Dynamic range compression is one of the most essential processes in audio. With the growing popularity of the modular 500 Series format, it's useful to know the best 500 Series compressor modules.
In this article, we'll go through the best 500 Series compressor options on the market to enhance tone, presence and thickness in your mixes.
The top 11 best 500 Series compressors are:
- Rupert Neve Designs Portico 543
- dbx 560A
- API 525
- Serpent Audio Splice-500 mkII
- Rupert Neve Designs 535
- Solid State Logic G Comp 500
- Shadow Hills Industries Dual Vandergraph
- FMR Audio RNC500
- BAE 500C FET
- Chandler Limited Little Devil
- Lindell Audio 77X-500
Each of the above-mentioned compressors is a superb option for a 500 Series system. In this article, we'll discuss why that is.
• The Ultimate 500 Series Buyer's Guide
• Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment
• What Is 500 Series Audio Equipment & Is It Worth It?
• Top 11 Best Compression Tips For Mixing (Overall)
Rupert Neve Designs Portico 543
Compressors are the unsung heroes of music production. Indeed, the quality of the compressor you apply to any signal can define the final product. In this sense, most of the recording world agrees that there is no beating Rupert Neve's designs. The Rupert Neve Designs 543 (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is a superb compressor built into the 500 Series format.
This great, legendary compressor is great for tracking, mixing, and mastering because it does what a good compressor must: get the job done without getting in the way. This unobtrusive, musical quality is the quintessential Neve characteristic that has held the company on top of the game for so many decades.
Also, the dynamics are musical throughout the compression spectrum, allowing you to apply it to any source without killing the vibe. Moreover, the high-ratio limiting delivers incredible flexibility remaining surgically precise and transparent regardless of the setting.
This is, hands down, one of the best compressors in the market for your 500-series rack. If it fits your budget, it is a must-try before you buy. You can watch this no-talking test, this overview, and this quick-start guide to see it in action.
Rupert Neve Designs is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
While playing in a different league budget-wise than the Neve above, the dbx 560A (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is a capable compressor that can be a great ally during any mixing or recording sessions.
To begin with, the company used the OverEasy and Hard Knee technology from their much-heralded dbx 160A rackmount processor. In the same vein, the industry-standard wide-range threshold, output, and ratio controls, as well as the true RMS level detection, retain the natural dynamics of the original audio adding punch to the overall sound.
Because of this dynamic quality, the 560A can be used in anything from drums to vocals, getting the job done in any scenario. Furthermore, you can go from a very subtle push to brick-wall peak limiting by just turning the knobs.
Although it doesn't have the expensive feel and sound of the Neve, it doesn't have the price tag either. Thus, this is a great candidate if you want a budget compressor that will sound great no matter what you apply it to. You can hear it in this review video or this demo video.
dbx is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
API is responsible not only for the existence of the 500-series format but also for some of the most iconic gear in the history of recording. The API 525 (link to check the price at Sweetwater) module is the exact recreation of the company's utterly famous API 525 released (and used extensively) in the '70s.
To begin with, the placement of the input and output knobs on top for easy access is a great idea. Furthermore, if you engage the “ceiling” fine-tune function, you can lower the threshold and raise the output level simultaneously. As a result, dynamics can be altered on the fly without any level changes.
Also, you can go from a subtle 2:1 compression to a massive 20:1, and the 525 will retain its musical quality throughout that wide spectrum of settings. Finally, the De-Ess feature works by inserting an inverse vocal energy curve filter reducing sibilance and pops.
Finally, this compressor utilizes API's groundbreaking 2510 and 2520 op-amps, which deliver long life, reliability, and great-sounding results. If you are looking for the best in the market and this unit fits your budget, you have to try it out. Here's a video of it in action and a video of the 525 applied to drums.
API is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Serpent Audio Splice-500 MkII
What if you could get not one but two amazing-sounding compressors in a single 500-series style module? Moreover, what if you could combine them and develop a new, revolutionary sound? That is the bold approach Serpent Audio took to create the Serpent Audio Splice-500 mkII (link to check the price at Sweetwater).
To begin with, the sound of the now-legendary Splice-500 MKII rack module lives in this unit with all its functionality and dynamics intact. Adding to that, you can flick a switch and use another, very different-sounding FET compressor. This ability to go from classic blackface to blue stripe audio allows sky-high dynamics in the studio.
But it doesn't end there; you can mix circuits to obtain new sounds. Furthermore, with the built-in controls and LED indicators, you'll always be aware of what's going on sound-wise. Plus, these USA-made units pack incredible components inside and ooze flawless construction as well as reliable materials.
If you want a 500-series compressor that can deliver amazing audio and plenty of choices and isn't rocket science to operate, this is a must-check before buying. You can watch Serpent Audio people talking about it at NAMM in this video or see it in action in this acoustic guitar demo video.
Rupert Neve Designs 535
The enhancement of dynamics with added colour and punch has a name and last name in the world of audio: Neve 2254. Those were found in the legendary Neve 80 Series consoles and became the trademark of that powerful, in-your-face vocal sound capable of cutting through any mix.
Well, while a Neve 80 Series console can cost you a fortune and occupy half your studio, the Rupert Neve Designs 535 (link to check the price on Amazon) 500-series module can recreate that tone at a fraction of the price and space. Indeed, that miraculous ability to inject life into an audio source (vocals, guitars, basses) and bring it to the front of the mix is intact.
But this is not all; Rupert Neve packed the 535 with the company's tested and true diode-bridge compressor technology and added modern functionality and design to the package. Thus, you have more control than ever before over the quintessential Neve sound.
Finally, the custom transformers and Class-A output amplifier that made Rupert Neve so famous fit into this module, making it a great-sounding R&D wonder ready to take your recordings to the next level. You can watch a review here and here.
Solid State Logic G Comp 500
Everything was bigger in the eighties. That includes sound. Behind those larger-than-life 80s hits, there was a console making them gigantic: the G-Series Analog consoles by SSL. You've heard that console and the legendary sound of its compressors in countless hits throughout your life. Now you have the chance to experience that in a reduced 500-series format with the Solid State Logic G Comp 500 (link to check the price at Sweetwater).
To begin with, this is a stereo compressor, which makes it a central piece for music production, mixing, and especially mastering. Moreover, it can inject radio-ready quality into the recordings during and after mixing them. Besides, it delivers uncanny punch and drive, growing every composition to Godzilla-like status in a friendly, dynamically-rich, analog fashion.
Furthermore, producers looking for a tool that can take their careers to the next level can think of this module as the secret weapon in their studio. This is, of course, because this unit walks the fine line between volume and drive in style while delivering enough crystal-clear power to blast any speaker.
If you have the budget and the room to fit it and want to grow the sounds of your productions, no other compressor in the market comes even close to this one. You can watch this video and this video to see it in action.
Solid State Logic is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Shadow Hills Dual Vandergraph
The Shadow Hills Industries Dual Vandergraph (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is another great example of how far the music engineering industry has gone. The Class-A VCAs enhance any composition and tame even the rowdiest signals. Packing them into a 500-series module is nothing short of a groundbreaking achievement.
Moreover, as a stereo compressor, it can surely take the center of the stage during any mixing and mastering process. This is because it is the descendent of the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, a unit used thoroughly over a vast musical territory.
Besides, it features four distinct compression rates to be dynamic enough to accommodate a plethora of signals and scenarios. Furthermore, you can expect crystal-clear audio quality with enough punch to be heard in every radio station on the planet.
Hence, if you are looking for a powerful stereo compressor and have the budget and the space for this unit, it is a must-check before buying. You can see it in action in this video and this video.
FMR Audio RNC500
FMR Audio made a name for itself as a company with the RNC (Really Nice Compressor), a unit capable of delivering seriously usable sounds at an affordable price. The FMR Audio RNC500 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is the 500-series version of that unit and a worthy heir of that tradition.
To begin with, it packs all the essential features the RNC did but with enhanced dynamics, increased headroom, and ultimate transparency. To achieve this, the company balanced the I/O section and simplified the layout of the controls.
In this vein, the transparency, price tag, and headroom this module offer make it a workhorse for any studio. Plus, it is capable of handling everything from drums to vocals. Furthermore, the unit features a link switch that allows you to use it as a mastering compressor creating a stereo image with an additional RNC 500 unit.
Finally, with a maximum I/O level of 28fBu, overcurrent protection, an added mode named “super nice” for extra-smooth operation, and top-notch construction, this is a serious choice for budget-oriented buyers. You can see it in action in this video (over a rap vocal) or this video.
FMR Audio is featured in My New Microphone's Top 13 Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World.
BAE 500C FET
FET compressors made a mark in music history during the '60s and '70s. Indeed, we all heard them on innumerable epic recordings and, in a way, helped to shape the sound of modern music as we know it.
The BAE 500C FET (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is inspired by those timeless designs and sounds but with a modern twist. For example, if you fancy crushing all frequencies and getting that super-squeezed, ultra-tight sound, you can engage the infamous ABI (All Buttons In) function. On the other hand, if you don't want compression or colour in your signal coming from this module, you can engage the GR Off button and remove it entirely from the signal chain.
Other than those controls, the unit features five distinct ratios (2:1, 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and 20:1), giving you enough flexibility to easily handle a plethora of scenarios. In the same vein, if you're looking for that vintage warmth found in old 2520-style transformer-coupled output op-amps, you can select the 2:1 setting and let the module do the magic.
Finally, with lightning-fast response, a high-pass filter (with very musical results), and a crystal-clear sound path, this unit is all you need in any studio setting. To see it in action, you can check out this video and this video.
BAE is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment.
Chandler Limited Little Devil
If a cross-breed between a Neve 2264 compressor and a Chandler Limited Germanium compressor were born, it would be the Chandler Limited Little Devil (link to check the price at Sweetwater). This is because it is the heir of Chandler Limited's uncanny quality bringing it closer to a larger audience because of a price tag that is not astronomic.
To begin with, the addition of germanium diode knees makes the curve selection utterly musical and versatile, and hence, usable in a plethora of musical styles. Moreover, the 3-position attack control and the gain makeup control allow full authority over what happens with the audio passing through it.
Besides that, the flexible sidechain filter and the pristine full-hardware bypass give you even more control over what this unit can do to audio. Furthermore, if you bypass it, you won't hear any coloration in the signal. This is perfect for studios where you can set your 500-series rack with all your favourite modules and use just the ones you need every step of the process.
If you have the budget and the room for this amazing compressor, you will never go wrong investing in Chandler Limited products. You can see it in action in this video and this video.
Chandler Limited is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Lindell Audio 77X-500
The Lindell Audio 7X-500 is a very capable mono compressor used widely in the pro audio world. The Lindell Audio 77X-500 (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is the stereo version of that compressor. It adds a Release and an Attack knob, making it possible to dial in the exact effect you're after. Plus, you can use the unit's linking capabilities to create a dual-stereo setup.
To begin with, those who love the quintessential FET sound in their mixing and mastering projects will love this unit. Moreover, this module by Lindell Audio is all about tonal flexibility. Thus, you can take that classic tone and apply it to whatever you're working on creating a new sound.
The high-pass sidechain filter allows a super-focused response to tonal flexibility and modern additions to a classic sound. Also, the Mix knob lets you dial in exactly the level of dry and wet signals you need in the final mix.
Finally, the convenient 500-series format and the affordable price tag make it the perfect solution for many studios and professionals worldwide. To see it in action, you can watch this video and this video for the mono version.
Lindell Audio is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment.
Building out your 500 Series system can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive 500 Series Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next 500 Series purchases.
Determining the best compressor for your audio needs takes time, knowledge and effort. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Compressor Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next dynamic range compressor purchases.