A venerable VST "classic", this aging, simple plug-in hides a complex architecture that competes with any compressor out there today. And the good news is that this compressor is included in one of Waves' few truly affordable bundles (Waves Musicians II), which suits its ease of use.
One of the best things about the Renaissance Compressor (RComp, for short) is its dead-simple interface. People often ask me what a good compressor to learn on is, and I'd have to put this one way out in front. I love how it uses vertical sliders to control levels, it's easier to "feel" like your compressing the audio when you pull down on the threshold slider, and you can easily see your peaks in the input VU meter, so you can essentially target your peaks visually! And the responsive VU meters for gain reduction and output gain make it super-easy to manually match your input level (there is no auto-gain compensation, but that's fine, it can be a crutch.)
Personally, I would love it if Waves would update the GUI a little bit; it's looking very 1998 these days, but its simple interface is paramount, IMHO.
If you crank your output too hard - never fear! Because there is an L1-style limiter on the output, plus internal 48-bit headroom, so you can ride this as hard as you want. It's a brilliant feature, and again, makes it ideal for beginners who may be less careful, or just for creative punishment.
If you do have this compressor, you owe it to yourself to read the manual. Despite the easy interface, there is a hell of a lot going on under the hood, such as:
The ARC is an auto-release control that is program-dependent (changes according to input) that is reminiscent of popular high-end vintage compressors. I always leave this on, as it works great, but you can switch it off and use manual settings as well. Like most auto-release compressors, the release slider sets the general release characteristic.
The Electro and Opto modes are very important, and are a reason why this compressor was so hailed when it came out. The Electro mode decreases release time the closer you get to no gain reduction, but ONLY if there is less than 3dB gain reduction! If there is 3dB or more, the release time increases. The Opto mode is basically the opposite and represents the real "vintage" vibe, recommended for drums.
If that weren't enough, there is a "Warm" setting that applies low frequency harmonics to the signal, but proportionate to the gain reduction! Unique and smart, especially for its time. Even at high settings, I find it quite subtle, but can be very effective in heating up instruments.
I find I tend to pull out this compressor for many jobs: taming peaky material and drums and bass a lot, and I find it's really good at insane "Compression/Sustainer"-style compression, as it's got that headroom with the limiter. There are certainly better compressors, but it's hard to find one as versatile, trustworthy and easy as this one. I've been using it for 10 years, and I still seem to find new tricks with it. Here's to 10 years more!