10 Pro Mixing Engineers Discuss Their Favourite In-The-Box Compressors

Last week I posted an article where I took quotes from 10 very successful audio engineers who told me what their favourite in-the-box equalizer was.

So this week is the exact same concept except for the fact that it’s all about compression!

I love asking these guys what they are using inside-the-box because let’s face it, we’re all using digital tools and we are all striving for the best sound possible.  So it’s cool to know they are using some of the most basic tools but yet still turning out hits.

Enjoy the read!

The La2a Silver from UAD in limiter mode and the 1176 Rev A from UAD. I find I reach for those a lot.  I like the La2a a lot on vocals and when I compare it to the analog it’s very hard to tell the difference. You honestly need to have really good cables, converters and everything else to hear the difference. They did amazing work on that plugin. For the 1176, I like to use it mostly in parallel for drum sounds and bass and I go crazy. With UAD I find that you can push a little bit more than other emulations.

– Luca Pretolesi (Diplo, Skrillex, Major Lazer, Lil Jon, Snoop Lion)
Read Luca’s Full Interview

La2a Silver - UAD

 

I like the CLA 76 for a couple reasons: I really like what it does to the high end and high mids, I also like that there are 2 very different sounds (the blackface/blue stripe) in the same plug in. Its a very universal plug-in you can use it on drums bass guitar vox busses etc. It shines in “that” sound.

– Marc McClusky (Weezer, Bad Religion, Everclear, Motion City Soundtrack)
Read Marc’s Full Interview

cla-76-compressor-limiter-bluey

 

I know the RCompressor quite well and I know what the attack and release sound like.  It’s not a tool that’s going to solve every problem or give you tons of character but it’s a good broad stroke, in regards to spotting a problem or wanting to change a sound and needing a tool to do it.  I guess it would be between that and the CLA compressors from Waves Audio. But it all depends.  On the song that I’m working on now, it’s a male led rock song, so immediately I would just reach for the Waves CLA 76 for that vocal.  Whether it sounds like a real 1176 or not is irrelevant because it’s a plugin that I just like the sound of a lot.

– Paul Gatehouse (Janet Devlin, Nell Bryden, Honey Ryder, Alistair Griffin)
Read Paul’s Full Interview

Waves RComp

 

The CLA compressor I like a lot on vocals, and I use a lot of the UAD stuff.  It’s hard for me to pinpoint because I probably own every plug-in available.  But as a general rule, most of the UAD products I’m just a huge fan of, and it’s all over my mixes.

– Mark Needham (Fleetwood Mac, The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Elton John)
Read Mark’s Full Interview

cla-76-compressor-limiter-bluey

 

There are probably three of them. The Pro Tools compressor I use all the time, the RComp I use all the time and the Metric Halo Channel Strip compressor gets used a lot.

– Phil Tan (Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Snoop Dogg, Katy Perry)
Read Phil’s Full Interview

Avid Compressor

 

My 2buss is always Cytomic’s The Glue, which is an SSL emulation (although I have been messing with the IK Multimedia Buss Compressor recently). I follow it with Variety of Sound’s Ferric TDS which, although technically not a compressor, gives me a couple more dB of compression. So it’s those two in series, each one doing a tiny bit. For individual tracks I would say the vast majority of the time it’s one of two compressors. One is the IK Multimedia Black76 which, in my opinion, behaves the most like the real deal and it works on just about anything. The other is VladG’s Molot Compressor in Alpha mode which emulates optical compression and again, works on just about anything. Between a solid FET like the Black76 and a solid optical like the Molot, you pretty much have almost everything covered for channel duties and it’s very fast to get a good sound with either without having to get too twiddly with the knobs. I’ll reach for something else when a signal calls for a more specialized approach (any of the IK compressors and a number of others). But mixing is about emotion, so I don’t want to get bogged down digging through 80 different compressors – I’ll reach for something that I know will work so I can keep my mental flow going because it’s what’s in my head and my heart that is going to make a record sound like a hit, not how fancy I get with all my plugins. And those two compressors almost always work.

– Chris Carter (Jasmine Trias, The Backstreet Boys, J. Holiday)
Read Chris’ Full Interview

molot03

Molot Compressor from VladG

 

For mixing vocals, I like to use the Puigchild 660, hitting a few dB’s.  I also like it on guitars where I’ll usually hit it pretty hard.  I think it sounds pretty cool.  It’s transparent enough that I can hit it pretty hard and it doesn’t sound awkward but it still does the job that it needs to do especially with the acoustic guitar.  I would say besides the Waves C1-sc Compressor, I use that one the most.

– Adam Barber (Boyce Avenue, Creed, Limp Bizkit, Backstreet Boys)
Read Adam’s Full Interview

Waves puigchild 660

 

It’s always tricky just picking one as there’s always a variety of sources and reasons to use compression.  But I think one compressor I always enjoy trying out is the UBk-1 from Kush Audio. Does a bunch of cool stuff and works well on most sources.

– Ghislain Brind’Amour (Rihanna, Anjulie, Karl Wolf, Victoria Duffield)
Read Ghislain’s Full Interview

kushaudio_UBK_1

 

One thing I use in the box a lot is the Vocal Rider from Waves Audio, it’s the best. I used to do that on the console and if you get it set right, it’s really good. What I used to do is send the key input of everything else but the vocals to a bus, off the console. That bus goes to ‘key in’ on the vocal rider, so it will automatically set the level of where everything is supposed to be around, where the vocal should sit. Then I’ll compress after the vocal rider so you’re compressor isn’t taking really heavy hits from the vocal. You can set your compressor really nice so you’re not burying it or anything. Everything that’s getting sent to your compressor is being sent evenly.

– Chris Bell (Madonna, Seal, Rufus Wainwright)
Read Chris’ Full Interview

FinalAESVocalRider

 

My favorite compressor? That’s a hard question because there’s a lot of compressors I’m thinking of and they all have a certain characteristics I love. I like the Kramer Pie, and have been using it a lot lately. All the CLA classic 2A, 3A, 76. There are some compressors I go to for as an effect more than the compression value. For example the Eddie Kramer Series Bass or Drums have cool vintage sound to them that I’ll use to achieve a particular effect and I will compress before with something else. I can’t tell you I have this one go to compressor, because for me it’s usually a combination.

– Lu Diaz (P Diddy, 50 Cent, Beyoncé, Mary J Blige)
Read Lu’s Full Interview

Kramer PIE

 

What’s your favorite in the box compressor? Leave a comment below.

  • Jabstyle

    2 of my favs that give me nice character/texture are – Waves V-Comp And the Soft tube TubeTech CL 1B, If I want some peak controlling then I’ll use the waves R-Vox or the CLA 2A

  • In no order:

    H-Comp (waves)
    R-vox (waves)
    ableton stock compressor
    L2 (limiter)

    pretty much any compressor where I can dial in precise attack and release (H-comp allows you to sync to bpm)

  • John Judge

    I would have to say Tokyo Dawn Labs Feedback Compressor II. I used V1 for a long time on bass & drums, but they really stepped it up with V2.

    I have others, both paid and free, but this one just floats my boat and is on every mix I do.

    And it is at my Favorite Price Point!™

    • Jerry

      Agreed, and on a related note TDR SlickEq is pretty awesome too!

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