Last Updated on January 1, 2021.
While most Digital Audio Workstations, or DAWs, provide you with loads of great stock plugins, compressors included, you might be looking for some new ones that have a slightly different sound to them.
Or maybe the compressors you already have lack certain settings which you would like to use…
Well, I’ve put together a list of the best free compression plugins available which should definitely add some flavor to your mixes.
The 5 Best free Compressor Plugins are;
|MJUC Jr.||Few controls and very easy to use.||VST, VST3, AU, AAX||Windows, Mac OS|
|DC1A||Only 2 knobs: Best Beginner Compressor.||VST, VST3, AU, AAX||Windows, Mac OS|
|DCAM||Great Mastering compressor.||VST, RTAS, AU, AAX||Windows, Mac OS|
|TDR Kotelnikov||Low Freq. Relax (react less to lower frequencies), and it can process the stereo channels independently or the sum.||VST2, VST3, AU, AAX||Windows, Mac OS|
|MCompressor||Smart Randomization, 8-channel surround processing (good for films).||VST, VST3, AU, AAX||Windows, Mac OS|
Note: I also wrote a post about the best compressor plugins in general, not just free ones. So, make sure to check it out as well!
Let’s get straight to it…
MJUC Jr. by Klanghelm (Windows, Mac)
With just two basic controls, “Compression” and “Make Up”, the MJUC JR. makes controlling the dynamics of the song extremely easy.
Also, there’s the three-position timing switch which not only controls the attack and release 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).
As far as simplicity goes, the MJUC Jr. just can’t be beat, and it’s one of my favorite compression plugins of all time.
Learn more about the MJUC Jr. here.
DC1A by Klanghelm
The DC1A is one of my favorite compressor plugins as well, just slightly behind the MJUC Jr. and the TDR Kotelnikov.
It is, essentially, a stripped-down version of the DC8C, which is a premium compressor by Klanghelm, but with fewer knobs.
What makes this such an appealing compressor is that it only features two controls; Input and Output.
The input controls the level of the incoming signal and the output lets you control the resulting volume.
Basically, all you have to do is increase the input and let the algorithm automatically apply the compression, and then adjust the level via the Output knob.
Additionally, thanks to the “DEEP” control, the DC1A is excellent at dealing with bass-heavy audio, since it activates a high-pass filter.
It also comes with some extra features, like parallel compression and dual-mono processing, which lets you compress the left and right channels independently.
Just like all other Klanghelm plugins, you can click on the “OUT” or “GR” buttons under the metering section to view the compression that is being applied as well as the output level.
If you are a beginner and need an easy-to-use compressor for your tracks, don’t hesitate to try out the DC1A.
Learn more about the DC1A by Klanghelm here.
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MCompressor by MeldaProduction (Windows, Mac)
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.
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 which really comes in handy when mixing for films or movies.
Because of all the features it has to offer, it certainly is one of those plugins that really can do everything.
Learn more about the M-Compressor here.
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ReaComp by Cockos (Windows Only)
Cockos, the creators of the Reaper DAW, have a couple free plugins that you can download to use with any DAW you want, and they are truly fantastic, with the only downside being that they don’t look as good as some other plugins on this list.
Of course, they do have their own free compression plugin called ReaComp.
This is a very simple to use yet powerful plugin and I believe that it should be in every producer’s toolbox.
Now, it does have a steeper learning curve than all the previous plugins on this list, but it’s also one of the best ones if you take the time to learn it properly.
It features a Feedback compression mode, Sidechain filters and sidechain inputs, variable RMS size, and more.
Learn more about the ReaComp here.
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Molot by Vladg/sound (Windows, Mac)
On their website they call Molot the “compressor with character”, and this is because it adds a lot of coloring to the sound, which most of you might not want that much since it will change the way the source originally sounded.
Not only that, but it’s pretty complicated to use properly!
Basically, if you’re looking for a simple and transparent sounding compression plugin, Molot is not for you.
So, why is it on this list?
It’s a compressor that works really well and that is designed to not just be used as a compression tool, but rather to also give the sound a distinct character that would otherwise be hard to get.
So, if you want a compressor that adds a lot of character to your track and that allows for deep customization, like parallel compression, definitely give it a try.
Learn more about Molot Here.
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Rough Rider 3 by Audio Damage (Windows, Mac)
Rough Rider is a modern compressor with a bit of “vintage” style bite to it and a uniquely warm sound.
This compression plugin was designed to mainly be used on the tracks that can add some punch to your music;
E.g. The rhythmic tracks, such as drums, but also bass, synth bass, guitar, and more.
In addition to the typical compressor controls, Rough Rider 3 also features a Mix controls for Parallel compression as well as a High-Pass Filter.
To be honest, I liked it for the same reason I like the MJUC Jr., and that reason in SIMPLICITY!
I don’t want to have to deal with loads of knobs and parameters, since this usually results in option anxiety and wasting too much time.
I want my compressors simple, to the point, and effective, and Rough Rider definitely fits the bill.
Learn more about Rough Rider 3 here.
OTT By Xfer Records (Windows, Mac)
Xfer Records OTT is a free multiband upwards/downwards compressor used by many dubstep and electro producers.
It’s a very popular plugin in dubstep and electro productions for the simple fact that it has an aggressive-style of compression.
This means that if you need a compressor that really glues everything together, and I mean “duct tape around your head” type of gluing, then give it a shot!
Now, I wouldn’t recommend it for bus compression, since you want to go gentle there, but if the song needs that sort of compression, then by all means!
Additionally, it’s fairly simple to use and it’s also pretty light on the CPU.
You can download it here.
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DCAM FreeComp By FXpansion (Windows, Mac)
DCAM is modelled after a classic console bus compressor design and is intended to be used to “glue” mixes and subgroups together while enhancing punch and definition.
It can also tame peaks and create pumping compression on individual tracks; however, it’s one of those compressors that can certainly be used on the master bus to give your song that last punch and sonic glue it needs.
Note: You must register with their site and get a valid serial to use it, even though it’s free… yes, really!
It’s still worth doing it, so try it out!
As far as the actual use of the plugin goes, it’s very simple and straightforward since it only features a couple controls; Gain in and Gain out, Ratio, Attach, Threshold and Make up, and that’s about it!
Learn more about the DCAM FreeComp here.
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AC-1 by Audiocation Audio Akademie (Windows Only)
Note: The Website is in German, but the download link is easy to find; However, you can always use the browser’s built-in translation tool to navigate the site in the language you desire.
The AC-1 compressor plugin allows for both subtle compression and an extremely hard and punchy one.
It comes with all the regular compression settings like; attack, release, ratio, knee, etc. which makes it really simple and easy to use; Again, no unnecessary controls to slow you down.
Just try it out for yourself and tell me what you think.
You can download it here.
SAFE Compressor By Semantic Audio (Windows, Mac, Linux)
The whole point behind the SAFE plugins by Semantic Audio is to provide the user with an easier way to control the plugins by using semantic terms such as “warm, bright”, etc. to make the whole process more intuitive.
You just type the word in and it adjusts the settings automatically.
This can be useful, especially for beginners, but once you know how to dial in compression like most producers do, you won’t really have a need to use the semantic terms.
But I think that it can be a good plugin for beginners to start figuring out how to use compression in their mixes when they still don’t know what each specific parameter does.
On their website you will not only find a compression plugin, but also an overdrive, EQ and reverb, and they all work in a similar way! So, make sure to try those out as well.
Give it a try!
You can download it here.
FR COMP 87 By eaReckon (Windows, Mac)
If you’re looking for a VERY simple compression plugin, then look no further…
FRComp 87 only has two knobs; Threshold and Make up, just like the MJUC Jr.
It also allows you to choose between fast, medium and slow attack and release.
And the last feature it provides is a Limiter!
And that’s it, believe it or not!
If you like easy to use plugins and you don’t want to have to deal with twelve different parameters that need to be adjusted, etc., then the FRComp 87, just like the MJUC Jr. and the DC1A, are definitely for you.
You can download it here.
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Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov
Contrary to most compressor plugins in existence, this one doesn’t try to emulate any existing hardware compressors, quite the opposite in fact.
Named in honor of Vladimir Kotelnikov, who was a pioneer of digital sampling techniques, this plugin is purely digital and uses complex algorithms to provide the best control possible over the dynamics with minimum added color.
What sets Kotelnikov apart from most other compressors is its “Frequency Dependent Ratio”, which allows you to set a different compression ratio depending on the frequency (not available in the free version).
A similar 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, and this one can be found both on the free and premium versions of the plugin.
In other words, when using the “Low Freq Relax” feature, you are effectively lowering the threshold on the lower frequencies.
Another feature are the Ying and Yang controls, which add harmonics to the lower and higher frequencies respectively.
Lastly, when processing stereo channels, you also have 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.
This plugin clearly does a hell of a lot of things, but it does them right, and for only $44, or even free, I honestly don’t find a reason not to recommend it.
Find out more here: TDR Kotelnikov.
Any of these plugins should make a great addition to your arsenal, just remember that some of the ones on this list are extremely simple while some others are actually quite complicated to use and packed with features.
Depending on your needs you should choose one or the other;
If you’re a beginner, either go with the DC1A or the MJUC Jr. by Klanghelm, otherwise the TDR Kotelnikov and the MCompressor are easy to recommend as well!
Still, since they are all free, I’d recommend you to try out as many as possible.
I hope this was useful!
Have a great day!