GuitarĀ Compressor Pedal Guide

Pick the compression pedal that fits your style and make your notes sing with our Guitar Compressor Pedal Guide.

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The compressor pedal is an essential tool for cleaning and balancing your sound. It does this by lowering the level of loud strings and increasing the sound of quieter strings to find a balance, it squeezes your guitar sound to make it more consistent. This uniform sound is ideal for studio work where consistency is of utmost importance.

Note that you achieve this balanced and compressed sound at the expense of losing some dynamics, so balancing your need for dynamics and compression is an important key to using these pedals effectively. If you are going for a bluesy solo with lots of micro-tonal and micro-volume nuances, you're better off with minimal if not zero compression, if you need that funky chime or country squishy sound, you need moderate compression. Finally, if you require long sustain for your shredding or biting rhythm tones, you will want to max out the compression effect.

Here are our top compressor pedal picks:

Keeley 4-Knob Compressor

Keeley 4-Knob Compressor

Our best guitar compressor is no other than this versatile and well received pedal from Keeley. Users have mostly good things to say about this pedal, specifically about its clean and quiet operation. At its core is quality and transparent compression that can match expensive audiophile rack-mounted rigs. The extra knobs give you further control over your tone and all of this is enclosed in a sturdy and compact stomp box. The Keeley 4-Knob Compressor is a bit expensive but its top notch quality is well worth its price.
Manufacturer: Robert Keeley | Retail Price: $259.00

MXR Dyna Comp

MXR Dyna Comp

The MXR Dyna Comp is considered by many as the best compressor pedal, and it's hard to argue with that when you see guitarists like Tim Mahoney, Joe Perry and Johnny Garcia using it. It offers nothing fancy, just basic compression that tightens your sound and adds sustain. Unlike other pedals that try to be as transparent as possible, Dyna Comp is sought after for its fatter low-end sustain and its unique affect on tone - which guitarists world over prefer. It also helps that it is very affordable and looks really cool with its red sturdy stomp box case.
Manufacturer: Jim Dunlop | Retail Price: $69.99

Electro-Harmonix Black Finger

Electro-Harmonix Black Finger

The Electro-Harmonix Black Finger is a true optical tube compressor pedal. It has two 12ax7 tubes on an optical circuit. One tube handles the compression stage while the other tube works on the gain stage. The tubes work together to provide you with a classic fat compressed sound that maintains good tube dynamics. This effect is ideal if you are aiming for biting and analog-ish sounds. Its tube tone comes with maintenance work and careful handling since it uses actual tubes. It's not limited to the guitar as bass players equally dig this stomp box.
Manufacturer: Electro-Harmonix | Retail Price: $194.70

Maxon CP101 Compressor

Maxon CP101 Compressor

The Maxon CP101 Compressor is much like the Dyna Comp in terms of simplicity, but instead of coloring the tone, the CP101 focuses on transparency. It does not alter your attack characteristics resulting in organic sounding response. It sacrifices versatility for intuitiveness - you no longer have to worry about the confusing attack or release parameters because the pedal has it set up to the most transparent parameters. The pedal allows for basic and straightforward compression and is housed in a sturdy yet lightweight casing.
Manufacturer: Maxon | Retail Price: $171.00

Visual Sound V2 Comp 66

Visual Sound V2 Comp 66

The Visual Sound V2 Comp 66 is a cool looking compressor that offers equally cool compression features. It has a switchable tone control knob and a clean/boost preamp controlled via the gain knob, giving you all the clean gain you will need. This simple looking pedal is surprisingly versatile, able to deliver the classic sounds of a vintage Dyna Comp and transparent evenness at lower settings. Users have been praising its ability to provide biting tones ideal for country and blues. This is a stylish pedal that will not disappoint.
Manufacturer: Visual Sound | Retail Price: $99.95

Boss CS-3

Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer

As expected from Boss, the CS-3 Compression Sustainer pedal is a sturdy and utilitarian gear worthy of its brand name. It gives you exactly what you need without added complications and it has enough depth and versatility for players that deal with different music genres. Controls are familiar which makes configuring convenient and uncomplicated. The CS-3 is known for its nice sustain and punchy tone. There are allums-modded versions of the CS-3 that many players are raving about. This is simply an affordable gear that gets the job done.
Manufacturer: Boss | Retail Price: $99.00

DigiTech Main Squeeze

DigiTech Main Squeeze

Digitech Main Squeeze gives you flexible compression on a budget. It provides respectable transparency in subtle settings and is capable of wild cranked up tones and sustain in higher settings. Its four knobs provide impressive flexibility for its price and with a little patience, you can dial in the right settings for your various needs - ideal for working musicians who juggle with various musical styles. Many may have skipped this pedal because it doesn't look cool, but if you look pass that, it's an efficient and affordable gear that will meet your demands.
Manufacturer: Digitech | Retail Price: $69.95

Related Article:
Our list of the best Phaser Pedals
Best Volume Pedal Round-up

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