Are you looking for the best compressor pedal for your guitar?
If you are looking to really round out your acoustic or electric guitar tone, especially if you are a lead player, compression is a must! Personally, I like using it to give my guitar a bit of a boost during lead breaks – kind of helps bring out your guitar sound from the mix of the rest of the band – almost increasing the volume. It doesn’t matter if you are playing rock, country, metal, jazz, blues or anything else – it fits all genres.
- What Do I Look For?
- Best Compressor Pedal Comparison
- 3 More Great Compression Pedals
- Commonly Asked Questions
What Do I Look For?
What I tend to look for in a good compressor effects pedal is something that brings the effect but doesn’t “color” your output or change your guitar tone – you want it to be mostly transparent. True bypass helps as well because when it is turned off, it doesn’t change your tone. Also, a compression pedal that’s relatively quiet.
A lot of people sometimes ask me where I would put my compressor/sustain in my signal chain – I like it at the beginning of my set up but as I always say — try different set ups and configurations for yourself and see what works best for your tone. Please check out our electric guitar tone guide, as well!
Compression Pedal Terms
As far as the controls, this effect tends to be a bit confusing for some people so here is a bit of an explanation on what each knob does. Note that not all options have these exact same controls and some even name them differently so it may take a bit of homework to figure out exactly what a specific model does. Luckily, there are a ton of youtube demo videos out there for each that give you the lowdown.
- attack – this basically sets the length of time for the effect to kick in.
- threshold – sets the level of signal for when the effect engages.
- release – controls the time it takes for the compression to pull back and release the tone.
Take a look at some of my picks for the best all time (or at least my favorite) compressor or sustain stomp pedals. Be sure to check out the Youtube demos and click the pictures to be redirected to Amazon where you can read the reviews.
Best Compressor Pedal Comparison
|Name||Description||Check It Out|
|1. Boss CS-3 Compressor Sustainer||Our Favorite!||Read Review|
|2. Empress Effects Compressor||Awesome boutique compressor pedal and a great unique choice.||Read Review|
|3. Joyo Audio Dynamic Compressor||Great choice when you are concerned with price. Very affordable while still being excellent.||Read Review|
|4. E-H Soul Preacher Compressor Sustainer||Super easy to use and dial in the perfect tone quickly.||Read Review|
|5. Xotic SP Compressor||Another great choice that is super simple to use and get the perfect desired compression.||Read Review|
|6. Keeley 4 Knob Compressor||For the pros that want the best compressor possible.||Read Review|
If you are looking for something more specific, take a look at the pages below:
Top Pick – Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer
- Transparent effect that helps bring out your quiet notes and tame your super loud – bringing you a much smoother and consistent tone.
- If you are looking for a great way to help pull your lead tone out of the mix and be heard, this is a great option for this and it will also help increase your sustain power as well.
- It’s a Boss, so you know that it is going to be durable and last forever!
- I would recommend pairing this with an NS-2 just to help reduce some of the hiss but it is not a requirement – just a recommendation.
- Will not change your tone and it makes sure that your guitar sound stays intact – it just makes everything sounds more “even”.
- Fairly small sized footprint to make sure it does not take up too much pedalboard space.
- Great for all genres, but if you are a country player, compression is a must have!
- Does exactly what you expect a compressor to do!
Best Boutique – Empress Effects Compressor Pedal
- Excellent transparent compression with superior dynamic control.
- Built in the USA by this small family owned company. I love this aspect!
- Cool wet/dry feature that allows more control over the compression and dynamics.
- Excellent not only for live applications but also in the studio as well.
Best Cheap $ – Joyo Audio Dynamic Compressor
- Awesome pedal for such a cheap price!
- Comes with two patch cables included so you can get it into your pedal board with nothing else needed! Just add power.
- Small footprint that doesn’t take up a lot of space.
- True bypass circuitry.
- Very easy to dial in just the right amount of compression for your taste.
- Has settings for fast, medium and low attack levels for more control over your compressed tone.
- Great for both guitar and bass.
- When combined with a good overdrive or distortion, it works very well as a boost pedal.
- Built like a tank just like you would expect from Electro-Harmonix.
- Simple to use – set your level and sustain and you are good to go!
$$$ – Xotic SP Compressor
- Can produce up to 15db of boost.
- Small and compact design that fits into the smallest cubby hole on your board.
- Based off of what is considered to be one of the top compressors – the Ross.
- Attack control using an internal switch.
- High, mid and low selection.
$$$$ – Keeley 4 Knob Compressor
- True bypass design.
- Like the name says, it has 4 knobs that give you complete control over all aspects of your compressor settings.
- Perfect for both recording in the studio or live on stage.
- Made with the highest quality components.
3 More Great Compression Pedals
Here’s 3 more great pedals. They all are a bit pricey, but they sound great. The Wamplers are awesome. I currently have the Black Finger, which I like a lot. I recommend it, but with the following caveats – it’s a little noisy, it’s big and the electric plug falls out all the time.
A great compression pedal. It allows you to change the the attack, threshold, decay (sustain), tone. Also, you can mix the normal tone with the compressed tone. This allows you to more tonal options.
The disadvantage? About two hundred cool-ones for a shiny, blue, new pedal.
Basically the same as the Wampler Egocompression, but it’s smaller. And a little cheaper.
I’ve been using this pedal for many years. The tube compression does create a warm tone. It’s a bit noisy. The main drawback is that the power cord easily falls out. I would recommend this to everyone, but would also recommend you try it out before buying.
Commonly Asked Questions
Where Does Compressor Pedal Go In Chain?
I always recommend that you place this effect before other modulation type effects. What this does is help to send a better signal to the effects after it. However, some other guitarists do the opposite and put it at the end of the chain – so experiment for yourself!
Should I Use A Compressor Pedal?
It is probably going to depend on your tastes, the type of music you play, etc. For example, if you use a clean tone quite a lot, I would recommend using compression to help bring your sound out a bit more and make it more consistent. Lead players can benefit from a bit of added sustain that they provide as well.
Compression Pedal Before Or After Wah?
I find that a compressor before the wah help to give the wah effect a bit more “whatever”. It just kind of helps the wah effect.