01799 523432

My Favourite Plugin EQs & Compressors

by Jan 23, 2015

There are many (perhaps too many) EQ and compressor plugins on the market. How are you supposed to know which one should you use, and why?

There is a valid argument that states that most EQ plugins are essentially the same. Mathematically you should be able to approximate the function of any EQ plugin using a stock EQ in your DAW. The reason, however, for different types is that they get to the desired result quicker and in a predictable manner.

Do you want some mid-range punch on bass guitar?  Use an API 550a

Need some airy high-end shine? Use a Pultec EQP-1A

Are you after smooth gain-reduction for vocals? Use an LA-2A or CL-1B

I often get asked why I use a certain EQ or Dynamics processor for certain tasks. So here is a list of some of my current favourites and the reasons why I like to reach for them.




API 2500 – Drum bus compressor par excellence! Watch the input as it might get too squishy too quickly so maybe a gain plugin before helps – instant drum smasher.

CLA-76 (blue) – great for bass, snare, kick and vox. VERY quick attack and controls work backwards so 1=slow, 7=quick. Try all ratio buttons in for room mics. Threshold increases as the ratio does so you compensate with more input and less output.

CLA-2A – Very smooth vocal compression with some added valve tubbiness. Good on bass too. Set the amount of peak reduction required and then make up the gain – easy!

CLA-3A – One of my favourites. Cleaner version of the LA-2A. Great on guitars, vox etc.

SSL Bus – great on busses and main output – set to 2:1 and auto and off you go!

Kramer PIE – OMG – new fave! Instant squooshy fatness yum!

Puigchild – valve goodness – put this on your mix bus WITHOUT doing anything and it sounds better! This is great as a drums squisher too. Emulation of the Fairchild series used extensively at Abbey Road on the Beatles contains 14 transformers and 20 valves and costs £30,000……go figure how it sounds……

L2 – great crunchy limiter. Great on BV bus for added bite and control.

C4/6 – excellent multi-band compressor. Pop Vocal preset is a win.

C1 Comp-SC – THE best De-Esser IMO.


Softube Tube-Tech CL-1B – THE vocal compressor in LA – you can pin 20dB gain reduction and not even hear it working. Excellent smooth dynamics control.

Softube FET – SO much more than the 1176 it emulates. A VERY nice compressor.


1176/LA-2a/LA-3A/Fairchild – choices are as per above except the UAD card takes processing away from the computer so I favour these during larger mix sessions.


Inflator/Dynamics/Limiter/ – ALWAYS on my mastering channel



API 550a/b – awesome for midrange especially on vox/guitars/snare or anything else in the mids. Boost gets narrower with more gain so watch out! 2dB often sounds a LOT more than 2dB! Check out 0.8kHz boosted to 12 on a bass guitar………

SSL Channel/G-Series EQ – great all-rounder and the channel also has gates and compression so they are very versatile. There are great presets as well – instant LA drum sound.

Renaissance EQ – smooth!

VEQ3/4 – both based on Neve EQs so think smooth top end and big bottom. Try 10/12K boost on old guitar strings/drum heads……

Puigtec EQP1A/UAD Pultec Pro – based on Pultec EQP-1A. Great top end 15kHz boost on main output. Great on just about anything. Famous (not so secret) secret is to boost and cut at the same frequency – eg boost and cut bass at 30Hz on kick for solid thump without any wooliness. Generally cut slightly more than boost but experiment…….

Plugin Alliance

Maag EQ – Air Band. Air Band. Air Band. This is designed for vocals. Did I mention the Air Band?

So there you have it – a look at why I might lean in one direction or the other depending on the sound I am aiming to achieve. And remember – you might not always see me use them when in the digital domain as I have several of the hardware units and like to use them on the way in…

If you’re interested in finding out how these plugins can aid your workflow then why not enquire about our tuition?

Threecircles Recording Studio
Based on 14 reviews
powered by Facebook
Richard Simmonds
Richard Simmonds
Adrian, thank you for a great day and a half of recording finishing last Wednesday. Having been together as a group... back in the 60s and now getting together 50 years on to record was a bit nerve racking but you made the thing so much easier with your professional advice and guidance. You've got a great set up and since we had Rog playing flute and drums [for some reason not at the same time!] the layering down of the instruments went really well. We had a great time and ended up with a CD and lots of happy memories. Martin living in France doesn't make it easy but we have all vowed to be back with something completely different for you to cut to disc. Thanks again and see you soon. Sam, Andy, Roger and Martin of Old Lemons fame.read more
Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis
This is a relaxed studio in a lovely location near the beautiful town of Saffron Walden. Adrian is a great sound guy,... he listens and responds and adds enthusiasm to the day. Top recordings with the best equipment for a great price ... highly recommended ��read more
Ashley 'mAsh' Garbett
Ashley 'mAsh' Garbett
Having recorded at Threecircles several times, there's good reason why I keep going back... with such high end... equipment, Ade's expertise and competitive pricing there's no need to go anywhere else!!read more
Dan Mailer
Dan Mailer
Three Circles is excellent. Great studio that I have recorded at various times over the year. Ade is a hard working... producer who gets great results.read more
Victoria Mills
Victoria Mills
I've both recorded and rehearsed at Threecircles and I can't recommend them enough! Nothing was too much trouble, the... facilities are excellent and our demo sounds amazing! Thank-you!read more
Steve Watts
Steve Watts
Loved working with the chaps at Three Cirlces, they have all the gear and every idea! Super talented guys who get the... very best out of you! 5/5read more
Rob Clark
Rob Clark
Very professional sound, genuinely listens to what you want and the sound you wish to create, and makes it better in... every way! Highly recommend!read more
Stephen Ellis
Stephen Ellis
Recorded the last Kaine single at this studio; very professional set up, Ade is a great guy and the coffee is also good.
Gemma Marner
Gemma Marner
I've always loved recording at Three Circles - lovely, comfortable space and surroundings and Adrian is so easy to work... with. Would recommend it in a heartbeat!read more
Kennedy Clark Herring
Kennedy Clark Herring
Truly professional attitude and highly capable. Recommending these guys for studio work as well as live sound... Cheers... guys, appreciate the extra effort you put in,making us sound truly amazing. 5 stars : )read more
Mac Kinnon
Mac Kinnon
Ade at 3C is a true hero. Aside from having professional equipment, incredible understanding and knowledge of music... production and a brilliant studio - he is a real genuine man. If I could I'd give this studio 6*, Ade recently recorded a single for my band completely for free because he knew we were doing it for charity.read more
Matt Milligan
Matt Milligan
Excellent recording studio, highly recommended!