Top 11 Best VCA Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW


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. There are plenty of plugins that aim to emulate analog hardware in an attempt to make digital audio sound more like its [arguably] nicer-sounding analog counterpart.

There are plenty of excellent analog VCA compressors and plugin emulations of such compressors. With so many options to choose from, I’ve compiled what I consider to be the 11 best VCA compressor emulations plugins.

What is a VCA compressor? A VCA (voltage-controlled amplifier) compressor is an analog compressor that utilizes a VCA control to apply compression. The input signal is split through an integrated circuit into a detector path (to control the VCA compression) and an output path.

For more information on VCA compressors, check out my article What Is A VCA Compressor & How Does It Work?

The top 11 best VCA compressor emulation plugins for digital audio workstations are:

  1. Universal Audio SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor
  2. GRIP Valve Drive Compressor
  3. Waves API 2500
  4. Brainworx Vertigo VSC-2
  5. Native Instruments VC 160
  6. Arturia Comp VCA-65
  7. Slate FG-Red
  8. Elysia Mpressor
  9. Steinberg RND Portico 5043
  10. Empirical Labs Arousor
  11. Brainworx Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor

It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person’s top 11 to be different from mine but hope there would be plenty of overlap.

That being said, I believe these plugins to be the best VCA compressor emulation plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:

  • Sonic performance: how does the VCA compressor emulation plugin sound subjectively/objectively?
  • Graphic user interface (GUI): how does the VCA compressor emulation plugin look when loaded in the DAW?
  • Ease-of-use: how user-friendly is the VCA compressor emulation plugin?
  • Functionality: how many different functions does it serve and/or how many parameters are available for the VCA compressor emulation effect?
  • Accessibility/compatibility: how easy is it to acquire the VCA compressor emulation plugin and what are the system requirements?

To learn why they made this list, let’s discuss each of the top 11 best VCA compressor emulation plugins in greater detail.


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Universal Audio SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor

The Universal Audio SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor (link to check the price at Universal Audio) is one of many superb SSL 4000 series bus compressor plugin emulations. I’ve included all other noteworthy emulations of this legendary hardware bus compressor at the end of this list item. I’ve chosen to highlight UAD’s version of the compressor for its stunning accuracy and pristine audio quality, and, selfishly, as it’s the version I have the most experience with.

Universal Audio SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor

The Universal Audio SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor, 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.

The UAD version of the SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor plugin emulation has been re-modelled with incredible precision. When it comes to gluing mix buses in-the-box, look no further than the UAD SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor.

Of course, the main drawback of UAD plugins is that they require UAD hardware to function properly. However, suppose you’ve already got the necessary hardware. In that case, this plugin will provide the versatility and sonic perfection of the original SSL 4000 series G Bus Compressor without requiring any CPU from your computer (the UAD hardware processes the plugins itself). Again, check the list at the end of this section to find other superb emulations of this legendary bus compressor.

The UAD SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor is fully endorsed by Solid State Logic. In typical UAD style (they’re among the best of the best when it comes to plugins), this software plugin has been modelled with expert end-to-end circuit emulation for a product that both parties (and end-users) are stoked on.

For big, powerful and punchy mixes with superior clarity, the Solid State Logic G Bus Compressor delivers again and again. The second best thing, then, is a plugin emulation, of which UAD has done a superb job at programming.

This intuitive compressor has continuous threshold control from -15 to +15 dB and continuous make-up gain up to 15 dB. There are 6 selectable attack times (0.1, 0.3, 1, 3, 10 and 30 ms) and 5 selectable release times (0.1, 0.3, 0.6, 1.2 and Auto). The ratio selection has three options (2:1, 4:1 and 10:1). The plugin even features the original Auto Fade feature, allowing for the famed SSL fade taper up to 60 seconds.

Related articles:
Dynamic Range Compression: What Is The Threshold Control?
Dynamic Range Compression: What Is The Makeup Gain Control?
Dynamic Range Compression: Attack & Release Controls
Dynamic Range Compression: What Is The Ratio Control?

Whether it’s an individual track or a mix/master bus, subtle glueing to aggressive limiting, the UAD SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor gets the job done intuitively. It allows users to focus on what’s most important rather than wasting time in minutia, tweaking countless parameters.

In addition to the original controls, the Universal Audio SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor includes new features such as Side Chain Filtering (for tailoring low-frequency response), Mix (for parallel compression), and Headroom parameters.

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:
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Top 11 Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World

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Top 11 Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment

Other noteworthy SSL 4000 Bus Compressor plugin emulations include:


CFA Sound GRIP Valve Drive Compressor

The GRIP Valve Drive Compressor (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is not necessarily a plugin version of any specific hardware unit. Rather, this plugin is designed to emulate the performance of modern VCA compressors with the character of legendary 1960s German vacuum tubes.

GRIP Valve Drive Compressor

The GRIP Valve Drive Compressor is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AU and VST formats.

This hybrid plugin offers powerful compression functionality with the character of vintage tubes. It is a best-of-three-worlds type of plugin, offering vintage and modern hardware sound in a software plugin format.

From the plugin GUI pictured above, we see the compressor controls to the centre/right and the valve/tube controls to the left. The gain reduction meter is to the far right.

As we can see, the compressor controls are intuitive. The threshold is continuously adjustable from 0 dB to -30 dB and the output (make-up gain) is continuously adjustable from -24 to +6 dB. There are 6 ratio options (1.5:1, 2:1, 4:1, 6:1, 10:1 and 20:1) along with 6 selectable attack times (0.1, 0.3, 1, 3 10 and 30 ms) and release times (0.1, 0.3, 0.6, 1.2, 1.5 and 2 ms).

There is also a blend knob to mix between 100% dry (uncompressed) and 100% wet (compressed) to make parallel compression super-easy to accomplish.

The beauty of this plugin really shines through with the addition of the Valve Drive section. Set the controls to a minimum for a super-clean modern VCA compressor sound or add vintage tube character to the signal by adjusting the parameters.

Choose between triode and pentode tube emulations and adjust the input level, drive and bias voltage controls. Like the parallel blend knob of the compression section, the Valve Drive section also allows the user to blend varying amounts of dry (clean) and wet (tube-driven) signals to the plugin’s output.

Note that the triode saturates the signal, adding even harmonics for a musical style of distortion. In contrast, the pentode will add more odd-order harmonics for a more aggressive style of distortion.

Whatever sound you’re after, the CFA Sound GRIP Valve Drive Compressor can get you there quickly with intuitive and straightforward controls. This awesome plugin is certainly worthy of a top spot on this list!

Check out the CFA Sound GRIP Valve Drive Compressor user manual for more information on system requirements and authorization instructions.


Waves API 2500

The Waves API 2500 (link to check the price at Waves Audio) is one product from the strong partnership between Waves Audio and API. This plugin emulates the renowned API 2500 rackmount hardware stereo VCA compressor, first released in 2002.

Waves API 2500

The Waves API 2500 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Waves has, as per usual, done an excellent job at modelling a world-class piece of audio hardware. The API 2500 is considered by many as a modern classic and, thanks to Waves, is available as a software plugin. Now we can enjoy the power and versatility of this stereo VCA compressor without leaving the proverbial “box”.

The dual-channel design of the 2500 can act upon stereo signals or function as two distinct mono channels. Both channels are controlled by the same intuitive compressor settings and monitored via their own VU meters. Channels can be linked or separated, and each channel has its own RMS detector and, therefore, threshold control.

The threshold is adjustable between -20 and +10 dB in 8 steps and there are 7 different ratio options (1.5:1, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 6:1, 10:1 and ∞:1). Attack time is variable in 7 steps (from 0.03 to 30 ms), and the release time is also variable in 7 steps (6 fixed, 1 continuous).

Auto-makeup gain can be engaged to maintain a steady output level as threshold and ratio settings are adjusted, making it easy to hear how the compressor acts upon the overall tone of the signals passing through it.

One remarkable feature of this superb VCA compressor is the ability to switch between a vintage-style feedback compressor circuit and a modern feed-forward compressor circuit. The plugin captures these differences well. Note that, when using an external sidechain, the topology automatically adjusts to feed-forward.

To learn more about feedback, feed-forward and sidechain compression, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
Feedback Vs. Feed-Forward Dynamic Range Compressors In Audio
The Complete Guide To Sidechain Compression In Audio

The Tone Section of the plugin allows users to switch between feedback and feed-forward topology. It also allows for adjustments to the compressor’s knee (input/output curve) and API’s propriety Thrust parameter control. The Thrust control effectively high-pass filters the sidechain signal to reduce compression in low-end frequencies while maintaining or even increasing compression in high-end frequencies.

To learn more about high-pass filters, check out my article Audio EQ: What Is A High-Pass Filter & How Do HPFs Work?

All in all, the API 2500 is among the best of the best VCA compressors on the market, and the Waves Audio emulation is a near-perfect recreation of this superb hardware in plugin form.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves API 2500 user manual.

Waves Audio is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.

API is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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Top 10 Best Studio Recording/Mixing Console Brands
Top 11 Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment


Brainworx Vertigo VSC-2

The Brainworx Vertigo VSC-2 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a software emulation of the original Vertigo VSC-2 Quad Discrete Compressor.

Brainworx Vertigo VSC-2

The Brainworx Vertigo VSC-2 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and RTAS formats.

The Vertigo VSC-2 Quad Discrete Compressor may not be as famous as the SSL or dbx VCA compressors emulated on this list. However, this compressor is highly cherished by those fortunate enough to use it. As expected, Brainworx has recreated the magic of this vintage compressor with painstakingly accurate modelling.

With four custom hand-built discrete “1979” VCAs at the centre of its design, the VSC-2 stereo bus compressor made a name for itself as a superb “glue” compressor that truly enhanced the weight and size of recordings. Vertigo has teamed up with Brainworx to produce a plugin that successfully captures all the nuance of this high-performing compressor, making it available for in-the-box tracking, mixing and mastering.

Each of the stereo channels in the VSC-2 has its own complete set of controls. The plugin can operate as a highly functional stereo compressor or, alternatively, as a dual mono device. A mono version also comes with the purchase of the plugin.

The threshold controls are adjustable within a range of 48 dB. The ratio of each channel can be set to Soft, 2:1, 4:1, 8:1, 10:1 or Brick. The soft setting turns the plugin into a program-dependent compressor with a soft knee input/output curve that starts at 1:1 below the threshold and reaches 8:1 well above the threshold. The brick setting engages brickwall limiting.

To learn more about compressor knees and limiters, check out the following My New Microphone articles, respectively:
Dynamic Range Compression: What Is The Knee Control?
What Is The Difference Between Audio Compression & Limiting?

The attack and release time parameters are step-variable with settings typical of high-end hardware VCA compressors. 22 decibels of make-up gain are available to boost the signal post-compression.

Last but not least, we should discuss the sidechain signal path, which can be high-pass at 60 Hz or 90 Hz if selected to be high-passed at all.

So the Brainworx Vertigo VSC-2 is an awesome-sounding VCA compressor emulation plugin with remarkable functionality. It’s a true all-star plugin that earns itself a spot on this list.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Brainworx Vertigo VSC-2 user manual.

Brainworx is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.


Native Instruments VC 160

The Native Instruments VC 160 (link to check the price of the NI Vintage Compressors at Native Instruments) is part of NI’s Vintage Compressors series. It is specifically based on the original dbx 160A VCA compressor from 1971.

Native Instruments VC 160

The Native Instruments VC 160 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and RTAS formats.

The dbx 160A was the first-ever VCA compressor to reach the market thanks to the Blackmer gain cell, which dbx founder David Blackmer invented. Native Instruments, in cooperation with Softube, has designed a superb plugin that recreates the magic of this forward-thinking VCA compressor.

The VC 160, like the dbx 160A, offers a continuously variable threshold control and an adjustable ratio (“Compression”) control from 1:1 to ∞:1. These parameters are easily adjustable with two clearly defined knobs.

The output control of the VC adjusts the overall output gain of the plugin, ranging from -20 to +20 dB. To the immediate right of the output control is the Dry knob, which mixes the wet and dry signals at the output for simplified parallel compression.

The sidechain gain and high-pass filter are also continuously adjustable. Opt for a typical program-dependent sidechain or choose an external sidechain signal within the DAW. A single VU meter can be set to monitor the input or output signal levels.

Though highly versatile, NI and Softube recommend this VCA compressor plugin on drums in particular. With added attack and subtle drive, this is an invaluable tool for enhancing the sound of all sorts of percussion instruments and much, much more.

Check out the Vintage Compressors product page at Native Instruments for more information on system requirements and authorization instructions.

Native Instruments is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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Top 11 Best MIDI Controller Brands In The World

Softube is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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dbx is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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Top 11 Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment

Other noteworthy dbx 160A plugin emulations include:


Arturia Comp VCA-65

The Arturia Comp VCA-65 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a plugin emulation of the acclaimed dbx 165A VCA compressor, which is part of dbx’s successful 160 line (along with the aforementioned 160A).

Arturia Comp VCA-65

The Arturia Comp VCA-65 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Though the dbx 165A has been discontinued, its superior performance makes it highly sought-after on the used/vintage markets. Arturia saw this opportunity and, with the company’s advanced TAE modelling of the VCA, transistors and overall circuitry, has produced a plugin that captures all the magic of the original hardware VCA compressor.

Amicably referred to as the “Over Easy” compressor, the 165A’s auto attack-decay detection made it extremely simple to achieve superb dynamic range compression. The unit sounded so natural that even over-the-top settings and hard limiting yielded usable, musical results.

Arturia has perfectly recreated this ease-of-use and natural character in their Comp VCA-65 plugin. The company has also added several additional features to improve upon the overall functionality of this excellent compressor.

The top panel of the plugin hosts all the original controls. Threshold, Compression (ratio), attack and release times, limiter stop level, output gain and metering options are all available. In addition to the original controls, the top panel also features a simple mix knob for super-easy parallel compression.

The bottom panel of this outstanding Arturia plugin hosts the advanced sidechain control and equalizer. Choose between the internal sidechain signal and an external sidechain signal to control the gain reduction circuit. An additional Manual button is featured, allowing users to manually trigger the compression to test the compressor’s response in real-time or trigger compression without any sidechain signal.

The detection mode offers 7 different methods of reading the sidechain signal. Select from Reversed, Dual, Linked, Mid Only, Side Only, Mid>Side or Side>Mid modes. A Time Warp control offers a few milliseconds of lookahead time for snappier compression.

To learn more about compressor lookahead, check out my article Dynamic Range Compression: What Is The Lookahead Control?

Use the three-band semi-parametric EQ to shape the sidechain signal to enhance the compression triggering and achieve de-essing.

To learn more about semi-parametric EQ, check out my article What Is Semi-Parametric Equalization/EQ In Audio?

From subtle compression to saturation to gluing mixed together, the Comp VCA-65 is an impressively powerful plugin.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Arturia Comp VCA-65 user manual.

Arturia is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Virtual/Software Instrument Plugin Brands
Top 11 Best Synthesizer Brands In The World
Top 11 Best MIDI Controller Brands In The World


Slate Digital FG-Red

The Slate Digital FG-Red (link to check the price of the Slate Digital VBC Bundle at Sweetwater) is modelled after the respected Focusrite Red 3 compressor/limiter.

Slate Digital FG-Red

The Slate Digital FG-Red is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Slate Digital is one of the best in the business of producing high-performance audio plugins. The FG-Red is a great example of the company’s dedication to emulating top-end hardware in affordable software plugins.

This plugin was meticulously designed to recreate the unique characteristics and nonlinearities of the original hardware. Transformers, VCA’s, amplifiers, phase distortions, harmonic distortions and timing have all been modelled to give end-users access to the sound of the incredible Focusrite Red 3 without having to find the actual hardware.

The Slate Digital FG-Red featured a big Auto Release knob in the centre of the GUI. This auto-release setting made the original hardware a champion on mix buses and works wonders in the plugin format.

To the lefthand side, there are typical VCA compressor controls. The threshold is adjustable between 0 and -50 dB, and the Ratio is continuously adjustable between 1:1 and 10:1. Attack and release times are both variable between “slow” and “fast” settings.

To the righthand side, there is a make-up gain control (-24 to +24 dB) along with a sidechain high-pass filter (up to 150 Hz) and a mix knob for easy parallel compression processing. The fourth knob to the right is the Drive knob, which is only available in the plugin. Adjusting the drive knob adds punch and articulation to the transients without having a pronounced effect on the makeup gain or gain reduction.

Though the Red 3 from Focusrite has been discontinued, the superb performance is still accessible via the Slate Digital FG-Red plugin!

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Virtual Buss Compressors user manual from the Slate Digital User Manuals directory.

Slate Digital is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.

Focusrite is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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Top 11 Best DAW Control Surface Brands In The World
Top 13 Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World


Elysia Mpressor

The Elysia Mpressor (link to check the price at Plugin Alliance) is the Brainworx-develop plugin version of the awesome Elysia Mpressor hardware VCA compressor.

Elysia Mpressor

The Elysia Mpressor is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX DSP/Native, AAX Audio Suite, AU, VST and SoundGrid formats.

The Elysia Mpressor is an outstanding modern compressor, and this plugin perfectly represents the sonic capability and character of the high-end hardware unit.

Using advanced circuit modelling techniques, Brainworx has successfully emulated the all-analog, all-discrete circuit design of the original hardware. This plugin is faithful to the original, from the single transistor signal processing to permanent class-A mode design to the VCA-based gain reduction circuit.

A unique characteristic of the Mpressor is the gain reduction limiter which, as the name suggests, limits the total amount of gain reduction the compressor can apply to the signal at any given time.

Another cool feature of the Mpressor (and the plugin) is the inclusion of negative ratios. Setting negative ratios opens up the ability to cause heavy pumping effects, backward sound effects, and other unique and useful compression effects no other “normal” compressor can achieve.

This compressor plugin also includes Elysia’s proprietary Niveau Filter, which adjusts the low-end frequencies relative to the high-end frequencies about an adjustable centre frequency. When engaged, the Niveau filter will attenuate the low-end while simultaneously boosting the high-end or vice versa.

The analog noise floor of the original hardware can be engaged to artificially improve the “real-world” analog sound of the plugin. A Link button allows the stereo channels to be linked, whereby the compression will act identically on the left and right stereo channels.

Whether the application is a single track or an entire mix bus, the Elysia Mpressor plugin from Brainworx can deliver everything from subtle gluing to extreme pumping with ease. Once understood, this VCA compressor emulation is likely to be your new best friend within your DAW!

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Elysia Mpressor specifications at Plugin Alliance.

Elysia is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment.


Steinberg RND Portico 5043

The Steinberg RND Portico 5043 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is a plugin emulation of the eminent Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5043 VCA compressor.

Steinberg RND Portico 5043

The Steinberg RND Portico 5043 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AU and VST formats.

This plugin has been emulated using Yamaha’s VCM (Virtual Circuitry Modeling) technology to bring the legendary Neve sound to digital audio workstations in plugin form. Steinberg has programmed this plugin with painstaking accuracy. The original sounds and performs incredibly well, and so too does this superb plugin. The late Rupert Neve himself has exclusively approved it.

The 5043 brings forth analog punch, warmth and clarity with the simplicity of 5 easily understood virtual knobs. Adjust the threshold (continuous between -50 and 0 dB), ratio (between 1.1:1 and limiting), attack and release times and output gain (between -6 and +20 dB).

Beyond the knobs, the 5043 offers two modes: feed-forward and feedback. These two compressor topologies yield different characteristics. The feedback mode is slightly slower and more “vintage,” while the feed-forward mode is slightly faster and more “modern”.

The Steinberg RND Portico 5043 is super-simple yet highly effective and versatile. Whether we’re after snappy limiting, gentle compression, or anything in between, this VCA compressor emulation plugin will deliver professional results.

Check out the Steinberg Rupert Neve Designs Portico 50ss and 5043 user manual for more information on system requirements and authorization instructions.

Steinberg is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 11 Best Virtual/Software Instrument Plugin Brands
Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World

Rupert Neve Designs is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
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Top 11 Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment


Empirical Labs Arousor

The Empirical Labs Arousor (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is the first-ever plugin from the well-known company Empirical Labs. As one would expect, this plugin is an emulation of the brand’s world-renowned Distressor hardware compressor.

Empirical Labs Arousor

The Empirical Labs Arousor is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Though the Distressor is well-known for its opto modes, its gain reduction circuit is centred around VCA technology. The Distressor is truly a one-of-a-kind unit, but the Arouser does a superb job of bringing the unique character of the famed Distressor to the realm of digital plugins.

Speaking of the opto modes, the Arouser features two opto modes based on the time constants of the classic and modern LA-2A optical compressor.

Looking at the plugin, we can immediately understand how versatile its performance can be. In addition to input, output, attack, release and ratio controls, the Arouser offers attack modification, soft clipping, blending and sidechain signal controls.

Beginning with the ratio parameters, we can see the various ratios available. The Alt function opens up 6.5:1 and 7:1 ratios in addition to the 10 already listed. The Rivet mode is modelled after the Distressor’s Nuke Ratio, providing the steepest compression ratio possible to slam room mics and more.

The knee of the resulting compression envelope can be adjusted via the AtMod knob. By slowing the initial slope of the attack, transients can be preserved while also clamping down on the signal to improve sustain and maintain compression.

The Soft Clipping panel allows users to introduce varying amounts of harmonic distortion/saturation via 4 modes and a saturation knob. From subtle to extreme distortion, the Soft Clipping panel will deliver Distressor-like results without ever having to adjust the gain stages of the plugin.

The Arouser also features two bands (a high-pass and parametric bell-type filter) of EQ in the sidechain processor. This allows users to adjust how the compression circuit will be triggered, making it easy to achieve de-essing and other specialized styles of compression.

To learn more about parametric EQ, check out my article The Complete Guide To Parametric Equalization/EQ.

Finally, we can blend the dry and wet signals with the Mix knob to achieve easy parallel compression.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Downloads page at Empirical Labs.

Empirical Labs is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World.

Other noteworthy Empirical Labs Distressor plugin emulations include:


Brainworx Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor

The Brainworx Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor (link to check the price at Plugin Alliance) is a plugin emulation of the superb Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor hardware.

Brainworx Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor

The Brainworx Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX DSP/Native, AAX Audio Suite, AU and VST formats. Note that this plugin is also available for UAD hardware and UA Audio Interfaces.

The Brainworx Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Optical Compressor Emulation Plugins.

The Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor is an impressively powerful VCA compressor revered as the “godfather of dynamics control.”

Brainworx has meticulously modelled the legendary hardware circuitry of the Mastering Compressor and has produced one of the greatest compressor plugins on the market in doing so. The plugin has been approved and endorsed by the founder of Shadow Hills Industries, Peter Reardon.

Of course, adding this plugin to this list is a bit of a stretch. Since it has both a VCA gain reduction circuit and an optical gain reduction circuit, it’s not a “true” VCA compressor emulation plugin. That being said, putting it last on the list, we could consider it as a bonus plugin after the “top 10” we’ve already discussed.

Sending the signal through both compression stages is a large part of the Brainworx Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor charm. Adjusting both these stages offers superior control over signal dynamics. With a bit of fine-tuning, this compressor will sound amazing on any source material.

Select between three different modelled output transformers to add extra character to the signal. Nickel adds high-end sparkle, Iron adds mid-range character, and Steel adds additional harmonic distortion.

The Brainworx Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor works in either stereo and dual-mono modes. Each compression stage features all necessary compression parameters.

In addition to all that functionality, Brainworx went ahead to include Parallel Mix control, a Sidechain Filter and an External Sidechain option in the proprietary toolbar. These controls further enhance an already incredible compressor plugin!

To get through all the features of this incredibly powerful plugin, I’d need a whole other article. Please consider checking out the Brainworx Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor user manual for all the information you’ll need.

Check out the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor specifications at Plugin Alliance for more information on system requirements and authorization instructions.

Brainworx is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.


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.


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This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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