There are important facts to know before choosing the best compressor pedal. As simple as it may sound, it is good to understand the work of a compressor pedal, where it goes, and when it is absolutely necessary. Like any other gear, it is only useful when utilized optimally. Are you looking to bring those clean tones to life? Perhaps you have installed new strings and amp but are still wondering why you cannot get your desired sound yet.
A compressor pedal can drastically improve your guitar play. Read on the best models in the market right here.
- Where should a compressor pedal go?
- When should you use a compressor pedal?
- Do I really need a compressor pedal?
- What is a compressor pedal good for?
- Our Top Reviews
- Best Guitar Compressor Pedal For The Money – Xotic SP Compressor
- Best Cheap & Inexpensive Compressor Pedal – JOYO JF-10 Dynamic Compressor
- Best Transparent Compressor Pedal – Wampler Ego Compressor
- Best Compressor Sustainer Pedal – Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
- Best Mini Compressor Pedal – MXR M291 Dyna Comp Mini
- Best Compressor Pedal For Metal – TC Electronic HyperGravity Compressor
- Best Compressor Pedal For Slide Guitar – Fender The Bends Compressor Pedal
- Best Compressor Pedal For Funk – Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe
- Best Analog Compressor Pedal – Electro-Harmonix Soul Preacher
- Best Boutique Compressor Pedal – Keeley Compressor Plus
- Best Compressor Pedal For Acoustic Guitar – LR Baggs Align Session Acoustic Saturation
- Best Compressor Pedal For Country Guitar – BOSS Compressor Guitar Pedal (CP-1X)
Where should a compressor pedal go?
Installing a compressor pedal is quite easy. It produces different effects depending on its location in the signal chain. Generally, any gain-effects should be placed before modulation. So, overdrives and compressors come before flangers or delays. Another arrangement is to put the best compressor pedal before fuzz, distortion, and overdrive pedals. Most guitarists put first the compressor so as to send a stronger sound signal to the consecutive effects. However, some players place compressors last to boost sound signals before they hit the amplifier. The only problem with this setup is that any hiss or hum brought by other effect pedals is increased by the output gain of the compressor pedal.
When should you use a compressor pedal?
There are a number of reasons you might want to improve your clean guitar tone. For starters, notes resulting from the clean guitar sounds usually lack sustain and they start to break up as soon as you pluck the string. The compression pedal comes in to boost the endurance of such notes so they can last longer. It does so by raising their diminishing volume. If you prefer hybrid picking or the fingerstyle to play country music, then you need to get the best compressor pedal so as to attain a balanced sound with an electric guitar especially a rhythm guitar. This is because plucking strings with different fingers can lead to subtle discrepancies in volume and sound dynamics. Compression helps to level out the dynamics created by different strings.
Do I really need a compressor pedal?
It depends on your musical taste. Different pedals come with different effects so what works for one guitarist may not work for you. However, a compressor is extremely essential for anyone who plays country or funk music. Compression also comes in handy if you rely on clean tones when utilizing such techniques as tapping, pull-off, and hammer-on. Compressors also work perfectly with overdriven amps. Are you a country guitarist looking to achieve distinctive thick tones? You might want to go for a compressor with a slapback delay. If you normally play blues, you may combine a compressor pedal with a light overdrive pedal to put on some weight to the guitar tones. In any case, there’s a lot to benefit from compression.
What is a compressor pedal good for?
The best compressor pedal is one of the most important tools just behind the guitar tuner. What makes compressors more appealing is their ability to bring beefy tones; more sustain, and balanced sounds. In a recording studio, compression helps to control the overall volume of the audio signal plus the dynamics. Sound engineers rely on compressors to quiet down the louder parts of an audio signal. Compressors have less transformative effects on the tone than chorus pedals. They boost parts of the sound with the lowest volume and dissipate the loudest parts. By processing these inconsistencies, compression ultimately minimizes the dynamic range, making the sound signal louder and smoother but with more sustain.
Our Top Reviews
Looking for the best compressor pedal to add to your pedalboard? The process can be tricky given the countless options in the market but we have made things easier for you. Take a look at our top 12 picks.
Best Guitar Compressor Pedal For The Money – Xotic SP Compressor
Launched in 2012 by Xotic Effects, the SP Compressor falls under the common price range. It is excellent at smoothing tones into fuller and richer sounds. Crafted in a unique design, the tiny pedal is a perfect piece of gear for enlivening any studio. Its casing can take a great deal of daily abuse during stage performances and musical tours. One of the most venerated features of Xotic SP Compressor is its blend knob which is very effective for jamming sessions. Also included in the ensemble is the true bypass to enhance the tones and level punches. It has 4 internal dip switches to control the high cut filter, pad, release, and attack. Even better, the Xotic SP pedal comes with a 9V battery already installed. If you want to get rid of those weak notes rom thin strings, this is the best compressor pedal to make your sound stronger.
- A small size ideal for any peddalboard
- Blend and bypass features
- A solid casing
- Distinctive eye-catching design
- Finding the best combination for the dip switches is quite a hurdle
This little compressor pedal is worth your money if you normally use a lot of effects. You don’t have to worry about it taking much of your pedalboard space. Some of its features like the true bypass and blend are hard to find in typical compressor pedals. It will also last long, giving you the clarity you’ve always wanted.
Best Cheap & Inexpensive Compressor Pedal – JOYO JF-10 Dynamic Compressor
The JOYO JF-10 Dynamic Compressor has been around since 2010 and comes at an affordable rate. It is designed with scorpion graphics on the front and a green color. The compact size of the JOYO JF-10 Dynamic takes minimal space. Offering a wide range of tones, it also sustains them in the long run and keeps unwanted noises at bay. Sound distortion is a major drawback during compression but this compressor pedal is one of the clearest in the market. It packs a punch to create exclusive tones when you finally discover the sweet spot and learn to tweak options.
- Robust and compact design
- Reliable clean boost
- Decent compression sounds
- Lacks some features of premium models
JOYO JF-10 Dynamic Compressor is a great value choice that offers a wide range of tones to guitarists who love experimenting with guitar effects. Whether your budget is tight or want to explore the world of compressor pedals, this could be the most affordable option for you. It is quiet so it doesn’t disturb other tools on your rig. It simply comes in to level and even out the unwanted dull sounds of the guitar.
Best Transparent Compressor Pedal – Wampler Ego Compressor
The Wampler Ego Compressor comes with new control levels of the Dyna Comp style (Ross). It is designed to perform all the functions of a compressor pedal while keeping the tones transparent and dynamic. With five control knobs, the Ego may look fussy but once set; it is hard to switch off. It also includes an ingenious blend knob. It can cover all forms of compression from country squish to studio-grade parallel compression and tube sag. Thanks to the OTA compression circuitry, the Ego compressor pedal delivers tonal purity and full controls that are rare on traditional squeeze boxes. The bypass stays true while a blend function facilitates the sustain without a fuss. It is the best compressor pedal you can have to help you feel great about your guitar tone.
- Tonal versatility
- Superb tweak ability
- Robust build
- A wide range of compression
- The attack controls and tone knobs can be very dramatic
The Wampler Ego Compression pedal is one-pedal support you can rely on for sweetening the tones. Its setup offers comprehensive control over compression with the blend knob coming handy to dial in the squash level you just need. Wampler’s Ego Compression retains the dynamics of your sound without coloring the tone. With all these features, expect to pay a relatively higher price. If you ever want to add more singing to clean or dirty tones, Wampler Ego is a sure bet.
Best Compressor Sustainer Pedal – Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
Here is a no-frill compressor pedal and a contender for the best classics thanks to its precision, ease of use, and affordable price. Hailed for smooth sound renditions, this well-tested pedal has been on sale since 2007. The Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer Pedal is good at providing even sound signals at stable volume. Overall, it gives better sustain by boosting weaker signals and lowering the louder ones without distortion. As such, you get to enjoy lush solos even when the volume is a bit low while cutting though the mixes. It sounds great with solid state amp, but may give horrible tunes if combined with tube amps. Manipulating the controls over the attack, tone, sustain, and level is very easy. The signature stompbox design of Boss CS-3 in color blue is something that can outlive you.
- Boosts and even tones in an equalized manner
- The level knob helps with noise control
- A sturdy metal frame- almost impossible to break
- Not recommended to work with tube amps
It may take some time to figure out your unique sound zone with the Boss CS-3 compression pedal. But you will never switch back when you find a sweet spot. The absence of lag in this pedal makes it a dependable device. Unlike most models, it is not manufactured with plastic but with metal so you can be sure it will last longer.
Best Mini Compressor Pedal – MXR M291 Dyna Comp Mini
The MXR M291 Dyna Comp Mini is an icon in the history of compression pedals. With its legendary squash, you can achieve the same tone that might take almost 50% of your pedalboard’s space. Manufactured with a metal can chip (CA3080 IC), the MXR M291 Dyna Comp Mini gives transparent tones with minimal noise. There is an attack button for choosing between a fast and slow feel. If you are obsessed with explosive Byrds-tones, this is one of the most affordable alternatives you can have. It massages fuzz tones to fit into a mix and adds some pop to rhythm sound tracks. You can count on M291 Dyna Comp Mini to extract body and sustain from guitar pickups with a single coil.
- Options to choose between fast and slow preset attack speeds
- Has a toggle switch
- Metal can chip offers transparency and reduces background noise
- It is not the easiest compressor pedal to use
The mini MXR M291 Dyna Comp comes at almost half the size of regular MXR Dyna Comp. So, you can always find a room in your pedalboard to fix this tone-enhancing equipment no matter how crammed your rig is. It is still the most convenient but it may take some time to learn how to do some tweaking. It sounds good once dialed in.
Best Compressor Pedal For Metal – TC Electronic HyperGravity Compressor
Coming from the renowned TC Electronics, the HypeGravity Compressor pedal is a small-sized pedal featuring 3-band compressors. Because it is a digital pedal, you can download pedal set-ups by popular guitarists. As far as the coloring of tones goes, the TC Electronic HyperGravity doesn’t do much. It does better at balancing tunes and strings. If you want to try what guitar pros do, then this pedal is a great option. Simply use your smartphone to point at your guitar’s pickup and you are good to go. You will find the footswitch to be very comfortable as it doesn’t bring a fuss as you change switches. When it comes to compressing the tones, the HyperGravity gives unmatched flexibility. Turning the knobs live is very easy when on stage.
- Has a TonePrint function
- Flexibility with knobs
- Impressive compression capabilities
- The vintage mode is quite dark and the treble output may outdo bass
TC Electronics HyperGravity Compressor offers you an affordable option for compressing guitar sounds. It is durable and is designed to give the best performance with straightforward functions. Enjoy its airy multiband sounds, great sustain, and trebles that are lively but not too spikey.
Best Compressor Pedal For Slide Guitar – Fender The Bends Compressor Pedal
Meet a fairly priced compression pedal that’s relatively new in the market- Fender The Bends. It comes with a true bypass and 4 standard controls: level, recovery, drive, and blend. The bends Compressor is an OTA based pedal but uses a blend control so no need to compress the entire signal. Some of the most interesting controls of Fender the Bends are the recovery and drive knobs. A drive knob helps to turn up the compression as the LED glows pink. The recovery knobs for release time and output volume play an important role in boosting the front end of the amp even at minimal compression levels. This offers a natural jump into the second stage during solo performance. When plugged in, even the most extreme settings sound modest. The Bends never gives ridiculous amounts of sound compression, making it a safe choice when you don’t want to go extreme with the likes of Lowell George tunes. If you are still exploring comps, this pedal will do an incredible job of hitting bases surrounding mid-range compressed tones.
- Quiet compression
- Allows greater flexibility
- Not compact
Fender the Bends Compressor adds a good snap to your notes with a little hiss and without being obtrusive. Through the Blend knob, you can increase the compression effects including the sustain without squashing completely the core sound. This cleverly designed comp is sure to keep the squish in check.
Best Compressor Pedal For Funk – Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe
A studio classic Cali76 Compact Deluxe sounds great on almost all guitars. If you are comfortable working with a myriad of knobs, then this could add versatility to your rig. It offers a variable compression ratio while the separate release and attack knobs add more flexibility. Unlike the original bigger version, Cali76 Compact Deluxe has a new Dry knob that blends the input signal into a compressed voice for parallel compression. One of the drawbacks of compression is its impacts on the entire signal which hampers the dynamic control. By incorporating a dry signal, you get a proportionate amount of the overall sound when compressed by this Origin Effects pedal. The resultant sound is more natural with increased sustain and fattening qualities. The miniature size of Cali76 Compact Deluxe’s components creates a Class-A circuitry with low noise transistors needed for true FET compression. The pedal runs a 9V or 18V (greater headroom).
- Packed with useful features
- Heavy metallic chassis
- Very tweakable with 6 knobs
- The attack and release cannot be adjusted
The Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe is an outstanding piece of gear that works for you in just any situation. If you need cleaner processing, increased headroom, or are handling higher levels of the sound signal, choose the 18V model. While the Cali76 has a good mix of features you can find in other comps, its price tag is quite high but you will love the quality.
Best Analog Compressor Pedal – Electro-Harmonix Soul Preacher
One of the top compressor choices is Electro Harmonix Soul Preacher but its price is on the high end. When it comes to quality sounds, this compressor is right at the threshold. Its casing is an attractive shattering glass that can be used to brighten up an electronic kit. There are 3 decay modes you can use to switch from rich and full sounds to dull and bleak alternatives. The switch between the slow and fast latch modes as well as the effect knob controls your sustained tone. The Electro-Harmonix Soul Preacher has a simple layout that allows easy access to the knobs whether practicing at the studio or performing on-stage. It is designed in a silver and black finish, which is more attractive than typical black pedals. The comp fits perfectly well into any electronic gear you may have in the backstage or studio. Capture all your lows and highs in real time then compress according to your best performance. This is also a good model to consider if you are trying out new sounds
- 3 latch settings
- Long sustain time
- Real-time sound capture
- Power supply included
Looking to visibly enhance the sound quality during jamming sessions? You need to have a good budget to own the Soul Preacher by Electro-Harmonix which gives all the required perks of a compressor pedal. Very durable and compact, it is worth your money in the long run.
Best Boutique Compressor Pedal – Keeley Compressor Plus
The Keeley Compressor Plus Pedal is an industry standard you can have for value and tone. This is an upgraded design of the best-selling stompbox by Robert Keeley and comes with an additional switch for single-coil and humbucker pickups. This takes you back to the basics of compression with a release switch for automatic adjustment of the attack and release depending on the type of guitar pickup in use. The blend control ensures that you are always in charge of the compressed signal. Turn it anti-clockwise to get a half-and-half blend or clockwise for a squashed quack. The blend and sustain function as expected. The Comp Plus is not just a compressor but also a sustainer. The sustain works to bloom and blossom just like the tube amp . Thanks to a rackmount JFET compressor, the pedal can conveniently fit into a pedalboard and carried anywhere.
- Simple to operate
- Has a single-coil/humbucker switch
- Great tones
- Not sufficiently featured for compression pros
The reason Keeley Compressor Plus sells out first is that it has been upgraded into a tweakable pedal. You can set the right track for your type of pickup using the release switch. In terms of tone control, Keeley Compressor Plus emphasizes sensitive harmonics which are often lost during compression.
Best Compressor Pedal For Acoustic Guitar – LR Baggs Align Session Acoustic Saturation
Made for acoustic players, the LR Baggs Align Session packs a plethora of features to expand the tonal palette. Each control button is designed to enrich and complement acoustic voices. The pedal comes with compression and saturation EQ. The session circuitry improves the acoustic pickup while imparting a distinct sonic character of audio engineers. The compact and simple pedal adds warmth and dimension with the saturation EQ. The pleasant harmonics smoothen the sound signals to bring an enhanced mix. Unlike traditional comps that squash the entire signal range, this LR Baggs pedal offers 3 narrow bands to curb common issues brought by errant frequencies and unveil the true voice of your instrument. They include the high, mid, and low frequency compressors which are sensitive to touch hence respond in real time. The compressor/EQ functions like a dynamic EQ so the harder the play, the more it cuts the frequencies.
- Easy to adjust the gain for active and passive pickups
- Smoothens problematic frequencies with the EQ
- Analog saturation to boost the harmonics and the warmth
- The learning curve to max out its potential is quite steep
Compression and saturation effects interact to an extent with saturation being a mild distortion which is closely associated with tape recording. In the extreme settings, you can hear sound distortions but on the lower extreme, the pedal introduces warm and complex sounds. For any acoustic amplification, the clear sound, powerful EQ, and sonic richness of the Align Session are worth considering.
Best Compressor Pedal For Country Guitar – BOSS Compressor Guitar Pedal (CP-1X)
This digital multiband compressor retains all the fundamentals of compression and adds a gain-reduction indicator that helps to see how far the compression is. You will find 4 controls: ratio, level, comp, and attack. The internal charge can take up to 18V of power which is sufficient to give optimal performance and additional headroom. The intuitive BOSS Compressor CP-1X is designed with an MDP or Multi-Dimensional Processing that evaluates your real-time play and adapts the output accordingly. So, the comp considers all the aspects of a playing guitar including the pickup response, overtones, dynamics, and frequency. In real time, it responds to your techniques to give a smooth sound, bearing in mind qualities like vibrato, single notes, chords, and note register. If you play harder, the pedal notices and adds an extra attack. When you back off, it brings out the best of the smooth guitar lines and solos. That sounds like having a standby sound engineer in your compressor pedal.
- Transparency with multiband compression
- Easy operation
- Handy light indicators
- Relatively short battery life
Looking for a compressor pedal with great value? The Boss CP-X1 is a comp for discerning tone snobs. It preserves the unique character of your guitar and playing technique.
Adding the best compressor pedal to your pedalboard could mean the whole world to your musical tones. Ideally, the compressor works to balance the guitar signal and squashing peaks to maintain consistency and sustain. From the above models, choose your gear wisely depending on your needs and budget. Try them out at a music store before parting with your cash. If you are a metal player and want your riffs and solos to stay in harmony with the drums, then you need a compressor pedal. You also cannot miss it if you play funk and country music so you may attack with cleaner tones. Basically, any guitarist who desires to hear every note with precision should get the best compressor pedal in the market.