Comparison of Apple’s Audio Compressors

The audio compressor that comes with Logic Pro X offers several emulations of classic compressors. We’ll touch upon each one.

Here are two dry audio samples that’ll I’ll be running through each audio compressor, on the mix bus. The first is just piano, bass and latin percussion. The second adds a house style kick so that you can hear it affect the compressor more. The first sample is a 2:1 ratio, 15ms attack, 50 ms release, and the second (with the kick added) is at 3:1, 50 ms attack and 100ms release because I found that those setting gave it the ideal “pump” without crushing the piano.

Dry Sample with no Compression
Dry Sample with Dance Beat no Compression

The first audio compressor we’ll try is Apple’s own, called Platinum Digital. This is a fairly transparent compressor that doesn’t add coloration like some of the other audio compressors that it tries to emulate. It tames the kick nicely in the second sample, without altering the sound or feel of the track.

Logic Pro X - Platinum Digital Audio Compressor
Logic Pro X – Platinum Digital Audio Compressor
Sample 1 with Platinum Digital Applied
Sample 2 with Platinum Digital Applied

The next audio compressor, called the Studio VCA, obviously is supposed to be the Focusrite Red 3 Compressor. Notice that the knee knob has been removed, but all the other knobs retain their prior settings. This makes comparison a breeze.

Logic Pro X - Studio VCA Audio Compressor
Logic Pro X – Studio VCA Audio Compressor
Sample 1 with Studio VCA
Sample 2 with Studio VCA

The next audio compressor is called Studio FET. This is based on the famous Urei 1176 FET compressor. (And arguably the most famous audio compressor ever.) I believe this is supposed to be the 1176LN model. Again, notice there is no Knee knob. The 1176 is known as a fast compressor, and while the knobs are the same as the other compressors, you can hear that it crushes the track quite noticeably.

As an aside, the Warm Audio 76 is an affordable replica of the more expensive 1176 that Universal Audio makes. (Please click that link, it helps keep the lights running.) If you are just starting out and looking to add hardware to your studio, the 1176 is a must have, as you’ll find it in pretty much every professional studio. The problem is that most people can’t afford it, which makes the Warm Audio adaptation (at a quarter of the price) a desirable alternative.

Logic Pro X - Studio FET Audio Compressor
Logic Pro X – Studio FET Audio Compressor
Sample 1 with Studio FET
Sample 2 with Studio FET

The Classic VCA is an emulation of the dbx 160, so this should be a good choice on drums. Notice that not only is there no Knee, there’s also no Attack or Release.

Logic Pro X - Classic VCA Audio Compressor
Logic Pro X – Classic VCA Audio Compressor
Sample 1 with Classic VCA
Sample 2 with Classic VCA

The Vintage VCA is an SSL emulation, and is the usual mix bus compressor on any SSL mix (in other words, lots of hit records.) So far, of the emulations, I think this is the best sounding one for the mix bus. I may prefer the Platinum Digital though as it seems the most pristine.

Logic Pro X - Vintage VCA Audio Compressor
Logic Pro X – Vintage VCA Audio Compressor
Sample 1 with Vintage VCA
Sample 2 with Vintage VCA

The Vintage FET is also an 1176, but a different revision. Probably the Blue Stripe model. At least one Grammy winning engineer uses these on vocals.

Logic Pro X - Vintage FET Audio Compressor
Logic Pro X – Vintage FET Audio Compressor
Sample 1 with Vintage FET
Sample 2 with Vintage FET

Vintage Opto is supposed to be the Teletronix LA-2A optical compressor, often used on bass and vocals. For the second sample, the needle wasn’t even moving, so it’s doing nothing to very little. Possibly adding subtle coloration.

By the way, the Warm Audio WA-2A is an affordable replica of the more expensive re-issue. (Click that link and we’ll get a few bucks to help keep the site running.) While the LA-2A is probably not in the budget for most people, if you are serious about producing, the WA-2A is probably one of the first pieces of hardware gear to look at, as it can be used on many tracks for many styles.

Logic Pro X - Vintage Opto Audio Compressor
Logic Pro X – Vintage Opto Audio Compressor
Sample 1 with Vintage Opto
Sample 2 with Vintage Opto

While I’ve found that they all capture the flavor of what they are trying to emulate, they aren’t precise audio compressor replicas. Some of the other plugin manufacturers (Waves, Brainworx, Softube, Universal Audio) have better models. (And we’ll do those comparisons in another article.) That being said, what a great way to get a feel of all these classic compressors by just switching between them. If you are debating buying a hardware version, this can give you a sense of what one or two would be best suited for your needs.

Don’t forget to check out the Logic Pro X Tutorials if you are new to Logic. Till next time …