Top 11 Best Analog Mix Bus Compressors of All Time

Today most studios use Analog Mix Bus Compressors to get more control over the punch. A punchy mix is the end goal of any mix engineer and mix bus compressors help them get this goal.

But, it needs some extra technical specifications to make it work properly. Otherwise, you can’t achieve the punchy mix you are looking for.

It’s a challenging task for us to use mix bus compressors properly. Choosing the right one is another challenging task. there are tons of them available in the market and choosing the best is really challenging.

So, here I have compiled 11 best analog mix bus compressors you can use to get that punch in your mix.

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Let’s dive into the list…

1. Fairchild 670

fairchild mix bus compressor

One year ago I’ve purchased a Universal Audio effect accelerator to work with some professional analog emulated plugins.

With the accelerator hardware, I got some pre-activated plugins. But the best thing was I have also got the 15-days demo version of all the plugins available in the Universal audio repository.

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I have tasted most of them including Fairchild 670 which was the best plugin for me in the Universal audio plugin library.

The original Fairchild 670 hardware mix bus compressor is one of the most expansive hardware compressors in the world. It costs nearly $15000 if you want to buy the original hardware.

Don’t be disappointed, Universal audio emulated the same feel in their plugin. And the cost is a fraction of the original hardware.

The coloration due to its variable mu method of gain reduction is really unique. It provides the glue and punches that every mix and mastering engineer likes.

The attack time of not as fast as to yield to a quick transient. Fairchild is famous for its unique color without changing your dynamics, providing us the full character tube compressor sound.

A great mix bus compressor for mastering as well as in some areas of mixing.

2. SSL G-Series

ssl g series mix buss compressors

SSL G0-Series was originally part of the vintage SSL 4000 console which had been used in many big studios in the 70s.

But now it’s free from the console and available with 1U rack unit, 500 series, and SSL X-Rack module as well as in VST plugins from UAD and Waves.

In the 70s G Series Bus Compressor has gained popularity for its signature tone and glue which provides better mixes.

G-Series provides a punchy and huge sound to your mix. There is a high pass filter that allows gain reduction without affecting the low ends.

It has an auto-release function that intelligently guesses the release time for the given time. As well as the ratio from 1:5:1 to 10:1 makes it a great bus compressor of all time.

If you want the original analog feel in your mixes then you should use this bus compressor.

3. Tube-Tech CL 2A

tube-tech CL 2A

The best feature of CL 2A is it’s a two-channel all-tube Opto compressor which means you get two independent channels.

It features an optical gain reduction element that is just connected after the input transformer and then connected to a tube-based output amplifier capable of producing a +10 dB gain.

With these features, CL 2A is a great compressor for all types of applications. But the main work of CL 2A is producing a warm, punchy-sounding mix by using the mix channel.

However, you can use the dual-mono channels independently with mono tracks and get a warm compression. But the linkable output channels make it a great choice for the mix bus channels.

Tube-Tech CL 2A is not made for transient heavy material, though the slower attack times than a VCA or FET, make it the first choice if you want the warmth, punch, and overall dynamic control over the track.

Here are some features of Tube-Tech CL 2A

  • Features Low-distortion optical gain reduction element
  • The ratio from 1.5:1 to 10:1
  • Continuously variable attack and release times feature
  • Tube-based push-pull amplifier
  • Output gain: up to +10 dBU
  • Variable threshold: up to  -20 dBU
  • Linkable dual channels

4. Rupert Neve Designs Portico II MBP

rupert neve portico compressor

Probably most of you listened to Neve consoles.

Neve consoles are the best choice for Hollywood studios. Neve has set its own standard in the audio recording field since beginning in 1961 when it was first designed and implemented by Mr. Rupert Neve.

The famous consoles and pre-amps such as 1073 are yet the first choice for every big recording studio.

Just like Neve consoles, The Portico II MBP (Master Buss Processor) is the best bet for the big recording studios.

This multi-feature VCA compressor. equipped with two channels of compression and limiting as well as a stereo field editor is able to add your mix an extraordinary touch of the analog processing.

There are 2 compressors that can be set to operate in 2 types of modes

  • feed-forward
  • feedback modes

These two modes are very useful for different types of compression applications. If you want more transparency you can use Feedforward mode else you can use feedback mode to get a vintage vibe with a musical response.

As it’s a VCA compressor with a fast attack, you can use it in various music genres, by changing the transients from sharp to smooth.

Neve Portico II MBP is equipped with Adaptive Release technology so you can control the limiter with just a single knob and it can automatically react to sharp transients and slow transients simultaneously.

It allows us more dynamic control over the music.

One of the best features of Rupert Neve Portico is its stereo field editor. With this feature, you can control the stereo width among certain frequency bands and shape the tone in your mix.

If you want an overall VCA mix bus compressor that helps you get the best warm tone for all kinds of music, Rupert Neve Portico II MVP is for you.

5. Universal Audio 2-1176

universal audio fet compressor

Universal Audio 2-1176 is a classic FET style classic compressor and is been in the market for decades. The classic punch and color make it one of the best choices in mix bus compression.

It was originally built for drum and percussion compression and limiting as it has quick attack and release times. But with time people used it in the mix bus channel too. And amazingly it delivers great sound.

The only problem with it has the mono design so you need two units to use in the mix bus channel. However, its updated version with 2 mono channels is launched with the name 2-1176 which you can use for mix bus compression.

If your mix has many quick transients 2-1176’s attack and release can give you a great mix. While it will also provide the analog color through its FET circuit that you need in your final output.

It’s a better choice for those who mix Hip-hop, Rock, and other fast genres. The FET circuit of 2-1176 provides life and clarity to your mix.

6. Manley Variable Mu

manely variable Mu mix compressor

Like Neve, Manley is also known as one of the best analog console manufacturers. Apart from the consoles the company also manufactures effect units.

One of the most used effect units from Manley is the Manley Variable Mu Mix bus Compressor and Limiter.

You can see this unit in most of the mastering studios around the world. It’s used to glue the final output and provide a warm and clear sound.

One of the best features I like in it is the ratio goes up slightly as the amount of gain reduction applied increases.

However, as it’s a tube compressor, it’s not built for limiting and compressing harsh transients. Compared to the VCA and FET units its response time is slow so it’s good for long transient genres, such as classical, jazz, etc.

If you want warmth, clarity, and glue in your mix-bus this mix bus compressor is one of the best choices for you.

7. Dangerous Music Compressor

dangerous music compressor bus

Dangerous music compressor is a VCA style compressor and is known for its transparency even when pushed to its limits. Its fast attack and release time are quite useful for small transient songs. It means it’s best for fast genre songs.

It has features like –

  • Auto-attack and release
  • True Stereo Dual Detector
  • Smart Dynamics Dual Slope Detection (an auto limiter designed to prevent pumping due to peaks)

With the above features, a Dangerous music compressor ensures a high-quality mix for your songs. It performs quite transparently and even operates in ratios.

If you want the perfect glue for a mix without applying heavy colorization, this compressor is a great mix bus application for you.

8. API 2500 Mix Bus Compressor

API-2500 mix bus compressor

API 2500 is a classic mix bus compressor. It is a VCA style compressor that allows you to use it in almost any genre of music.

There are two features I like in API 2500.

  • The ability to stereo link from 50%-100%
  • And Old feedback along with new feed forward compression

This compressor is good at the low end so if you want some low-end thrust then you should use it in your master track.

There are 3 modes you can use. These modes allow you to low-end roll-off along with high-end boost which gives an appropriate amount of punch in your mix.

As VCA compressors are used as transparent compressors however so you will get a clean sound through this compressor. BUT, this does not mean you don’t get an analog color. It adds a unique “API sound color” to your tracks.

If you want a classic and clean VCA bus compressor then this is built for you.

9. Millennia TCL-2

Millennia TCL-2 mix bus compressor

MIllenica TCL-2 uses J-FET/solid-state signal path to deliver steller and transparent compression.

It features two types of circuits “Tube Amplifier” and “Solid-state Amplifier”, which allows you to add the color of a solid-state amplifier along with the warmth of a tube amplifier.

It is a stereo optical compressor/limiter which gives you unprecedented sonic purity with integrity.

This twin compressor technology is called “win Topology” which gives you the ability to select either a full tube amp or full J-FET.

However, TCL-2 cannot beat a VCA compressor if compared for attack speed. So, it is best for overall volume leveling or light compression but not for a single instrument.

10. Focusrite RED 3

Focusrite RED 3

Another good VCA bus compressor is Focusrite RED 3. It allows you to produce clean and transparent masters.

The VCA circuit allows you to maintain transient levels and transparency when required. You can connect this compressor as dual mono or a stereo-linked compressor which makes it a great effect for the master bus.

It also features a single knob limiter which can control auto-release times and transients. This compressor has a fast attack time which makes it ideal for the master bus as well as single instruments.

This is an ideal choice for drums and percussive instruments.

Here are the sound features of Focusrite RED 3

  • It delivers low noise and distortion which makes it excellant for fast attack instruments
  • Dual mono and stereo switch
  • It features key inputs long with illuminated push-button selection
  • You will also get a precision VU metering to visually analyse at what you are doing with your project.

11. SSL Fusion Mix Bus Compressor

SSL Fusion front

SSL has always been a well know pro audio brand among music producers. They are manufactured legendary consoles, effect processors, channel strips, and many other audio recording gears used by pros.

SSL Fusion is a vintage compressor with the features like analog drive, high-frequency compression, and width and depth control.

It is an all-analog 2U stereo outboard processor specially created for modern hybrid studios.

Features

  • Vintage drive – This feature gives you a non-linear harmonic enhancement that brings a firm cohesion and strength to your mix. If you like harmonic saturation then this is perfect compresor for you.
  • The Violet EQ – It is equipped with SSL voilet EQ which is a elgendary analogue EQ circuit for more than 25 years. This EQ is designed to create a low end weight along with a high end sheen.
  • HF Compressor – This will also allows you to apply high frequency compression.

Along with the above, it has several other features such as Mic Compressor with wet/dry control, Stereo Imaging, Transformer, etc.

This is a full compression package that you should buy if you have a hybrid studio.

Conclusion: Best Analog Mix Bus Compressors

So, here were the 11 of the best mix bus compressors masters use in their mix. All of them have a unique color. If you ask me which one I really love, I would choose Fairchild.

I have used the UAD Fairchild plugin in my several mixes and it really means. With great color and uniqueness, it glues my mixes well and finalizes the output like coming from the pro mastering studio.

If you have any experiences with any of them, do share them with others through the comment section. If you have any queries regarding the compressors I will also love to answer these queries. Just drop your comment below.

And don’t forget to share this article on your social channels so others could benefit from it.

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Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing, and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.

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