Compressor Pedals

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About Compressor Pedals

Compressor pedals are subtle effects that have a large impact on not only your sound but also your playing. A compressor takes your signal (they work most obviously well with clean tones) and sets parameters for controlling your dynamic range (think of a floor and a ceiling and you’re on the right track) as well as bringing the overall level up to give you more sustain for your notes and chords. Compressors smooth out your performance (depending on how you set the pedal) by limiting your louder notes and boosting your quiet ones. This means things like arpeggios and strummed chords can take on a uniformity and clarity that enhances your performance. They are like mini production tools that instantly enhance your guitar sound. Many compressors have tone controlling features too but most work best when they are as transparent as possible.

Bass players will also feel the immediate benefit of a compressor pedal in their effects chain. Regulating the dynamic of the signal can help lots when going from, say, fingers to plectrum or maybe throwing in some slap techniques.

There are a great many compressor pedals available and at guitarguitar, we have selected the very best along with the most popular in order to give you a comprehensive choice for your pedal board. As always, we stock the biggest brands including TC Electronic, MXR and BOSS alongside many more from companies such as Wampler, Xotic, Keeley and Suhr. All of our UK based guitarguitar stores have stock of the best compressor pedals money can buy so if you need some subtle production in your tone, come to guitarguitar and choose from the best selection available anywhere.

Frequently Asked Questions about Compressor Pedals

The most popular compressor pedal (and some would say best compressor pedal) is the Keeley Compressor Plus. The next most popular compressor is the effective and affordable MXR M102 Dyna Comp.
The Threshold dictates how loud a signal gets to be before the compression kicks in. The Ratio decides how much compression is applied. For example, a ratio 2:1 means that that input signal needs to be 2dB over the threshold before the output attenuates to 1dB above the threshold, i.e. halving it in accordance with the ratio. If the signal were 8dB above, a ratio of 2:1 would attenuate the signal by 4dB. A compression ratio of 3:1 is thought to be moderate, 5:1 is medium and 8:1 is a relatively strong level of compression.
Most people have their compressor at the beginning of their chain so that every pedal afterwards benefits from the compressed tone. Some players like to have their wah before the compressor since the wah sweep will seem enhanced and wider this way. We support this practice too. Other players put their compressor at the end of the chain to give the signal a boost but this also makes any little bits of noise or hum coming from the pedals more pronounced and for that reason, we'd suggested maybe not putting the compressor at the end of the chain.
It is perhaps easier to answer the reverse: what kind of guitarists don't need a compressor? The answer to that would be players in heavy genres who use high gain tones since high levels of compression naturally occur with these levels of distortion. Most other styles can benefit from a little judicious compressing: jazz, funk and pop are just a few examples of genres that benefit from more 'produced' guitar sounds.
It is indeed! The 'Red compressor', so beloved of Nashville guitarists and songwriters, is the MXR Dyna Comp. With only two control knobs for Output and Sensitivity, clean tone aficionados have been getting endless mileage out of this pedal for decades and it sees no sign of slowing down.