So what does a compressor pedal do? Simply put, there is a difference between the loudest and quietest part of a signal. The compressor lessens the gap. It reduces what is known as the dynamic range, which is the level between the average and peak levels.
To give an example, they are often used to take the sound of a clean guitar and boost it because of a lack of sustain. Compression will extend the length of the note as it starts to fade away or decay by raising the volume. Used correctly, it has a great effect on the instrument and its overall sound.
But which is the best compressor pedal? In this review, we’ll be comparing 10 of the very best, so join us as we find the perfect compressor pedal for you…
- Top 10 Best Compressor Pedal To Buy 2020 Reviews
- 1 Xotic SP Compressor Pedal
- 2 Wampler Ego Compressor V2 Guitar Effects Pedal
- 3 Empress Effects Compressor Analog Compression Guitar Effects Pedal
- 4 MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compressor Pedal
- 5 Electro-Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer Compression Guitar Effects Pedal
- 6 Behringer Compressor/Sustainer CS400
- 7 Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
- 8 TC Electronic EQ Effects Pedal
- 9 JOYO JF-10 Dynamic Compressor Guitar Effect Pedal
- 10 Electro-Harmonix Soul Preacher Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
- Best Compressor Pedal Buyers Guide
- So What’s The Best Compressor Pedal?
Top 10 Best Compressor Pedal To Buy 2020 Reviews
1 Xotic SP Compressor Pedal
Xotic began life in 1996 in a small building in Southern California. Manufacturing their own range of boutique-style bass guitars and preamps. But they quickly moved into designing and making their own pedals and have produced some very well-respected boxes, the AC Booster, and RC Booster being just two of them.
Unlike some pedals that are designed with a particular style of music in mind, the Xotic SP will cut across most genres and be comfortable in all of them. The circuits, including that of the SP, are based on the renowned Ross compressors that go back a few years. Initially not that highly thought of, but later to achieve more acclaim as it became known that one or two ‘name’ guitarists used them.
It has a certain transparency, which makes it popular, and there is no doubt it levels out the dynamics of your sound. But it also adds a little to the sound as well, giving it a crisp clarity.
Controls are simple and easy to operate with rotating blend and volume knobs and a switch for high, low, or mid settings. Volume is self-explanatory, but getting the blend of the sound right is important. This is the mix between compressed and uncompressed signal. When that is controlled correctly, the sound can be shaped to your exact preference.
It is well made and quite a tough pedal, and is built to be used. It might be small, but its compact size will allow it to fit onto any of your already packed best guitar pedal boards.
This is an excellent pedal which is easy to use and produces great results. And it could well be the best compressor pedal? The price is set in the middle of what you expect to pay for a quality pedal of this nature, which also makes it excellent value for money.
- Good controls and easy to use.
- A compact size.
- An attractive price point.
- Some do not like the smaller pedals.
2 Wampler Ego Compressor V2 Guitar Effects Pedal
Next up, we have the much discussed, and in some circles vaunted, Wampler Ego compressor. People seem to love them or dislike them, but there is no doubt they do what they say they will, and do it well.
Based in Indiana in the US, they only started to produce pedals for guitar and bass in 2007, and have come a very long way in a very short time. Brian Wampler founded the company and is essentially a self-taught pedal creator.
This pedal is exceptional in many ways. It has five basic controls which give you a compressor where you can control every facet of the sound. The controls are easy to use and simply laid out, adding to the pedal’s appeal.
The sustain knob lets you determine how long your note is going to carry on. The higher the sustain level, the more it will ring out. But, this is not always a good thing, depending upon what other pedals are active. The Blend control acts as a mixing knob, blending together the compressed and uncompressed signals. Therefore, you can adjust how much of each you require to get the sound you want.
While the attack dial will dictate how quickly the compression starts to take effect on each note.
This is an important control as the slower the setting, the act of compression will occur at a slower rate, thus giving you more of the original sound. A faster attack rate and it compresses quicker. It’s, therefore, down to the user to decide how they use it. Depending on the sound they are going after.
Adding tone control is a clever idea. Being able to add a little bit of presence and top-end will change the characteristics of the sound and make it more suitable for numerous genres of music.
There is no doubt that this is a great pedal. Lots of options and creativity built-in, and it takes the compressor pedal from being a pedal you could have, to one you SHOULD have. It runs on 9v battery power.
- Great sound shaping options.
- Good design.
- Well-built and easy to use.
- Some will think it expensive.
3 Empress Effects Compressor Analog Compression Guitar Effects Pedal
Empress Effects are a Canadian company that has only been in existence for a very short time. But in that period they have made people sit up and take notice, and the products they produce are quite exceptional. They have already produced a digital delay pedal and a metal distortion pedal that are both very highly thought of.
With the success of their previous pedals, Empress have turned their attention to creating another studio-grade compressor pedal. They had previously produced their ECM 519 pedal, which had been highly regarded, and this pedal is similar in its design format, but with a few extra features.
It is an all-analog pedal with great transparency. Transparency, of course, means that whilst the level of the signal is being adjusted, the actual sound is not. When compression has great transparency, it means that the pedal has control over and will adjust the dynamic range, but will not interfere or change the actual sound of the notes.
This pedal takes you way beyond the two control compressors of days gone passed, offering three ratio settings from gentle to heavy compression and a serious level of control over the sound. Five controls dominate the unit for attack, release, mix, input, and output. It also features an added TRS input so that you can add a filter or EQ in a sidechain to allow you to adjust the sound further.
The pedal will work very well with guitar or bass. From a bass perspective, some players have a wide range of styles they include all at one time. And if sounds are set up for the mid-range playing style and they suddenly get more aggressive, maybe a slap style, then the volume suddenly goes through the roof.
This pedal will control all of that and allow you to use any playing style without volume concern. There is no doubt that this is a quality product and a contender for the best compressor pedal, but the price is going to scare some people.
- Great control over sound with plenty of options.
- The price will put some people off.
4 MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compressor Pedal
Who says big is beautiful? In terms of compressors, you don’t get much smaller or simpler than the MXR M102. Yet it has, in some circles, become iconic and almost an industry standard. And all from a little box with a couple of controls. In popularity, it is one of the top compressors and has been used by many top players and on so many recordings.
It is made with a rugged feel to it that is going to take some use, yet is very compact and won’t take up too much room on your board. Output and sensitivity are the only controls included, and they might well be all you need?
The output controls the volume, and the Sensitivity control handles the ratio of compression applied. The highest level is the maximum compression.
The pedal will deliver clean tones and level out the gain on those guitar solos. But it will also increase the sustain within the framework of having stable dynamics, and it levels out the signal before it reaches the amp.
It might have everything you need to get a great guitar sound, but it doesn’t seem to handle the bass very well. And it tends to ‘over-compress,’ and make the sound a little unclear. It definitely works better with thinner strings.
There is no escaping the fact that this is a popular compression pedal, even though on face value, the control options look limited with just two controls. However, the amount of compression applied is easy to use, and volume is the only other thing to worry about. That is one of the reasons it is so popular; it is just so easy to use. That and of course it is a great pedal at a very good price.
It is powered by an adapter or a single 9v battery.
- Very effective with a big reputation.
- Simple to use.
- Great price.
- Some may want more control options.
5 Electro-Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer Compression Guitar Effects Pedal
Since they were established in 1967 in New York, Electro-Harmonix has been very adventurous in their design and in the functions of their foot pedals. They have created some superb pedals over the years. The Freeze Sound Retainer Compressor is another example.
Simply because they have come up with a pedal that will allow you to play a note or chord and then freeze it, so that the sound is placed into a sustained mode – Indefinitely. You can then choose how long the sound remains using either a fast or slow decay from the control positioned on the unit.
Using the footswitch, the sound will either decay fast or slow according to your setting, and it will commence its cycle when the footswitch is engaged. If you want, you can let the sound continuously sustain by using the Latch function on the same switch. The effect level takes the sustained sound and controls its volume. The dry signal is always used with its original volume.
If you want to go a stage further, you can sustain the sound and play over it and accompany yourself. Very similar to having an extra guitar player in the band. The control though is with you, and the pedal allows you to determine exactly how much effect you want. The transition between the settings is smooth.
There are many ways that you can use this pedal from a creative gentleness to total crazy, but then we suppose that is what Electro-Harmonix want. The choice, not the totally crazy, but we wouldn’t put it past them?
It is a powerful pedal that gives a lot of options whilst also acting as a compressor. It is powered by a 9.6v power supply, which is included.
- Creative pedal with some very good features.
- Well made and sturdy.
- Some will just want a simpler compressor pedal without extra effects.
6 Behringer Compressor/Sustainer CS400
Our friends at Behringer have produced the CS400 compressor pedal to form part of their range of excellent cost effective effects pedals. You can always rely on two things with Behringer, the quality of the effect will be good, and the price more than competitive. Some people call it budget equipment; however, we prefer to refer to it as cost-effective.
It’s a compressor, pure and simple. It reduces any high levels of volume and boosts any that might be too low, thus creating the optimum level for your sound. For the rock solos, it will make sure you don’t go over the gain threshold and keep the sound in good balance. For the clear tones, it will make them punchy and add just a little sustain to prolong the notes with a little bit of boost.
This pedal will also work with the bass guitar. And for those bass players that suddenly like to go off into slap bass mode, where the volume peak can rise dramatically and erratically, this compressor is perfect for controlling those peaks. The compression applied to both guitar and bass is smooth and develops an effective sustain.
Behringer has designed a pedal here that will take on others who are market leaders, and who have a much bigger price tag. And the compression when applied does not degrade anything of the original signal.
Controls are simple and easy to use but nevertheless quite comprehensive, allowing you to shape your sound a little. Attack, Sustain, Tone and Level controls are at the turn of a knob on the top of the pedal, and there is an on/off, and battery condition LED light.
If Behringer does cut corners to keep costs down, it is sometimes in construction, and as with most of their pedals, this one has a plastic construction. It is tough and sturdy, though, and will last the pace. After all, all you have to do is turn it off and on.
- A great effect pedal with good sounds.
- Easy to use and control.
- A fantastic price for what you get.
- Some will not like the plastic construction.
7 Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
Silly question really, of course, Boss makes a compressor pedal. Boss makes everything pedal and does it very well.
With the CS-3 Boss have done exactly what they do best. Made a great pedal that produces great results and is easy to use. No frills, nothing fancy, and with that tough, sturdy build and immediately recognizable stomp pedal on board.
This compressor will tighten the reigns on those rock solos that can get out of hand volume-wise, and put the dynamics of your sound under tight control. Increased sustain is also part of the package with this pedal, and when you are playing clean, the notes will ring out with clarity. The sounds can also be made to be a little thicker if desired, which will enhance the fullness of the sound.
The pedal works using four controls, Level, Tone, Attack, and Sustain. All quite obvious in their actions and easy to create the sound you are looking for. An important feature of this pedal is the smoothness of the sustain achieved, and the original sound is not degraded in quality.
The compression achieved can range from very gentle to a totally squeezing the sound and all points in between. And using the EQ provided, you can make subtle changes to the sound produced.
Far from us to be critical of Boss, as we think they make some of the best value for money pedals on the market, but this pedal can give you some unwanted hiss at times. It is not always there, but it becomes more noticeable as more compression and sustain are applied. However, if you have a one of the best noise gate pedals, it will eradicate it completely.
A typical workhorse pedal from Boss and good value for money. It operates from a 9v battery.
- Tough, sturdy Boss build.
- Effective yet simple controls.
- Easy to use.
- Can make some unwanted noise.
8 TC Electronic EQ Effects Pedal
As always, TC Electronics try to pack in as much technology as they can into their pedals. And this effects pedal offers three different types of compression, which range from vintage to modern, for you to find exactly the sound you are looking for. The Hypergravity also includes a multi-band compressor, access to various options of compression through Toneprint and also a vintage sound.
This pedal uses the same MD3 algorithm that is installed in their System 6000 compressor, which is used in many professional studio environments for its multi-band option. It is a fully transparent compression that does not interfere with the original tone at all. And gives you every option between light to extremely heavy settings.
The vintage option will give you all the compression sounds and feel of days gone past, including the extra presence that was always evident.
The final option is access to the Toneprint library, which we are sure you all know about by now because we discuss it in all of our pedal reviews. And true bypass ensures that there will be no loss of high or low frequencies when the pedal is turned off.
The pedal controls are nicely laid out and easy to use. Sustain. Level, Attack and Blend formulate the sounds with a toggle switch for Vintage, Toneprint, and Spectra, which is the multi-band option.
We would like to make the point at this stage that this pedal is designed for use with a guitar. The EQ range is set for the higher frequencies. TC has a separate pedal, the Spectra Comp, for bass compression.
It is a typically complex TC Electronics pedal and is going to take some getting used to. And it certainly isn’t a take it out of the box, plug it in and play it pedal. There will be a learning curve, especially with the Toneprint facility. For those willing to spend the time, it is a great pedal that will give you a lot of sound options.
- Good sounds and features built-in
- A good price considering the number of features.
- Will take time to understand its operation.
9 JOYO JF-10 Dynamic Compressor Guitar Effect Pedal
Joyo pedals can always be relied upon to give a decent performance at a budget price. They are a no-frills pedal that just gets on with doing one job at a time.
One thing we like about Joyo is that even though they are a budget brand when it comes to build quality, they do not cut corners. This pedal has a tough casing made from metal that is going to take a few knocks. Having said that, it is compact and lightweight and will fit easily on to a pedalboard.
The layout and design are very simple and easy to use. Three control knobs and an off/on switch are all you have to worry about so there won’t be any late nights trying to work out what something does with this pedal.
The sustain control adjusts the length of each note or chord after it has been hit. If you want a longer sustain, then turn the dial. The level is known in some quarters as the mix. The mix between the dry, uncompressed sound, and the compressed sound you are creating. A good balance is vital, and this knob allows you to control that aspect.
The attack is the speed at which the note has compression applied to it. The more that is increased, the quicker the compression is applied.
It is a true bypass pedal. When it’s not turned on your signal, the sound just passes straight through it with no interference. It can be powered by a 9v battery or an optional extra adapter.
If you want a simple compressor, easy to use, but has everything you need to do the job at a basic level, then this pedal fits the bill. It probably won’t win too many awards, but we think for the money it is a great pedal.
- Well-built and sturdy.
- Simple features that do the job.
- Some will want more built-in options.
10 Electro-Harmonix Soul Preacher Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
If you are looking for a compression pedal that is easy to use and give you a good sound but don’t want to spend a fortune, then Electro-Harmonix has produced the Soul Preacher, and it is well worth a look.
Two things are immediately apparent. It is built to last with its metal construction and compact design. It looks tough, and like it will take a few knocks. Secondly, it is not exactly overflowing with control options. A fast, medium and slow rocker switch and two control knobs, one for volume the other for sustain and that’s it.
Do you actually need much more for a simple to use compression unit? Probably not!
On this pedal, the volume is what is known on other pedals as Mix. It adjusts the amount of dry, uncompressed sound against the compressed sound. If you increase the control, you will get more of the compressed sound and less of the clean. To vary the amount of compression, you turn up the sustain level.
The attack determines how quickly the compressor gets to react on your notes. All quite basic stuff that we probably all know, but then that is the beauty of pedals like this.
The main job of the compressor is to cut down sounds that are too high and boost those that are too low, but this pedal gives you a little bit extra with a great sustain that seems to last forever.
If you want a basic, but great sounding compressor, then this is one you should consider. Best compressor pedal? It will definitely be in with a shout.
- Tough and well-built
- Easy to use
- Some may want more tech onboard.
Best Compressor Pedal Buyers Guide
Finding The Best Compressor Pedal
There are so many quality pedals out there now. With lots of great companies being innovative and creative, thinking what can we do with this pedal to make it great. Some designing new ideas, some reverting to vintage styles. The business of producing effects pedals has never been better.
So How Do You Find The Best In The Middle Of All Of this?
In our reviews, we have looked at some very good pedals, so much so that they have given us as many questions as answers. So what do we do to narrow the field down a little? Well, the first thing to do is to answer some questions.
Where Will You Use It?
Is it for studio use or for live work? If it is for studio use then maybe you can be a bit more adventurous with the facilities included. There will be a learning curve with some of these pedals that might take long periods before you are fully able to appreciate the potential of what you have. That for some is the best part: experimentation and learning.
If it is for live work, however, it might be a whole different set of choices. Of course, the complex pedals can be understood and used on stage, but many will simply want a plug and play pedal. Get it out of the box, plug it in, a quick look at the controls and away you go. And the learning curve, as there will always be to some degree, is undertaken as you go along mostly through experimentation.
Do I Want A Complex Pedal With Many Options Or Just A Compressor?
Some of the pedals act as more than just a compressor and offer extra facilities. Do you need them? Do you want them? They tend to be the more expensive pedals, understandably. So if you don’t need extra functions, you can save yourself a lot of money by keeping it simple.
It is always sensible to set that in advance and try to stick with it. There are good pedals at all prices, and even the budget models offer very good results.
So What’s The Best Compressor Pedal?
We do like our pedals to be simple and easy to use but also produce a great sound. We don’t deny that there are some great pedals in our reviews with all sorts of facilities that make them stand out. But for us, we want a pedal that will do the job and do it very well. It’s going to be used on stage, so we prefer a metal casing and easy connections with no fuss.
We have therefore chosen as our pick for the best compressor pedal the…
Well-built with a metal casing and fulfills the basic function of controlling the dynamic range easily and with no fuss, and at a price that is very competitive.
Our choice for best compressor pedal. Highly recommended!