorporates extra switching choices to defeat the over-easy curve and to make use of a linear release as an alternative to the extra common logarithmic curve. The result’s a compressor with three distinct voices, each with its personal musical character.

The E-DYN permits you to change your compression traits between over-easy and hard-knee to match the program materials and to decide on linear or logarithmic release curves. The Expander/Gate permits you to keep the signal supply clear and free from undesirable noise intruding into your recording.

Whether or not you want to tame unruly sounds, clean the dynamics, add drive or simply keep your sounds upon the entrance of your mix. The SSL E-DYN E-Series Dynamics 500 Module puts one of their strongest instruments into your 500 racks.

SSL 500-Series 611 DYN - Best 500 Series Compressors

  • Compressor Limiter
  • SSL 4000 Series circuit
  • Class A VCA Replication
  • Requires a 500 slot

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SSL 500-Series 611 DYN
  • Is based on the classic 611E Console Channel Strip

2. Shadow Hills Industries Dual Vandergraph

Next on the hit parade is Shadow Hills Industries’ beautiful Dual Vandergraph! It is a stereo compressor with roots in Shadow Hills’ personal Mastering Compressor, a behemoth that has discovered its method into the fingers of a few of the most famed mix and mastering engineers in the nation (Michael Brauer and Greg Calbi, to name only a few).

The faceplate of the doublewide (in that it takes up two 500-series slots) chassis of the DV holds solely a single massive VU meter and 4 controls, however, it’s actually not barren, as anybody acquainted with Shadow Hills’ design aesthetic can readily imagine.

Outsized Bakelite knobs cover two Swiss-made, 24-position stepped rotary attenuators for management over compression amount and output gain. Two massive, 5-position selector switches flank the sides of the DV, over which 4 blue bulbous lamps point out the place of every switch.

The primary switch either places the unit into hardwiring bypass or determines the ratio (1.2:1, 2.5:1, 4:1, or 8:1), every of which has its personal, carefully-optimized attack and release values. The second switch chooses the sidechain-filter nook frequency (none, 90 Hz, 150 Hz, 250 Hz, or “bandpass”).

This stereo VCA compressor combines distinctive retro styling with simple‑to-use configuration, and is able to the kind of outcomes you’d count on at this value!

Shadow Hills Industries Dual Vandergraph

  • Discrete construction in Class-A technology
  • Shadow Hills Optograph compressor
  • Controls for compression, ratio, filter and output level
  • Uses handmade iron core transformers

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Shadow Hills Industries Dual Vandergraph
  • Combines the gain section of the Shadow Hills Mastering compressor with the detector circuitry of the Shadow Hills Optograph compressor

3. WES Audio Rhea

Since digital footprint turned part of the trendy age, the analog taste was demanded more than ever. It’s hard to think about extra-musical and wealthy sounding compression than vari-mu design.

With the MIX knob at your disposal, parallel compression has by no means been less complicated to achieve. With Rhea, your mix setting might be automated in your DAW. Did You ever need to push your compressor tougher in chorus? Nothing easier, simply record automation utilizing a contact-sensitive encoder, or draw your automation in DAW.

Rhea permits to control the level of the signal going within the tube compression stage (Input), the quantity of compression (Threshold), and eventually the output of the compressor (Output). Such a strategy brings the very best flexibility to change the source materials.

It may be seen that Threshold might be fairly light in effect, nonetheless, if extra compression is desired, an input knob can be utilized for this objective. Please additionally note that each of these parameters might be automated, so don’t hesitate to vary these settings in several sections of the tune!

Rhea is a true stereo compressor which signifies that detector circuits of every channel are engaged on a summed signal within the side chain circuit. This makes it not possible to work in dual-mono mode. Nonetheless, it’s entirely doable to work with just one mono channel at a time, so be happy to process a mono vocal track and have a blast!

WES Audio Rhea

  • True stereo tube “vari-mu” style compressor
  • 100% analog device with +24dBu of headroom
  • Input Carnhill transformers
  • Mix knob for parallel compression

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WES Audio Rhea
  • Power consumption: 190mA per rail;
  • Dimensions: 76 x 133 x 158 mm (WxHxD);
  • Housing: 500 Series Module

4. Fredenstein Artistic Comp Plus

The same quick‑appearing FET is used for the attenuation factor in Fredenstein’s Reverse‑Mancini FET Structure, which is meant to minimize FET distortion. Make‑up acquired is once more supplied by Fredenstein’s OPA2 discrete op‑amp coupled to a metal‑cored output transformer, and the module attracts around 75mA from every of the rack’s power rails.

As with the original, the highest rotary control adjusts the input degree over a range of ‑10 to +20 dB, and this unit the quantity of squash as the compression threshold is mounted internally, greater gain provides extra squash!

Different knobs modify the Ratio (2:1 to 20:1), Release time (70ms to 2.5 seconds), Make‑up gain (zero to +20 dB), and the Mix (mixing the direct and compressed paths for parallel compression). An LED gain reduction meter covers a 16dB vary in 1dB steps up to 8dB, with 2dB steps the remainder of the way. A Clip LED above the meter lights when the output reaches +24dBu (truly 2dB under hard clipping).

The side‑chain high‑pass filters are additionally helpful in figuring out how the compressor responds to kick drum and bass content in a mix. In a really perfect world, there may need to be a computerized recovery‑time mode, and maybe a gentler ratio than 2:1 for delicate bus compression, however as a common‑objective tracking compressor module the Comp Plus has a lot going for it, particularly if you have a rack that lets you use its auto‑ducker characteristic.

Fredenstein Artistic Comp Plus

  • Fully discrete built-in OPA2 operational amplifier
  • American output transformer
  • Made completely using SMT technology
  • 12-Digit LED display

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Fredenstein Artistic Comp Plus
  • External side-chain option (possible only with additional AUX inputs from the Bento series)

5. Rupert Neve Designs Portico 543

Based mostly on the Portico 5043, this Rupert Neve VCA compressor also can function as a ‘brick-wall’ limiter because of ratio control which provides ratios from 1.1:1 up to 40:1, all with a good soft-knee attribute.

It additionally includes a configurable sidechain, with selectable feedback or feed-forward modes, in addition to selectable RMS or ‘hybrid-peak’ detection options.

The overriding ethos of this compressor is transparency, and it’s clean-sounding virtually to the purpose of aural invisibility, in contrast to the 535 diode-bridge compressors.

5 front-panel rotary controls modify the threshold (-30 to +20 dBu), ratio (1.1:1 to 40:1), attack time (20-75 ms), release time (100ms to 2.5 seconds), and make-up gain control (-6 to +20 dB). An illuminated button switches the compressor on, whereas three white buttons have interaction a high-pass filter within the sidechain, swap between the feed-back and feed-forward modes, and choose the RMS or hybrid-peak detection.

A recessed toggle change connects the sidechain to the rack’s link bus, facilitating matched and synchronized gain discount for stereo/surround operation. Two eight-LED bar-graph meters present the output stage (zero to +22 dBu) and gain-reduction 1-22 dB).

Activating the switchable high-pass sidechain filter reduces the compressor’s sensitivity beneath 250Hz, in order that the quantity of compression is set primarily by the mid-range program content, to which the ear is extra delicate. It additionally avoids the pumping effect which may happen if the GR follows the bass or kick in a mixed track.

Rupert Neve Designs Portico 543

  • Preamplification: stepless from 6 dB to +20 dB
  • Threshold range: stepless from 36 dB to + 22 dB
  • FF / FB: Feed-Forward or Feed-Back VCA control
  • Maximum output level: balanced and floating transformer output

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Rupert Neve Designs Portico 543

6. Chandler Limited Little Devil Compressor

Following in the wealthy custom of English 60s and 70s console design, Chandler Limited enters the 500 race furiously with its new Little Devil Compressor.

With all discrete circuits, transformer balanced every little thing, and the American handcrafted quality you count on from Chandler the Devils mix Chandler’s finest designs with the most popular designs from the past.

Like a Best Of compilation album, the Chandler Little Devil Compressor takes inspiration from many locations, including traditional long-gone, much-missed studio models by Neve, Telefunken, and EMI.

With aspects additionally borrowed from its personal highly-rated Germanium Compressor, Chandler Limited has funneled all of them into the small footprint of the Little Devil Compressor module, for the 500 Series.

Outfitted with each Zener and germanium circuit, the Chandler Little Devil can manage not solely the dynamics of your sound, but the tone as well – because of the warmth and body that these diodes and transistors impart.

When you drive it hard, the Little Devil Compressor can’t only produce full dynamic management but in addition great, musical 2nd order harmonic distortion – the kind that you just like to listen to, in different words, not the scratchy break-up noises you’ll find on cheaper models.

Selectable curves and ratios with switchable sidechain filters and release controls in addition to a correct hard-wired bypass might make the Chandler Little Devil Compressor only one temptation too far.

Chandler Limited Little Devil Compressor

  • Ratio in 3 steps
  • Input Control Curve with selection: Zener and Germanium Diode Knee
  • Sidechain filter (-30, 60, 90, 150, 300 Hz)
  • “Hardwire” bypass

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Chandler Limited Little Devil Compressor
  • In 500-module design with the concepts of the Chandler Germanium Comp and 2264 Comp

7. SSL 500-Series Bus Compressor MkII

The classic SSL Bus Compressor contains a classic ‘dominant’ sidechain structure. The left and right channels are independently rectified utilizing a real peak full-wave detector circuit, and the dominant (loudest) channel controls the gain reduction of the general stereo level through the user-chosen time constants.

The ‘soft’ knee level of the compressor, ie. the level at which compression begins to happen, is ready by the threshold management (±20dB). That is deliberately designed to alter relying on the setting of the ratio control; reducing the ratio setting lowers the efficient threshold, therefore sustaining the perceived ‘loudness’ of the compressed signal.

The unique console compressor had three ratios (2:1, 4:1, and 10:1), the 500 series model brings three extra intermediate ratios, giving all the unique choices, plus extra 1.5, 3, and 5:1 ratio settings for finer management.

Attack time is switchable in six steps between 0.1 and 30 ms, and the release time is selectable between 0.1 and 1.6 seconds in 5 steps. The Auto release choice adjusts the release time in response to the signal envelope.

The gain makeup acts as level management to compensate for the lowered level that could be a consequence of compressing the signal. This management could also be set in order to not change the general output level when the compressor is switched in.

 SSL 500-Series Bus Compressor MkII

  • With highpass filter in sidechain
  • 500 series – stereo dynamic module
  • Threshold – Attack – Release – Ratio – MakeUp Gain
  • Is based on the classic SSL Stereo Bus Compressor

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SSL 500-Series Bus Compressor MkII

8. Elysia Xpressor 500

The Elysia xpressor 500 is an especially versatile stereo compressor accessible in API’s 500 series format. With its many distinctive options taken from our flagship merchandise, you not only get nice compression but a quantity of management on processing which is rarely experienced elsewhere.

No matter if you wish to set and forget or plunge deep into the secrets and techniques of compression, the xpressor 500 is for you. Its discrete audio path operating in constant Class-A mode offers a superior audio quality that mixes a transparent and open sound with a good lot of punch.

This common compressor’s switchable semi-automation allows you to set the proper attack that influences the attack parameter on quick and loud impulses. Its log release function follows a logarithmic course to offer a mild form of compression as an alternative to ordinary linear progress.

The sidechain filter helps keep it away from pumping and over-compression when there’s plenty of low end within the mix. The Warm Mode switch permits the alteration of the frequency spectrum, harmonics, and transient response that provides the sound a saturated richness.

Its Gain Reduction Limiter is used to restrict the signal within the sidechain and controls the utmost amount of GR the compressor is allowed to make.

Elysia Xpressor 500

  • Discrete Class-A topology
  • Auto fast attack
  • Parallel compression
  • Analog-dynamic LED display

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Elysia Xpressor 500
  • Noise: 20 Hz – 20 kHz -94 dBu
  • Dynamic absorption: 20 Hz – 22 kHz 115 dB
  • Maximum level input / output: +21 dBu

9. SPL TDx Transient Designer 500 Series Module

Germany’s Sound Performance Lab (SPL) has fairly the pedigree in this space already, having invented the unique “Transient Designer”. Now, they’ve launched the up-to-date TDx: A 500 Series unit with an easy design and lots of impact.

The TDx has solely 4 knobs on the front panel: Attack, Sustain, Mix, and Output, together with a Bypass switch. The key underneath the hood is SPL’s “Differential Envelope Technology” which, in response to the corporate’s website, “permits level-independent dynamic processing by calculating variations in generated envelopes.”

Primarily, this unit is continually monitoring the dynamic envelope of the incoming signal, permitting you to regulate and form the transients and sustain them in real-time.

On kick drum, it may actually carry out the “smack” of the beater, or lengthen the decay of an 808 without merely squashing the track.

The addition of the Mix knob is nice for inline parallel compression, however, we’ve discovered the Output trim is much more helpful, permitting us to add as much attack or sustain as we like without fear of clipping the converters of my hybrid mix rig.

Whether or not you’ve gotten a primarily analog mixing setup, or simply desire a fast and simple transient designer for live or tracking use, the SPL TDx is a good alternative for any application.

SPL TDx Transient Designer 500 Series Module

  • Extended original Transient Designer circuitry
  • Differential Envelope Technology (DET)
  • On / Bypass toggle switch
  • 500 series rack module (single slot)

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SPL TDx Transient Designer 500 Series Module

10. Lindell Audio 7X-500

The front panel has a delightful type and the knobs and switches really feel elegant. With the 500 modules’ small size, things must be compact and Lindell has packed it in without dropping clarity or logic of format.

This compressor is based around the traditional 1176 design, of input and output level controls, plus variable attack and release instances. Whereas the 1176 has repeatedly variable attack and release, the 7X has three place switches delivering slow, medium, and quick.

Whereas this may occasionally not supply the extreme flexibility of the original, the instances selected work nicely – through the recordings we did not discover ourselves missing something.

Once again, the ratios are a simplified model of 1176. Right here you only have 4:1, 12:1, and 100:1, the latter being the equal of the ‘all buttons in’ choice of its inspiration.

As with the attack and release times, these have been nicely chosen to arm you with loads of choices without compromising the character of the compression on supply.

Operating alongside the above is the ‘Side Chain HPF’, a 3 place switch giving off 100Hz and 300Hz respectively. Whereas 100Hz is widespread, some could think about 300 a tad excessive. In our expertise, although, it delivers a broader scope to the variety of sources upon which it will be helpful.

Lindell Audio 7X-500

  • High pass sidechain filter
  • True Hardware Bypass
  • -LED gain reduction meter
  • Balanced transformer output

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Lindell Audio 7X-500


If you are a fan of vintage gear at a more affordable price, then the 500 series compressors are for you. There is a wide array of choices from optical compressor options to VCA and so on. This means that you can find a 500 series compressor that will suit your needs.

No matter if you need to compress your drum buss, vocals, or the whole track buss, there are 500 series compressors that can help you tackle the challenge. Instead of using a plug-in for tweaking your audio, with a little bit of cash, you will be able to get into the analog world of equipment and have the fingers-on ability to mix the sound.

If you take into account the saturation and detail that these 500 series compressors can give, then spending your money on equipment will come with ease. If you are having any questions in regards our topic here, please let us know in the comment section!


Nikoloski is the founder and main content writer and editor of Mixing Tips. With his experience in audio engineering, mixing, and mastering for over 15 years, will provide hands-on experience and expertise in all the matters covered on this website.

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