17 Best Compressor Pedals in 2020 (All Price Ranges)

Selecting the individual components of your guitar rig is a process that hugely impacts your tone, style, and sonic possibilities. Needless to say, amplifiers are a major part of your setup, as are the guitars you use. Along with these two choices, your range of effects pedals also has the ability to transform the output of your instrument in countless ways.

Compressor pedals are perhaps the most widely used amongst guitarists, in the studio or on the stage. They are the unsung heroes of the pedalboard, subtly controlling the dynamics of an instrument and interacting with all of the other elements of your rig to enhance the power and clarity of your tone.

Some of the Best Compressor Pedals

In comparison to other effects, compressors don’t receive enough credit in my opinion. More extreme effects like distortion, wah-wah, or spacey reverb produce very noticeable results, and therefore they are considered to be somewhat more exciting. The results of a compressor pedal are perhaps less obvious, but undoubtedly as important, some would argue even more so.

In the following article, I’ll present the best compressor pedals available on the market today, describing their various strengths and weaknesses so that you can decide on the perfect one to add to your pedalboard. Regardless of whether you are experienced in the realm of effects pedals or not, you’ll find this detailed guide helpful in your search for a quality compressor. If you’re a bass guitar player, I recommend checking out our page specifically dedicated to bass compressor pedals here.

If you want to learn more about what to look for in a pedal and learn more about them before reading reviews, check out our detailed compressor pedal buying guide at the bottom of the page here.

Name of ProductImage of ProductDescriptionPrice RangeFull Review
1. Earthquaker Devices Warden V2 (Best Overall) Earthquaker Devices Warden V2Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
$200Read Full Review Below
2. Keeley K-Comp Compressor Plus (Best Value)Keeley K-Comp Compressor PlusType: Digital
Effects: Compression
$130Read Full Review Below
3. Xotic SP (Best Under $150)Xotic SPType: Digital
Effects: Compression
$135Read Full Review Below
4. MXR Dyna Comp M102 (Best Under $100)MXR Dyna Comp M102Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
$80Read Full Review Below
5. BOSS CP-1XBOSS CP-1XType: Digital
Effects: Compression
$150Read Full Review Below
6. JOYO JF-10JOYO JF-10Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
$40Read Full Review Below
7. Caline CP-47Caline CP-47Type: Digital
Effects: Compression, EQ
$35Read Full Review Below
8. MXR M132MXR M132Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
$90Read Full Review Below
9. Seymour Duncan Studio CompressorSeymour Duncan Studio CompressorType: Digital
Effects: Compression
$170Read Full Review Below
10. BOSS CS-3BOSS CS-3Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
$110Read Full Review Below
11. JHS Whitey-TightyJHS Whitey-TightyType: Analog
Effects: Compression
$135Read Full Review Below
12. Pigtronix Philosopher’s TonePigtronix Philosopher’s ToneType: Digital
Effects: Compression
$120Read Full Review Below
13. Orange KongpressorOrange KongpressorType: Digital
Effects: Compression
$155Read Full Review Below
14. Origin Effects Cali76Origin Effects Cali76Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
$150Read Full Review Below
15. LR Baggs AlignLR Baggs AlignType: Digital
Effects: Compression/Saturation/EQ
$180Read Full Review Below
16. TC-Electronic Hyper GravityTC-Electronic Hyper GravityType: Digital
Effects: Compression
$130Read Full Review Below
17. Wampler Ego V2Wampler Ego V2Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
$200Read Full Review Below

Here Are the Best Compressor Pedals

1. Earthquaker Devices Warden V2 (Best Overall)

Earthquaker Devices Warden V2

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Estimated Price: $200

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Outputs
Power: 9 Volt

My Review: Efficient, detailed, and musical, the Warden V2 by Earthquaker Devices is an exceptional compressor pedal. Its primary function is to control the dynamics of your guitar or bass, but the advanced set of controls also provide plenty of room for maneuver. Using classic feedback-style circuitry and six detailed parameters, the Warden V2 is the perfect start to your signal chain.

The components used to construct this compressor pedal have been specifically chosen by Earthquaker Devices due to their high-grade quality. The Warden V2 is powered internally by 18 volts and can add plenty of sustain and gain to your tone. When the sustain is dialed in, the compression is less extreme. When it is cranked up, you get heavy compression and a hotter tone.

The six controls on the Warden V2 provide complete control over the Tone, Attack, Release, Level, Sustain, and Ratio of the pedal. Whether you intend to add gentle compression to your guitar to smoothen the transients, or you require some extreme compression that normalizes your dynamics, this pedal can do both with ease.

A common issue with compressor pedals is that they can cause some unwanted noise issues, especially if the circuitry isn’t made to a high standard. This problem is eradicated with the Warden V2, thanks to its optical compressor design. The addition of true bypass furthers the overall sound quality, and overall this compressor pedal produces a warm and authentic output that is well suited to all styles and genres.

Who This is Best Suited for: Sometimes, you come across those rare types of effects pedals that work with every style and tone with equal efficiency. The Warden V2 Optical Compressor is one of those pedals, and it would make a great addition to anyone’s rig.

Bottom Line: The EarthQuaker Devices Warden V2 is a perfect blend of simplicity, versatility, and tonal quality. Within its 6 parameters, you can create just about any form of compression imaginable. It interacts with other pedals seamlessly, and operates in a low-noise manner, making it one of the best compressor pedals available.

2. Keeley K-Comp Compressor Plus (Best Value)

Keeley K-Comp Compressor Plus

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Estimated Price: $130

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: Keeley’s small range of world-class compressor pedals is hugely popular amongst guitarists worldwide, and with the K-Comp Compressor Plus they have produced arguably their best offering to date. Continuing the trend from the former models, the Compressor Plus includes several new features to improve efficiency and performance.

The newly added Blend control is worth a mention. This allows a guitarist to add amounts of their dry signal into the compressed signal by turning the rotary knob, providing absolute control over the blend between the two. The Tone control affects the color of the compression and is a great tool for ensuring that it interacts with your other pedals cohesively.

The class of the Keeley Compressor Plus is largely down to the quality components it houses. With the magic combination of metal film resistors and capacitors, you get exceptionally clean operation. The transistors have been hand-matched with less than 1% tolerance, which shows commitment to detail.

Who This is Best Suited for: Although some compressor pedals are crammed with useful additional controls, many guitarists prefer simplicity when it comes to controlling their dynamics. The Keeley Compressor Plus is ideal for those who value tone and function over having many complex options.

Bottom Line: The Keeley Compressor Pedal has been designed with great detail. Every component has been specifically chosen to enhance the overall performance of the pedal, and this can be heard in the results it produces. With four simple controls that are easy to operate, you can experiment to create a variety of compressed results using this pedal.

3. Xotic SP (Best Under $150)

Xotic SP

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Estimated Price: $135

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: The Xotic SP Compressor is a compact pedal that lends itself to all genres of guitar playing. Based on the renowned “Ross” compression circuit that is known for its transparency, this pedal keeps your dynamics evenly balanced and adds a harmonic sweetness to your tone.

With a three-position switch that toggles between a trio of compression settings, you can tailor the performance of the Xotic SP to suit your style. In addition to the preset switch, there’s also a variable blend control and internal dip switches that all interact with each other to manifest your compressed tone.

The SP Compressor runs off of standard 9 volt DC power, and can also be powered by a battery. Its minute dimensions make it a convenient addition to your pedalboard, and despite its modest size, there’s plenty of room for tweaking the results it produces to suit your needs.

Who This is Best Suited for: The Xotic SP Compressor is a mini pedal that is well suited to guitarists who want reliable compression with no unnecessary filler. If your pedalboard is already a little crowded, you’ll have no issues with the compact SP.

Bottom Line: At around $130, the Xotic SP Mini Compressor pedal is a great value. With high-end compression circuitry, and a limited number of useful controls and internal dip switches that dial in your tone, this little pedal is deceptively versatile and performs at a high level no matter what your style of the genre is. This is easily one of the best guitar compressor pedals out there for the money.

Popular Related Article: The Best American Made Guitars on the Market

4. MXR Dyna Comp M102 (Best Under $100)

MXR Dyna Comp M102

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Estimated Price: $80

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: The MXR Dyna Comp is a well-rounded compressor pedal that is perfect for adding a touch of sustain to guitar solos. This versatile pedal is effective at evening out volume levels or adding some more body to your electric guitar’s tone.

Its simple, dual-knob setup is easy to navigate. Firstly, it has an Output knob that controls the overall volume of the pedal. Then there’s the Sensitivity knob which adjusts the ratio, and the amount of compression present.

When you set the sensitivity control to a high level, your guitar is subjected to the maximum amount of compression. The result is a clunky, highly processed tone that is compatible with other effects like distortion or delays. The M102 Dyna Comp is powered by 9 Volts DC, and you can use either a dedicated supply or batteries.

Who This is Best Suited for: I would recommend the MXR M102 Dyna Comp to any guitarists who need high-quality compression at a reasonable price. Due to the limited number of controls present on this compressor pedal, it’s well suited to beginners or those who value simplicity and easy operation.

Bottom Line The MXR Dyna Comp Guitar Compression Pedal is simplistic, easy to use, and capable of producing warm, natural-sounding compression. It’s the perfect pedal for boosting your guitar and adding sustain for melodies or solos. Despite its modest size, the tones it produces aren’t lacking in power and clarity. If you’re looking for the best cheap compressor pedal this is easily one of the best in the under $100 category.

5. BOSS CP-1X

BOSS CP-1X

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Estimated Price: $150

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: The BOSS CP-1X is a reliable compressor in the classic stompbox design that its manufacturers are known for. When designing the pedal, Boss used their other, more primitive compressors as a point of reference and added some futuristic elements to its arsenal.

At the heart of the CP-1X is multi-dimensional processing. This allows the pedal to analyze the frequencies produced by a guitar, and then dynamically control the output without making it sound artificial. The result is musical compression that sounds natural and authentic.

The electronic components of the CP-1X work to ensure that it has adequate headroom for multiple guitars and tuning styles. It also features the classic 4-control design, with each rotary knob responsible for tailoring a certain aspect of the compressor’s performance. The 18-volt electronics means that the CP-1X can handle any style of pickups, and is even compatible with electric-acoustic guitars.

The included controls are Level, Attack, Ratio, and Comp. The level control is pretty self-explanatory, affecting the amount of volume that the pedal produces. The attack control decides how long it takes for the compression to kick in once the volume exceeds the threshold. The ratio decides how compressed the dry signal gets, and the comp level determines the harshness of the compression that it is subjected to.

Who This is Best Suited for: BOSS’ range of pedals are known for their reliability and easy operation. Although the CP-1X has some more advanced features compared to their other stompboxes, I’d recommend it to any guitarists who simply want to plug in, tweak a few settings, and start playing. Thanks to its durability, this compressor is also a great choice for the touring musician.

Bottom Line: One thing about Boss that you can rely on is their consistency. Their pedals provide a good middle ground between cheap, entry-level models and the more extortionate advanced pedals. The CP-1X offers reliable, authentic-sounding compression in a robust and simple stompbox.

Popular Related Article: The Best Multi Effects Pedals on the Market

6. JOYO JF-10

JOYO JF-10

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Estimated Price: $40

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: In recent years, JOYO has gone from being a relatively unknown pedal producer to being one of the most popular providers of affordable effects. This rise is largely due to their value for money, but also the ever-improving quality of their pedals shouldn’t be overlooked.

The JF-10 compressor is a dynamic pedal that provides you with all of the basic controls you need to tailor the output of your guitar. With its unique green-metal housing and interesting scorpion logo etched on the face, the JF-10 has the appearance of a pedal that you’d expect to be more expensive.

Positioned at the top on the pedal are three rotary knobs that each affects a different aspect of the performance of the compressor. Firstly, you have a Sustain control. This is perfect for drawing out notes during a solo, or creating dynamic consistency when playing melodic lead guitar. Next, you have the Level control, which of course, adds or removes volume. Finally, the Attack control in the center of the pedal lets you adjust the amount of time it takes for the compression to be applied to your dry signal.

Who This is Best Suited for: JOYO’s JF-10 is recommendable to any guitarists who are delving into the world of effects pedals for the first time. In all honesty, a pedal that costs less than $50 will always struggle to match the quality of a high-end rival, but for the price, this compressor performs very effectively.

Bottom Line: With three useful controls, true bypass switching, and compact dimensions, the JOYO JF-10 is a decent pedal that is available at a very fair price. It’s a great solution for guitarists who need a little sustain adding to their melodies and solos.

7. Caline CP-47

Caline CP-47

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Estimated Price: $35

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression, EQ
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: The Caline CP-47 compressor pedal is a no-nonsense offering that offers all of the basic controls required to smoothen the dynamics of a guitar or bass. With its psychedelic blue aesthetics and solid, compact construction, this affordable pedal is a great foundation to build your pedalboard around.

Featuring a trio of controls positioned on the top portion of the pedal’s face, the CP-47 is easy to navigate. Firstly, the Level control affects the overall volume output of the pedal, allowing it to act as a limiter if required. Then there’s the EQ control, which is an interesting addition. This parameter changes the tonal characteristic of the pedal so that you can tailor it to suit your particular guitar and amp. The Comp setting adds or removes compression, effectively changing the ratio.

Who This is Best Suited for: I’d recommend the Caline CP-47 compressor to inexperienced musicians who are looking for an affordable and simplistic pedal. At under $40, you can’t argue with the price of this reliable stompbox.

Bottom Line: the CP-47 by Caline has all of the basic components required to produce accurate and responsive compression at a competitive price. With true bypass switching, it ensures that your clean tone is well preserved, and the trio of controls provides a good level of flexibility for experimentation.

Popular Related Article: Our Favorite Phaser Pedals (All Price Ranges)

8. MXR M132

MXR M132

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Estimated Price: $90

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 2 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 2 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: Designed to allow guitarists to dial in their tone, add sustain, and gain more control over the consistency of their dynamics, this pedal is armed with three highly useful parameters.

Smoothening out the signal should be a priority for any guitarist, whether they play melodies, rhythm, or lead. The issue is that sometimes, using compression for this purpose can make the dynamics seem a little flat and unnatural. Granted, this type of sound is great if it is intentional, but it can hinder a guitarist’s tone if they compress all of the expression out of their instrument.

Thankfully, the MXR M123 allows you to smoothen your tone without hampering the dynamics and strangling the life out of your guitar. The dynamic response it provides is perfectly suited to the hot tone of humbucker pickups, but it works well with single-coils too.

In terms of controls, the M132 has an Attack level knob, an Output knob, and a Sensitivity knob. The output control edits the overall volume of the pedal, while the attack level determines the tip-gap between the volume of your instrument passing the threshold and the compression kicking in. Finally, the sensitivity control is where this pedal stands out. Tweaking it completely transforms the feel of the compressed tone, adding warmth and color.

Who This is Best Suited for: If you’re looking for top-quality compression with minimal complexity, the MCR M132 is highly recommendable. The pedal produces an array of versatile compressed tones, especially when the sustain control is adjusted.

Bottom Line: The MXR M132 Supercomp compressor is exactly what you would expect from this manufacturer – authentic, versatile, and detailed. Although it only has three adjustable controls, there’s plenty of options when it comes to tailoring the pedal’s performance to suit your musical requirements.

9. Seymour Duncan Studio Compressor

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Estimated Price: $170

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: if you’ve heard of Seymour Duncan, you’re probably familiar with their extensive range of high-end guitar pickups for both acoustic and electric guitar. They’re widely regarded as the leading producer of pickups and electronic guitar components and have been for many decades. Along with their pickup range, they also produce some great effects pedals, including the Studio Compressor.

Designed to work perfectly with a bass guitar, the Studio Compressor pedal adds sustain to the low-end notes to make the output more consistent and powerful. It’s also well suited to bringing out the rhythmic elements of slap bass and syncopated basslines. With VCA controlling, this compressor is highly functional and intuitive.

Popular Related Article: The Best Bass Compressor Pedals on the Market

The Blend control on the Seymour Duncan Studio Compressor is particularly useful. When compressing bass, it’s easy to overdo it and remove much of the human element from your playing. By adjusting the blend, you can add or remove the amount of compressed signal and keep your tone sounding natural and responsive. There’s also a 3-position switch that lets you toggle between Mid/Full/High equalization. To top it off, the pedal has true bypass to keep your clean signal sounding pristine even when the pedal is inactive.

Who This is Best Suited for: Bassists of all styles and genres will love the Seymour Duncan Studio Compressor. It’s the perfect solution for a weak bass tone, adding sustain and body whilst preserving the natural elements of your instrument.

Bottom Line: Indeed, Seymour Duncan is better known for their pickups than their pedals, but the Studio Bass Compressor proves that they are experts in the field of effects too. With a smart 3-way EQ selector and a blend knob for controlling the characteristics, this pedal is a worthy addition to any bassist’s pedalboard.

10. BOSS CS-3

BOSS CS-3

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Estimated Price: $110

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: The Boss CS-3 is a detailed compressor pedal that enhances the sustain and thickness of your tone. Housed in the conventional Boss stompbox, the pedal has four basic controls that give you dominion over the qualities of the compressor.

First of all, there’s the Level control that doesn’t require an explanation. The Tone control can be used to adjust the color of the pedal’s output, ranging from dark and understated to bright and pronounced. Then there’s the Attack control, which affects the time it takes for the compression to kick into action. Finally, the Sustain control is a great tool for keeping your dynamics strong when ringing out notes or playing guitar solos.

One of the main selling points of Boss pedals is their durability and easy-to-operate design. Housed in robust aluminum and built like a tank, the CS-3 is ready to handle any of the inevitable rigors of touring, practicing, and recording.

Who This is Best Suited for: If you’re looking for a mid-range, fairly priced compressor pedal that covers all bases, then the Boss CS-3 would be a good option. Like all Boss stompboxes, it can withstand a lot of punishment, so it’s ideal for touring musicians who will use it frequently.

Bottom Line: One quality that I love about Boss pedals is that you know exactly what you’re getting – durability, functionality, and quality tones. The CS-3 may not be littered with advanced options like some of its more expensive competitors, but it covers all of the basic requirements of a compression pedal.

11. JHS Whitey-Tighty

JHS Whitey-Tighty

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Estimated Price: $135

Type: Analog
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: FET compressors, such as the JHS Whitey Tighty, are valuable tools both on the stage and in the recording studio. This variety of compressor pedals is highly effective at causing extreme compression to an audio signal. With the Whitey Tighty, JHS has compacted all of the detail you’d find in a VST plugin into a smartly designed pedal.

With a simplistic 3-knob control, it would appear that this JHS pedal would be fairly limited in the range of compression it produces. However, following further inspection, it becomes apparent that this is no ordinary compression pedal.

Adjusting the sound of the Whitey Tighty is very straightforward. By simply tweaking the three rotary knobs, you can transform the output of the pedal. First of all, the Volume control is great for achieving unity gain and matching the pedal to your other effects in terms of dynamics. Secondly, the Comp control allows you to choose between delicate, smooth compression or extreme, hard-squashed varieties. The Blend control provides a useful way to dial in some of the effects to suit your needs.

As with the majority of JHS pedals, the Whitey Tighty compressor is hardwired with high-quality circuitry and components. It’s made of rugged metal to ensure that it stands the test of time.

Who This is Best Suited for: If you intend to use heavy compression to get your desired sound, the JHS Whitey Tighty is certainly worth considering. It’s well suited to more extreme effects, and the FET design is great for thickening up your guitar both in the studio and in a live setting.

Bottom Line: The JHS Whitey Tighty compressor pedal is durable, reliable, and multi-faceted. The simple 3-knob layout makes it easy to use, and by playing around with the controls you can create a wide range of compressed styles that suit most styles.

12. Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone

Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone

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Estimated Price: $120

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 2 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 2 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: With its striking appearance and stylish control-layout, the Philosopher’s Tone is a unique compressor pedal by Pigtronix. Labeled as a micro pedal, this compact offering still provides the amount of dynamic-sculpting options you’d expect from a much bigger model.

In terms of controls, there’s the standard trio combination of Volume, Sustain and Blend. Each of these dramatically influences the overall output of the pedal, but the fourth control, Treble, is where things get interesting.

Sometimes, compressing a guitar can cause the brightness to be amplified and the treble-end becomes overly prominent in the mix. By tweaking the treble knob, you can dull down the overall compressed tone and avoid this from occurring. Alternatively, you can use it to add more high-end into the mix if you have a dark-sounding guitar.

Who This is Best Suited for: Thanks to the Treble control, the Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone is perfect for guitarists who want to prevent their tone from becoming too bright and harsh. If you want some control over the EQ settings of your compressed signal, this pedal provides that.

Bottom Line: The Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone is a classy offering that produces natural-sounding compression and includes plenty of tweakable parameters. With a small, compact design and a visible LED on/off indicator, it’s the type of pedal that doesn’t draw too much attention on your pedalboard, but soon becomes an integral part of your setup.

13. Orange Kongpressor

Orange Kongpressor

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Estimated Price: $155

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 2 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: Perhaps best known for their exceptional range of Amplifiers, Orange has been at the forefront of guitars for over five decades. It’s no surprise then, that their venture into effects pedals has produced some quality offerings. The Kongpressor Optical Class A compressor pedal is a prime example.

Utilizing optical compression to deliver a smooth tone, Orange has designed this pedal to look and sound unique. The first thing that catches your eye is the eccentric design on the face of the pedal, and the unusual 5-control layout that is underneath a sparkling LED indicator.

The controls of the Kongpressor are almost as intriguing as its appearance. You have the standard Volume control for gain consistency, then in the center is a Chime control. This uncommon parameter adds or removed brightness from the mix, and can transform your guitar into a bell-like sound with plenty of sustain. To the right of the Chime control, there is Squash. This is essentially a ratio controller, adding more compression the more it is cranked up. Next, there’s the Release control, which affects how long the compression sticks around after a note has been played. Finally, there’s Attack, which affects the gap between the threshold being crossed and the compression starts.

Thanks to Orange’s undeniable expertise in the world of amplifiers, they have designed the Kongpressor to produce up to 12dB of clean gain to boost the front of an amp. This is very useful for those on-stage moments when you need to quickly stand out in the mix.

Who This is Best Suited for: If you love the classic, British sound of Orange amplifiers, the Kongpressor will be of interest to you. With all the grittiness and character that you’d expect from this legendary manufacturer, it’s perfect for controlling your dynamics.

Bottom Line: Orange’s Kongpressor uses optical compression to create a wide array of styles and dynamic-shifting options. The controls are labeled and laid out uniquely, and each of the parameters forms separate pieces of the puzzle so that you can experiment to create original results.

14. Origin Effects Cali76

Origin Effects Cali76

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Estimated Price: $150

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power:  9 Volts DC

My Review: The Cali76 by Origin Effects provides you with studio-grade compression on your pedalboard. Designed to rise to the challenge of reproducing your favorite recorded tones in a live setting, this compressor pedal contains the level of detail you would expect to see in a DAW rather than in a pedal.

The controls offered by the Cali76 include Ratio, Attack, and Release, as well as Input and Output gain knobs. This combination of controls leaves no stone unturned, allowing you to tailor every aspect of the pedal’s performance to suit your specific tonal aspirations.

By tweaking the Attack and Release parameters, you can rein in the dynamics of your guitar accordingly. The Ratio brings out some of the top-end details when cranked up. The Cali76 has been designed with impeccable attention to detail. Even the slightest adjustment of any of the various controls produces a dramatic effect, and there’s no limit to the dynamic-adjustments you can make with the exquisite compressor pedal.

Who This is Best Suited for: The Cali76 by Origin is one of the more expensive pedals on this list, but in my opinion, the hefty price tag is justified by its undeniable quality. If you want the best possible compression with the detail of a studio rack-mounted unit, this pedal is a great investment.

Bottom Line: Classy, elegant, and functional, the Cali76 is a truly wonderful compressor pedal that stands out amongst its competitors. Indeed, this is reflected by the cost, but the high-quality components and range of dynamic-altering possibilities make it worth it.

15. LR Baggs Align

LR Baggs Align

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Estimated Price: $180

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression/Saturation/EQ
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: The LR Baggs Align is a multi-functional electric-acoustic guitar pedal that produces three quality effects. Combining saturation, EQ, and compression, the Align is the perfect hub for tailoring the tone and dynamics of an amplified acoustic guitar.

Not only is the LR Baggs Align useful onstage, but it also makes a great preamp if you are recording an acoustic guitar via direct input in the recording studio. The saturation control can be used to enhance the harmonic richness of your guitar, causing subtle warm breakups to occur. The Volume control lets you compensate for any other pedals you are using, and the EQ provides you with an effective way to remove or add certain frequency bands from the mix.

LR Baggs’ pedals have an interesting wooden design that makes them instantly recognizable. The classy aesthetics are complemented by the smooth tones that the Align pedal produces. It acts as an active DI pedal and reduces any of the dynamic or tonal issues a musician is faced with when amplifying an acoustic guitar.

Who This is Best Suited for: If you play amplified acoustic guitar and need to gain some control over the qualities of your tone and dynamics, the LR Baggs Align is the perfect solution. It’s easy to use and sounds authentic when used for EQ, saturation, or compression.

Bottom Line: Electric-acoustic guitars can cause some tonal and dynamic issues, especially is the pickup isn’t up to scratch. A great way to iron out the inconsistencies is by using the trio of effects provided by the LR Baggs Align.

16. TC-Electronic Hyper Gravity

TC-Electronic Hyper Gravity

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Estimated Price: $130

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 1 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: TC Electronic’s impressive range of effects pedals covers pretty much every processing possibility you can imagine, and the HyperGravity is their premium compressor. It uses its renowned TonePrint technology to create various options to control your instrument’s dynamic output.

Borrowing the highly advanced multiband algorithm from the TC electronic System 600, the HyperGravity functions with razor-sharp precision and boasts immense clarity. At the heart of the pedal are three compression tones Spectra, Vintage, and custom Toneprint. The Spectra setting produces transparent and light compression, the Vintage mimics analog compression from years gone by, and the TonePrint allows you to personalize the settings and come up with your unique tones.

Hypergravity uses DSP, but it doesn’t sound like your average digital stompbox. TC Electronic set out to create a pedal that blurs the line between digital and analog, combining the best possible aspects of both technologies. The Blend function allows you to mix your dry and wet signals to keep the sound as authentic as possible, and you can choose between buffered or true bypass.

Who This is Best Suited for: If you sit on the fence regarding the issue of digital vs. analog effects pedals, the TC Electronic HyperGravity provides a good middle ground. It features many customizable controls, so I would recommend it to musicians who enjoy experimenting to find their desired sounds.

Bottom Line: The HyperGravity is a detailed compressor pedal by TC Electronic. It allows you to choose between buffered or true-bypass mode, customize the settings using the TonePrint technology, and tailor the output towards analog or digital preferences.

17. Wampler Ego V2

Wampler Ego V2

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Estimated Price: $200

Type: Digital
Effects: Compression
Connectivity: 1 x 6.35mm Jack Input, 2 x Output
Power: 9 Volts DC

My Review: To finish off this list of the best compressor pedals, we have the brilliant Ego pedal by Wampler. Brimming with class and versatility, this second-generation pedal is a perfect tool for taming the dynamics of your instrument without hampering your tone.

With the Ego, you can create a similar style of compression that you get from a tube amplifier cranked up to its limits, without sacrificing any definition. It’s also well adept at thickening your signal, keeping tabs on any spikes and peaks, and lengthening the sustain produced by a guitar.

This lengthened sustain is useful if you are playing long, rung-out notes and need the power to remain present whilst doing so. The Blend control allows you to create ideal combinations between your dry signal, the signal produced by other effects pedals, and your compressed signal. The Tone controls compensate for any higher frequencies that may be dampened during the process of compression. This handmade pedal can be powered via a 9-volt battery or a standard power supply.

Who This is Best Suited for: If you don’t mind spending a little extra to get the best possible compressed tones from a pedal, then the Wampler Ego might just be a perfect choice. It’s been designed to provide you with many tonal and dynamic options.

Bottom Line: The Wampler Ego compressor pedal is a true bypass offering that provides ample sustain and dynamic control. With various parameters that create a wide range of sounds and outcomes and stunning attention to detail in the handmade construction process, it’s one of the best options out there.

Choosing a Compressor Pedal (Buying Guide)

The majority of recorded music, regardless of genre or style, uses compression in some way, shape, or form. It’s without a doubt one of the most commonly used audio processing effects that have ever been discovered. Guitars, drums, vocals, bass, and pretty much any other instrument you can think of will benefit from at least a touch of compression.

Compression pedals allow guitarists and bassists to tighten up their on-stage sound, ensuring that their instrument’s dynamics remain smooth and consistent throughout. Although all compression pedals essentially perform the same function, there’s a lot of variance from one model to another in terms of their quality and efficiency.

The following section of this article will present all of the information you need on the subject of compression, both as an effect in the studio and as a pedal on the stage. It doesn’t matter what your current level of knowledge is on compression, you’ll find some useful information in the following pages as I cover the basics and the more advanced concepts.

What is Compression?

Compression is the process of reducing the dynamic range within an audio signal. By using a process called attenuation to limit loud noises, or by amplifying quieter noises, the compressor produces a more consistent and tight dynamic range.

Dynamic Range Explained

If you have any experience recording music, you’ll probably have heard the term “dynamic range” before. Simply put, the dynamic range is the ratio between the loudest part of an audio signal before distortion occurs and the noise floor. The human ear can hear volumes of to around 140 decibels and is unable to hear noises quieter than 0dB at 1000Hz. So that is the dynamic range of human hearing. To put this into context, the sound of heavy rainfall has a volume of around 50-60 decibels, the sound of a plane firing up its engine reaches close to the limit of 140 decibels. An everyday conversation reaches around 70 decibels, and a hairdryer is somewhere around 100 decibels. All of these sounds exist within the dynamic range of human hearing.

The way we hear sound is not quite as simple as the louder the decibels, the more we perceive it. The term masking describes the way that our ears focus on certain sounds despite other background noises being louder in terms of decibels. This explains how we can have a conversation with someone when there are many other sounds in the background, and still understand what each other is saying.

The Purpose of Compression

Reducing the dynamic range of an audio signal seems counterproductive. Logically, one would assume that to make a sound louder, you would want to expand the dynamic range, thus raising the overall volume. However, the opposite is true.

One simple function of compression is to bring down the volume of transients that are too loud in comparison to the rest of the waveform. When looking at an audio waveform, you can see where these transients spike, causing harsh increases in the volume. This may lead to clipping, where the transient exceeds the maximum number of decibels, usually an undesirable effect unless you are intentionally trying to create saturation.

Downwards Compression

The term downwards compression describes the process of attenuating the overall volume of an audio signal when it reaches a certain point known as a threshold. This is a common function of compression pedals. When the sound reaches above the threshold, it is downwardly compressed and consequently, the dynamic range is reduced. This type of compression brings down the volume of any harsh points of a recording so that the listener doesn’t suddenly get a shock when an overly loud part plays in their headphones!

A simple solution to this problem would be to never sing, play, or recording anything loud, but this is utterly unrealistic. Music has to be played loudly sometimes to achieve certain tones or evoke particular emotions from the listener, so downward compression pedals provide a solution without diminishing the expressive nature of the audio. Plus, no musician likes to be told to turn down – it’s not in our nature!

Upwards Compression

Upwards compression is the alternative variety that a compression pedal or software can produce. Instead of limiting the volume of the audio when it reaches the threshold as we covered with downward compression when upwards compression is used, the signal’s volume is boosted at the point where it drops below the threshold.

This form of compression is less commonly used on a compression pedal and more likely to be utilized when chopping up drum samples in a DAW. For example, if you have selected multiple samples from a range of sources, and they all differ in terms of volume, upwards compression is the perfect solution. You can simply set the threshold of the compressor to be slightly above your loudest sample, and all of the quieter sounds will be boosted to match the desired level.

Downwards Expansion and Compression

When audio is subjected to downwards expansion, the volume of the signal is reduced at the point where it drops below a threshold, therefore increasing the dynamic range. This is performed by a special device known as a gate. The gate essentially lowers the level of the noise floor.

Using a gate to produce downwards expression is useful if you have some unwanted quiet noises in your recording or coming through an amplifier. Most compressor pedals are fitted with a gate, and this allows the main body of sound (your guitar) and minimizes the appearance of any background noises like electronic hums or buzzes.

Upwards Expansion and Compression

Upwards expansion, as you can probably guess, performs the opposite function to downwards expansion. In short, it causes the volume of the audio signal to be boosted when it reaches a certain point above the threshold. This creates a more dynamic range. This form of expansion is usually used on drums to make them sound punchier.

Sidechain Compression

Another form of compression that is commonly used is called sidechain. Some more advanced compressor pedals will have this mode enabled, but it’s generally used in recordings when mixing kick drums and bass. When sidechain mode is activated, the compressor responds to external input, rather than the audio that passes through the compressor. The external input acts as a trigger for the compression, creating a pulsating effect and allowing bass a kick drum to interact with each other efficiently.

Multiband Compression

Granted, multiband processing isn’t associated specifically with compressor pedals but it is still useful to understand, especially if you intend to use compression when mixing audio. Multi-band processing is a method that makes it possible to alter various frequency bands independently.

When using multi-band compression, you can compress the low, mid-range, and higher frequencies with independent settings. This provides more control over the different aspects of the audio and is a particularly popular mastering trick.

The Commonly Found Controls & Parameters on Compressor Pedals

Compressor pedals are likely to feature similar controls and parameters, although some more expensive models may have additional advanced controls. You’ll generally find the following on most of the pedals

  • Threshold
  • Ratio
  • Attack
  • Release
  • Makeup

The threshold is an adjustable parameter that lets you decide the volume that triggers the compression. If you were to set the threshold to -10dB for example, this would mean that any audio that goes through the compressor and reaches a peak of above 10dB will be subjected to compression.

When you set the ratio on a compressor pedal, this determines how much compression will be applied to the audio signal. A ratio of 11 would produce no compression, 21 would produce minimal compression, 41 would produce a medium amount of compression, and 101 would heavily compress the audio.

The attack parameter on a compression pedal decides how much time it takes for the compressor to fully kick in and affect the audio signal after it has passed the set threshold. The shorter the attack time, the quicker the compressor applies the maximum amount of compression on the audio spike that has reached your chosen threshold. Faster attack times are usually best used for cleaning up harsh transient spikes. If you set the attack to be slow, this will increase the amount of time it takes for the compression to occur, making the effect less harsh and noticeable.

Release essentially determines how long it takes for the compressor pedal to stop acting upon the audio signal once it drops below the set threshold. The quicker the release, the less time the compressor will continue to affect the audio after the threshold has been reached. Slower release times are often used for bass because you want a sustained tone to continue after the audio has passed through the compressor.

Positioning a Compressor Pedal in Your Signal Chain

When it comes to positioning effects pedals in your signal chain, I’m a strong advocate for experimentation. After all, the tone is a subjective matter that is individual to a guitarist, and only you know what sounds you intend to produce. With that being said, there are some guidelines that most musicians would agree on.

Usually, a signal chain would be with any dynamically based pedals. Compressor pedals fall into this category, as do any equalization pedals. Any dirt based pedals such as distortion, overdrive, or fuzz should be positioned next in the signal chain. Then comes modulation pedals, which include phasers, chorus, or flangers. Finally, time-based pedals like delays or reverbs should be positioned towards the end of your chain.

The reason that this order is recommended is that it allows each of the pedal types to function whilst being minimally affected by the pedals that come after them in the chain. For example, if you were to place your reverb pedal at the start of the signal chain, all of the subsequent pedals would be affected by it, creating a more unpredictable and messy outcome.

Compression Pedals and Signal Splitting:

When looking through the list of the compressor pedals earlier in this article, you might have spotted that some of them offer two outputs rather than one. This makes it possible to split your signal using the compressor pedal. Why is this useful? Well, splitting the signal allows you to send a clean channel that isn’t processed into one amplifier, whilst directing an FX channel into another separate amp.

The advantage that this provides is that you can keep your clean tone constantly playing underneath any effects that you use. This creates the illusion that two guitars are playing at once and results in a thicker, fuller tone.

Many guitarists and bassists use this technique if their band has a limited number of guitarists. When you activate your FX channel, it adds a substantial amount of power and contrast to your clean channel and creates a bigger sound.

Using Compression Pedals in the Studio:

Although all DAWs come with built-in digital compression units in the form of VST plugins, this doesn’t necessarily render a compressor pedal redundant when you are recording music. Some would argue that using your pedal rather than a software-based alternative would foster more reliable results.

The main advantage of using your compressor pedal in the recording studio is that it promotes consistency between your live tone and your studio recordings. For the modern musician, it’s more important than ever that their live performances stand up to the quality of studio recordings because gigs and shows are the most lucrative pursuit in most cases. Consequently, using a compression pedal with similar settings to a live setup lets you preempt your sound and avoids there being a noticeable gulf between your live and recorded tone.

On top of that, another reason that compressor pedals are a useful addition to the recording studio is their compatibility with multiple instruments. Bass guitar almost always needs some compression to tighten up the dynamics and keep the low-end sounding strong and full-bodied. Vocals also benefit from some compression, as do drums. If you were to use your compressor for these two disciplines, it would probably be best to re-amp the recordings retrospectively. This is the process of recording the audio clean, then running it back from the DAW through the compressor pedal, and finally recording back into the input of your DAW.

Using Compressor Pedals alongside Other Effects

Some effects pedals are best used as standalone, especially when they produce dramatic, tone-altering results. On the other hand, dynamic pedals like compressors are highly compatible with other effects. Due to the unobtrusive nature of compressor pedals, you can use them together with more extreme effects without your tone becoming overly muddy.

Perhaps the most frequently paired effect with the compressor pedal is EQ. These two pedals go hand in hand because the EQ allows you to tailor the frequency response of your instrument, then compression accentuates the subtle changes by boosting or reducing parts with anomalistic volumes.

Distortion based pedals like overdrive and fuzz already compress your signal in some respects. Using them with a compressor pedal will help to smoothen out the effect, making it less harsh and chaotic. If you use a lot of compression on an already saturated signal, this can produce some interesting results too.

Using compressor pedals with reverb or delay can be problematic is the compression is applied after these two effects. This is because reverb and delay create new undertones and trailing sounds which are meant to be lower in volume than the clean tone. So when compressor pedals are applied, the low-volume spacey tones are pushed up to match the dynamics of the original tone, which adversely affects the clarity. However, if you are looking for ambient, tension-building tones, this method will work very well.

Power Requirements:

You’ll find that a high percentage of compressor pedal requires 9 volts DC power to operate, although on rare occasions they may need 12 volts. Most manufacturers recommend purchasing a specific power supply for their compressor pedal, but you can use any as long as it meets the voltage recommendation.

Another option is to simply use 9-volt batteries to power your compressor pedal. Indeed, this is a more convenient method in the short term, but bear in mind that if the batteries run out on stage, this will cause the pedal to stop working and potentially kill your signal chain. Therefore, the most reliable method is to combine a power supply with batteries, so that if one fails, the other steps in and prevents a dreaded cut-out!

Final Thoughts:

Compressor pedals are sometimes overlooked due to their subtle nature. Other pedals may indeed produce more exciting and noticeable results, but a compressor pedal is an integral piece of your overall sonic foundation. When used properly, compression allows all the other effects to work to their maximum attention. It’s the unsung hero of a pedalboard, and adding one to your setup is a very wise decision indeed.

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