Best Compressor for Acoustic Guitar

Best Compressor for Acoustic Guitar

Earlier, we’ve covered the topic of compression for acoustic guitars. The one thing we didn’t talk about in that article was what actual compressor to use since we believe that it’s a matter of personal preference. Nevertheless, in this article, we decided to share the list of what we believe to be the best compressor for acoustic guitar. So you could take some inspiration and maybe even expand your toolbox.

Top 7 Best Compressors for Acoustic Guitar

  1. Apogee FX ModComp
  2. Waves Audio CLA-3A
  3. Waves Renaissance Axx
  4. Audified U73b
  5. Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov GE
  6. FabFilter Pro-C
  7. Sonible smart:comp

Compressors for Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide

The most important thing to remember is that if you know how to use compression and, more importantly, why to use it at all, any compressor will do. Even the built-in compressor in your DAW is perfectly capable of delivering great results. But here is one more thing that you definitely should know, every compressor has its own very unique way of changing the sound of the original track. And the truth is you simply may not be very inspired by the way your compressor works.

This article is intended to give you some more inspiration and to help you find the sound that most accurately represents your creativity. After all, every audio producer is on a never-ending journey towards their own signature sound. And the more you broaden your horizons, the closer you get to that goal.

Important features

Since compressors are pretty straightforward and, with very few exceptions, use the same core principles in its operational design, the main thing we should focus on is its sonic characteristics. Some compressors sound very clean, which most of the time is rather desirable when compressing acoustic guitars. Others apply a rather heavy coloration that could complement the sound of acoustic guitar and maybe even enhance it.

Some compressors can give you the option of dialing in saturation according to your own taste. Having all of those 3 options is quite beneficial since every professional audio engineer has to be prepared for every possible mixing situation. The other thing we kept in mind while compiling this list was the usability of the compressor.

On one hand, you have an option of a few controllable dials with most of the processing occurring “under the hood”, which can greatly speed up your workflow. On the other hand, you have compressors that let you tweak the parameters with surgical precision, which in turn will give you total control over every nuance of the mix. It all pretty much comes down to personal preference, as we stated before. But us producers evolve only by trying new things, and we suggest you find your own best compressor for acoustic guitar considering our recommendations below.

Best Compressors for Acoustic Guitar Reviews

Apogee FX ModComp

Apogee FX ModComp

Pros
  • Great visualization
  • Both compressor and limiter
Cons
  • No VST3
  • Requires free iLok account
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Apogee FX ModComp is a very clean compressor and limiter with a great visualization of compression. ModComp offers you pretty standard compressor controls with the addition of two-band sidechain EQ. It runs natively on macOS, but if you are a Windows user, you’re going to need to have an Apogee hardware audio interface in order to run it.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with Apogee FX ModComp as it is an outstanding and versatile compressor/limiter with a very intuitive and user-friendly GUI. It has 3 styles that can be chosen by the user and applied to individual instruments, stems, and mixes.

What we think

Apart it being one of the cleanest compressors we ever heard, it has an even greater upside to it. Apogee FX ModComp offers you real-time visualization of the compression. It could help you to understand the process of compression better if you are a beginner since you can see what each dial does in real-time. Or it can help you dial in a very precise compression if you are a more experienced audio producer.

Bottomline

Apogee FX ModComp is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a very clean compressor that lets you be very precise and thorough with your compression. You shouldn’t have any problems with it if you are using macOS 10 or higher or own Apogee hardware DSP. It also works spectacularly as a limiter, so its capabilities reach significantly further than just a compressor for acoustic guitar.

Waves Audio CLA-3A

Waves Audio CLA-3A

Pros
Cons
  • Coloration might be too heavy
See price @ Waves Audio
Best features and specs

Waves Audio has a pristine reputation amongst audio producers, especially when it comes to their vintage gear emulation. Waves Audio CLA-3A is a very faithful and reliable simulation of UREI LA-3A, a solid-state version of the legendary LA-2A. As you would expect, the quality of sound is sublime, and the behavior of the original unit is recreated thoroughly. And it is extremely CPU friendly, which is always a nice thing.

User impressions

Users like Waves Audio CLA-3A as it makes guitars sound warmer, and it adds coloration. It has a very intuitive GUI and is extremely easy to use.

What we think

Although one might think that it is rather unconventional to use Waves Audio CLA-3A on an acoustic guitar track due to its heavy coloration, you can achieve great results if you use a very gentle peak reduction on a solo acoustic track. It also could be pushed rather hard if your acoustic guitar is in a very dense mix. Be warned, though, that it’s not suitable in situations where heavy coloration is undesirable. That being said, we found that the coloration itself sounds very contained and manageable in most cases.

Bottomline

Waves Audio CLA-3A is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a vintage compressor with a very iconic sound. It certainly isn’t suitable for every style when it comes to acoustic guitars. But if applied gently, it can give your sound a very distinguishable vintage flavor.

Waves Renaissance Axx

Waves Renaissance Axx

Pros
  • Extremely easy to use
  • Relatively low price
  • Made by Waves Audio
Cons
  • None that we know of
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Waves Renaissance Axx is a very clean compressor designed specifically for a faster workflow. It has only 3 simple dials, with most of the processing happening automatically without your interference. Since one of the dials is an Output Gain, you actually adjust the compression itself only by dialing threshold and attack. And it doesn’t really get faster than that. Also, it is made by Waves Audio which means that you get the sound of the highest quality possible.

User impressions

Users say that Waves Renaissance Axx is good as it is specially tuned for guitars and basses. It has a very intuitive and user-friendly GUI and is extremely easy to use. It’s quite reasonably priced, which makes it ideal to have in the toolbox.

What we think

Although audio producers who prefer to have ultimate control over each aspect of the compression might feel rather skeptical about Waves Renaissance Axx, it’s truly impressive what you can achieve with only two controllable dials. The algorithm that controls the auto release doesn’t seem to make mistakes no matter what you throw at it.

Bottomline

Waves Renaissance Axx is a perfect choice for someone who prefers the fastest workflow possible. That being said, it generally is a good idea to always have such a handy tool, even if you prefer to dial in the compression with great precision by yourself. It’s good to take your time, but there are situations where you are on the clock, and Waves Renaissance Axx gives you an opportunity to deliver great results in no time at all.

Audified U73b

Audified U73b

Pros
  • Has a free demo
  • Emulation of vintage German compressor
Cons
  • Steep learning curve
See price @ Plugin Boutique
Best features and specs

Audified U73b is a very faithful emulation of the German broadcast compressor that was widely used in recording studios around the world in the 70’s and 80’s. It has a very warm and thick tube sound, and the compression itself is always very gentle and contained. The only downside to it is that you’re actually going to have to read the manual to understand how to operate it properly.

User impressions

Users like Audified U73b for producing a wonderful, warm and thick sound when applied on the tracks. It has an attractive and intuitive GUI. When applied on an acoustic guitar, it doesn’t choke on the attack on the contrast with other compressors. Users say that this compressor has a lot of character, but the GUI needs room for improvement.

What we think

We believe that every audio producer should have some sort of tube gear at their disposal in one form or the other. Audified U73b is a perfect place to start adding tube warmth to your sound since it has very gentle and beautiful coloration. We also found that if you want your sound to be more modern, you just have to engage the built-in high-pass filter.

Bottomline

Audified U73b is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a compressor with vintage tube sound. The compressor itself sounds very gentle, and it’s very hard to destroy your sound with it. Audified U73b is perfect for adding slight warmth to acoustic guitars and containing its transients once you figure out how programmable release dial actually works.

Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov GE

Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov GE

Pros
  • Has a free version with a limited functionality
  • A lot of controls
Cons
  • Steep learning curve
See price @ Plugin Boutique
Best features and specs

Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov GE is an extremely capable digital compressor that lets you control the compression meticulously and with great precision. It has a very clean sound that doesn’t seem to audibly alternate the timbre of the original track.

User impressions

Users agree that Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov GE is an ultimately great compressor as you can choose which type of compression you need. It has excellent transparent control of levels and dynamics. The only downside is that if you decide to dive into advanced functions, you will find it to be a challenge.

What we think

We’ve been using the free version of this plugin for a couple of years, and it became our go-to plugin in every situation where sound needed to be compressed without sounding compressed. It’s truly impressive how “stealthy” it can be. Even when a very aggressive compression is applied. The only downside we found was that it took us some time to wrap our heads around the differences between peak and RMS release controls.

Bottomline

Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov GE is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for the cleanest compression possible with very extreme control over each aspect of the compression. It also has a free version with some limitations, so you could try it yourself. Be warned, though, that it might take you quite some time to learn how to use it properly. Or you can try to do the impossible and read the manual.

FabFilter Pro-C

FabFilter Pro-C

Pros
  • Trial version available
  • Extremely powerful compressor
Cons
  • Rather CPU heavy
See price @ Plugin Boutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

FabFilter Pro-C is a very powerful digital compressor designed to be as versatile as possible. In addition to conventional compressor dials, it has rather an overwhelming amount of additional features, including the ability to choose from quite a few of the most prominent compression styles. But since it was designed first of all as a professional tool, you might spend some time learning the ropes.

User impressions

Users agree that FabFilter Pro-C is a top-shelf compressor in the world right now as it has a gorgeous and info-packed interface. It has a lot of new compression styles. Users in particular like the amazing flexible side-chain section.

What we think

We imagine that it would be rather hard to find a professional audio engineer who doesn’t own this compressor already. It sounds very clean, but at the same time, you have the option of choosing the character of your compression depending on the situation. The only thing you might struggle with is CPU usage. Since 10 instances of FabFilter Pro-C with oversampling on could stress even powerful CPUs.

Bottomline

FabFilter Pro-C is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a professional compressor that lets them have unprecedented control over each and every aspect of the compression. It also has a magnificent visualization and a sidechain EQ, which expands its usability even further.

Sonible smart:comp

Sonible smart:comp

Pros
  • Free trial available
  • Intelligent processing
Cons
  • Not a conventional compressor
See price @ Plugin Boutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Sonible smart:comp is an intelligent tonal multiband compressor that works automatically using the built-in AI. You still have controls of a conventional compressor, but they work rather as a suggestion for AI of what compression you are exactly trying to achieve. The rest happened automatically without your direct involvement at all. If it is applied throughout the mix, it can automatically add sidechain compression where needed.

The sound of Sonible smart:comp is very clean and polished. Even when heavy compression is applied, it doesn’t sound too intrusive and overwhelming.

User impressions

Users like Sonible smart:comp for applying compression where it is needed. As it uses machine learning, it can quickly analyze the incoming signal, set parameters that will result in precise compression. Also, it has a next-level sidechain mode which offers frequency-dependent ducking that makes the mix smoother.

What we think

You may consider Sonible smart:comp to be something entirely opposite of FabFilter Pro-C. If the latter gives you full control over each aspect of the compression, Sonible smart:comp relies heavily on its internal algorithms so you could work faster and with ease.

If you are a car enthusiast, you may consider it to be the difference between manual and automatic. Using the manual gearbox gives you full control over the torque distribution, in turn, the automatic gearbox distributes it itself, but no matter what you are driving, you will still get where you were going. Exactly the same analogy could be applied to Sonible smart:comp. You still can achieve great results, and the only difference is that far less work should be put into it.

Bottomline

Sonible smart:comp is an interesting choice for audio producers who like to experience progress. It’s very hard to consider it to be a conventional compressor only because it wasn’t meant to be it in the first place. It’s a very intelligent dynamic processor that implements machine learning algorithms that was meant to be the next step in the evolution of audio engineering. That being said, you probably wouldn’t want it to be your go-to compressor. Not just yet, anyway.

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