Must-Have Compressor?

Both are on sale at Waves for $29 right now. ($23.82 at with code: YNY23)

Which is THE must-have compressor?

API 2500:
– OR –
SSL G-Master Compressor:

Different compressors are good to have as long as you learn their strengths and weaknesses. I’m happier having just a few different compressors that I know well, but then again, I wouldn’t have been able to figure out what those compressors were without trying out a million of them.

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Yeah, I have plenty of compressors, but I am wondering if either of these 2 in particular are on someone’s “absolutely must-have” list. Like the API for drums and the the SSL for …well, pretty much anything.

Do you use either of these regularly?

I have seen both of those on “must have” lists. Im not quite savvy enough to pick one over the other. The SSL though, that thing gets some nice pumping going on quite easily but im thinking the API is maybe a bit more flexible with the extra controls etc

cant go wrong with either

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Both of these are extraordinary, and there’s a good reason why they’re on everyone’s must have bus comp list. The design and sound of these is completely different, but Waves has done a breathtaking job emulating both.

I slightly prefer the SSL over the API on the 2 bus. But the API is far more versatile and can accommodate a much wider range of other tests such as drum bus, grand piano, string section, or choir because of how much more control it gives you. The sound of the API is completely unique to that compressor. I’ve mentioned before that both the hardware circuit and the software code from that unit are patent protected. It’ll be very hard to find a software compressor clone that can do what it does. I don’t know of anything else besides the UAD.


Here’s some things worth trying. There are some big changes that happen in the SSL circuit when you switch from 2:1 to 4:1. I only ever use the SSL at 4:1. If I need 2:1 I pull out the API or a Vari-Mu because as soon as you leave 4:1, there are other compressors I feel work better. When using the SSL I keep the attack at 2:00 and the release at 10:00 or on auto. Its an all or nothing. Its either amazing on those settings or I use something else.

When you use the API on the 2 bus, you’re listening for district slew rates, the curve of the knee, and proportional ratios in how it manages the low end of the mix. This right here is the aspect of the API 2500 design that is protected by API’s patents. The API doesn’t care if you’re 2, 3 or 4 to 1 on the ratio. Unlike the SSL it’s equally effective either way in my opinion.

To keep things in perspective, when using the Red 3, its extreme advantage is that its relaxed. It has a way of working without digging too hard, and I usually have this on 1.5 or 2, as punching transients much higher than that seems to defeat the purpose. May as well use the SSL at that point.


I own the ssl and demoed the API quite a while ago. I don’t use the SSL much. I could do without either. Boz’s The wall is far more useful in my opinion. It took me a while to get it but it is killer on a buss.

If I was mixing solely ITB I might feel I need a bunch of different compressors.


Totally agree re; 4:1 vs 2:1 on the SSL - though I use the IK multimedia model rather than the Waves one. The knee totally changes, it reaches too far into the body of the mix and the GR floats around a bit more. On 4:1 it’s much punchier because you can get it to ride the Kick+Snare hits more.

I’ve got the Waves API 2500 too, and I do like that on drum bus - specifically, for punchy drums that hit through dense mixes. The thrust control is key there. You can get sounds I’ve not found in any other drum bus compressor. And you can get quite a lot of gain reduction without things sounding too squashed. The stereo link settings are handy too - sometimes ITB bus comps narrow the stereo field, unlinked stereo tends to sound a bit wild on certain material, but partially linking the L+R signals is a great concept.

I have to admit, I haven’t really tried to learn it as a mix bus compressor or on individual tracks - I’m used to the IK SSL bus comp, and haven’t felt the need to go chasing a new variable.

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I recently got into using this comp (and it’s “hidden” features) on the mix buss after watching this video (from 28:30 on)…

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There it is! Thanks for posting that again Andrew. I couldn’t remember for the life of me when/where you posted this before. This is one of the reasons I finally picked up the API 2500. It seems like a fairly unique compressor and was just too hard to pass up.

Unfortunately, now I’ve got to reinstall the prior Waves version because their new update does not play well with my crappy un-upgradable video card. So I’m done buying Waves plugins until I get a decent DAW PC.

Thanks to everyone for your replies and insights. I enjoy the tips from you more experienced engineers. Hopefully a few of them will stick! :grin:

um, that video is actually showing the exact opposite of what he is saying. When the analog button is on, the plugin clips, when the analog button is off, it stops clipping and lets the meter go into the red. It’s not going into the red specifically because it’s clipping in the plugin.

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You’re right! Might as well stick Big Clipper on there and have a lot more control over the sound!

That’s exactly what I hear the new updated UAD one doing, and the Waves one is really frickin close IMO. Can’t find anything else like it on anything that uses drums, but as soon as I turn around mix stuff a string quartet, the thing quickly turns pretty useless.

I don’t think you’re gonna see anything like it until about a dozen of API’s software patents run out. Its gonna be a while. That is one unique compressor.

OMG! That link % is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen on a 2 bus comp! I sat down for a half day, read the entire manual, and tested the UAD 2500 on about 30 different tracks when I was demoing it. I could’t believe I’d been mixing for 8 or so years and never realized that link % thing was there.

When I took the time to really understand this thing, it changed the way I thought about and approached group compression.

I’ll heads up anyone else reading this.

There’s a hefty learning curve on this thing. Its deceptively simple looking. But to really understand the range of what it can do, I’ve had to spend hours observing its results on a wide array of material. Its very easy to put this on and not be able to tell it apart from a Waves C1. - a lot is dependent on knowing what to listen for.

Its as powerful and versatile as the 1176 and Distressor though, just in a different way.