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Music Software Bundles from Pluginboutique.com

Top 5 Best Bus Compressor Plugins For Bigger Mixes

December 24, 2023 
Last Updated on December 24, 2023

The use of a great bus compressor cannot be overstated when it comes to mixing music. In this blog post, we will delve into the "Top 5 Best Bus Compressor Plugins For Bigger Mixes." These plugins are not just tools; they are the secret ingredients that can transform your mixes from good to great, providing that polished, cohesive sound that stands out.

We have handpicked these top 5 compressors simply on their unique sounds. From subtle glue to aggressive leveling, each of these plugins offer something special for your tracks. So, let's dive in and explore how these bus compressor plugins can elevate your mixes to next heights!

Included in this guide:

Best Overall
Waves CLA MixDown Plug-in

Waves CLA MixDown Plug-in

  • Tailored bass and treble shelve EQs for idealized mixes
  • Four faders to quickly adjust dynamics, colors, and console drive
  • Two flavors of glue compression for enhanced cohesiveness
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Solid State Logic Bus Compressor 2 Plug-In

Solid State Logic Bus Compressor 2 Plug-In

  • Authentic emulation of SSL G-series bus compressor
  • Total control with SSL 360° plug-in mixer
  • High-pass filter and mix control for flexibility
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Top Pick
Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor Plug-In

Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor Plug-In

  • Flexible sidechain filtering with variable corner frequency
  • Three output transformers: Nickel, iron, and steel
  • Two separate sections for dual compression: Optical and discrete
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Top Pick
Slate Digital VBC Virtual Buss Compressors Plug-In Bundle

Slate Digital VBC Virtual Buss Compressors Plug-In Bundle

  • Three compressors with distinct personalities: FG-Grey, FG-Red, and FG-MU
  • Availability of mix and side-chain high-pass filter knobs in the three plug-ins
  • Accurate modeling of original hardware saturation characteristics
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Lowest Price
Waves API 2500 Stereo Compressor Plug-In

Waves API 2500 Stereo Compressor Plug-In

  • Two compression types for modern and vintage tones
  • Soft, medium, and high knee settings
  • Three-position thrust high-pass filter
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The Top 5 Best Bus Compressor Plugins

The Waves CLA MixDown plug-in can be a great asset in your music production toolkit. It’s the ultimate mix bus processor and our overall favorite. Created by Grammy-winning engineer Chris Lord-Alge, it’s the go-to plug-in for finalizing your mix.

Mainly, it’s a flexible solution for optimizing high and low shelve EQ, glue compression, and console emulation. Overall, it combines years of mixing expertise into a single efficient interface.

Tip: Use this as the first plugin on your master bus. Dial the input fader in so that you are getting 2-3 dB of gain reduction. Leave all other settings on their defaults.

  • Efficient workflow on a user-friendly interface
  • The price is fantastic
  • Also great for mastering
  • Some users have reported that it can be demanding on their computers CPU.

The Solid State Logic (SSL) bus compressor 2 is the embodiment of the classic 1980s analog console compressor. Known for its ability to glue mixes together with formidable power, punch, and drive, such a plugin has been an irreplaceable part of countless recordings.

Primarily, the SSL bus compressor 2 introduces new dimensions of control with features like variable attack, release, and compression ratios. Therefore, it ensures the same compression characteristics and fantastic sound quality as the original hardware.

Tip: We use this compressor on our drum bus in every mix. Use the gentle drum bus preset and set the threshold knob so that you are getting 2-3 dB of gain reduction.

  • Seamless integration with SSL 360° and UC1 controller
  • Enhanced flexibility with added controls
  • Outstanding glue and punch for more cohesive mixes
  • Users who aren’t used to SSL-style compression may experience a bit of a learning curve because of the amount of available controls
  • Multiple instances and other features like oversampling may pose some performance issues on less powerful systems

The Shadow Hills Mastering compressor plug-in is a digital take on its highly regarded analog counterpart. It’s famous for its versatility and impact on classic recordings, mirroring the hardware’s two-stage compression process.

Principally, the first stage employs an optoelectronic gain control element. Consecutively, the second replicate a discrete VCA design, operating in feed-forward mode. With both compressors in action, the plug-in offers distinct tonal shaping.

Tip: On slower or less dynamic songs, we use this compressor in place of the CLA MixDown.

  • Great capabilities for producing seamless transients and marvelous tones
  • Increased control over the attack, release, and ratio settings
  • The output transformer options allow for outstanding tonal balance shifting and sonic variety
  • The output level metering is a bit primitive for a mastering compressor
  • It is complicated to use and we recommend reading the manual

The Slate Digital VBC virtual bus compressors plug-in bundle is a set of three analog-modeled compressor plug-ins. It’s designed to mimic some of the highest-demanded classic mix-bus compressors.

As a part of Slate Digital’s Virtual Mix Rack (VMR) system, the three plugins are renowned for their ability to add glue and character to mixes. While the FG-Grey is known for its transparent compression and musicality, the FG-Red adds quite the punch to mixes. As for the FG-MU, it adds warmth to recordings with its smooth and rich compression.

  • The bundle’s price is highly attractive, given the features it offers
  • The three plug-ins provide a versatile toolkit for different mixing scenarios
  • You can use the three compressors separately within your digital audio workstation (DAW) or inside your virtual music production environment
  • Lack of mono versions
  • Limited side-chain filter range

A modern take on the classic API 2500 stereo compressor, the Waves API 2500 stereo compressor plug-in holds fantastic characteristics. It’s designed to recreate the versatility of the original hardware, offering a complete set of controls for precise shaping.

With the use of parameters such as ratio, threshold, attack, release, and knee adjustments, you can achieve optimal dynamic control. Furthermore, the plug-in’s mix and headroom controls allow you to adjust the overall output level as well as blend compressed with uncompressed signals.

  • Delivers the outstanding musical compression characteristics of the original API 2500 hardware
  • High flexibility in stereo bus compression with the ability to link or unlink the left and right channels
  • The plug-in has an auto makeup gain feature that simplifies the gain staging process
  • The plugin can be CPU intensive

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a bus compressor plugin and why is it important for mixing?

A bus compressor plugin is a software tool used in digital audio production. It allows you to apply compression to a group of tracks, or a "bus", in your mix. This kind of compression helps to glue the tracks together, creating a cohesive and balanced sound that can make your mixes sound bigger and more polished.

How do I choose the right bus compressor plugin for my needs?

Choosing the right bus compressor plugin depends on your personal preferences and the specific needs of your project. Consider the type of music you are mixing, the user interface you are comfortable with, the specific features you need (like side-chain filters or stereo width control), and your budget. Trial versions can be a great way to test out different options.

How do I properly set up a bus compressor in my mix?

To set up a bus compressor in your mix, route multiple tracks (like all your drums, or all your vocals) to a bus or group track. Insert the bus compressor on this bus track. Start with a moderate ratio, a slow attack to preserve transients, and a quick release to avoid pumping. Adjust the threshold to get the desired amount of gain reduction, and use the make-up gain to compensate for the volume loss due to compression.

What are the common features to look for in a high-quality bus compressor plugin?

High-quality bus compressor plugins often feature parameters like adjustable attack and release times, ratio, threshold, and make-up gain. Advanced features might include a side-chain filter, stereo width control, mid/side processing capabilities, and the ability to mix in the dry signal for parallel compression. A visually intuitive interface and real-time gain reduction metering can also be quite helpful.

Can bus compression be used in mastering?

Yes, bus compression can also be used during the mastering stage. In mastering, gentle bus compression can be applied across the entire mix to glue the tracks together and provide a final level of dynamic control. However, it’s crucial to use it subtly in mastering to avoid over-compression, which can lead to a loss of dynamics and clarity.

Product Recap

To create the ultimate mix, you need to have the right tools. Luckily, bus compressors can be great assets for reaching your goal. In our search for the best bus compressor plugins, our top pick is the Waves CLA MixDown, which offers unmatched excellence.

As for the Solid State Logic Bus Compressor 2, it secured its place as the runner-up. It delivers amazing and consistent performance in every mix. That said, for those who’re after a budget-friendly alternative, look no further than the Waves API 2500 Stereo Compressor plug-in. It delivers fantastic results despite its convenient price.

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"Some of the links within this article are affiliate links. These links are from various companies such as Amazon. This means if you click on any of these links and purchase the item or service, I will receive an affiliate commission. This is at no cost to you and the money gets invested back into Audio Sorcerer LLC."

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