• Pros: This pedal is versatile and solidly constructed. It also features more controls than similarly priced pedals.
• Cons: It sounds okay but doesn’t particularly stand out from the crowd when producing very bitey or very noticeably compressed tones.
• Overall: The CS-3 is a solid choice in terms of durability, versatility, and economy.
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. Like any compressor, the CS-3 does amplify noise in your signal, especially at high sustain settings. I wouldn’t characterize it as a particularly noisy pedal, but it is not remarkably quiet either.
The CS-3 stands out from its competitors by offering both an attack control and a tone control in addition to the standard level and sustain (compression). Even with the added tone control, I couldn’t get the CS-3 to sound as spanky as its predecessor the CS-2, but it worked well as a tool to manage my volume for passages of heavy strumming. I did notice a drop in overall volume when I activated the pedal with all the knobs at 12:00, but this should be a non-issue if the volume knob is used correctly.
My most satisfying experience with this pedal was when I used it at more subtle settings to add clarity and sustain to my clean picking. There is no substitute for good technique, but a little compression does make it easier to get a consistent sound out of an electric guitar. This pedal excels as a subtle tone enhancer, and I would suggest it for that purpose.