Last Updated on August 24, 2022.
The bass guitar is the foundation of every mix, which means that getting it to sound right is extremely important. Therefore, I decided to create this list of the Best compressor VSTs for bass to make it easier for you to find the one you actually need without having to scour the internet for hours.
I will list a total of 5 Premium plugins as well as a handful of free ones at the end.
Fabfilter Pro C-2
Most Powerful compressor on this list but with a steeper learning curve than most.
A simple compressor that works really well on bass and only costs $29.99
TDR Kotelnikov GE
Best Bang-for-your-buck compressor with a ton of built-in features.
So, without any further ado, let’s get started!
List of the Best Compressor VST Plugins for Bass Guitar
Let’s kick things off with the one compressor plugin that I consider to be the most powerful one and which you can also use to mix vocals, drums, buses, and for mastering, as well as for bass, the Fabilter Pro C2.
Most Powerful Compressor Currently available!
The FabFilter Pro C2 is by far the best Compressor VST Plugin currently available, be it for mixing Bass, vocals, drums, bus compression, and more, it’s truly the most sophisticated compressor you can get.
Featuring multiple different presets each meant for a specific purpose, such as mastering, vocals, bus compression, punch, and more, the C2 easily lets you affect the dynamic range of the track quickly and in great detail.
In addition to this, it comes with all the typical compression controls such as Threshold, Ratio, Attack, and Release, while also featuring Makeup Gain (which can be set to Auto or you can adjust it manually).
Two very distinctive features of the C2 are its Look Ahead control, which allows for the compressor to engage slightly earlier making the attacks softer, and the Hold control, which will delay the release stage fractionally (this feature is actually quite common in Gates, but not so much in compressors).
Last but not least, the Fabfilter Pro-C2 also features Side-chain compatibility with built-in stereo link capabilities where you can link or unlink the stereo and mid images to process them separately or together, keeping unwanted frequencies in the section from poking their head out and making it feel more glued together.
User Interface: The interface on the C2 looks absolutely stunning and modern and you can choose between a compact interface that looks more like a traditional compressor, or even a full-screen mode with a spectrum analyzer, gain reduction curve, and much more.
Character: The C2 doesn’t really add a lot of its own personality to the mix, or in other words, it doesn’t color the sound as other compressors do but rather allows you to go from a very gentle compression when using the Mastering Preset, to a more drastic compression when using the Punchy preset, for example, and all of this without coloring the sound at all.
One thing I’d like to mention also is the Makeup- or Auto Gain function which works better than in most other compressor plugins since it also takes into account attack and release times which also affect the level of the signal, and if you set it to “Auto” you will never have the need to adjust it again.
- Oversampling (2x and 4x).
- Look Ahead control.
- Hold Control.
- Multiple Interface options (more limited, full screen, etc.).
- Side-chain compression with built-in stereo link capabilities.
- MIDI Learn.
- A/B Switching.
Uses: Not only is the Fabfilter Pro-C2 an excellent compression plugin for getting a better-sounding bass or a more upfront lead vocal, but it’s essentially the most versatile compressor out there since not only can it be used to add “sonic glue” to your mixes, make the drums punchier, etc., but it’s also a great mastering Plugin since it certainly works well on the master bus as well, especially when using the “Mastering” preset, and it’s sidechain capabilities are extremely powerful.
Lastly, this compressor also includes interactive MIDI Learn, undo/redo and A/B switch, and more.
Best Bass Compressor plugin in terms of ease of use!
At the bottom of the plugin, you can choose between the two Revisions: Bluey and Blacky, with the Bluey being based on the oldest version of the hardware compressor which sounds a bit more distorted and grittier, and with the Blacky being based on the newer version of the 1176 which sounds a bit cleaner.
As far as controls go, the CLA-76 offers an Input knob, which controls the level of the signal coming into the compressor, an Output knob, which essentially is the Makeup Gain, Attack and Release knobs, and lastly five different Ratio settings (4, 8, 12, 20, and “ALL”).
The “All” setting recreates the original hardware’s “All-Ratio-Buttons-In” mode which results in a very aggressive compression with a decent amount of distortion.
Important note: The Attack and Release knobs are very counter-intuitive since turning them clockwise increases the speed, which is the opposite of how most compressors work, so keep that in mind.
As far as mixing bass goes, the CLA-76 is a fantastic choice because of its ease of use and how it naturally makes the bass sound a bit grittier and saturated. It’s also great for mixing vocals, guitars, drum buses, and more.
The metering can be switched from input, output, and GR (how much gain is being reduced), and on the bottom, it includes three switches: 50Hz, 60Hz, and Off, and these essentially introduce a bit of analog sound (I always keep it Off since the plugin naturally saturates the sound slightly giving you a nice and warm analog feel).
Lastly, the newer releases of the Waves CLA-76 now also include a Mix knob for easy parallel compression and a Trim knob for quick level adjustment.
User Interface: The Waves CLA-76 is one of the simplest plugins in existence since it doesn’t feature a lot of built-in controls, making the interface extremely clean and simple, which is also why I like it so much since it works really well but doesn’t make you jump through a lot of hoops to get the most out of it.
Character: Since it’s based on the old 1167 hardware unit, it definitely has some grit and saturation to it, making it sound warm and giving you a slight analog feel even if you don’t engage the “analog” switches (50Hz and 60Hz).
- Very easy to use.
- Naturally saturates the sound.
- Includes two Revisions (Old and New ones).
- Mix control for easy parallel compression.
- Trim control for quick level adjustment.
Uses: The CLA-76 can be used on virtually any track, but it’s especially good on bass and drums because of its super-fast attack times, but it’s also a good choice for getting tighter vocals and guitars.
Most Cost-efficient Compressor (Harder Learning Curve)!
Contrary to most compressor plugins in existence, the TDR Kotelnikov GE doesn’t try to emulate any existing hardware compressors and rather focuses more on fidelity.
The Kotelnikov is a program-dependent compressor, meaning that it can vary its response depending on the frequency content or amplitude of the signal allowing you to tweak these dependencies and add new features at the same time.
It offers the typical compressor controls such as Threshold, Ratio, Attack, and Release, with individual controls for Release Peak and Release RMS, as well as a Knee control, but it also lets you adjust the Gain Reduction Limit which essentially allows you to manually restrict the maximum gain reduction so as to not go overboard with it.
The GR Limit really comes in handy when you found the perfect settings for most of the bass track but in very specific sections the compressor just clamps down on the signal too hard. Setting the GR Limit to that “ideal” threshold means that the compressor won’t “over compress” those sections anymore, resulting in an overall better sound that requires less tweaking.
It also features a “Peak Crest” control which can go from “peak” all the way to “RMS” detection, and this knob essentially allows you to control how the compressor reacts to peaks, either by quickly reacting to them and compressing them (turned all the way to the left), or by averaging the input signal allowing for a smoother reaction (turned to the right), and you can use the Peak Crest knob to blend the two.
Another feature is the “Low Freq Relax” that allows you to configure a high-pass filter for the side chain, which makes the compressor react less to those lower frequencies such as kick and bass notes.
In other words, when using the “Low Freq Relax” feature, you are effectively lowering the threshold on the lower frequencies.
The Ying and Yang controls, which can be found on the bottom of the plugin, add harmonics to the lower and higher frequencies respectively, and there’s also the “inertia” button which allows the compression to slow down during low gain reduction and to speed up during high gain reduction (Option+Clicking Inertia does the opposite).
Another feature found at the bottom of the Plugin is FDR, which stands for Frequency Dependent Ratio. This ratio lets you adjust how much the compressor will affect specific frequency ranges and you can adjust the shape, frequency, and more (you could view this as being similar to multiband compression, in a sense).
User Interface: The user interface isn’t as friendly as the one on Fabfilter’s C2 and it also isn’t as “visual”, and it’s definitely not as easy to use as the Waves CLA-76, but it’s still a simple-enough plugin to navigate and get the hang of.
Character: Kotelnikov focuses mainly on audio fidelity and not so much on adding color or character, which is why it’s considered by many to be one of the best mastering compressor plugins out there, but this doesn’t mean that it can’t work on bass guitars since it allows you to really get in there and tweak the sound to your liking.
- Low-Frequency Relax (High Pass Filter on the Sidechain).
- Frequency-Dependent Ratio.
- Peak and RMS detection.
- Stereo Compression (Mid and Side separately).
- GR Limit (Limit the gain reduction).
Uses: Kotelnikov is mainly designed for Bus Mixing or Mastering, but it can definitely be used to process individual tracks as well, such as bass, guitars, vocals, etc., and with its incredibly in-depth features you should be able to compress any track with ease and achieve great results.
Lastly, Kotelnikov allows the processing of the stereo channels and it gives you the option to only process the Sum or Difference channels, otherwise known as the Middle or Side, and you can even use two instances of this plugin to compress the Mid and Side independently.
What’s funny is that I haven’t even mentioned ALL of the features Kotelnikov has to offer because it’s that many, but considering the price, how well it performs and all it can do, it has to be the most cost-efficient compressor out there!
Get TDR Kotelnikov GE Here: Pluginboutique.
Easy-to-use Compressor with built-in Saturation!
The TLA-100A is a compressor that has been used for decades on some of the most popular albums in history, and now it’s available as a plugin!
If there is one sentence that can be used to summarize this plugin, then it has to be ease of use; with very simple controls, similar to the original physical compressor, you can get it up and running in no time.
It features a Gain Control, which controls the output of the plugin, a Gain Reduction knob, which controls the compression, and simple Two-way Attack, Release, and Meter switches.
The TLA-100A reacts differently to the source, depending on what kind of signal is coming in; If the signal has fast transients, the compression acts quickly, while on the other hand, if it’s a more sustained signal, the compressor acts slower.
Now, some additional features that this plugin has over the original unit are; The saturation- and Parallel compression controls, as well as a low-cut knob that will let you control if the compressor should act on the lower frequencies or not.
User Interface: As I just stated, the sheer simplicity of this plugin is what makes it stand out, aside from how great it sounds, obviously. Having just a handful of knobs that provide you with good control over the compression as well as saturation, the built-in low-cut filter, sidechain compression, and more, all easily accessible with the twist of a knob is just fantastic.
Character: The Softube Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor plugin has a really nice dark and warm character to it. Even without any gain reduction happening it already affects the sound and adds some nice warmth to it, which is great for bass guitar, plus the built-in saturation knob can help add more grit as well.
- Built-in Saturation control.
- Sidechain capabilities.
- Built-in low-cut filter.
As far as simplicity and ease of use go, the TLA-100A definitely has got you covered, plus its warm sound and built-in saturation control are excellent for mixing bass.
Get the Softube Summit Audio TLA-100A here: Summit Audio TLA-100A.
Simplest compression Plugin Available, Period!
The Waves CLA-2A is an optical compressor and is considered to be an industry standard when it comes to compression and it’s used by none other than Chris Lord-Alge (Basically the guy mixing most major hits today).
What immediately stands out about the CLA-2A is its simplicity since it only features a handful of knobs and switches, starting off with the Compressor/Limiter switch which simply switches the ratio (about 3:1 when set to compressor and 100:1 when set to limiter mode).
Then you have the Gain knob which isn’t really an “input” level control but rather makeup Gain control, so basically increases the level after compression has taken place, and then you have the Peak Reduction knob which is basically the Threshold.
The metering can be switched from input, output, and VU Display (how much gain is being reduced), and then it also features the “HiFreq” knob which, essentially, works as a Low-Pass filter, making the compressor clamp down only on the higher frequencies, similar to how a De-Esser would work.
Lastly, on the bottom it includes three switches: 50Hz, 60Hz, and Off, and these essentially introduce a bit of analog sound (I always keep it Off), and it also comes with a Mix knob and a Trim Knob.
User Interface: The CLA-2A is by far the simplest compressor on this list since it doesn’t come with a lot of features, making it super easy to learn and use. However, compared to something like the Fabfilter Pro-C2 which is a really visual plugin that lets you not just hear what is going on but also see what specific frequencies are being processed, etc., some might find the CLA-2A to be a bit more “basic”, but the results speak for themselves and every professional music producer uses it.
Character: Since it’s based on anelectro-optical tube compressor, the CLA-2A emulates the original one’s smooth, frequency-dependent behaviors which introduce some warmth and character to the sound and makes it an ideal bass compressor, but it also works extremely well on vocals.
- Sidechain frequency filter.
- Modeled after an electro-optical tube compressor.
- Simplest compressor plugin that yields extremely good results.
- Warm analog sound.
Uses: The CLA-2A works really well on guitars and bass, as well as vocals, which is why I included it in this list. Since it’s got a very slow attack, I don’t really think that it can be used to tracks such as drums where you need compression to kick in really quickly.
Automatically level the Bass Volume (Say goodbye to Automation)!
Bass Rider might be mistaken for a compressor because it adjusts the signal level in response to changes in the audio input level, but the way it works is somewhat different since it is designed to balance the levels of individual notes without changing the note dynamics or adding coloration.
At the top of the plugin, there’s a horizontal control that includes a bar-graph display of the incoming signal levels which lets you set a target level for the process (ideally, you should set it to an average of the loudest and quietest parts of the track), and there are also two sliders to set the maximum gain increase and the maximum attenuation.
A large central fader automatically moves to show you how the gain is being modified, and while you can manually move it by clicking on it with your mouse, as soon as you let go the plugin reverts back to automatic mode. To the right is an output gain-adjustment fader with a ±12dB range.
There’s a Sensitivity Knob and a slide switch for Fast or Slow response time, where Fast provides better note-detection separation.
The Spill and Artefacts Knobs allow Bass Rider to ignore low-level spill from other sources (for example, where the bass has been recorded using a mic when other instruments were playing at the same time and some of those sounds may have been recorded as well), while Artefacts adjusts how much the gain is affected by things like finger noise, or any other noise that may not be part of the actual recording.
User Interface: Most Waves plugins are generally really simple as far as the interface goes, and the Bass Rider is definitely no exception since it only features the detect and ignore sections, and then you only have to play around with the output level and the range, but that’s really it and it works extremely well.
Character: It’s a plugin designed to sound transparent and it doesn’t add any color or character to the bass, which is why you should then add a compressor plugin if you want to further affect its character.
- Reduces the need for Volume Automation.
- Extremely simple to learn and use.
- Retains the natural character of the bass.
Uses: While the Bass Rider won’t be able to compensate for the tonal changes produced when a bad bass player hits the strings at very different velocities (harder or softer), it still makes it a hell of a lot easier on the mixing engineer since it makes volume automation a breeze, plus you can then put a compressor after it and further tame any loud peaks.
While the Bass Rider may not be able to 100% fix a bad performance, it is definitely going to make it better and the entire process easier by simply riding the volume automatically for you, which is why I consider it, as well as Waves’ Vocal Rider plugin, to be an absolute must-have in your collection.
Best Free Compressor Plugins for Mixing Bass
While most of these plugins may not be as good as the ones listed above, they are still very useful and can definitely help you get that bass sounding better in the mix.
Klanghelm MJUC Jr.
With just two basic controls, “Compression” and “Make Up”, the MJUC JR. makes everything extremely easy and fast to control.
Also, there’s the three-position timing switch which not only controls the attack and release times of the unit, but also the slew rate of the transformers and the timing of the other parts of the circuitry that are directly influencing the generated harmonics (saturation).
I used to reach a lot for this plugin back in the day before I moved on to better premium alternatives simply because it made the whole process so simple and straightforward, and that’s why I think it deserves a spot on this list because it can really help you mix the bass a lot quicker.
Find out more here: MJUC Jr.
MCompressor by MeldaProduction
The MCompressor isn’t just a simple one-dimensional compression plugin; it allows you to fully customize the shape of the graph which gives you the opportunity to be really creative with how the signal gets processed.
With such a high number of controls and features, it ends up being one of the more versatile compressors out there, but this means that the learning curve will be a bit steeper as well, even for a free plugin.
The MCompressor comes with the smart randomization feature which will instantly generate new settings, as well as all the typical compression controls, such as; Input, Output, Attack, Release, RMS, Threshold, Ratio, Knee Size and the different Knee Modes (Hard, Linear, and Soft).
Additionally, it allows for side-chain compression, which is very rare to see in free plugins!
It can handle mono, stereo and even 8-channel surround processing, and because of all the features it has to offer, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that they are giving it away for free, but I’m not complaining!
The reason I included it in a list of bass compressor plugins is because of how versatile it is and how in-depth you can go, but just know that if you’re new to audio mixing then it will take some time to get the hang of.
Melda has close to 100 available plugins, many are free and a lot of them are premium products. The MModernCompressor is a premium plugin that they sell that is a bit more capable than the MCompressor and also comes with a lot more features.
Find out more about the M-Compressor here.
I honestly think that every single one of the plugins I listed here has a lot to offer, but if I absolutely had to choose, I’d have to go with the Fabfilter Pro-C2 because of how powerful it is and because you can use it for literally everything and never rely on another compressor again.
I would also highly suggest getting the Bass Rider plugin by Waves since it can help you automate the volume of your bass without having to do it yourself, and this really can save you lots of time.
Most aspiring music producers tend to think that they need hundreds of plugins to produce quality music, but the truth is that, at least as far as compressors go, you just need a handful that can give you the sound you need (The Fabfilter Pro-C2 sounds quite transparent, whereas the Waves CLA-76 has a lot more grit and warmth to it, etc.).
But I would recommend picking one or two and learning how to properly use them.
I hope this information was useful!