Free for all
Compression is one of the cornerstones of modern music production, and the computer-based musician is positively spoilt for choice when it comes to plugins that deliver it. From staggeringly authentic emulations of classic hardware units to all-new devices that could never exist in the non-virtual world, if you've got the readies, there's a compressor out there for you, no matter what kind of sound you're after.
But what if money's an issue? The music production newbie doesn't want to shell out a fortune on compressors before they even know how to make the most of them, while the experienced producer is always on the look-out for new toys, even when funds are tight.
The good news is that there are a host of generous developers out there bringing us genuinely professional quality plugins for absolutely nowt! Here are just five of them - download them all and prepare to be amazed…
Audio Damage Rough Rider
This scrumptious plugin has been around for a few years, but it’s still one of the best freeware compressors for aggressive drum bus pumping and “atom-bomb squish”.
There’s no dry/wet mix parameter per se, but you can automate the Active (bypass) switch to blend it in.
This vibe-laden dynamics device combines M/S compression, saturation, mid-scooping EQ, sidechaining and peak limiting, providing coloured compression and warmth.
It’s not the most intuitive or easy-to-use compressor out there, so be prepared to read the manual.
This free, cut-down version of the developer’s commercial DC8C compressor is a must-have tool for assertive levelling and creative squashing.
There are only two knobs (Input and Output), but you can dial in program-dependent compression and saturation in a flash, and choose from four compression styles.
Designed to cover all of your compression needs, MCompressor is one of the many stars of their MFreeEffectsBundle.
This all-rounder also gives you customisable gain reduction curves, razor-sharp visualisation, sidechain high- and low-pass filtering, intelligent gain compensation, output limiting and more.
Klanghelm MJUC jr
Based on classic ‘variable-mu’ compressors, this cost-free squasher eschews complexity in favour of analogue vibe and charm.
There’s only basic Compress and Make-Up controls to tweak, and three preset attack/release settings (Slow, Fast and Auto), so you’ll be slamming vocals and pumping drum busses in no time.