Best Tracking Compressor For Under $500
Putting a compressor in the recording chain has become a very common and useful practice in todays home and professional studio. A compressor in the chain can smooth out a bass or vocal line, it can be used as a way to gate drum bleed or even make the kick more punchy. Any inspiring engineer or producer would love to have a compressor or two in their collection but they can be very expensive. So today I made a list of a few of the best tracking compressors under $500 that I have used.
ART Pro-VLA II Two Channel Vactrol-based Compressor
The ART Pro VLA 2 is a good looking compressor. The two VU meters are eye catching and look great in a rack. It’s also a very useful, good sounding compressor. The opto-electronic design makes this compressor a much more responsive compressor than it’s predecessor. I’ve used this compressor a lot in a vocal chain. The tubes (12AT7’s) in the gain stage of the compressor do add a nice tone to the signal. This is a great unit for those starting out and learning about how does a compressor work.
ART does say you can master with the the Pro-VLA II, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
BEHRINGER COMPOSER PRO-XL MDX2600
This one is the underdog of the best tracking compressor list, but a excellent surprise. When I started recording I had a couple multi comp Behringer compressors in my collection. I mainly used them for gates on drums and nothing else. This model is great for that but also if you need to ad some compression on vocals. It offers a desser, Tube function and some side chain monitoring options if need be.
Now the knobs feel flimsy and I have found in the past the buttons tend to stick but other then that the Pro-XL is a good choice if you don’t want to send much money and use minimal compression.
dbx 1066 Compressor Limiter Gate
This compressor is my favorite of the three listed. It has a great auto function for that classic dbx compression sound but also easy to work with when switched over to the manual function. I’ve used this on overheads, kick drum, snare, vocals, bass and acoustic guitar and it’s come through every time. First off the knobs feel way better then the behringer. and the gate/expander feel much better and sound better as well ( it is 3x the price). The lay out is very straight forward and easy to dial in audio compressor settings. If you had to have one compressor in your collection this is the one to get if you still want to keep under budget.