Plugins We ❤ By The Function! (Compression)
In the Compression installment of “Plugins We Love”, we continue pointing out the select few we reach for frequently. This list is a little longer than the EQ list because, Hey! We just couldn’t pair it down anymore. If you’ve been using a few different compressors for the same function, I hope the compression installment sheds a little more light on why we like the plugins we do. We encourage you to chime in through our forum to tell us why you like the ones you use, and what you think about our opinions on the plugins we list. Here goes…
I have to admit, every time I reach for the UAD version of this plugin, I imagine that I am reaching for the real thing. Alas…I know that’s not the case (I had a Urei 1176LN at my disposal when I was studying for my engineering degree). I can say, this plugin is crafted incredibly well, and to my tastes emulates as much of the analog character of any other emulations I’ve used. The 1176LN is probably THE “Go To” plugin for compression for me because, A) it’s faster than my ISA hardware and B) It adds great sonic character at every setting. It’s one of those compressors that just asks to be overdriven. As you can see, it’s a really simple unit to use. Easy with the mouse since the controls have the detent functionality. The Plugin functions exactly like the unit, so the threshold is adjusted by the input, the “no button mode” just runs the signal through the “circuitry”, and you still get to experience the character emulation of the original unit. As much as I can’t recommend this plugin enough (this is an emulation of what most would consider the most well-known compressor of all time), always remember it’s 1’s and 0’s here not transformers and op amps. I highly recommend blessing your vocals, bass, or drum tracks with the 1176LN from UAD though.
Waves SSL G-Series Buss Comp
Got Glue? Ah, yes…if there’s one thing I love about compression it’s V C A’s. Voltage Controlled Amplifiers, like we covered in our SPS Compression article are my favorite type of compressors. The SSL G Master Buss compressor would be the Grandfather of them, better yet, “The Pontiff” so to speak. Why do I love this plugin on my master buss (and often on my vocal buss)? It’s the glue factor. The 670 that we’ll cover later in this article also has the glue element but the G series compressor (modeled off of the SSL G-Series Console master buss) has a different sound. Waves developed this in conjunction with SSL and they did a nice job of modeling much of what the actual console compressor has to offer. The functionality is much like any other compressor, but like all of the other emulations in this list you can run signal through it too, if you just want that “finalized” sound. Note: the “Auto Fade” feature, that’s a little unusual, that just works with the rate knob to gradually fade the compression in or out in a linear fashion depending on what rate setting you choose. Oh, before I forget, Waves also includes some cool Chris Lord-Alge presets for fun.
McDSP Compressor Bank
My first experience with the McDSP line was when I was mixing some work in college in one of our Pro Tools Suites. Out of the very versatile line, The Compressor Bank really stands out for McDSP. It’s really attempting to encompass all of your compression needs. It’s 3 plugins in one, Regular compression, Compression with pre-filtering EQ and Compression with pre-filtering and EQ settings. By the looks you can tell, it’s set up very user friendly. The EQ portions are located on the ends of the plugin and the compressor portion is located in the center. Why do I really enjoy this plugin though? It’s the bite control. We discussed this in more depth in the SPS compression article, but the BITE control allows transients to pass through throughout processing, unlike any other compressor plugin I’ve come across so far. The options to switch compressor styles is also a great feature. The Compressor Bank is the only “all-in-one” option on this list, and that says a lot.
Waves Renaissance Compressor
Waves R-Comp is a mainstay in all Waves packages, and really in most records you’ll hear. It’s been around for as long as I’ve been mixing/recording and it’s still one of the most beloved easy-to-use compression plugins. It actually has some hybrid applications taken from the Waves C1 and L1 but the R Comp satisfies all of your opto compressor needs. It’s GUI is very easy to read and maneuver with a mouse. I’ve used it extensively on bass and vocals (anything I want warm smooth compression on), and the Auto-Release Control (ARC) function works really well. It’s a great option if I want a non-VCA sound on backing vox stems or synths as well. In Manual mode the R-Comp is much less gentle (still warm) and acts more like a traditional compressor (minus the auto release function). The built-in limiter above the output section is modeled much after the Waves L1 and it works in much the same way. Although this is not a “stock” plug-in with any DAW, it should definitely be one of the first additions to your arsenal. It’s one of those plugins you’ll use over and over.
UAD Fairchild 670
Ok, ok. I’ve wanted to use this for a long time. Why? Well you should check up on how much an actual vintage Fairchild unit costs and get back to me. Lol. I know this unit is not the real thing (I’ve noted that a few times before in this post), but it’s the closest I’ve been to the actual sound so I have to admit I was kind of excited to begin with. Now that we’ve gotten that “gear geek” moment over with, what’s the real functionality like? Well, The 670 in plugin form is much like the SSL G compressor to me in the fact that I love this compressor at the end of my signal chain. I was running this on limited DSP so it’s not a plugin, I was able (or wanted to) strap across all of my tracks but for finalizing a mix or congealing a stem group I loved it. It does have that “run it through for the sound alone” feel, but you can hit it pretty hard too. As you can see it’s a stereo unit with separate controls for each channel. It’s also worth noting that this UAD offering is modeled after the specific unit in Ocean Way studios used by engineer extraordinaire Allen Sides. With the original units, (They are variable MU/tube limiters) each unit can have its own unique sound so keep in mind this is modeled after one particular unit. UAD didn’t just take everything exactly from the Ocean Way unit, there are some nice features they added in to modernize the workflow. All in all, I’d say the 670 in any form is not a unit that you need per se, but since it’s in plugin form, why not give it a whirl if you get a chance? Your ears will thank you.
What can’t you say about the L1? Even with the more recent iterations of the L1, this unit is a staple on the output bus, whenever I am looking for uncolored gain and glue. You’ll notice most of the compressors on our list are emulations, but the L1 is an original digital plugin that is designed masterfully to congeal a record. It’s very easy to use, the threshold, output and release levels are easily set. Input adjustment is post fader on the track that is patched into. It’s a great plugin to “dig” deep into your signal threshold-wise, and increase your gain on the output with a nice punch of energy. Yes, you can hit this unit too hard, and you’ll start to hear squashing or lifelessness, but it’s very easy to get the hang of this limiter. It’s easy to balance out your controls to accomplish your desired result. In all honesty this is a MUST in any plugin based limiter collection.
I hope we didn’t leave out too many of your favorites. I know in the EQ article we covered only three plugins, we just couldn’t bear to limit it to three on this one. I hope I was able to articulate why we reach for these plugins first. Also, I know we included some more commonly used limiters in this article, but we thought it would be fitting to keep the compressors and limiters together since we often use a few of them interchangeably. Be sure to let us know if we missed anything, or just let us know your thoughts in the forum. We’ll see you on the next one, LATER!
**Did we miss anything? What are your Favorite Compression plugins? Let us know in the forum! **
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