The Best Compressor for Kick Drum

The Best Compressor for Kick Drum

There is something mystical and tribal in how we perceive the sound of a kick drum. Pulsating kick is what makes us really feel the music. So, needless to say, that the sound of the kick drum should be flawless and spot-on perfect. One of the tools that can help you with that is a compressor. For choosing the best compressor for kick drum, you have to be extra thorough, and we’re here to assist you with that.

Top 10 Best Compressor for Kick Drum

  1. Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor
  2. Tube-Tech CL 1B Tube Optical Compressor
  3. Waves H-Comp Hybrid Compressor Plugin
  4. Waves SSL 4000
  5. FabFilter Pro-MB
  6. Fab Filter Pro-C
  7. Klark Teknik 1176-KT Classic FET-style Compressor
  8. Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor
  9. IK Multimedia T-RackS Black 76
  10. Neve 2254/R

Compressor for Kick Drum Buying Guide

Before we begin, there’s one very important thing we have to share with you. Apart from a few exceptions, most mixing tools are created in order to enhance already existing sound. And only you know what benefits the sound that you produce.

So consider this list to be a mere suggestion and see for yourself what you gain from it. That being said, there are certain standards and clichés that we, audio producers, have to meet. Certain decisions are expected of us, and this is also a part of a creative process.

Important features

When compiling this list, we wanted to include compressors that specifically benefit the sound of a kick drum, but at the same time, could be used in broader scenarios since some of them may be considered a very large investment into the studio. Since kick compression is a pretty straightforward process, we also wanted to include compressors that would give your sound the most character or at least some extra possibilities in terms of compression. But the most important thing to remember is that the best compressor for kick drum is what you feel it is.

Best Compressor for Kick Drum Reviews

Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor

Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor (VST) Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor (Hardware)

Pros
  • Very versatile FET compressor
Cons
  • Only one channel
See price @ Sweetwater (Hardware) / @ Plugin Boutique (VST)
Best features and specs

Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor could be considered the “greatest hits” of FET compression in one 2U rack unit. It has a very distinguishable analog sound with quite a few advanced features that could bring your production to the next level.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor as both the hardware and the plugin have outstanding sound quality. Both UIs are beautiful and clear. Due to its versatility, it can be used on every instrument, including kick drum, making it from soft to extra punchy. The only downside is that it’s not that easy to use, as it has a lot of settings and knobs.

What we think

Apart from the ability to dial in a precise character of the compression, Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor has a pretty advanced Feedback feature. When turned all the way right, it gives you more harmonic distortion and a slight boost around 30 Hz which is perfect for a kick drum. And the harmonic distortion could be dialed back with Clean / Dirty Comp, which removes odd harmonics from the sound.

Bottomline

Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a versatile compressor with a lot of character. The only downside is that it has only one channel, so you’d have to be very creative with bouncing and printing tracks if you want to use it in stereo.

Tube-Tech CL 1B Tube Optical Compressor

Tube-Tech CL 1B Tube Optical Compressor (Hardware) Tube-Tech CL 1B Tube Optical Compressor (VST)

Pros
  • Software version has a free demo
Cons
  • No notches on attack and release knobs
See price @ Sweetwater (Hardware) / @ Plugin Boutique (VST)
Best features and specs

You can consider Tube-Tech CL 1B to be a more modern and improved version of LA-2A. It has the same recognizable tube sound but without an overexaggerated vintage feel to it. As for a software version, it has all of the features of the hardware unit with an addition of stereo processing.

User impressions

Users like Tube-Tech CL 1B both hardware and VST for versatility, coloration options, and amazing sound quality. Although most users say that it sounds wonderful on vocals, it makes the kick drum punchy and aggressive.

What we think

We found that CL 1B sounds particularly sharper and cleaner than LA-2A when compared side by side. As for the Softube version, it somewhat lacks crispness compared to the original CL 1B, which makes it sound closer to LA-2A.

Bottomline

Tube-Tech CL 1B is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a classic opto-compressor. Both hardware and software are viable options but note that only the software version has stereo processing.

Waves H-Comp Hybrid Compressor Plugin

Waves H-Comp Hybrid Compressor Plugin

Pros
  • Extremely versatile digital compressor
  • Release synchronization
Cons
  • A bit confusing “analog” function
See price @ Waves Audio (VST)
Best features and specs

Waves H-Comp is an extremely versatile digital compressor that has a very bright and crisp sound. With this one, you have the ability to synchronize your release with the BPM of the project, which is perfect for the compression of the kick drum.

User impressions

Users say that Waves H-Comp is a great addition to the collection as it is unbelievably good for adding analog “touch” to mixes. Having an easy-to-use and user-friendly GUI makes this compressor more appealing to the users.

What we think

We’ve been using Waves H-Comp for a very long time now, and we found ourselves always disengaging the “analog” knob. When left turned on, it makes a very annoying hissing sound that clutters in a very unpleasant way when more than a few instances are used. We believe it would be much better if it was turned off by default.

Bottomline

Waves H-Comp is a perfect digital compressor for every possible mixing situation, including, of course, compressing the drums. The best part about it is that it always gives some extra brightness and punch when engaged.

Waves SSL 4000

Waves SSL 4000

Pros
Cons
  • Not very versatile
See price @ Waves Audio (VST)
Best features and specs

Waves SSL 4000 gives you a very believable high-end sound of the compression unit of the vintage SSL 4000 console. Since it was designed first of all as a mastering compressor, it’s rather unconventional to use it on a kick drum. But surprisingly, it can give your kick a very polished and transparent sound with a lot of vintage vibes. And, of course, you can always use it as it was intended, which in turn extends its usability beyond only kick compression.

User impressions

Users like Waves SSL 4000 for its straightforward and intuitive GUI. With the help of this compressor, you will get transparent and polished sound quickly and easily. The only downside that some users mention is that Waves SSL 4000 lacks some flexibility when compared with other compressors.

What we think

Waves SSL 4000 is one of the most popular compressors in the world. And there surely is a reason for that. The thing is, it just sounds amazing no matter what you will do with it. And how you do it.

Bottomline

It’s hard to imagine the situation when a kick drum doesn’t benefit from having a vintage console sound. And for that reason alone, Waves SSL 4000 is a perfect choice.

FabFilter Pro-MB

FabFilter Pro-MB

Pros
  • 30-day free trial
Cons
  • CPU heavy
See price @ Plugin Boutique (VST)
Best features and specs

FabFilter Pro-MB is a very advanced digital multiband compressor. As with other FabFilter plugins, it became an industry standard a long time ago. It has an interactive display, MIDI learn, and dynamic phase processing.

User impressions

Users agree that FabFilter Pro-MB has an intuitive interface and comprehensive set of features, which makes multiband processing look easy. It has a very clean and unobstructed sound. When the “Expand” mode is switched on, it can add punch to specific ranges.

What we think

It’s hard to imagine a better tool for processing kick drums than FabFilter Pro-MB. With this compressor, you have almost limitless possibilities for shaping the sound of the kick drum. You can add more high-end punch, leaving low-end unaffected, or you can contain the low-end and let the rest of the frequency spectrum sound more natural and organic. And literally anything in between.

Bottomline

Nowadays, multiband compression is a very useful and almost necessary tool for every audio producer. And if you’re looking for a multiband compressor, we believe that the one to have is FabFilter Pro-MB.

Fab Filter Pro-C

FabFilter Pro-C

Pros
  • Trial version available
  •  Powerful digital compressor
Cons
  • CPU heavy
See price @ Plugin Boutique (VST)
Best features and specs

FabFilter Pro-C is a mighty and extremely versatile compressor that has a lot of extra features on top of those that are pretty standard for a compressor. This compressor was designed as a professional tool that every experienced audio engineer can use on a day-to-day basis. It might take you some time to know how to use it properly, but once you do, it’s possible that you simply wouldn’t need another digital compressor.

User impressions

Users say that FabFilter Pro-C is a superb compressor, and it has a ravishing and very informative interface. It offers a variety of brand new compression styles. Users, in particular, like the results they can obtain when using the flexible side-chain section.

What we think

Along with other FabFilter plugins, this compressor has already found its rightful place in the toolboxes of most professional audio engineers of the world. It has a very clean sound, but you always have the option of changing the character of your compression. The only thing that might discourage you is that when oversampling is on, several instances of this compressor might overstress your CPU.

Bottomline

Fab Filter Pro-C gives you unprecedented control over each aspect of the compression and offers you a very detailed visualization and a sidechain EQ, which makes it a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a very thorough and professional compression tool.

Klark Teknik 1176-KT Classic FET-style Compressor

Klark Teknik 1176-KT Classic FET-style Compressor

Pros
  • Reimagine of iconic 1176
  • Relatively low price
Cons
  • Single channel
See price @ Sweetwater / @ Amazon (Hardware)
Best features and specs

Klark Teknik 1176-KT Classic FET-style Compressor is a modern reimagining of 2 separate versions of the iconic 1176LN. It has a lot of the features of 1176 including, of course, the so-called British mode.

User impressions

Users like Klark Teknik 1176-KT Classic FET-style Compressor for being extremely good and up to industry standards. It has an amazing sound and, when pushed hard, can provide a lot of character. This compressor gives vibes to drums, kick drum included, which a lot of users find to their liking.

What we think

While comparing 1176-KT and 1176LN side-by-side, the only difference we found is price. Actually, you can have 2 units of 1176-KT, thus having stereo capabilities and still keep a considerable change.

Bottomline

Klark Teknik 1176-KT Classic FET-style Compressor is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a budget 1176 that isn’t in any way inferior to the original one.

Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor

Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor

Pros
  • Iconic drum compression
Cons
  • None, really
See price @ Sweetwater (Hardware)
Best features and specs

A very long time ago, the words “drum compression” and “distressor” have become synonyms. So, needless to say, that having a distressor in your studio is almost a necessary requirement.

User impressions

Users like Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor as it is an all-purpose and mighty compressor. It has a lot of distortion, which sounds very much tape-like. All of the drums can sound very powerful and punchy to sweet, and almost gentle.

What we think

Yes, the Distressor is usually used as a drum compressor, but the best thing about it is that it actually is extremely versatile. Considering that a very wide range of compression could be applied, on top of any type of coloration imaginable, it can be used practically in every mixing situation on every track.

Bottomline

A lot of audio engineers do just fine without Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor. But only to the point when they get their hands on one. After that, it is very hard to imagine your professional life without this compressor.

IK Multimedia T-RackS Black 76

IK Multimedia T-RackS Black 76

Pros
  • High-quality emulation of UREI 1176 LN
  • Very subtle analog saturation
Cons
  • CPU heavy
See price @ Sweetwater (VST)
Best features and specs

IK Multimedia T-RackS Black 76 is a very accurately modeled version of UREI 1176 LN, a more subtle version of the legendary 1176. Apart from mid-side processing capabilities, it doesn’t offer any extra features over the original hardware unit, which only adds to the analog experience. You can turn off the compression altogether and use it as a very subtle saturator. And it has a British mode, of course.

User impressions

Users say that IK Multimedia T-RackS Black 76 is a perfect choice for beefing up drums without killing the transient detail. Also, using “nuke” mode adds a bit of dirt and attitude to all kinds of drums. In addition, it has a pretty straightforward GUI.

What we think

We’ve been using IK Multimedia T-RackS Black 76 for a couple of years now. And have nothing but nice things to say about it. Usually, when compared to its hardware counterpart, VST emulations lack some almost indistinguishable crispiness. What amazes us is that this emulation sounds exactly like the real thing would.

Bottomline

IK Multimedia T-RackS Black 76 is an emulation of a legendary compressor from no lesser legendary manufacturer. The only downside to it is that when several instances are used throughout the mix, even the more powerful CPUs can struggle. Apart from that, it’s absolutely perfect.

Neve 2254/R

Neve 2254/R

Pros
  • Legendary Neve
  • Total Recall function
Cons
  • Only one channel
See price @ Sweetwater (Hardware)
Best features and specs

Even if you’ve just begun your audio production journey, it’s almost certain that you’ve already heard about  Rupert Neve countless times. He created some of the most desirable and respected audio gear in the world. And AMS Neve 2254/R gives you an opportunity to experience the legend.

User impressions

Users find Neve 2254/R to be a really good choice for compressing the kick drum as it adds a really beautiful coloration and very much desirable extra punch. It has a very intuitive and straightforward GUI.

What we think

Needless to say, it sounds amazing but the sound wasn’t the thing that we were most impressed with. Neve 2254/R comes with software that is called Total Recall that lets you store your own presets. It doesn’t control the unit but helps you to put the knobs in the exactly correct position. Which is a lot of fun to do.

Bottomline

Only very few of us are lucky to experience the original Neve designs. AMS Neve 2254/R gives us the opportunity to have a very fatefully recreated Neve device for, considering the circumstances, a relatively low price.

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