Best Guitar Compressor Pedal: Buyer’s Guide
Well, compressor pedals are not much to look at, really. Though they are not flashy and distinguished as distortion or reverb pedals, compressors still have plenty of room in terms of usability.
As strange as that might be, the sales suggest that people are kinda fond of the device that makes the loud bits quieter and the quiet bits louder. It also seems that you might be interested in a compressor pedal yourself, aren’t you?
Let’s make sure you choose the best one.
Best Compressor Pedal: The Comparison Table
As usual, we start off with the overview table that lays out all of the distinct specs that each product in this review has. That will help you compare those features in a more convenient way. Below the table, you will find a more in-depth look at each pedal.
|Keeley Compressor Plus||2”x2,35”x4,41”||Sustain, Blend, Level, Tone, Single Coil/Humbucker switch||9V PSU or battery|
|Boss CP-1X Compressor||2,3”x2,8”x5”||Level, Attack, Ratio, Comp||9V PSU or a battery|
|MXR M228 Dyna Comp Deluxe Compressor||3”x8”x10”||Clean, Tone, Output, Sensitivity, Attack||9V PSU|
|JHS Pulp 'n' Peel Compressor v4||1,6”x2,6”x4,8||Volume, Comp, EQ, Blend, Dirt||9V PSU, no battery|
|Fender The Bends Compressor||2,5”2,75”x4,87”||Drive, recovery, Blend Level||9V PSU|
|Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe||10”x7”x6”||Dry, Out, In, Attack, Release, Ratio||9V PSU|
|TC Electronic HyperGravity Multiband||2”x2,8”x4,8”||Sustain, Level, Attack, Blend||9V PSU|
|Strymon OB-1 Optical Compressor||4”x4,4”x1,7”||Output, Boost Level, Comp, Boost, Bypass||9V PSU or battery|
|ThorpyFX The Fat General V2||10”x6”x4”||Treble, Sustain, Balance, Blend/Juicy||9V PSU|
|Wampler Ego Compressor Pedal||1,5”x3,5”x4,5”||Sustain, Tone, Attack, Volume, Blend||9V-18V PSU|
Keeley Compressor Plus — Cost-Effective Option
As often with this kind of device, the representation here is very simple. That model is the only compact option that Keely makes, though. What you have here is a basic grey box with a black pad on the front portion of the chassis.
That very portion also houses an array of sound controls: four knobs and a switch, to be exact. You will also find a footswitch here that turns the pedal on and off. The input and output jacks are in their usual, most convenient places — on the sides of the bode.
Now let’s talk about what those knobs do:
- Sustain knob is where all of the action is. It controls the effect itself;
- Blend allows you to mix the compressed sound with the bypassed one;
- Tone does a great job at replacing flattened-out treble;
- Level, as always, adjusts the volume.
There’s also an interesting thing left out: a single coil/humbucker switch. You can use it to change the release time: flicking the switch down changes it from a second to instantaneous, which gives you a more stretched out treble.
- Good sound control.
- Compact size
- Affordable price.
- The lack of a variable attack time.
- Power supply not included
Boss CP-1X Compressor — Small and Beautiful
BOSS never disappoints with the build-quality, but also never surprises us in the design department. Here you get a nice blue paintjob, input and output jacks on the sides, and a single line of sound controls on the front with a large footswitch right below.
In terms of sound control, you get a convenient array of five sound knobs:
- Level is used to tweak the effect volume;
- Attack is the time when the compressor begins to process each note;
- Ratio adjusts the amount of compression added to the sound;
- Comp allows you to change the point at which the compression is applied.
When it comes to out-of-the-ordinary features, you can see the gain reduction meter here: it is an LED meter that signals the amount of compression applied to the signal at a particular moment. It is essential to determining how your sound reacts to the settings of the device. Using that, you can tweak the sound more effectively.
- User-friendly layout.
- Good build quality.
- Great sound control versatility.
- High price.
MXR M228 Dyna Comp Deluxe Compressor — The Highlight
M228 has it in both versatility and the design aspects. MXR offers a device in a bright red and punchy color — and the stack of features to back it up.
The input and output jacks are in their usual places, and the front panel houses four sound control knobs, attack switch, and a footswitch to turn the pedal on or off.
Onto the sound. M228 gives you 4 major aspects of sound control:
- Clean helps with blending dry signal with the compressed sound;
- Sensitivity tweaks the sustain of the compression;
- Output is responsible for changing the volume of the effect;
- Tone is self-explanatory — it adjusts the tone.
As far as unique features go — you get the attack switch, which changes the attack times from slow to fast. That will greatly benefit the sound versatility — if you’re looking for it.
- Bright paintjob.
- Good sound versatility.
- Power supply not included.
JHS Pulp ‘n’ Peel Compressor v4 — Great For Bass as Well
Well, that’s a lot of colorful options we have today. This here model comes in bright orange color with nice fonts and minimalistic graphics. The white color of the knobs also goes well with the rest of the body.
The rest is the usual stuff — the knobs and the footswitch are on the front, the input and output jacks are on the sides.
JHS offers a bit different setup of sound knobs. Take a look:
- Volume is for, obviously, adjusting the volume of the output;
- Comp controls the amount of compression of the sound. And it has a ton of range to play with;
- EQ brightens or darkens the tone depending on the way you turn the knob;
- Blend allows for mixing the uneffected sound with the compressed one for a more punchy and deep effect.
And the cherry on that pie is the Dirt toggle. If you flip that switch up, the pedal will activate the override circuit. Then you can use the dial on the right side of the pedal to help you change the amount of gain or dirt.
And then there’s a Buffer on/off switch. It allows you to go from a true bypass to a buffered output.
- Works well with both bass and regular guitars
- Natural sound.
- Can act as a preamp pedal.
- Works only off a power supply unit.
- High price.
Fender The Bends Compressor — Great Features at a Great Price
Well, that is another black box that does things to your guitar sound. Does it need to be flashy? Not really. And Fender doesn’t think that either.
But you do get a solid build here — one that can surely take a beating or two. That’s what matters most, right?
The layout is also usual for that type of the device: 4 control knobs and a footswitch on the front, input and output jacks are on the sides.
Surprisingly, the pedal kind of disappoints with its sound at the most extreme settings. It sounds a bit flatter than you would’ve expected.
But if you are not that type of musician — the pedal is still worth looking into. Here’ what it offers in terms of sound control:
- Blend mixes your dry sound with the compressed one so that you get a fuller tone;
- Drive controls the level of compression added to the signal;
- Recovery adjust the release time of the compression;
- Level, as usual, tweaks the volume of the output.
- Good control flexibility.
- Solid build quality.
- Extreme settings are lackluster.
Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe — A Studio Classic
Utilitarian build — that’s what there is to Cali76. It features a metallic paintjob on both the chassis and control knobs. The front panel has a layout of 6 sound knobs, an LED to signal the working state of the pedal, and a footswitch.
One thing out of the ordinary — the placement of the input and output jacks. Those are right on the top portion of the body.
That’s something new: here you get not four, but six sound control knobs. More control versatility is always welcome. Take a look at what you can work with:
- Dry is responsible for parallel compression: you can use it to blend the input signal into the compressed sound;
- Out allows for matching or boosting the bypassed level of signal;
- In helps to increase the preamp gain
- Ratio sets the gain reduction;
- Attack sets the time when the compression takes place;
- Release decides the amount of time the compression is applied for.
- Good sound controls.
- A lot of features.
- High price.
- PSU not included.
TC Electronic HyperGravity Multiband — Bright Appearance With Set of Features to Match
Traditional guitar compressor pedal design with a nice colorful touch to it. The array is as run of the mill as it gets: four knobs, a toggle switch, and a footswitch on the front panel, with input and output jacks on the sides.
Above all of the knobs you get a switch that allows you to go from Vintage mode that gives you a squashy tone to Spectra for a more multi-band compression.
And then there’s TonePrint. It can be triggered by the same switch, and it opens the users to a whole world of preset experimenting.
The array of controls is pretty much standard. You get:
- Blend to mix the dry and wet tones;
- Sustain adjust the amount of compression added to the signal;
- Level tweak the output volume;
- Attack the speed of the effect.
- Airy multiband sounds.
- Good sustain.
- Requires some tinkering to find the right sound.
Strymon OB-1 Optical Compressor — Out of The Ordinary
Well, that box is even more boxy than other boxes we have reviewed here.
Jokes aside, the OB-1 stands out almost in every aspect — from the dimensions of the chassis to its color. All of the I/O is located on the top portion of the frame, and the front houses the array of three knobs, a toggle switch, and two footswitches.
So, the sound:
- Output knob controls the level of signal output;
- Comp adjusts the threshold for the optical compressor circuit.
On top of that you get the boost option. You can activate it with a second footswitch, but only when the pedal is turned on. So, should there be a situation when you only need a boost, just turn the Comp knob all the way down. In addition, you have a knob that lets you control the amount of boost.
And a three-way switch decides what you can boost: only the highs, the mids, or the full range of the signal.
- Good versatility.
- Flashy look.
- Might be too much for some players.
ThorpyFX The Fat General V2 — Transparency King
Gotta give it to them — the solid metal build on that one is pristine. It has a nice layout of controls, good protection to the circuit board, and overall unique design.
The upper part of the front panel features three knobs, a toggle switch, and an LED. The lower portion only has a footswitch.
All of the I/O is on the top portion of the chassis.
Like with many modern compressor pedals, that one also offers parallel compression, allowing you to blend dry and wet signals for a fuller tone. But with this one the mode is fixed: you activate it with a switch, not a knob.
The Juicy mode allows you to mix 90% compression and 10% of dry sound.
As far as knobs go, you get:
- Sustain that controls the strength of the compression;
- Balance that adjusts the output volume;
- Treble adds a bit of sparkle to the signal.
- Good transparent compression.
- Two distinct sound modes.
- Some settings might trigger a volume jump.
Wampler Ego Compressor Pedal — Stepping Out of the Competitors’ Shadow
Wampler Ego is not here to surprise anyone — but to deliver on solid features and build.
The guitar compressor features a standard build painted blue, with an array of five white knobs, an LED, and a footswitch on the front panel. You will find the I/O on the top of the device.
Blend and tone are the knobs you go for if you need extra sound versatility. Let’s talk about those in order:
- Sustain sets the amount of compression to the signal;
- Attack tweaks the time at which compression starts;
- Volume is, well, volume;
- Blend knobs allows you to control how much compression and how much of a dry tone you get;
- Tone is here to counter some dulling of the tone, and adds a sparkle should you need some.
- Great build quality.
- Decent versatility.
- No PSU included.
Here you go — that is top compressor pedals available on the market right now. On the surface, the majority of the devices are not that different from each other, but it’s the features and the sound quality that sets them apart the most. But sometimes we get some standouts — like ThorpyFX The Fat General V2 or Strymon OB-1.
How do you choose the best cheap compressor pedal then?
Try to focus on your needs. Than use it to analyze every aspect of the pedal and choose the one that fits the most of the criteria:
- Build. There’s not a lot of variety, but you still need to be sure that the pedal will fit on your pedalboard, can withstand your usage, and have easily accessible controls.
- Sound quality. Each product approaches the sound modification a bit differently. So, you need to buy the one that produces the sound most appealing to you. Try to go in the store and try the pedal out, or find demos on YouTube.
- Controls. Make sure that you will have everything you need. You might not care for precise blend controls, but rely on adjustable attack and release settings.
- Accessories. Check if the pedal runs on the same power supply as the rest of your setup.
And here are our picks from the list:
Keeley Compressor Plus — best all-around. Good price, decent amount of features.
Strymon OB-1 Optical Compressor — that’s one for enthusiasts. Great sound control versatility, and interesting additional features.
It is the regular behavior of the compressor: it amplifies even the quietest sounds. You can solve the issue by placing the compressor before any devices that can cause noise on the pedalboard.
Multiband means that the compression is performed by more than one circuit — highs and lows are compressed independently of each other. Otherwise, it is quite hard to play a wide range of notes with single-band compression: if you play high low notes, the highs will get swallowed.
Since EQ and compressor both alternate the signal levels, the placement depends on which you like the most: if you change the EQ settings frequently and don’t want your compressor to be affected by that, place the EQ after the compressor. On the other hand, if you set the EQ up and leave it, you can place it before the compressor.
A limiter is a compressor as well, but not all compressors are limiters. Basically, the difference between the two boils down to whether the amount of ratio is pre-set or adjustable.
Sure they can, even with vocals! But it is best if the pedal was made with a variety of instruments in mind, so that the settings are the most optimal. You can contact the manufacturer of the desired compressor and clarify that.
Analog guitar compressors process the signal using analog circuits, such as tube or optical circuits, while with digital, the process is completely artificial. The downside of such authentic compression is that there are some headroom limits and noise due to the nature of the physical components of the compressor. On the other hand, digital compressors don’t produce operational noise and have no limits in terms of sound control. Some of the examples: Keeley Compressor Plus LTD, MXR M102, and Orange Kongpressor.
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