- by Kevin Deal
Among all the guitar pedals and effects, the compressor pedal is among the not-so-famous pedal effects out there.
Some musicians may be wary of a compressor pedal. This might be the case for you as well since it’s not a staple for guitarists. Most probably, the reason for this is because it has subtle effects.
However, once you’ve noticed these effects as you play, you’ll be more encouraged to try it out. After all, not having compression will make your music incomplete.This is true especially once you’ve distinguished its sound and function. That’s why it’s important for you to at least consider some of the best compressor pedal on the market.
Our Top 5 Best Compressor Pedal
What is a compressor pedal?
The compression effect is not as audible as other types of effects such as reverb and distort. However, compression is crucial especially when you want to narrow down the dynamic range of your audio signal.
A compressor pedal is like an automatic volume control which reduces your audio signal whenever it exceeds a particular level. Either the pedal or your speaker and amplifier predetermine the said level.
For more information about the compressor pedal and what the compression effect can do, you can check this video.
Simply put, a compressor pedal quiets audio signal parts that are too loud. Then, it will also make quiet audio signal parts stronger. This whole process is what compression is all about. It is also how your compressor pedal narrows down the dynamic range of your audio signal.
This is where peak reduction and gain comes in. More about the basic terms used in compression here: https://reverb.com/news/what-is-compression-and-how-do-i-use-it
What to Look for a Compressor Pedal?
Like any other effect pedals, a compressor pedal needs to have certain fundamentals and meet appropriate standards. For none beginner musicians, guitar effect pedal placement is critical. Which pedal effect comes first or last will significantly affect how your music is going to sound like.
For a lot of musicians, the usual order would be: compressor first, then drive pedal next. This is why you must be quite particular in choosing the best compressor pedal which works for you.
This is also to ensure that your compressor pedal works as naturally as possible with your other effect pedals. After all, your compressor pedal SHOULD clean your audio as much as possible.
If it does the opposite and makes buzzing sounds instead, then that would defeat its purpose, right?
The first you would usually look at a compressor pedal is its knobs and controls. This is critical because too much compression wouldn’t sound nice either. Some of the controls you’ll probably see in a compressor pedal would be: level, tone, attack and sustain.
- Level - The level knob adjusts how much the pedal’s compression effect would be in your music.
- Tone - The tone knob is what “cleans” the audio quality of your music.
- Attack - The attack knob controls when and how fast the compression takes into effect.
- Sustain - The sustain knob, of course, supports a note. This knob controls how long an individual note should last.
For beginners and musicians on the go, another factor you should look into is the pedal’s simplicity. It is also crucial that you know how your compressor pedal works and that you work smoothly with it.
Even though you might’ve read a whole page about how compression works already, the whole process might still seem complicated especially to beginners. This is why you must not only look at how many knobs there are in your pedal. You must also consider how these buttons work and how you can best utilize them.
Lastly, know you want so you know what to look for. Most people have trouble finding the best compressor pedals for them because they are looking for the wrong kind. There are compressor pedals which only work with a bass or an electric guitar. And you need to keep this mind.
Some compressor pedals which only for work with electric guitars can kill some notes for the bass guitar. This is why at the end of the day, your preferences and needs should come in first.
Reviews Of Our Best Compressor Pedal
1. Xotic Effects SP Compressor Effect Pedal
Similar to the very popular Ross compressor, the Xotic SP Compressor uses the same operational transconductance amplifier technology (OTA). This same OTA is what many guitarists deem as the best technology of its kinds.
The SP Compressor Pedal features a broad range of compression tones and styles you can choose from. Available compression sounds range from vintage to subtle and modern to much more.
It also features a blend knob and an internal dip switch for attack control. As for the level of compression, this compressor pedal can handle up to +15 dB (decibels) of boost.
Most importantly, the SP compressor pedal, in particular, is a true bypass pedal powered by a 9V battery or an AC power adapter.
- It has a blend knob. The blend knob allows you to experiment with different styles and effects in your compressor pedal to create a new feel
- It has an internal dip switch. You will be able to control the attack of the compression effect to your music more
- It’s a true bypass pedal. A true bypass pedal can eliminate any signal interference when the pedal is switched off
- It is very compact
- The SP compressor clutch might still add some noise to your music when paired with drive pedals
- It has a minuscule footprint
2. MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compressor
The MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compressor has passed the Nashville studio standard. With its in-line compressor, this pedal can “even” out the signal to your amplifier. It is good for increased sustain with its stable dynamics. Its compression circuit is designed for a constant output signal. Finally, it is also featured with a sensitivity control for superb tones.
The MXR M102 Compressor Pedal is powered by either the Dunlop ECB003 AC Adapter or a Single 9-volt battery.
- It has stable dynamics. This is essential in creating a clean sound even after “compressing” some notes
- Very sturdy and durable
- Straightforward and easy to work with
- It can only be powered by the Dunlop ECB003 AC Adapter or a Single 9-volt battery
- It might not work that well for Bass guitars
3. Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
The Boss CS-3 is both a compressor and a sustain pedal combined into one. It has four knobs: the level, tone, attack and sustain knob. This particular model needs 19V batteries to operate.
- The battery lasts for a very long time. 19V goes a long way, especially if just used for music jams and rehearsals
- Very versatile
- It is cheap
- The quality might not be as good. The light switch might be a little dim and loose
4. Wampler Ego Compressor Pedal
The Wampler Ego Compressor Pedal features five knobs: the sustain, tone, attack, volume, and blend. The sustain knob can control how hard the pedal will work to maintain the signal within a certain threshold.
The tone knob, on the other hand, can be turned full counter-clockwise. It contributes an extra presence to your music as you turn the knob fully.
The attack knob can be adjusted to either a quicker or slower setting. This will allow you to control how fast or slow the compression will start to take effect. Finally, is the blend knob.
The blend knob is not always present in most compressor pedals. However, for this particular model, its blend button acts as a mixer knob.
The Wampler Ego Compressor is made with high-grade film capacitors and resistors. It is also a good and tightly packed pedal board as it has top mounted jacks. Finally, it is powered by a battery connection or a 9V power jack.
- Its knob and compression, in general, delivers excellent sound quality
- It is a true bypass pedal
- Construction is very durable
- It does not sacrifice sound quality. You can experiment, sustain and blend in as much with this pedal all while delivering a clean sound
- It doesn’t come with a power supply
- It might still distort the sound of your music
5. Keeley 4 Knob Compressor
The Keeley 4 Knob Compressor, from the name itself, has four buttons. It has the attack, level, sustain and clipping knobs. Compared to the first four compressor pedals, this particular model features a different knob.
It also has Input Sensitivity Control. Such a feature allows you to use this pedal to run keyboards, drum mics, drum machines, even master your recordings.
- It is a true bypass pedal as well
- It uses a 9V DC Power Jack as its power supply
- After quite some time, the tone might change
- It has its limitations. It might not work as naturally and as good with bass guitars
If you want to keep it safe for the first time, the Wampler Compressor Pedal is a good product to consider . It gives you a lot of room for experimentation without sacrificing the music quality. However, if you are a non-beginner and want a product for long term investment, the Xotic Compressor model might also be a good option.
Remember, too much compression is also not good. It might distort your music and end up making more noise than you expect. Compression has its perks and disadvantages. More than the features, you must consider all existing reviews about the product you might want to try.
And most importantly, the key is to determine what you want and what you need. This will narrow down all the many and complex factors you have to consider in compression and compressor pedals.
Check out the following guitar pedals too!