Although they have a reputation of being less fun than some of the other types of guitar pedals, there is a feeling that they are important for cleaning up your sound. A quality compressor pedal can enhance the tone to give you a more balanced result and if you play country or folk then it is a must-have.
For more sustain and a signal that appears louder yet clearer, a compressor pedal can make a sensible investment that might not be as transformative as the likes of flange or delay but certainly serves a purpose. This is only the case when you buy a quality product. The sub-par offerings are going to be difficult to work with and won’t have as much of an impact on these already subtle pedals. Because of this, we have created the following list of the best compression pedals.
Quick Summary of Compressor Pedals
Fender The Bends Compressor Pedal
A versatile and accomplished compressor pedal from Fender with a slick design and impressive features. It has a low noise output thanks to the dual internal audio path and has a blend control knob so you can choose how much of the sound you wish to compress. It’s affordable which makes it even more appealing and with LED-backlit knobs and because of the sturdy construction, it is more than capable of joining you on tour.
There are also drive, recovery, and Level knobs to find the perfect compression for your sound. The tones you can achieve are better than expected for the price and there are neat extras such as the magnetic battery door that makes swapping batteries convenient and anodized aluminum casing to make it capable of withstanding a fair amount of abuse.
- Blend control
- LED backlit knobs
- Sturdy built
- Impressive tones
- Good value
MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compresor Pedal
This is the best compact compressor pedal available because it can be found for a reasonable price but it does so to a Nashville studio ready standard. The output signal is reliable and constant and has a smoothness that pushes your sustain to the place you want it to always be. It is one of the most popular compressors on our list and one that is no stranger to the pedalboard of many famous guitarists and bands.
It has classic tones and allows you to control the sensitivity to repress or enhance the amount of compression you are using. The output knob allows you to bring them to the fore and increase the volume even if you have tuned the sensitivity down a little. The small footprint means it is easy to accommodate on your pedalboard and your rig will surely thank you for it.
- Reliable output signal
- Output and sensitivy control
- Classic compression tones
- Compact size
- Not as many adjustable features
BOSS Compressor Guitar Pedal (CP-1X)
You really can’t go wrong with a Boss pedal which is something we’ve said more than once and remains true in their compressor pedal. The clarity you get from this natural-sounding compression is worth the price alone. It works well with any type of guitar including 7 or 8 strings making it great for some funky rhythm or country licks.
The quartet of dials allows you to amend the level, attack, ratio, and comp as you keep an eye on the gain reduction indicator which shows you the level so you can make adjustments. Compared to other compression pedals, this reduces noise significantly thanks to the digital circulatory that reacts to your style of playing to create a balanced sound with expressive tones.
- Great value
- Gain reduction indicator
- Digital circulatory reduces noise
- Fine for all guitar types
- Eats through the battery pretty fast
Keeley Compressor Plus
This compressor pedal usually features high in the list of the best according to most experts and it’s easy to see why. Its attack/release controls make it more than your basic compression pedal although it is easy to use so a beginner and a seasoned guitarist can get a lot from it. The features including dials for sustain, levels, tone, and blend.
The latter allows you to change how much of the compression you want to blend into your sound so you can use a subtle approach or give it more of a presence. It can be hard to get your hands on, such is its popularity, but if you are one of the lucky ones, you’ll be glad to have so much tone control at your fingertips.
- Plenty of features
- Blend control
- Lots of tone
- True bypass
- Some people find the high levels have too much distortion
Xotic SP Compressor
If a compression pedal is one of the last you add to your pedalboard, space might be at a premium. If this is the case, then you can’t go wrong with this mini compressor. It is still pretty versatile, giving you the chance to play with different tones so it can be used in a variety of genres from pop to funk.
There is a 3-way switch that allows you to amend the strength of compression so choose from high, mid, and lo when you’re trying to find that sweet spot. There is blend control and volume but before you ask if that is enough to impress then you should know that the volume gives you an extra 15dB to boost your rhythm or lead.
- Mini design has a small footprint
- Compression strength switch
- Blend control
- Quality sound
- Not as many functions as other models
TC Electronic EQ Effects Pedal
For something that can be found half the price of most compressor pedals this still manages to be versatile enough to make it a worthwhile purchase. It has a switch for you to choose from three different styles so you can enjoy the classic sounds of its vintage setting or toneprint or spectra.
You can also choose true bypass to enhance the clarity of the compression or buffered bypass to ensure you do not lose any high frequency when you are using long cables. The toneprint feature enables you to use the toneprint app to send unique tones to your pedal and you can even edit your own online. It has a compact design and also comes in a mini version if you are desperate to save space.
- 3 compression modes
- Toneprint allows you to link to different tones via an app
- Good value
- Preset tones have a lot of gain
Compressor Pedal Guide
When you want to clean up your sound or boost the subtle parts of your signal for enhanced tones that come to life, a compressor pedal is a wide choice. It might not offer the game-changing effects of the likes of distortion or delay but there is a definite need for these practical pedals.
Some people like to use it subtly whilst others like to give their tone a little snap which can suit some genres better than others. Whatever your need, it is important to understand what the best should offer before buying. This is why we have created the following buyer’s guide.
What To Look For In A Compressor Pedal
A Variety Of Adjustments
There are many to choose from and each pedal will have their mix of what they think can help create unique compression. For example, attack is quite common. This isn’t quite as aggressive as it sounds but a compressor pedal that allows you to play with the attack means you can amend its reaction time. There are also the likes of recover that is basically just how long the signal takes to return to normal.
This is another adjustment but because it is one of those that are found on the better compressor pedals we thought deserved its own space. As the name suggests, blend gives you the chance to choose how much compression vs how much of the original guitar sound you want. Changing the ratio brings the compression into the fore or allows it to sit in the background.
This is a consideration for any pedal but because a compressor pedal isn’t always high on some people’s lists, it can be saved for last. Because of this, you might have to squeeze it onto your pedalboard. No need to worry though as there are some reputable compact and mini compression pedals that still offer smooth tones and a classic compression sound or something a little more modern.
Ease of Use
Because compressor pedals are typically quite simple, you shouldn’t have much difficulty in finding the ideal sound for your style of play. Still, some products are easier to get on with than others. This shouldn’t put a beginner off as a lot of brands that cut back the features still offer an impressive sound.
Not everyone is going to take their compressor pedal on tour for months at a time but it should still be robust enough to withstand constant use without it affecting the sound quality.
Subpar compressor pedals are not going to serve you so well in this area so to make sure you buy a pedal that can be stomped on the day in day out and will still work for years to come.
What Is A Compressor Pedal?
Although it doesn’t have the noticeable impact of an overdrive or flange pedal, for example, a compressor pedal gives somebody to your sound. It gives some parity to the different notes in that it brings the low sounding parts to the foreground and balance the high notes so they don’t take over.
It is the sort of pedal that a lot of people don’t think they need until they have tried one for themselves. Then, there is no turning back.
They’re not for everyone as some like a more expressive sound that they can control via the intensity of every stroke or pick.
Should I Buy A Compressor Pedal?
Whilst we would never encourage anyone to buy a pedal they just plain don’t like, a compressor pedal can enhance anyone’s sound. Some people make them out to be a love/hate type of pedal but we wouldn’t go that far.
In some ways, a compressor pedal is good for bringing your sound together and making it more cohesive as the levels and tones have a parity they would otherwise not have. If you tend to pick strings with various intensity then you might consider a compressor pedal to sure things up a little.
There are a variety of brands with different adjustable effects to choose from and if you are worried about the sound being too much of a classic then there are some modern-sounding compressor pedals as well. You have to find a pedal that fits into your style of play and genre and a compressor pedal can typically fit into any.
Are Compressor Pedals Easy To Use?
Out of the numerous types of pedals we have reviewed and played, a compressor pedal is among the easiest. Because it does not drastically change the sound of your guitar there is more room for experimenting and if you aren’t sure what you are doing at first, they are pretty forgiving.
A lot will depend on where you place them in the signal chain and with what additional pedals you use.
How Much Does A Compressor Pedal Cost?
Although they are reasonably inexpensive, a reputable brand with more features is, of course, going to cost you more. This is why we recommend starting by looking around the $100 price point and above. Anything closer to $200 should be considered a high-end compressor pedal and expect additional features and a full spectrum of compression.
Stay clear of anything that is $50 and below as they are unlikely to have the build quality to enhance your sound enough that it is a worthwhile purchase.
What Is The Best Compressor Pedal?
The best compressor pedal isn’t always the most expensive as we are looking at a product that offers a mix of value and performance. This is why we have chosen the Fender The Bends Compressor Pedal. There is everything from blend control so you can mix the compression in and out of your sound and backlit LED knobs to make it easy to use live.
For a reasonable price, you get excellent tone, a sturdy build, and drive, recovery, and level knobs.