The Best Waves Compressors for Mixing & Mastering

The Best Waves Compressors to Buy

Let’s get your mixes sound tight with the color and warmth of some of the best Waves compressors on the market.

Quick answer: Waves Audio CLA-2A is a great choice for someone who is looking to add a recreation of the famous LA-2A to their studio. You can expect it to add warmth to your tracks, making them smooth and, in general, sound rich.

Waves Audio CLA-76 is another great option if you’re looking for a faithful recreation of the well-known 1176. Also, you, in fact, get two plugins for the price of one, which is a pretty nice bonus.

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Table of Contents


About Our Top Choices

Waves Audio CLA-2A

Waves Audio CLA-2A
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater

More details…

Waves Audio CLA-2A is a great choice for someone who is looking to add a recreation of the famous LA-2A to their studio. You can expect it to add warmth to your tracks, making them smooth and, in general, sound rich. Note that this compression is not ideal for every track, as it may sound too harsh for your liking.

Pros
  • Sound of optical tube compressor
  • Zero-latency
  • Compressor and limiter modes
  • Versatile
  • Sidechain frequency filter
Cons
  • Might be a bit too aggressive

Waves Audio CLA-76

Waves Audio CLA-76
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater

More details…

Waves Audio CLA-76 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a faithful recreation of the well-known 1176. Expect it to be  versatile enough to add a unique character to any instrument that you have at your disposal. Also, you, in fact, get two plugins for the price of one, which is a pretty nice bonus.

Pros
  • Based on the famed mid-60’s Class A line level limiting amplifier
  • Two plugins in one
  • Superfast attack
  • Zero-latency
  • Pre-amp distortion modeling
Cons
  • None that we know of

Top 7 Best Waves Compressors

  1. Waves Audio CLA-2A
  2. Waves Audio CLA-76
  3. Waves Audio SSL G-Master
  4. Waves Audio C6
  5. Waves Audio API 2500
  6. Waves Audio PuigChild
  7. Waves Audio Abbey Road RS124

Best Waves Compressors Reviews


Waves Audio CLA-2A

Waves Audio CLA-2A

Pros
  • Sound of optical tube compressor
  • Zero-latency
  • Compressor and limiter modes
  • Versatile
  • Sidechain frequency filter
Cons
  • Might be a bit too aggressive
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater

Waves Audio CLA-2A is one of the best Waves Audio compressors and it’s known to be a popular choice. What’s not to love about the compressor that was created in an awe-inspiring collaboration between Waves Audio and Chris Lord-Alge? Using this compressor in your trade offers you a unique opportunity to apply many of Chris’s Lord-Alge presets.

Best features and specs

Waves Audio CLA-2A is a recreation of the well-known Teletronix LA-2A, which was an optical tube compressor from the mid-70′s. This compressor is pretty versatile and shines on everything from instruments to vocals. As the original hardware, this plugin offers you rich sound and a smooth response.

User impressions

Users say that Waves Audio CLA-2A adds incredible warmth while giving rich vintage sound, it has an ability to smooth tracks, and it’s straightforward to use. Additionally, you can almost intuitively add clarity, control the dynamic range and make any instruments or vocals stand out in the mix.

What we think

What we like about Waves Audio CLA-2A is that it gives an amazing silkiness and warmth to the sound that never leaves us indifferent to the result. However, we observed that sometimes this compressor sounds a bit more aggressive than it is to our liking. We would say it’s a slight disadvantage, despite some projects would just shine more while having additional coloration.

Bottomline

Waves Audio CLA-2A is a great choice for someone who is looking to add a recreation of the famous LA-2A to their studio. You can expect it to add warmth to your tracks, making them smooth and, in general, sound rich. Note that this compression is not ideal for every track, as it may sound too harsh for your liking.


Waves Audio CLA-76

Waves Audio CLA-76

Pros
  • Based on the famed mid-60’s Class A line level limiting amplifier
  • Two plugins in one
  • Superfast attack
  • Zero-latency
  • Pre-amp distortion modeling
Cons
  • None that we know of
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater

It’s no wonder why Waves Audio CLA-76 is considered to be a popular choice. Being deeply inspired by the famous mid-60’s limiting amplifier, CLA-76 has been created to be loved by many sound engineers and music producers. It offers you the sound of a Class A output amplifier and superfast attack and release times.

Best features and specs

Waves Audio CLA-76 offers you a detailed and accurate recreation of 2 well-known classic hardware compressors. A more contemporary unit which is 1176 LN and the well-known UREI 1176, can be switched on the go as both of these versions can be accessed in one plugin.

User impressions

Users like Waves Audio CLA-76 because it’s a versatile and truly impressive compressor that adds a lot of character and presence to the instruments and vocals. It has a bit old-school-looking GUI but yet it’s very intuitive and user-friendly. Users add that while applying this compressor, they were able to gain control over the transients and deepness.

What we think

Waves Audio CLA-76 is known to be a thorough recreation of 1176 and as the original hardware, this plugin also has “British mode”. We quite enjoyed the aggressive and distorted sound that we got as a result.

Bottomline

Waves Audio CLA-76 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a faithful recreation of the well-known 1176. Expect it to be  versatile enough to add a unique character to any instrument that you have at your disposal. Also, you, in fact, get two plugins for the price of one, which is a pretty nice bonus.


Waves Audio SSL G-Master

Waves Audio SSL G-Master

Pros
  • Iconic SSL 4000 sound
  • Includes presets from Chris Lord-Alge
Cons
  • Isn’t that versatile in comparison with other compressors
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater

Waves Audio SSL G-Master is based on the recreation of the compression unit from the iconic SSL 4000 series console. It has an old-school twin-VCA gain-reduction amplifier design and acquires the unique sound of the original’s IC input.

Best features and specs

Waves Audio SSL G-Master does an impeccable job at enhancing mixes with punch and glue and it does an amazing job by punching up drum stems and taming piano dynamics. Also, it’s a go-to tool whenever you need to transform your mix into a polished good-sounding record.

User impressions

Users say that Waves Audio SSL G-Master is a great choice when you need to get a bright and clean sound and do it fast and easy. Also, this compressor has a straightforward and easy-to-use GUI. Though, some users note that they wish that this compressor would be more versatile.

What we think

What we like about Waves Audio SSL G-Master is that it makes the low-end sound really great. Also, we applied it quite a lot of times on drums and always liked the result that we had in the end. We wish, though, that it would be more versatile when being compared with other entries on this list.

Bottomline

Waves Audio SSL G-Master is a great choice for someone who is looking for a faithful hardware recreation of the iconic console sound. When having it applied, you will get a bright and clean sound very easily and in time. Note, though, that it isn’t that versatile, so if you’re looking for something to apply to all range of instruments, you should be looking further.


Waves Audio C6

Waves Audio C6

Pros
  • Individual band Listen mode
  • Dynamic EQ, compression & expansion
  • ARC Auto Release Control
  • 24-bit, 192kHz resolution
Cons
  • None that we know of
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater

Waves Audio C6 is said to be one of the most flexible compressors that you can find on the market today. This compressor offers you 2 floating bands and a sidechain feature on top of everything that the previous version, Waves C4, has.

Best features and specs

Waves Audio C6 offers you 4 crossover bands in addition to 2 floating bands and a separate band Listen mode. Also, it has dynamic EQ, compression and expansion, Auto Release Control, and double-precision bit resolution processing.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with Waves Audio C6 because it’s a real game-changer when it comes to shaping the vocals or being applied to other instruments and bringing them to life. Users are fond of its EQing abilities, as it’s very simple to tame muddy frequencies and help others to pop up.

What we think

What we like about Waves Audio C6 is that it’s a universal tool for managing any type of shaping, taming, and controlling that sound needs. Also, it’s really great for de-popping and de-essing in every musical environment.

Bottomline

Waves Audio C6 is a great choice for someone who is looking for the most flexible, versatile, and great-sounding compressor with the addition of dynamic EQ.


Waves Audio API 2500

Waves Audio API 2500

Pros
  • Emulation of API 2500
  • Two types of compression “feed back” and “feed forward”
  • Switchable 3-position thrust highpass filter
  • Soft, medium, and hard knee settings
Cons
  • Complicated GUI
  • Doesn’t really sound like the original
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater

Waves Audio API 2500 is a faithful emulation of API 2500 and when it is applied on your tracks, you get to enjoy the results that go far beyond anything that you can ever imagine. It’s an amazing dynamics processor that offers 3 exceptional compression modes, 3 variable filter types, and lots of useful controls.

Best features and specs

Waves Audio API 2500 offers you 2 types of compression, “feed back” and “feed forward,” that provide responsive modern and smooth vintage tones. Also, a switchable 3-position thrust highpass filter that lets you control your sound, 6 release settings, and soft, medium, and hard knee.

User impressions

Users agree that Waves Audio API 2500 is versatile and overall a great choice for adding it to your classic or hard rock tracks. Although it doesn’t really like an original unit, it still sounds good and warm. Some users say that they find the GUI of this plugin to be a bit complicated.

What we think

What we like the most about Waves Audio API 2500 is that it adds just the right amount of analog touch to your sound, therefore, making bringing life into your tracks.

Bottomline

Waves Audio API 2500 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a faithful recreation of the API 2500 and a versatile and good-sounding compressor that adds a lot of flavor to the sound. It has a lot of useful functions, yet a bit complicated GUI.


Waves Audio PuigChild

Waves Audio PuigChild

Pros
  • Very convincing compression from the 50’s
  • MS processing
Cons
  • No dry/wet controls
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater

Waves Audio PuigChild is a very thorough recreation of the exquisite and vintage tube compressor Fairchild 670. It’s highly unlikely that you happen to find the original hardware unit in this day in age, but this plugin will be with you every step of the way.

Best features and specs

Waves Audio PuigChild offers you Mid-Side processing to get superior stereo imaging. This compressor is notoriously designed so that it would preserve the sound of the single push-pull amplification and high control voltages.

User impressions

Users like Waves Audio PuigChild for giving the best smooth analog sound and making the tracks sound professional. Also, it’s feature-packed to the point that you can be a hundred percent sure that everything will sound as good as it can possibly be. Users add that this compressor adds body and depth, and it makes everything pop out.

What we think

What we like is when two music masterminds get together and create something remarkable. Waves Audio collaborated with Jack Joseph Puig and the result was the creation of Waves Audio PuigChild. What’s fascinating about it is that Puig has included his presets.

Bottomline

Waves Audio PuigChild is a great choice for someone who is looking for a versatile vintage tube compressor that offers you rich and gritty sound. It’s possible that sometimes you’ll find it sounds a bit more aggressive than you want it to be, and you might dislike the fact that it doesn’t have dry/wet controls. In this case, you should use it on a separate track in parallel.


Waves Audio Abbey Road RS124

Waves Audio Abbey Road RS124

Pros
  • Precise modeling of Abbey Road’s ultra-rare RS124 tube compressor
  • Developed with Abbey Road Studios
  • Two distinctive RS124 tube flavors included: “Studio” and “Cutter”
  • High-Frequency Roll-Off, SC-HP, Mix knob, and MS options
Cons
  • May be too “exquisite” for some
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater

Waves Audio Abbey Road RS124 is a very detailed and thorough recreation of the legendary hardware RS124 that was widely used by The Beatles. This plugin was created in collaboration with the Abbey Road Studios and offers you the same sonic character as the original unit.

Best features and specs

Waves Audio Abbey Road RS124 offers you a hyper-aggressive Super-Fuse mode, sidechain highpass filter, M-S operation, a Mix knob, and 2 peculiar RS124 flavors.

User impressions

Users like Waves Audio Abbey Road RS124 for making everything sound good and adding that distinguished old-school, gritty sound. Users are fond of the fact that this compressor adds a lot of character. Some say that they like it best when applied to drums.

What we think

It’s not a secret that we really like that sound that can be found on all The Beatles’ tracks and we get to thank RS124 for that. As Waves Audio Abbey Road RS124 is a meticulous recreation of this unit, it adds to all tracks that real near-supernatural low-midrange warmth. It’s something to experience, we shall say.

Bottomline

Waves Audio Abbey Road RS124 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a detailed recreation of the legendary RS124 that adds unique low-midrange warmth to all tracks.


Waves Compressors Buying Guide

What is a compressor?

A compressor is a hardware unit or a dedicated digital plugin that reduces the volume of the loud sounds and amplifies the volume of the quiet sounds.

Why would you need a Waves compressor?

Waves Audio is known for making very affordable and truly outstanding plugins and all of the high-quality. So if you want to achieve the best results possible, you should take a closer look at the compressors that they offer.

Important features

When choosing a Waves compressor, you should take into account the following features, such as the authenticity of the emulation and the design of the plugin.

Authenticity of emulation

As all of the plugins listed above are recreations of legendary hardware units, it would be good to check out the degree of authenticity of the original unit. Of course, the closer is, the better.

Design

It’s more a matter of personal preference as some are fans of old-school looks and others tend to choose modern-styled plugins, so choose those that you find more to your liking.

How to choose the right one for you?

When choosing the best Waves compressors for your needs, you have to pay attention to the level of authenticity of the emulation to the original hardware unit. Also, take into account the design of the plugin, as you will be seeing it very often.

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