David Bowie's legendary producer Tony Visconti once called compression "the sound of rock", and he wasn't far wrong. Compression is used all over modern music (some say too much), and is a sort of secret weapon for achieving a professional sound.
Compressor plugins vary in complexity, from simple more-or-less VSTs such as Sausage Fattener, to those that provide a user-definable volume threshold above which the effect will kick in, and a ratio that describes the difference between the unprocessed (or 'dry') signal and the effected (or 'wet') output.
Compression should be used whenever something requires taming: vocals are a given, unless your singer has great mic skills, while drums and often entire mixes can also be moulded into shape with a compressor.
So how do you decide which plugin is right for your mix? Over the course of this feature, we'll take a look at some of the best - both old and new - to help you through the jungle.