Compression Pedal Reviews

Independent reviews of the best compression pedals.


Visual Sound Comp 66

Visual Sound has gone for looks over sound quality with this cute looking stompbox, but are they going down the right route? The Visual Sound Comp 66 is the offspring of the Route 66 American Overdrive stompbox, an overdriver that incorporated a compressor. The company’s marketing blurb claims that owners of the Route 66 American Overdrive believed the compressor channel to be so good that it deserved a dedicated stompbox of its own, hence the development of the Comp 66.

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Behringer CS100 Compressor Sustainer

Most Behringer pedals are cheaper knockoffs of of a Boss counterpart. In this case, the Behringer CS400 Compressor Sustainer is a clone of the Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer. Behringer manages to offer its pedal at a third of the price of Boss's by using cheaper components.

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Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone

The Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone is a high-end compressor with a couple of unique features. Unlike most compressors, it sports a blend knob that allows users to mix their dry signal with the pedal's compressed output. The Philosopher's Tone also offers on-board distortion with its 'grit' control. Overall, the build quality of this pedal was very high. The LED on the one I tested was not centered well in its bezel, but I noticed no flaws otherwise.

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MXR M-132 Super Comp

Unlike many of its competitors, the latest version of MXR’s classic compressor comes with an ‘attack’ dial, as well as ‘output’ and ‘sensitivity’ knobs. The goal of this is to alleviate that squishing tone found in earlier compressor models and with a bit of tweaking, the MXR M132 achieves this quite well. However, be careful. Once past noon, we thought the sustain had an artificial quality about it. Best keep it on low settings for a more natural tone.

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Keeley Compressor

Firstly, to avoid confusion, this is the 2-dial version of the popular and highly acclaimed Keeley Compressor. In fact, many stompbox devotees would rate this shiny little box firmly in their top ten pedals of all time. And rightly so! Outwardly the Keeley Compressor might look very basic, but it does exactly what it’s supposed to do and it does it very, very well.

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Electro-Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer

The Electro-Harmonix Freeze is a sustain pedal, but it isn't a compressor. It is actually a delay-based effect that can be used to create drones or imitate a grand piano's sostenuto pedal. To my knowledge, the Freeze offers a completely unique effect (except for some of the larger EHX pedals). In most settings, the pedal takes a very short sample of your signal when the foot switch is first depressed. This sample is repeated until the foot switch is released.

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MXR Custom Comp CSP202

MXR's CSP202 Custom Comp is a relatively new addition to their lineup. On the surface it looks like a Dyna Comp painted white, but the Custom Comp is a different animal altogether. Inside its slightly lighter chassis are two small pots controlling attack and tone. The footswitch has been replaced with one of much higher quality as well, though the general build style remains the same as any MXR pedal.

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Maxon CP101 Compressor

Coming from the same company that made the superlative Ibanez Tubescreamer, you’d expect the Maxon CP101 to be a real contender and certainly, when it came to the test, we had no complaints. Even at minimal settings, like any decent compressor should, the Maxon CP101 Compressor thickened out guitar tone nicely and managed to remove some of those weird noises that happen when you hit a string by mistake.

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Boss CS-3 Compressor Sustainer

Boss has a solid reputation among musicians for building rugged professional gear at a reasonable price point. Their compressor stompbox, the CS-3 Compression Sustainer has been a reliable choice for guitarists for over two decades. I found this pedal to be very versatile. It adequately added definition and sustain to distorted tones, and was able to even out my strumming volume effectively.

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Electro-Harmonix Black Finger Tube Compressor

Although targeting both the six-string and four-string markets, Electro-Harmonix’s Black Finger Compressor is really one for the four-stringers. At its heart are two 12AX7EH tube valves, which, no doubt, are the main reason for the above average price tag. However, those valves are the reason behind the authentically vintage sound produced by the Black Finger.

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