There is no easy answer to which is the best audio compressor. Compressors, like microphones, have been around for many decades, so there are many options out there. Each audio compressor, while having the same goal, has a different outcome to the sound that you will hear. This is what makes compressors my favorite topic to discuss. In addition to compressors, there's a very similar topic which is limiters. Before we dive into the what the best audio compressor/limiter for your needs will be, let's first talk about what an audio compressor and limiter is.
What Is Audio Compression?
An audio compressor lessens the difference between the loudest sounds and quietest sounds that are produced from the sound source (instruments, vocals, drums, etc).
What Is An Audio Limiter?
Very similar to compression, but where compression brings up the quiet levels, a limiter only stops a level from going over a certain amount helping with spikes and peaks.
Audio compression and limitation is the difference between a weak recording and a powerful recording. Let me state that there are some very nice compressors and limiters available that will break a bank account in half. These are the legendary ones that you will see in a commercial recording studio, but most home studios wouldn't have them. With that in mind, lets look at the best audio compressors and limiters on a budget (The following products contain affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will get paid if you click through and make a purchase).
The Best Audio Compressor On A Budget
Warm Audio WA76
The Warm Audio WA76 is modeled after the famous 1176. I personally tend to use the 1176 style more on percussion instruments and sometimes guitar. The 76 cool feature is that if you push all buttons in, you can get a super punchy sound.
Last checked price is $599
This dbx compressor is great to learn the ropes as it is very affordable, and it does a good job. It also has 2 channels. Frequency range low is 35 Hz, therefore the downfall of this compressor it isn't good for bass instruments.
Last checked price is $150
Tips For The Best Audio Compressor Purchase
When you do purchase your first compressor, give it a try on several different instruments to see what you find has the best sound to your ears. This will help you decide when to use it. For example, I am a big fan of the LA-2A sound on bass guitar and bass drum, but I do not tend to use it on guitar as I feel it gives too funky of a sound for my rock genre tastes. Having the best audio compressor for your needs will add to your recording tricks that will make your mixes better. Also keep in mind your budget. There are some great compression plugins out there that will give a cheaper alternative. For more on plugins, check out our article here. However, I will say that I like to use the hardware compressor when recording, then add the compressor plugin when I am mixing. If you do these both and don't over-compress, you can have a great outcome!
You might be able to see now that it is deeper than what the best audio compressor is, it is more of what the best audio compressor is for what you are wanting to record. If you have any troubles at all picking out the compressor you want to get, we are always there to help! We can be contacted through our contact us page found here.