What You Need to Know About the Best Compressor Pedal

The best compressor pedal can create the most unique sound tones on your electric guitar. That doesn’t mean that every single compressor pedal is alike. You have to check for a good model based on many crucial factors. This is to help adjust the intensity of different signals that you might hold.

Team's Choice for Best Compressor Pedal

Why you should check the body

The body of a compressor panel has to be easy enough for you to add your guitar onto. It clearly needs a simple output and input setup that allows you to link your guitar to the compressor and then to get the compressor out to the right amplifier. It must especially be made out to ensure that the two ports are clearly labeled so you know which ones are right to use.

The inputs and outputs should be about a quarter of an inch in size each. This is enough to fit most guitar and amp models and should be easy to add and remove items onto as necessary.

A typical body should be rectangular in size and handle a strong steel material. This should be enough to ensure that you can get it to play with plenty of energy to ensure that it’s not too hard for the program to work as needed.

best compressor pedals for electric guitars

Photo courtesy of Art-Sarah

What's the Key Type?

All compressor panels are made with their own particular bodies that can work in many functions. A VCA compressor is the most commonplace one to use. The Voltage Controlled Amplifier works with an integrated circuit to give the user more control over how the gain works and to keep it from being reduced too quickly. This is typically made with less distortion to keep the sounds under control.

The Field Effect Transistor, or FET, is an option that uses a transistor to make the sounds more reliable. This is a little more complicated as it requires added circuits and connections but when it does work it will create some intense and brilliant sounds. It will particularly bring about a faster and cleaner sound that is easier for people to follow and use.

You can also use a multi-band compressor. This works with a number of frequency bands at the same time. This means that multiple frequencies can work with many filters being used. This can help with ensuring more sound effects can be generated off of the guitar.

What's the purpose of the knobs?

The best compressor pedal that you can use should be one that handles plenty of different control options for your playback needs. You can always choose a model that offers several knobs that will help you change how the sounds come about by tuning them left to right.

The sustain on the pedal is the most common control that you will come across. This helps to control the amount of compression being projected by the guitar. After this there is the attack that controls how well the compressor is able to respond to your playing. The attack can cause the compressor to respond to your playing at an even faster rate when used properly.

The blend is used to mix a signal with a compressed signal. This allows you to blend the signal you create with the compressed signal that gets in there. You can adjust this to make it favor one of the two signals depending on how well it can be organized. This can help with establishing sound that is based on what you’d prefer to play along with.


The level is used to control the volume on the pedal. This may be listed on your pedal as a volume controller instead. That still means the same thing as what you might get if it had the level label on it.

I't important to also look at how the tone knob on a compressor pedal works, if you have one. This will adjust the intensity of the bass. This makes it to where your electric guitar can create some bass effects if you are able to rig it well enough.

Not all compressor panels will work with these particular features. A panel can come with just two knobs in some cases, but you should feel free to choose an option based on what you are comfortable with and how experienced you might be when getting one of these options to work in some manner.

Can You Program it?

More advanced models have the ability to allow you to program your own compressor. Today, there are a number of advanced compressor panel models that can be programmed through a foot switch.

You may find some options with feature buttons, which let you go from one part of the model to the next. This will help you out with playing back a multitude of sounds and tones. This feature can be essential as the best compressor pedal options are capable of handling more sounds with care.

​A programmable pedal can be appealing, but you'll receive a greater benefit if you are an experienced player and have technical knowledge. Though the standard manual included with the pedal can help give you the basics.

What About Presets?​

​Presets may be used in a number of cases. Presets are often make it easier for you to get to different connections on a guitar. That is, you can quickly get the sounds to move from one end to the next with the different control features on the compressor panel changing around on occasion.

​This is a popular feature on some modern panels, but you need to pay attention to how it can be adjusted. Some panels can work with the foot control feature to shift from one preset to the next. You might have to practice adjusting the unit on occasion to see how different presets work.

Editors’s Choice for the Best Compressor Pedals

The Diamond Compressor Opto Comp (on the left) uses an equalizer to help with adjusting the tones on the player. It has a compression knob and even a volume knob to help you tune the sounds on the setup up or down as need. I prefer the simple power switch at the top, trust me it's the little things sometimes.

The in and out ports on the compressor are easily labeled and will help you to keep your sounds controlled the right way. This in turn offers a more enjoyable experience when playing the guitar while still being very easy to control and adjust it as you need to.

The Keely K4Comp 4 Knob Compressor is an incredibly versatile stomp box and has been voted Guitar Magazine's Editor pick award. The four knobs allow for input clipping and attack control. This box makes it easy to switch between hum buckers and single coils. The quality sound will get your creative juices flowing.

This compressor comes with an internal attack control, which is ideal for bass players, but great for other guitarists as well. It also includes a true bypass switching circuit. This allows for absolutely no affect on your guitar tone when it's turned off.


Boss is known for creating quality products. The controls on the Boss CS-3 (on the left) are smooth and creates minimal noise. Expect added definition to each string and and clean sounds. It's designed for low noise, so you get a super quiet pedal.

The Boss compressor pedal is ideal for any finger picking songs, especially country. Your chords will sound fuller and more precise. It also provides an EQ for control and less noise. Great for both guitarists and bassists! Plus you get the five-year Boss warranty, same as their other products.

The MXR M87 provides added functionality you won't get with most compressor pedals. You can adjust the attack, release, ratio, input, and output controls. The LED lighting allows you to know gauge how much input is needed. You can also see the input and output ratio. For example, you can keep the input at a higher level, while keeping the output low for a more balanced sound. The smaller size allows to you to save some space on your pedal board. Don't let the size fool you, it's a durable piece of equipment!

Finding the best compressor pedal can be a chore in itself. With these tips, you'll be well on your way to finding the perfect compressor pedal for your vibes.


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