We’re currently living in the age of digital audio, and in-the-box mixing within a digital audio workstation is commonplace. Plugins are, therefore, invaluable assets for the modern audio engineer. Multiband compression is also considered an important tool in the audio engineer’s toolbox. With so many multiband compressor plugins on the market, 10 stand out as being the top performers.
What is multiband compression? Multiband dynamic range compression is a type of processing that splits the frequency spectrum of the input signal into different bands and compresses (reduces the dynamic range) of each band by its own unique compression settings.
For more information on multiband compression, check out my article What Is Multiband Compression & How Do MB Compressors Work?
In this article, we’ll discuss the top 10 best multiband compressor plugins.
The top 10 best multiband compressor plugins for digital audio workstations are:
- FabFilter Pro-MB
- Waves C6
- Vengeance Sound Multiband Compressor
- McDSP ML4000
- PSP Audioware VintageWarmer2
- Softube Drawmer 1973
- IK Multimedia T-RackS Quad Comp
- Blue Cat MB-5 Dynamix
- Universal Audio Precision Multiband
- iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced
It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person’s top 10 to be different than mine but hope that there would be plenty of overlap.
That being said, I believe these plugins to be the best multiband compressor plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:
- Sonic performance: how does the multiband compressor plugin sound subjectively/objectively?
- Graphic user interface (GUI): how does the multiband compressor plugin look when loaded in the DAW?
- Ease-of-use: how user-friendly is the multiband compressor plugin?
- Functionality: how many different functions does it serve and/or how many parameters are available for the multiband compressor effect?
- Accessibility/compatibility: how easy is it to acquire the multiband compressor plugin, and what are the system requirements?
Let’s discuss each of the top 10 best multiband compressor plugins in greater detail to learn why they made this list.
The FabFilter Pro-MB (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a feature-rich multiband compressor with up to 6 fully customizable bands.
The FabFilter Pro-MB is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX Native, AAX AudioSuite, AU and VST formats.
FabFilter’s Pro-MB offers the powerful functionality of multiband compression without the difficulty that comes with setting up typical units. This intuitive plugin features an interactive multiband display and allows users to freely define specific bands rather than inserting strict crossovers across the frequency spectrum.
Its optimized workflow makes it a very effective tool in mixing and mastering inside the box. With its stunning Retina interface, the Pro-MB looks as great as it performs.
Of course, the bands can be snapped together to create a more traditional crossover system.
The band-pass filters used to define the bands are easily adjustable with slope options between 6 and 48 dB/octave. They can be set up with Dynamic Phase, Linear Phase or Minimum Phase processing modes. The powerful Dynamic Phase mode introduces no latency or pre-ringing and only presents minor phase changes.
To learn more about band-pass filters and linear phase processing, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• Audio EQ: What Is A Band-Pass Filter & How Do BPFs Work?
• The Complete Guide To Linear Phase Equalization/EQ
Each of the bands is capable of more than just compression. The options range from highly transparent compression to hard limiting and gating. Expansion and pumping upward compression is also easily achieved with this powerful plugin. Each band is fully customizable with the following parameters (I’ve linked to in-depth articles on select parameters):
- Output gain
- Variable knee
- Lookahead (up to 20 ms)
- Variable stereo linking
- Mid or side-only processing
- External sidechain input
To learn more about limiting and upward compression, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• What Is The Difference Between Audio Compression & Limiting?
• What Is Upward Dynamic Range Compression In Audio?
In typical FabFilter fashion, the Pro-MB comes with interactive MIDI Learn, undo/redo and A/B switches, Smart Parameter Interpolation, “Help” documentation with interactive hints, sample-accurate automation, double-click text entry of parameter values and more.
Other noteworthy features of the FabFilter Pro-MB include:
- Up to four times linear-phase oversampling
- Intelligent, program-dependent and frequency-dependent attack and release curves
- Global dry/wet mix from 0% to 200%
- Real-time frequency analyzer with pre and post-processing options and ‘freeze’ feature
- Band solo/mute and bypass options
- Precise output metering
- GPU-powered graphics acceleration
- Stereo and mono plug-ins available
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Pro-MB user manual.
FabFilter is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.
The Waves C6 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a superb 6-band multiband compressor with impressive functionality.
The Waves C6 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
Waves builds upon the wild success of its C4 multiband compressor (link to check the price at Waves Audio), which could have easily been included in this list. The C6 offers all the beloved functionality of its 4-band counterpart (including Individual band Listen mode) with the addition of two additional floating bands plus a per-band external sidechain feature.
Whether multiband compression and de-essing are required for tracking in the studio, live performance or post-production, the incredibly precise C6 is a perfect tool for the job.
The simple paragraphic interface is well laid out for fast adjustments. Multiband compression, equalization, limiting, expansion, and de-essing are all accessible via the single user interface.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the C6 user manual.
Waves Audio is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.
Vengeance Sound Multiband Compressor
The Vengeance Sound Multiband Compressor (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) offers up to 4 bands of highly detailed multiband compression/limiting.
The Vengeance Sound Multiband Compressor is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AU and VST formats.
This multiband compressor may look a bit intimidating. However, its layout makes all the most critical parameters easily accessible for superb workflow (once we take the time to understand the plugin).
The dynamic control of each band is easily visualized thanks to graphical Ratio/Threshold curve display and live waveform scope. A real-time FFT analyzer shows the overall effects of the multiband compressor across the entire frequency spectrum with a superb in/output overlay to compare dry and wet signals.
As part of the Vengeance Mastering Suite, this MB compressor is a superb choice for mastering applications and works tremendously well on individual tracks and mix buses if need be.
Choose from 1 to 4 bands and adjust the crossover points/bandwidth with transparent linear phase filters (6 to 96 dB/octave). Each band features its compression and limiting parameters in addition to hard/soft knee mode, optional autogain and optional autorelease. The plugin’s mix controls for per-band parallel compression capabilities.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Vengeance Sound Multiband Compressor user manual.
The McDSP ML4000 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) features two sections: a 4-band gate/expander/compressor (ML4) and a master limiter (ML1).
The McDSP ML4000 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX DSP/Native, AU and VST formats.
McDSP’s ML4000 is a high-resolution plugin capable of the most demanding mixing and mastering applications in studio, live sound and post-production environments. As discussed, the ML4000 can be broken down into two separate plugins.
The ML1 mastering limiter is a flexible brick wall design with lookahead functionality. It utilizes multiple limiting stages for improved peak detection. With individual knee and mode controls, the ML1 is suited to limit all sorts of audio material with a character ranging from notably aggressive to fully transparent.
The ML4 is the multiband dynamics processor that put the ML4000 on this list. As the name suggests, there are 4 bands. Each band is split via steep 24 dB/octave crossover filters and is capable of gating, expansion (upwards or downwards), and compression before being fed to the aforementioned ML1.
The bands of the ML4000 can be configured separately or linked together. Multiple real-time metering options (simultaneous display of Gate, Expander, and Compressor dynamic curves) offer various visual representations of how the bands are working.
With low-latency mono and stereo versions, this plugin is super flexible in its application. Add in realistic analog saturation modelling, and this multiband compressor surely gets a spot on this list of the best multiband compressor plugins.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the McDSP downloads webpage.
PSP Audioware VintageWarmer2
The PSP Audioware VintageWarmer2 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is a gorgeous-sounding analog-modelled single or multiband compressor/limiter.
The McDSP ML4000 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AU, VST and RTAS formats.
PSP’s VintageWarmer2 offers the sound and feel of rich analog processing with the dependability and power of a digital plugin. This analog multiband compressor/limiter emulation offers 1 or 3 bands via the Single/Multi switch. The bands coincide with the Low and High shelving filters (and the resulting mid-band).
To learn more about shelving filters, check out my article Audio Shelving EQ: What Are Low Shelf & High Shelf Filters?
Dial-in the knee, speed (attack), release (with auto and long modes), and ceiling (threshold) knobs to set the compression and make adjustments to how this compression will act upon individual bands with the adjustment and frequency knobs of the low and high end. Alternatively, users can pick their ideal settings from a comprehensive library of presets.
From soft-knee compression to brickwall limiting, this plugin does it all. With a dedicated Drive control, the ideal amount of analog tape-style saturation can be added to the signal. Use the plugin in mono or stereo mode (with linked and unlinked stereo processing capabilities).
PSP includes its FAT (Frequency Authentication Technique) double sampled processing with 64-bit floating precision in this powerful plugin. Accurately calibrated VU and PPM meters with the overload indicators make it easy to visualize what’s going on.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the VintageWarmer2 at PSP AudioWare’s Plugins webpage.
PSP Audioware is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.
Softube Drawmer 1973
The Softube Drawmer 1973 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a faithful plugin recreation of the esteemed Drawmer 1973 hardware multiband compressor.
The Softube Drawmer 1973 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
Softube has an impressive line of modelled plugins. Adding to that list is a beautiful plugin recreation of the Drawmer 1973 multiband compressor, produced in collaboration with the Drawmer research and development team.
With the stamp of approval for Ivor Drawmer himself, the Softube Drawmer 1973 perfectly models the sound and performance of the superb 3-band hardware stereo FET compressor. In typical Softube fashion, there are also plugin-only features that further enhance the functionality of the excellent unit.
To learn more about FET compressors, check out my article What Is A FET Compressor & How Does It Work?
The Drawmer 1973 gives users independent dynamic control over 3 distinct frequency bands. Adjust the bandwidth of low, mid and high bands via the Low X and High X crossover controls. The plugin looks and performs exactly like the original, with an analog flare in both aesthetic and sonic character.
Softube’s 1973 offers Mid/Side processing and a selectable internal/external sidechain to bring a modern twist to this classic design. Flip the Big and Air switches (on the Low Band and High Band, respectively) to inject extra character to the mix or widen the stereo image in mid/side mode. Adjust the attack, release, threshold and gain controls on a per-band basis and Mix the dry and wet signals at the output for super simple parallel compression.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Drawmer 1973 at Softube.
Softube is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World
• Top 11 Best DAW Control Surface Brands In The World
Drawmer is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World.
IK Multimedia T-RackS Quad Comp
The IK Multimedia T-RackS Quad Comp (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is a 4-band fully featured optical-style (modelled) multiband compressor.
The IK Multimedia T-RackS Quad Comp is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
This multiband optical compressor plugin operates on 4 distinct user-definable frequency bands simultaneously. Separated by natural yet musical crossover filters (6 – 24 dB/octave), the bands each have their own dedicated threshold, ratio, attack, release and gain controls.
To learn more about optical compression, check out my article What Is An Optical Compressor & How Does It Work?
Solo and Mute buttons on each band make it easy to dial in the perfect amount of compression on each band and, therefore, on the signal as a whole. FET compressors are known for their non-linear compression and very fast time constants. The T-RackS nails the opto emulation, allowing for a variety of sonic results from nice and smooth to aggressive and gritty.
This multiband compressor can be used in stereo or mid-side mode and works equally well as a mastering plugin, de-esser or as a compressor on a single track.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Quad Comp specs at IK Multimedia.
IK Multimedia is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Virtual/Software Instrument Plugin Brands.
Blue Cat MB-5 Dynamix
The Blue Cat MB-5 Dynamix (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a super powerful 5-band dynamics processor plugin featuring multiband limiters, gates, expanders and waveshapers in addition to its compressors.
The Blue Cat MB-5 Dynamix is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
This compelling plugin has a lot going on, including, of course, superb multiband compression. As discussed, it also features multiband limiting, gating, expansion and waveshaping. Mix and match the effects on individual bands to achieve any result from traditional to fully experimental with the MB-5 Dynamix.
This superb multiband dynamics processor effectively multiplies Blue Cat’s Dynamics plugin (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) by 5, offering immense dynamic control over 5 totally independent bands. The bands are separated by powerful crossovers the offer filters with adjustable slopes from 12 to 120 dB/octave.
Unique envelope detection capabilities allow for advanced internal sidechaining where one band can effectively trigger the dynamic response of another. Advanced stereo features further enhance the functionality of this plugin, offering mid/side processing, independent channel activation, multi-channel linking and more.
Each band has its own curve analyzer and makeup gain and can be selected to detect peak or RMS for the compression algorithm.
To learn more about peak and RMS compression, check out my article Peak Vs. RMS Dynamic Range Compressors In Audio.
The output of the MB-5 Dynamix offers a protective brick wall limiter/clipper and a global dry/wet mix control for easy parallel processing.
Needless to day, this plugin is powerful. A few other noteworthy features include:
- Comprehensive Visual feedback with real time response curves and levels display
- Easy copy/paste settings between bands
- No latency
- Full MIDI control and automation support, MIDI Learn
- Customizable user interface with transparency & zoom
- Automation and MIDI output
- Smooth Bypass
- Full-featured integrated presets manager
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the MB-5 Dynamix user manual.
Universal Audio Precision Multiband
The Universal Audio Precision Multiband (link to check the price at Universal Audio) is a high-performance multiband compressor featuring 5 bands of compression, expansion or gating.
The Universal Audio Precision Multiband, like all UAD plugins, requires UAD hardware to function with your DAW. UAD hardware is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS, and the plugins are available in AAX, AU and VST formats.
UAD’s Precision Multiband plugin presents a wide range of dynamic control in each of its 5 spectral bands. The well-laid-out interface makes adjusting the plugin straightforward, considering how powerful it is. Each band offers compression, expansion and gating, which are all made fully adjustable with Gain, Ratio, Threshold, Attack, Release and Bandwidth controls.
The bands can be separated by either linear phase or minimum phase crossover filters depending on the selected mode. Users can quickly bypass, solo or mute individual bands and even copy the parameters from one band to another.
The centre display shows the dynamics and EQ response across the frequency spectrum, making it easy to see what’s going on.
Whether you need to tame an individual track, beef up a mix bus, perfect a mastering chain or de-ess a harsh vocal, you can count on this superb UAD plugin (which UAD plugin isn’t superb, after all?) to get you the professional results you deserve.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the UAD Plug-Ins Manual.
Universal Audio is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World
• Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World
• Top 13 Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World
• Top 11 Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced
The iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is an industry-leading mastering suite containing all the necessary components of a high-end professional mastering chain. Ozone 9’s Dynamics module offers 4 bands of top-level dynamic control (including, of course, compression).
The iZotope Ozone 9 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
The iZotope Ozone 9 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 9 Best Stereo Imaging Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Limiter Plugins For Your DAW
Let’s focus our attention on Ozone 9’s Dynamics module. This precise mastering tool offers independent control of up to 4 distinct frequency bands. Compression, limiting and expansion is made super simple with the intuitive design, allowing users to quickly get the results they need and move on to the next part of the mastering (or even mixing) process.
Each band runs the limiter alongside the compressor or expander. Make manual adjustments to the threshold, ratio, attack, release and knee of each or opt to use the Mastering Assistant to help set it for you. Automatically set crossover frequencies with Learn mode.
Each band features advanced detection circuit modes (Peak, RMS, and True Envelope detection). Dial-in the perfect sidechain signal with variable lookahead time, adjustable high-pass filter and tilt modes. Parallel processing is also made easy on a per-band basis. Stereo or mid-side processing is another powerful feature available in each band.
In addition to the superb Dynamics module, iZotope offers a full range of mastering modules and an expanded Master Assistant that can virtually do the job of mastering for you. It’s an incredibly powerful mastering suite, and, as we’ve discussed, the multiband Dynamics module is among the best multiband compressor “plugins” on the market!
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Ozone 9 specs at iZotope.
iZotope is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.