Good compression will give good music; it is that simple. How you can get this done is what this article will show you. With compression already explained up to this point, this article will help you make sense of the different types of compressors.

Type of Compressors

There are four common types of audio compressors, namely: FET, VCA, Variable-Mu and Optical (OPTO) compressors.

Variable Mu or Tube Compressor

This is the oldest type of compressor among all four. It works by increasing its ratio with gain reduction, i.e., the louder a signal gets, the more compression it experiences. The tube compressor is slower than other type that came after it (VCA and FET). It is not advisable to make use of a tube compressor for mixing, where you want punch or when you compress to resolve dynamics issues. Unlike the OPTO compressor that has no input knob, the Variable-Mu or Tube Compressor has an input knob that allows for boosting or attenuation of signal.

Examples of compressors that uses tube are:

Altec 436C

Fairchild 670


Manley Variable MU

FET Compressor

FET stands for Field Effect Transistor. Which means that this compressor works with the aid of a transistor. The translator performs a dual function of amplifying and attenuating signals based on the settings dialed in. The FET compressor is best used on mixes where punch is desired, as it has a super-fast attack. The slowest attack time on FET compressors is still quite faster than that of the tube compressor. FET compressors add lots of color to sound and they work well for vocals, bass and drums.

Compressors that use FET include:




Faking FET 2

Overstayer FET

Pete’s place BAC500

Dreamer 1973/1978

Aurora Audio and Purple action

VCA Compressor

VCA means Voltage Control Amplifier, but if I would describe the VCA Compressor, I would describe it as “versatile” and this is because this compressor compresses audio, and still retains the characteristics of the audio signal to a certain level. VCAs are the most common type of compressors. the VCA compressors generally provide the most transparent kind of gain reduction. Notable characteristics of the VCA is its speed, smoothness, and its lack of colorful appeal when compared to other compressors. This is one of many reasons why VCA compressors are commonly used for buss compression and mastering applications.

OPTO Compressor

Optical compressors are the slowest compressors in terms of input signals. When considering a compressor that produces a more natural sounding gain reduction, look no farther than the optical compressor. Optical compressors generally have a softer attack time and release time which makes them give a smoother sound texture.

Optical compressors are considered by many because of its transparent, and musical sound quality. It is also the most widely used compressor because of its musical effect.

There you have it!

Now that you know the basics of compression, you must note that there is no music production process that can be completed without a compressor, however, in practice, if you say it is the most misused and undervalued music production tool, you will not be wrong. 

A judicious use of a compressor can make your music a master piece, but if you abuse a compressor or you mess up the compression process, it will mar every effort that has been expended into the production. 

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