A compressor pedal is an invaluable tool in the arsenal of any musician who plays live music.
By adjusting the dynamic range of the input signal, compressor pedals remove volume extremes by pushing it towards the configured range. It’s not very flashy, but it serves a crucial purpose.
Some techniques (we’re looking at you, tapping) make it difficult or impossible to control how loud you are playing. Sometimes you’re so soft you can’t be heard over the drums, other times you drown out the bass completely.
That’s why compressor pedals are necessary.
Not to mention compressors do wonders for your sustain – that elusive goal guitarists are always striving for.
We’ve rounded up some of the best compressor pedals available on the market today! Check them out!
Electro-Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer
Real-time sound capture is not a universal feature for compressors, and so it sets the Freeze apart from its competition in that respect.
Another cool aspect of this pedal is the neat toggle that allows you to switch between fast, slow, and latch modes.
It’s not the most feature-laden pedal, and the price tag is a bit high. Unless you’re specifically looking to utilize the latch setting, or you have an ice-themed pedalboard, you can probably find a better option.
Behringer CS400 Compressor Sustainer
Unlike the first entry, the Behringer is a pedal with a lot of bang for your buck. It’s inexpensive but gets the job done without compromising your sound quality. Unlike other cheapo compressors, which tend to distort the input, the Behringer maintains crystal clear clarity.
Realistically, the is the best compressor (or sustainer, for that matter) for any budget guitarist. It has the standard control scheme but a pretty decent range. It is durable (and cheap) enough that it’s no big deal if it gets tossed around.
Definitely worth a good, long look – especially if you have to drop a lot of money on other equipment.
The Ross Compressor is the pièce de résistance of any pedalboard. It’s the most valuable asset of a professional musician. The sound quality, and construction quality for that matter, are unparalleled.
But, like any magnum opus, it’s not within reach of your average enthusiast. Whether it is the steep price tag or relative rarity, you might just go your whole life without playing on one.
Which is a shame, really – it’s rumored that their ability to sustain a note is peerless. It stretches on almost infinitely.
The good news is that many of the other leading compressors are inspired by and borrow elements of the Ross. Now you can sate that hunger with a taste of greatness.
Boss CS Series Compressors
It’s impossible to say enough good things about Boss products, and their compressors are no exception.
There are 3 models in the CS series (1, 2, and 3). Like all Boss pedals, it’s a simple and straightforward affair. The sound is great. The price is great. The build is great.
If you like familiarity, use Boss. All of their products act and feel similar; you’d quickly pick up the techniques for using a new Boss pedal if you’ve been playing on a different one already.
The differences between the models are slim. The CS-2 is considered to be the best one, but go with the CS-3 if you want to mess around with a Tone knob too.
Xotic Effects SP Compressor
The first thing you’ll notice about Xotic is the slim build and elegant aesthetic. Don’t let that fool you, though – it is built to be as sturdy as any Boss pedal. In addition to the nice build, it delivers a great sound at a reasonable price. This is aided in part by its capacity for Bypass, which richens the sound coming from your instrument.
Xotic is most often praised for its Blend knob which has found great popularity among players that jam frequently.
MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compressor Pedal
Most people prefer their compression to be “colorless”; they want ranges altered, not tone.
If you are one of those people, you should probably skip the MXR M102. If you like country music, you should probably not skip the MXR M102.
It’s been a standard part of the country guitar retinue for the last few years because it contributes that warm twang that is so essential to the genre. Of course, the pedal won’t limit you in any fashion, it just adds its own unique signature sound to yours.
Joyo Jf-10 Dynamic Compressor
This Joyo pedal fills a similar niche as the previously mentioned Behringer; if you are looking for a simple, no frills pedal that does its job well without breaking the bank, Joyo is a winner.
In many ways, this is the perfect pedal for an angsty teenage metalhead. It’s cheap enough to be afforded by a teenager on fixed (or no) income, it isn’t very complicated, and it can withstand being thrown at the wall in rage because no one understands you. Also, it has a scorpion and those things are rad.
But… that doesn’t mean you can’t use it if you’ve matured past that. There are plenty of other reasons to throw stuff at walls.
Empress Effects Compressor Pedal
Empress Effects takes the compressor stuff to the next level. In addition to the regular knobs and switches you’d expect on a compressor/sustain pedal, it lets you adjust input and output separately. That allows for some pretty nifty sound-smithing if you are creative.
It’s marketed as studio-grade, and while it seems improbable that you could get the same quality and range of options as some big, wall-mounted compressor in a sound studio, the Empress gives them a run for their money. The trade off is the size of the beast.
TC Electronic Hyper Gravity Compressor
TC Electronic has a history of great equipment that can take a beating while still delivering those crisp sounds they’re famous for.
Sure, the Hyper Gravity looks pretty standard on the surface. To be fair, it is standard if you just consider the Sustain, Level, Attack, and Blend knobs. The True Bypass is a valuable asset, though.
The best part is the secret weapon of TC Electronic – their proprietary TonePrint software. You can hook up your pedal to a computer and create your own compression curves, upload them to the pedal as a custom preset, then use them live!
The options are endless, if you’re willing to put in the time to master the software.
Wampler Pedals Ego Compressor
This Wampler Pedal is a shining example of the “you get what you pay for” adage. In this case, you pay a lot and receive an excellent product in return.
There isn’t much out of the ordinary on the Ego Compressor. It has about everything you would expect out of a high-end pedal. The thing to note is that it was made with premium components – ones that you can expect to last longer than you.
Additionally, it fits great onto a pedal with lots of other equipment. It will not suffer from quality loss no matter how long your signal chain is.
The Maxon is a different beast than most of our other entries. It uses Optical Compression, which is far from standard for compressor pedals.
Optical Compression is fairly simple in practice: an LED produces a variable amount of light proportional to the signal strength. A photocell captures the light and creates an output based on the light.
The effect is that the compression effect has a slower entrance, but also a more subtle one. It’s definitely a polarizing pedal, so be sure to try before you buy.
Keeley 4 Knob Compressor Pedal
Here’s an interesting tidbit – Keeley had humble beginnings in a garage. The founder, Rober Keeley, made a hobby out of modifying mediocre pedals into amazing machines. Eventually, a company with a great reputation grew out of that hobby. To this day, much of the equipment is made by hand. It’s notable for being clean, quiet, and precise. Everyone who uses it praises the clearness of the output.
Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone
Excellent name aside, this pedal is one for serious players that are constantly performing and need a pedal to keep up with that lifestyle.
It has great range, great sound, and some features not often found on other compressor pedals. Grit, for example, which is a proxy for distortion. Most unique is the blend of compression and “uncompression”, if you will. The Blend knob facilitates the combination of a compressed and an unaltered signal for more depth and control than a standard compressor pedal.
Seymour Duncan Vise Grip
The Vise Grip has the wide range that’s expected of a pedal at its price range. It is also known to be very pure sounding in its compression. No worries about tone change here.
The cool thing about the Vise Grip is its take on the Blend function. Usually, a compressor pedal filters your whole signal, and then only changes the upper and lower range. This pedal allows you to control which part of your input is being modulated – which allows for maximum control of your sound.
It’s great for only compressing your bass, or treble, while leaving the other sounding totally organic.
Electro-Harmonix Black Finger Tube Compressor
Here’s another pedal that features optical compression, but the Black Finger takes it to the next level.
You actually have the ability to switch between two light sources – LED and lamp (tube). LED tends to have less compression among other effects, the lamp is the opposite. As you might expect, the tube seems to be more warm in tone. It’s definitely a different kind of compressor pedal, and another try-before-you-buy kinda deal. It’s worth a look if you’re seeking a new sound.
That wraps up our list of the best compressor pedal is your favorite. Do you use one that’s not on this list? Tell us in the comments below!