Pro Audio

Softube Icons Compressor Collection: Recreations of Classics Not to Be Overlooked

Emulation legends Softube has just released Icons: The Compressor Collection. It’s 3 of the best and most used pieces in the land (and in the computer), packed up in a bundle. We reviewed the collection.

There’s a reason we keep seeing the same old audio hardware emulated — these are tried and tested and have that ‘sounds-like-a-record’ sound to them. While you might not be able to afford the real thing, you can trust that companies like Softube will recreate it in software while adding modern features.

Softube — a Swedish company that calls themselves the ‘Rock & Roll Scientists’ — has decided to add themselves to the long list of software companies that have modelled these classics. The Universal Audio 1176, Teletronix LA2A and DBX 160. We reviewed this release — Icons: The Compressor Collection — in our studio Noise Machines to see why you should check out their versions.

best 1176 plugin

When Marshall trusts you as an exclusive software partner, you must feel like you are doing something right in the game. Along with Marshall, Softube has been working with brands like Tube-Tech, Solid State Logic, Buchla, Abbey Road Studios, Trident, Drawmer, Chandler Limited, and Weiss Engineering to model and recreate superior-sounding plugins.

With the release of the Icons: The Compressor Collection, Softube has painstakingly modelled three compressors with very different characteristics — the FET Compressor Mk II, OPTO Compressor, and VCA Compressor with a no-compromise capture of every characteristic of the legendary originals.

The three compressors they chose — 1176, LA2A, and DBX160 — are usually described as the “fastest compressor in the world”, the most respected tube-based optical compressor and the snappy, super popular drum comp respectively.

best 1176 plugin

Strapping the three compressors over our latest Live From Happy performance lead vocal — Lara Andallo ‘Diamond in the Rough’ — I wanted to test these out with something I knew well. Of course, I was instantly impressed with the GUI. Looks great, attention to detail is clear, and when treating a vocal subtly, they all had their own characteristics.

Starting with the FET Compressor Mk II, I got exactly what I expected. Not too grabby on the vocal and easy to get to a point where to vocal comes forward without hearing the compressor working. The drive control caught my eye, so I grabbed it and cranked it — this was interesting.

The FET Compressor Mk II isn’t the only one with an additional drive control, the OPTO Compressor and VCA Compressor have it too. It’s well cool and very pleasant on a vocal. Drive/distortion is a great mixing trick to bring the harmonics out of a vocal and these sounds great…maybe I’ll use the drive control only on my next mix?

best la2a plugin

The FET Compressor Mk II has all of those modern features that Softube promised in all their marketing materials — Low ratio options of 1:1, 1.5:1, 2:1 and 3:1 — the ability to switch out the transformer and FET a sidechain punch and filter control as well as an external sidechain filter blend knob.

As well as having all the above features, the sound of the OPTO Compressor — most vocals pair very well with an LA2A-style comp — was brilliant. It was also here that I started investigating the top-right advanced window options. Opening up the left and right sides gives you the input and output options, a gain difference meter, along with the ability to load up slots A, B, C, and D to compare your moves without losing anything.

The VCA Compressor wouldn’t be my first choice on a vocal — it’s in its best use when I make it dance on a kick/bass drum or a snare drum — but I did find it had the most subtle drive of them all. In fact, it was more low warmth than drive, and that gave the vocal weight! I might just use it on a vocal chain for that sound alone. And it’s a nice touch that the VU meters go red on all the compressors when overdriven.

Having an included Attack and Release on this VCA compressor will surely come in handy, as well as a DRY/WET control (this feature is on all the compressors). As far as I could hear, this sounded true to the original — not an easy feat.

best dbx160 plugin

I absolutely loved the sound of these compressors and the modern flexible features and of course, the look (It’s important!). Just so you know, we’re talking about compressors whose hardware is worth between $3000-9000 dollars. Go on…do a little search on reverb.com and have a drool.

They’ve even made a playlist for you to check out — head over to Soundcloud.

The Softube Icons: The Compressor Collection comes in at $299 USD, but is currently on special for $199 USD. For more details head over to Softube.com