After composing a track, creating the best suitable mix for it can often be the sole factor that decides whether the track is a success or not.
A top 3 plugin for nearly any mix, compression is an essential part of the mixing process.
It’s able to change the character of your mix in ways subtle or extreme, choosing the right compressors is essential to ensure that you get your mix right in the first place.
What is the Best Mix Bus Compressor Plugin?
With countless manufacturers releasing plugins that could potentially be considered the best mixing plugin, it’s difficult to shortlist and choose the winners.
So, there are a variety of factors you should consider when selecting the best mix bus compressor plugin for your projects.
It’s really up to you as to how you want your mixes to sound, and picking one that works best for your workflow is the most important step.
However, after testing numerous compressors on a variety of sounds, here’s one of our top choices for compressing the mix bus.
SSL G Bus Compressor
The SSL-G Bus is a legendary compressor that was in the center section of the 1980 SSL analog console. It is the secret source behind most songs that we call classics today.
When great mixers explain the sound of this compressor they will usually say it turns a mix into a record.
Basically, in simple terms, this means it adds glue to the entire mix and makes it sound like a finished song.
The SSL is also known for making mixes sound bigger and punchy without compromising clarity.
Over the years, many plugin manufacturers have come up with great-sounding emulations but SSL themselves have finally released one which also sounds amazing and is packed with a lot of new features.
It is a great mix bus compressor but can also be used on individual sounds and subgroups of tracks.
So, if you want to add drive and get your mix sounding like a record then the SSL is most likely the best choice.
Download SSL Bus Compressor 2
FabFilter Pro-C 2
One of the most underrated bus compressors is the FabFilter Pro-C 2. It is well known for its transparent sound and for using it on individual tracks.
Most engineers don't even know that the Pro-C can be a great compressor for gluing an entire mix together.
With its different compression styles and options like mid/side compression and internal side-chaining with optional EQ filtering, it can work in any desired way, even in the mastering stages.
It also offers an incredible high-quality sound and character.
The user-friendly interface offers real-time metering that will improve your workflow. This is great, especially for beginner mixing engineers who still can't hear compression.
The FabFilter Pro-C 2 is a great bus compressor for those who're looking for something flexible. In some cases, you just want to glue a mix without any saturation or analog characteristics.
Even if you want the classic analog sound you can still get it with this compressor. So, it's a must-have in your arsenal of go-to-plugins for various jobs.
Download FabFilter Pro-C 2
When you're looking for that punch and aggressive tone you hear on most classic Hip Hop and Dance music, the API 2500 is mostly the best choice.
It is a versatile dynamic processor with a dual-channel design that allows you to separate it into two mono channels via a single compression setting.
The API 2500 is one of the favorite bus compressors for gluing an entire mix or different subgroups that need power and intensity.
Using auto-makeup gain, you can adjust the threshold or ratio while automatically maintaining a constant output level.
This famous compressor is considered one of the best designs of the Paul Wolff era of API circuit design.
It adds energy, movement, and tone to stereo mixes and subgroups, unlike any other compressor.
The key reason the API plugins are a go-to for most engineers is simply because they’re ‘vibey.’ This is largely down to the coloration of the original circuitry.
Slate Virtual Buss Compressors
What differentiates the Slate VBC (Virtual Buss Compressor) is the fact that it comes with 3 unique-sounding dynamic processors (FG-Red, FG-Grey, FG-MU) which are modeled from some of the greatest sounding classic compressors.
These compressors are carefully recreated to emulate the unique nonlinearities of the circuit paths which give each compressor a distinct tone.
The FG-Red has been a favorite for many years for popular mixing engineer, Chris Lord-Alge.
This is a unique compressor that is not used by a lot of audio engineers but it's a secret weapon for clear punchy-sounding mixes.
It is a bit like the API 2500, it is aggressive, punchy, and sounds very musical.
The FG-Grey is modeled after the classic British “4000 series console compressor”. This one is great for subgroups, especially the drum and guitar bus channels.
If you're going for a big and round low-end then this compressor is great for that but I wouldn't recommend it for heavy mix bus compression.
The 3rd and final compressor in the Slate VBC is the FG-MU, which is my favorite of all the 3 emulations. It is modeled from the classic Fairchild 670 tube compressor.
There's just some real magic that happens when your mix goes through a brilliantly-designed piece of tube gear.
Those harsh upper mid overtones are also tamed as the midrange thickens, the lows close in and the top opens up even more with a beautiful sparkle.
This is why the FG-MU is my favorite mix bus compressor and the Slate Digital emulation sounds far better than any other emulation I’ve tested.
A software emulator of the legendary Neve® 33609 Diode Compressor and Limiter, Comp DIODE-609 provides a warm, smooth, and versatile stereo experience.
The original hardware unit (Neve 33609) was not given the nickname “Mix Bus Royalty” for nothing. It has been strapped across the mix bus of many chart-topping hits since the '70s.
It’s a workhorse dynamic processor that offers transparency and flexibility. Its sonic character is not as aggressive as that of many other mix bus compressors.
Despite the compression being set to extreme levels, the unit retains its musical quality without ever "choking" or squashing the audio.
Its sound quality is so euphonic and musical. Every mix that passes through the Precision Comp/Limiter will gain clarity and character.
AMS Neve® continues to produce this studio classic even today, demonstrating that it has stood the test of time not only in terms of its industry-wide usage but also in terms of its market share.
Download Comp DIODE-609
Abbey Road RS124 Compressor
This one is labeled “The Holy Grail of Smooth Compressors.”
Put the legendary velvety tones heard on every Beatles recording at Abbey Road on your music with the Waves Abbey Road RS124 compressor.
This was the custom-built RS124 compressor the engineers at Abbey Road studios used during the 1960s as their secret weapon.
RS124 is known for its thick, creamy bass tones featured on songs like "Rain" and "Come Together."
Abbey Road engineers would typically push the input of the RS124 deep into 15-20 dB of gain reduction, producing wonderfully lush results on numerous sources.
The compressor works well to add body and weight to mixes without introducing any obvious pumping effect.
The RS124 manages to remain in control even when a lot of gain reduction is applied. At high gain-reduction settings, many lesser compressors seem to treat your audio like a punching bag.
This compressor was rediscovered in the early 2000s and has been in use at Abbey Road Studios ever since.
It's rare and unique, so it's no wonder it's still being used to this today!
Brainworx Vertigo VSC-2
Vertigo Sound's first product, the Vertigo VSC-2 dual-mono compressor, was a huge success.
Dubbed "the Mercedes of VCA compressors" by Vintage King USA. This compressor was praised for its vintage sonics and high-tech design.
It features legendary compression textures with a modern signal path and modern controls.
The best part is that it was developed specifically as a mix bus compressor.
VSC-2 offers outstanding sonic capabilities in virtually every possible application, with a sonic range that extends from extreme clarity to a brilliant, powerful punch.
The VSC2 offers all the desirable features that a good-sounding VCA compressor should have. Stunningly good.
Download Brainworx Vertigo VSC-2
MJUC by Klanghelm
MJUC has three selectable models that determine the overall workflow and sound. Each of the three models offers something different.
The MkI is at its best when it’s on a bus gently gluing things together.
The MkII's IStage option is particularly effective with bass-heavy sounds and full mixes, which feel much more open with this option.
MkIII, Punch affects the release shape, with setting 3 feeling the tightest.
If you wish, you can tweak the overall sound and saturation of each model with the unique TIMBRE and DRIVE controls.
DRIVE controls the load of the input and output transformers and the saturation of the tube amplification stages if any.
The TIMBRE expands the possible uses of the MJUC as a sound shaper.
MJUC is an excellent plugin that can easily compete with the best high-end compressor plugins on the market and is another Klanghelm winner.
The biggest issue with this plugin is that it’s CPU heavy.
Compressors are an essential part of mixing music. They can be used to increase dynamics or to make signals louder and more even.
Can you name a few of your favorites? Are there any questions you have about the plugins?
Leave a comment below to share your thoughts or questions.