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.
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.
The Top 9 Best Multiband Compressor Plugins 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
It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person's top 9 to be different from mine, but hope 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?
To learn why they made this list, let's discuss each of the top 9 best multiband compressor plugins in greater detail.
For my best advice on using compression, check out my article Top 11 Best Compression Tips For Mixing (Overall).
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The FabFilter Pro-MB is a feature-rich multiband compressor with up to 6 fully customizable bands.
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 for 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.
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 are 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
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.
The Waves C6 is a superb 6-band multiband compressor with impressive functionality.
Waves builds upon the wild success of its C4 multiband compressor, 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.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the C6 user manual.
Vengeance Sound Multiband Compressor
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 the 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.
Check out the Vengeance Sound Multiband Compressor user manual for more information on system requirements and authorization instructions.
The McDSP ML4000 features two sections: a 4-band gate/expander/compressor (ML4) and a master limiter (ML1).
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 is a gorgeous-sounding analog-modelled single or multiband compressor/limiter.
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).
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 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.
Softube Drawmer 1973
The Softube Drawmer 1973 is a faithful plugin recreation of the esteemed Drawmer 1973 hardware multiband compressor.
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 from 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.
IK Multimedia T-RackS Quad Comp
The IK Multimedia T-RackS Quad Comp is a 4-band, fully-featured optical-style (modelled) multiband compressor.
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 a compressor on a single track.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Quad Comp specs at IK Multimedia.
Blue Cat MB-5 Dynamix
The Blue Cat MB-5 Dynamix is a super powerful 5-band dynamics processor plugin featuring multiband limiters, gates, expanders and waveshapers in addition to its compressors.
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 that 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 peaks or RMS for the compression algorithm.
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 say, 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 is a high-performance multiband compressor featuring 5 bands of compression, expansion or gating.
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.
Depending on the selected mode, the bands can be separated by either linear phase or minimum phase crossover filters. 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.
Former Top Multiband Compressor Plugin Picks
Here are plugins that used to be on this list and the reasons they are no longer. Currently, there is only one plugin on this list.
iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced (Discontinued/Upgraded)
The iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced (discontinued/upgraded to version 11) was an industry-leading mastering suite containing all the necessary components of a high-end professional mastering chain. Ozone 9's Dynamics module offered 4 bands of top-level dynamic control (including, of course, compression). It was featured in this article from 2021 (original publishing year) to 2022.
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 are 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!
Choosing the best audio plugins for your DAW can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Audio Plugins Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next audio plugin 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.
Other Top Audio Plugin Articles
Here are additional My New Microphone articles regarding the best audio plugins by type:
• Top 11 Best Distortion Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Saturation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 8 Best Graphic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Linear Phase EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Parametric EQ Emulation Plugins For DAWs
• Top 8 Best Passive EQ Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Digital Compressor Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best FET Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Optical Compressor Emulation Plugins
• Top 11 Best Variable-Mu Compressor Emulation Plugins
• Top 11 Best VCA Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Limiter Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Channel Strip Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Chorus Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 9 Best Flanger Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 9 Best Phaser Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Tremolo Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Analog Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Digital Delay Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Tape Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 12 Best Reverb Plugins (Spring, Plate, Algorithmic, Convolution)
• Top 9 Best Stereo Imaging Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Guitar Amp Simulator Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 7 Best Noise Reduction Plugins For Your DAW