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Choosing the right compressor can make a big difference in your tone.

With proper placement on your pedal board, and the right choice of compressor, you can squash your signal, increase sustain, or fatten your sound.

When shopping for one of these pedals, it's good to talk to people who have experience using them - we did this for you.

For this post, we asked 6 different guitarists the following:

  • What's the best compressor pedal?
  • What makes it awesome?

You can check out the responses from these 6 guitarists below.

However, before we get into the responses, it's important to go over a few things.

What does a compressor pedal do?

We'll try not to get too technical here, but compression basically normalizes the dynamic range of an instrument. So if you’re playing too quietly, a compressor pedal will boost the volume of your instrument, and if you’re playing too loudly it will reduce it. This might be helpful in live performances, where you might strum some chords harder than others, causing varying levels of output from your instrument. With a compressor, you can limit your output to a more reasonable level by setting your output threshold.

Compressors can also help increase sustain on your guitar. When the signal from your guitar is too soft or starts to fade, a compressor can boost the signal to even out dynamics and make notes last longer, so you can back off the overdrive for a cleaner and more precise sound. This is especially helpful in genres that use clean tones, such as country, funk, or acoustic style music. Producers use compression on nearly every instrument to make a recording sound more polished. Using a pedal, you can get this same effect on your guitar for live performances.

For more details on what compression is all about, and what compressor pedals actually do, check out this video.

Why should I get a compressor pedal?

Many guitarists don't understand why a compressor is such an important part of a pedal setup - they have the basics, such as a tuner, distortion or overdrive pedal, and maybe a few other more tangible effects in their chain. However, guitarists who understand the power of a compressor know that it should be a part of every guitarists pedal lineup.

So, why is this? Along with cleaning up your dynamic range on both clean and distorted guitar tones, compressor pedals help you get more sustain from your clean signal without the need for an overdrive pedal.

Additionally, compression is extremely helpful in leveling out clean, quieter playing styles, such as finger picking, two-handed tapping, legato style playing, hammer-ons, and pull-offs on acoustic and electric guitar. Even when tapping or doing lots of hammer-ons/pulls-offs with lots of distortion, compression can level out the output of the different notes being played.

Bass players can also benefit from compression, since lower frequency notes tent to have bigger spikes in output levels - especially if you're switching between slapping and finger-style playing. Sustain can be a huge benefit if you're playing long, sustained notes on bass.

What is in a compressor pedal?

At their most basic level, compressor pedals have two knobs - one for controlling the amount of compression (usually labeled as “sustain” or "ratio"), and one for controlling the overall volume level (often labeled as “level” or “output”).

Other pedals may have a "tone" setting to control the brightness of your sound, or an "attack" setting to control the initial striking of the note. These can be helpful if you want to increase the amount of pick attack on a guitar solo to give off the perception that it's played faster than it's really being played, for example.

Some compressors also have a "blend" setting. This setting mixes in more of your unaffected guitar tone for a natural sound/feel, and can provide you with very transparent sustain.

Do I really need a compression pedal?

If you haven't tried one, you definitely should. A compressor can be the thing that takes your guitar tone to the next level, but keep in mind that it will be subtle, and in some cases, may only be recognizable at higher volume levels (so, while playing a gig).

Too much compression can make your sound appear unnatural, and can bring about unwanted noise, but the right amount can level out your playing in ways that make each note emphasized just the right amount.

What to look for in a compressor pedal

Most compressor pedals work in a similar way. They adjust your dynamic range and provide a more level output level to your playing.

However, when it comes to budget compressor pedals, guitarists we spoke with seemed unhappy at their ability to handle higher level tone settings.

If you're looking to set a limit on the upper level of your guitars output, most pedals will do, but if you want to use compression to make things like tapping to legato sound better, you may need to spend a bit more to get a higher quality compressor pedal.

Top 6 Compressor Pedals - According to Guitarists


Jacob Hoffman from Drop the Act

Website | Twitter | YouTube | Facebook


What's the best compressor pedal?

Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer Pedal

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

This pedal hits the sweet spot when it comes to price and functionality. The sustain feature definitely is a bonus as well. I heavily suggest playing around with it so you can establish your sound. It also can smooth out your solos. Durability wise, it can handle a thrashing.


Patrick Wilkins

Instagram | Twitter | YouTube


What's the best compressor pedal?

MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compresor Pedal

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

I feel like I’m able to dial in the perfect amount of compression needed to put me where I need to be, I like the way it feels when I’m playing on it (that’s huge for me). There’s probably tons of better compression pedals out there, but for the price and feel I dig it. Not to mention you can get JHS to mod it for you.


Stephen Perry from City Sounds Rhythm

Facebook | iTunes


What's the best compressor pedal?

TC Electronic HyperGravity Compressor

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

Im not a big Compressor user, being that my tube amps naturally compress themselves, and clean channels dont really need them. But, I love simple pedals, and this one has a very easy set up. small pedal as to not take up too much room on your board. Great brand, great price.


John Hancock from Bone Rooster

Facebook


What's the best compressor pedal?

Keeley Compressor Plus

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

I used to use a boss and this is a real upgrade. The blend option really produces some great effects. It's so much more than just a compressor. There's a lot of flexibility here.


Jeremy Aitken

Bandcamp


What's the best compressor pedal?

Xotic Effects SP Compressor

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

Honestly, I don't use compression at all. This pedal however is built like a tank and takes up no space on your board. The factory setting was too dark for my liking, but once you crack it open there are some internal controls that really open up the sound.


Ryan Baustert from Throw the Fight

Website | Personal Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


What's the best compressor pedal?

Rocktron HUSH Super C

What makes it awesome?

I like to keep things simple and this piece of gear does the trick for me with minimal effort. All you need to do is adjust the hush and gate thresholds to your liking and you're good to go! It has minimal controls so you can just set it and forget it.



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