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4 Types of Audio Compressors You Need to Know

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There are many different types of audio compressors, each with its own unique benefits and drawbacks.

In this article, we’ll look at five of the most popular types of compressors, so you can decide which one is right for your needs.

1. Optical Compressors

what is Optical compression?

An optical compressor uses a Light-emitting diode (LED) that shines on a light-dependent resistor (LDR) that controls the amount of signal that is allowed to pass through depending on the light intensity.

what is optical compression good for?

Optical compressors are known for their smooth, transparent sound.

Despite light being involved optical compressors are the slowest type of compression which makes them good on vocals, bass, guitars, and other delicate signals that needs some rounding off or smoothing out.

Best Hardware Versions

Teletronix LA-2A, Tubetech CL1B, Shadow Hills Mastering

2. VCA Compressor

what is VCA compression?

A VCA compressor uses a voltage-controlled amplifier in order to control the level of the signal.

What makes the VCA compressor so special it’s that the amplifiers are housed in an integrated circuit (IC) this makes it extremely transparent and has less distortion.

what is VCA compressor good for?

VCA compression is able to provide a high degree of control over the dynamics of the signal and it usually sounds amazing on drums because you can set the attack and release to make it really snappy. It can be used also to keep the overall level of the mix under control.

Best Hardware Versions

API2500, DBX 160, SSL Chanel Strip

3. FET Compressors

What is FET Compression?

A FET compressor uses field-effect transistors (FETs) in its signal path. FETs are semiconductor devices with electronic properties that make them useful for amplifying or switching electronic signals. They began to be used to replace tubes simply because they were cheaper.

what is fET compressor good for?

FET compressors are known for their fast response times and ability to handle large amounts of gain reduction without sounding over-compressed. They are often used on vocals, bass, and especially drums.

However, you should not use it on a mix bus because of the aggressive amount of harmonic distortion.

Best Hardware Versions

Urei 1176, Softube FET, Chandler Germanium

4. Tube Compression

what is Tube compression?

Tube compression or Vari-mu compression relies on the tubes to tame the dynamics, those tubes are the reason why these compressors are so colorful to use.

With tube compressors, you’ll notice a slower reaction time than with VCA and FET types mentioned above.

Transients tend to be processed more musically rather than assertively, giving the tube compressor a very characteristic sound.

what is Tube compression good for?

Tube compressors are good for adding sustain, reducing dynamics, evening out the levels of multiple signals, and adding harmonic distortion.

They are known also for their smooth, warm sound and are often used on electric guitars, and bass guitars, and especially they sound good on a mix bus to add a gluey rich character.

Best Hardware Versions

Fairchild 670, Manley Vari-Mu, Slate Digital FG-MU

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are many different types of audio compressors, each with its own unique benefits and drawbacks.

In this article, we looked at four of the most popular types of compressors, so you can decide which one is right for your needs.

Have a question? Let me know in the comments below. I’ll try my best to answer all of them.

Check our article: What is Audio Compression: Everything You Need to Know

Thanks for reading 😃!

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