The future of music

10 Best Compressor Pedals

December 29, 2023
best compressor pedal

Ready to elevate your guitar game?

Ready to take your talent, versatility, and abilities into the stratosphere?

The compressor pedal has your name on it.

Compressor pedals allow you to produce compelling, robust sounds without sacrificing the integrity of your input.

Compressor pedals are basically essential for producing full-bodied, organic tones.

Compressor pedals are used in more songs and genres than you might realize at first glance.

They are absolutely vital to country, rock, and funk and can do wonders for making your finished product flawless, resonant, and smooth.

Why You Need a Compressor Pedal

If you don’t already know, pedals are an absolute game-changer when it comes to guitar.

Indeed, once you learn more about their functions, you will never listen to music the same again.

Whenever you hear a haunting effect or eye-opening modulation in a song but can’t quite place its source, it is probably courtesy of a pedal.

A compressor pedal controls the dynamic range of your instrument, softening hard notes and enhancing soft notes.

It smooths and rounds out your sound, reducing the pitch and peaks in your signals.

For instance, if you hit a string too aggressively, the compressor pedal will dull the sound for a smoother, more consistent output.

They add a certain patina to your output, making it sound more professional (and not like you produced it in a dusty corner of your garage).

When you use a compressor pedal, you get less dynamics, but you get a wider range of volume without pushing your poor guitar into overdrive.

A compressor will make any instrument more audible in an organic, seamless way.

It creates a more subtle change than simply raising the volume on your amp or guitar, which can sound grating and discordant. 

Compressor pedals boost your tone and make it more audible.

This allows your output to stand out in a balanced way rather than getting lost in the mix.

They also allow you to play chicken-pickin twang and funk tones.

Because a guitar is a treble-focused instrument, the compressor pedal boosts the high-end sound in a satisfying, approachable way. 

While they play nicely with several instruments, there is a certain kind of magic when compression meets bass guitar.

The pedal will articulate the deep, throbbing notes in a defined, contoured way.

It adds a certain immediacy to short notes and extends the long notes for increased impact.

The pedal allows the bass guitar to stand on its own two legs, and prevents it from being outshined by the other instruments in a given arrangement. 

How Does a Compressor Pedal Work?

Compressors need not be intimidating.

You basically set a threshold volume, and once your signal exceeds this threshold, the compressor will kick in and begin working its magic.

You can adjust the volume, speed, time period, and rate at which the compressor assists, which allows for peak customization. 

Below is some common terminology you’ll encounter when selecting your compressor pedal.

Not every pedal will have each of these parameters or functions.

Some of these terms point to basically the same thing, but it pays to know them all so you can get familiar with your particular model more quickly.

Attack

The attack knob tells the compressor how quickly to respond to your signal.

When you set a fast attack, that means that the start of your note (the transient note) will not rise above the threshold.

If you want to hear hard, vigorous plucking, turn that Attack knob way up. 

Compressor/Depth

If you set the parameter to low, the result will be a clearer, more transparent sound.

If your specific compression pedal does not have “Attack” and “Sustain” knobs, the “Depth” knob will be synonymous with “Attack.”

Level

This acts as the volume control for your output level.

If you want to use your compressor as a boost, you can turn the compression knob down and the Level knob up.

Ratio

This sets the ratio at which the compressor will attenuate your signal.

You can choose the ratio.

Some common settings are 2:1 and 8:1.

The 2:1 ratio means that when your signal goes above the threshold by 8 dB, it will be reduced to 4 dB above the threshold.

You will also see some pedals with an infinity setting, which tells the compressor that your signal should not exceed the threshold.

Release

The release button setting allows you to control how long the compressor should continue to work.

A long release provides something called “sustain,” while a short release creates a more immediate “pumping” effect.

Soft/Hard Knee

This is a rare feature to find on your everyday compressor pedal.

It is most commonly found on upmarket models.

A soft knee means a smooth transition from the signal to the compressor, whereas a hard knee indicates a more abrupt transition.

Sustain

Most compressor pedals feature a sustain knob, which controls how hard the compressor needs to work to keep the signal within the threshold.

The result is resounding, sustained notes rather than a pronounced cut-off.

Threshold

The threshold control allows you to set the volume level for the compressor.

Above the threshold, the compressor will kick in, but not below it.

Some models will not allow you to adjust this setting, as it is set by the manufacturer.

Where Does the Compressor Pedal Go in the Signal Chain?

Where in the signal/effect chain should you place the compressor pedal?

Typically, at the beginning, just before or immediately after your gain pedals.

When placed before the gain pedals, you get a limited dynamic signal going to overdrive.

The logic behind this placement is clear: it compresses the natural, clean guitar tone before sending it through overdrive, phase, or delay pedals. 

When you use it after the gain pedal, you maximize the dynamics of your drives and compress the overdriven signal.

When you add the compressor pedal after other effects, you are essentially compressing the sound of all of those effects.

This can lead to unforeseen and unintended sonic side effects.

But hey, if you want to get truly experimental, no one is expressly forbidding it. 

Do be advised that compressor pedals pick up on even unwanted ambient sounds and unpleasant feedback.

It really pays to have a quiet place when practicing or jamming so you don’t get distorted, inaccurate results.

Best Budget-Friendly Compressor Pedals 2023

1. Electro Harmonix Tone Corset Analog Compressor

Electro Harmonix Tone Corset Analog Compressor

Specifications

  • Price: $103 USD
  • Controls: Volume, Sustain, Attack, Blend, Pad
  • Switches: Pad
  • Bypass: True bypass
  • Inputs: 1/4” TRS mono
  • Outputs: 1/4” TRS mono
  • Power: 6V DC 200mA (not included)

Sultry and intriguing package, isn’t it?

But that’s only the tip of the old iceberg.

Here we have the perfect synthesis of style and substance.

For the purists and vintage vultures, the all-analog circuitry will be an immediate draw.

The body is tough and made of non-nonsense metal, so an occasional accidental drop here and there won’t cut your practice time short.

The user-friendly four-knob layout makes for convenient functionality and reduces the learning curve.

It’s got all the essential goodies: Sustain, Attack, etc.

The Blend knob makes it easy to mix wet and dry signals for tight, well-controlled parallel compression.

It offers True-bypass where many other compressor pedals do not, allowing you to maintain signal integrity even when the pedal is switched off.

The Pad feature allows you to pad down the input gain stage to reduce distortion from higher-output instruments.

The result is clear, well-articulated sound.

And for this price?

Sign us up.

2. MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compressor

MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compressor

Specifications

  • Price: $100 USD
  • Input Impedance:1 MΩ
  • Output Impedance:10 kΩ
  • Nominal Input Level:-5 dBV
  • Nominal Output Level:-12 dBV
  • Max Compression:36 dB
  • Attack Time:5 ms
  • Release Time:1 s
  • Bypass: True Bypass
  • Current Draw:3 mA
  • Power Supply:9 volts DC

An absolute treat for gritty, retro sounds, this is a go-to choice for the renegade rockers among us.

The simple interface and lipstick-red silhouette don’t hurt either.

Released in the bad ol’ days of 1976, it retains the analog charm and unruffled practicality of retro tech.

Did you know that it was a fave of Dave Gilmour, of Pink Floyd fame?

Sold?

Thought so.

The two-knob layout is as easy as pie, and the body is made of sturdy metal so you can take it on tour, to the local pub, or the jam session down the road.

Not only does it deliver hearty, audacious classic rock sounds, but it is ideal for percussive, urgent attacks and funk-style strumming.

It holds a note like no other, and the sustain of your riffs, chords, and arpeggios will make you a believer.

If you want high-voltage, fervent sounds that veer into OTT territory, you need this in your toolkit, stat.

3. TC Electronic Hypergravity Compressor 

TC Electronic Hypergravity Compressor 

Specifications 

  • Price: $120 USD
  • Controls: Sustain, Level, Attack, Blend
  • Modes: Spectra, Toneprint, Vintage
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4” mono Jack
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/4” mono Jack
  • Bypass: True Bypass
  • Power Supply:9V battery or 9V DC Centre Negative 100mA (not included)

If you’re a TonePrint customization enthusiast, then you need to stop, drop, and listen up.

With a kitschy, futuristic design and four simple knobs for Attack, Blend, Level, and Sustain, getting on board is an absolute pinch.

It offers three different modes that are capable of producing both a desirable vintage effect and a crisp, modern clarity.

This is a clear choice for a wide range of genres, from funk to rock to pop.

The Hypergravity is an equal opportunity employer. 

TonePrint technology is always a winner in our books and is worth looking out for.

It allows you to take the dynamic presets of famous guitarists or create your own compression settings from the ground up by connecting the pedal to your phone.

This is ideal for true innovators and would-be producers. 

Indeed, this model is all sophistication and heavy-duty specs.

It is built upon the MD3 Multi-band and brick-wall limiter algorithms, so you are getting a flawless, meticulously crafted blend of art and science.

The multi-band design compresses three frequency bands to ensure balanced, transparent tones.

Best Mid-Range Compressor Pedals 2023

4. Fender The Bends Compressor 

Fender The Bends Compressor 

Specifications

  • Price: $149 USD
  • Controls: Drive, Recovery, Blend, Output
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4” mono
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/4” mono
  • Input Impedance: 1 Mohm
  • Output Impedance: 1 Kohm
  • Power Requirements: 9V centre negative PSU (not included)
  • Power Consumption: 15mA

Do compressor pedals come sleeker and more alluring than this aptly named model from heavyweights Fender – The Bends?

Polished, with a clean interface, it offers knobs for Blend, Drive, Level, and Recovery.

Features like Attack and Release are merged and represented by the Recovery parameter. 

The Bends is ideal for on-stage performances and is built with two discrete audio paths for crisp compression 24/7.

We also love that it is battery-powered and easy to tote around to gigs, jam sessions, and impromptu sidewalk shows.  

The symmetrical control path also tames and evens out discordant notes and audio spikes, so you can count on it to deliver flawless, pro-level output.

The Bends keeps it real, with organic tones and true-to-form enhancement.

You can rely on it to deliver a clean, transparent signal.

But don’t fret, country lovers – you can still produce a rich, deep twang that will give anyone out of Alabama a run for their money. 

5. Wampler Mini Ego Compressor 

Wampler Mini Ego Compressor

Specifications

  • Price: $150 USD
  • Controls: Volume, Blend, Sustain, Tone and Attack
  • Switches: Tone – Dark, Bright and Attack – Slow, Fast
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4” mono Jack
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/4” mono Jack
  • Bypass: True Bypass
  • Power Supply: 9V DC (not included)

Cheerful, sassy, and full of verve, the Ego compressor is an all-analog pedal that offers all you need without making things complicated.

It has a sturdy, small design but houses more power and features than you can shake a stick at.

It offers peak flexibility and works with a pretty wide spectrum of compression tones.

It offers healthy sustain, and allows you to dish out some pretty innovative, distorted sounds when pushed to the limit. 

It is a compact version of the Ego Compressor but doesn’t lose any functionality with its downsized format.

The interface is simple, offering enough to keep things interesting and creatively delightful but not enough to complicate things for new users.

It is a simple and reliable pedal that you can configure once in a “set it and forget it” manner, or you can treat it as a one-stop shop for your experimental sessions.

6. Boss CP-1X Compressor Pedal 

Boss CP-1X Compressor Pedal 

Specifications

  • Price: $149 USD
  • Nominal Input Level: -20dB
  • Input Impedance: 1 Mohm
  • Nominal Output Level: -20dBu
  • Output Impedance: 1 Kohm
  • Controls: Comp, Ratio, Attack, Level
  • Indicators: Check and Gain Reduction
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4” mono Jack
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/4” mono Jack
  • Bypass: Buffered Bypass
  • Power Supply: 18V DC, 90mA (not included)

If you want balanced sounds with peak integrity, look no further.

This model offers multi-dimensional, multi-band crossover compression and a Ratio dial for peak performance.

The circuitry detects the register of your sound and adapts the compression to suit it, which is some futuristic wizardry if you ask us.

The nifty Gain Reduction meter comes with colorful LED lights, which are ideal for live gigs in dark, atmospheric bars. 

The digital circuitry is hard-working as heck, banishing tonal inconsistencies and discordant strums and riffs.

It polishes and smooths your sound without compromising the organic character of your input.

It will tame any unpleasant sounds, but it also allows you to get some “squish” factor courtesy of the ratio control. 

7. Keeley Compressor Plus Pedal 

Keeley Compressor Plus Pedal 

Specifications

  • Price: $149 USD
  • Controls: Sustain, Level, Blend, Tone
  • Switch: Single Coil, Humbucker
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4” mono Jack
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/4” mono Jack
  • Bypass: True Bypass
  • Power Supply: 9V  (not included)

A mainstay from a well-reputed brand?

You really can’t go wrong.

Built with top-shelf materials, metal film resistors, capacitors, and a sturdy metal, you can take this model on the road and to even the rowdiest of gigs.

The tone control is designed from a BBD emphasis circuit so you can expect clean, crisp signals without fail. 

While it doesn’t feature an Attack or Release knob, it is extremely streamlined and is eminently approachable for newbies or musicians who don’t want all the bells and whistles.

Plus, you still get your standard Blend, Level, Sustain, and Tone, so you can easily achieve fine-tuned, well-articulated sounds. 

The Tone control is inspired by analog delays and vintage sounds.

It recovers the treble that is lost along the way during the compression process, which offers a true-to-form, crystal-clear sound without distortion or unnatural tones.

The design is sleek and dark and has a certain intriguing classiness to it.

Best Premium Compressor Pedals 2023

8. Universal Audio UAFX Max Preamp & Dual Compressor 

Universal Audio UAFX Max Preamp & Dual Compressor

Specifications

  • Price: $310 USD
  • Controls: Preamp, Comp, Output, Attack, Ratio, Release, Comp 1 switch, Comp Select switch, Comp 2 switch
  • Inputs: 2 x 1/4”
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4”, USB-C
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth
  • Power: 9V DC PSU (not included)
  • Footswitches: Two

A veritable snazzy studio on the go, your guitar game will never be the same again.

Built on a foundation of dual-engine processing and offering three emulations and a preamp modeled after the famed UA 610 tube preamp, there is a lot to love with this one.

You can even toggle between the different compression emulations in tandem or independently. 

The creative autonomy it offers is stellar, with customizable footswitches, a sidechain bass filter, and an array of comprehensive controls.

The sound quality is meticulous, and the versatility will capture the imagination of enthusiasts and professionals alike.

The 1176 allows you to effortlessly sustain plucked notes, adding a robust texture to your riffs.

This pedal makes light work of softening and smoothing out aggressive, hard-hitting input, creating a seamless sonic tapestry.

The overall tone of the compressor veers towards a warm, distinctly fleshed-out profile, and it offers a luxuriant patina to your finished product.

9. Wampler Cory Wong Compressor Pedal 

Wampler Cory Wong Compressor Pedal 

Specifications

  • Price: $270 USD
  • Controls: Volume, Sustain, Attack, Blend, Tone, Boost Level
  • Switches: Compression On/Off, Boost On/Off, Boost Mode, Ground Lift
  • Bypass: Buffered
  • Channels: Two (Compression and boost)
  • Boost modes: Flat and Saturated
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4” mono
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/4” mono, XLR with Ground Lift
  • Power: 9V DC, 30mA (Centre Negative) PSU
  • Footswitches: Two

If the light-blue body and playful design don’t give away the game, we will: the Cory Wong is an absolute dynamo at helping you dish out spirited, funk-forward riffs.

It offers a range of fun, useful features so you can get the sound you’ve been dreaming of. 

It offers two boosting modes: flat or rich, with a saturated midrange.

The design is eminently ergonomic, with a dual footswitch compressor/boost mechanism.

For ultimate ease, you can flick on the Unique Comp On mode to bypass the need for footswitches altogether.

It also features an XLR output for connection to a PA system, computer interface, or mixing board, so you can get truly professional-level, bulletproof results. 

The tone-shaping possibilities are pretty remarkable.

This lil’ gem offers the musician control over a range of parameters: Attack, Blend, Sustain, Volume, and Tone control.

The ground lift switch cuts out unpleasant ground noise and feedback, so you can get crisp output 24/7.

The outcome is elevated, charming tones that glitter and command attention.

No more dull, lifeless sounds shall issue from your guitar – guaranteed.

10. Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe Compressor Pedal 

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe Compressor Pedal 

Specifications

  • Price: $419 USD
  • Controls: Dry, Out, In, Ratio, Attack and Release
  • Input Impedance: 1 Mohm
  • Output Impedance: 1 Kohm
  • Power Supply: 9V 77ma, 18V 104mA
  • Current Draw: 100mA

Sleek and unbothered, this pedal provides some of the highest-quality tones known to humankind.

The utilitarian hardware design and class-A circuitry reflect the eminent useability of the CALI76.

It won’t crack under pressure, whether at home or on the road and is a top choice for studio-level longevity and hardiness. 

It delivers the 1176-style compression we know and love and offers as much functionality and versatility as you would expect.

The Dry blend knob and jewel lamp function, which acts as a three-color gain reduction meter, are nifty features for enthusiasts and those at the cutting-edge.

It is fast, offering quick, high-powered attack on picked notes, and it dishes out hypnotizing, smooth sustains for maximum professional impact.

Sure, it is an investment, but one worth making for serious musicians.

The engineering expertise that goes into its design is nothing short of epic.

How to Choose the Best Compressor Pedal

Consider price point

As with most pedals, the price range truly runs the gamut.

The budget options on the market are sturdy, reliable models, luckily, and offer more than enough support for most musicians or hobbyists.

Hardcore enthusiasts and professionals may want the adjustability and range of features that a more expensive model offers.

Don’t go into debt or anything, but aim to purchase a compressor pedal that will fulfill all your needs.

Aesthetics and Design

Manufacturers must have a field day when it comes to guitar pedals.

The visual range is staggering, and you can see a riot of artistic eccentricity on full display.

Some musicians don’t care if their compressor pedal is invisible, while others want something punchy and eye-catching.

Don’t be ashamed if the visuals matter to you – consider them a form of artistic inspiration via a different medium – one that will inform your own creative journey.

Comprehensiveness of features

Some musicians want basic compression or sound articulation, and that’s it.

Some want more autonomy and flexibility with the features and variations.

Some want hearty sustain, while others just need some country twang tones.

Do some soul-searching, we say. 

How We Chose the Best Compressor Pedals

We focused on value for money, commercial and popular reviews, and brand legacy and reputation.

Many of the big names have been in the business for decades and have built up a sturdy legacy in music circles.

You know you can trust them.

We also chose compressor pedals that cover a range of price points, visual styles, and features.

We wanted to highlight compressor pedals that are user-friendly and intuitive without abandoning rigor and technical quality.

Not every musician needs a pricy, premium model.

If all you want is some basic compression and a more polished finished product, all of the models listed here will offer a solution to your musical problems.

If you want a pedal that will handle complex demands and offer meticulous tones, consider investing in a mid-range or premium option.

Ready, Set, Compress

Whether you are a bassist, an electric guitarist, or something in between, you’re going to want to add a compressor pedal to your tech toolkit.

Not only will it deliver polished, smooth sounds, but it will allow you to elevate your game with hardly any effort on your part.

Play hard, sure, but don’t work too hard – that’s what the compressor pedal is here for. 

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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