Compression is a tool you are definitely going to want to consider adding to your toolkit in order to get the most out of your tone. In this article I will outline what compression is and go over the pedals that I think are the best compression pedal options out there based on price, popularity and controls.
Compression is a kind of effect that when you first plug it in and turn it on it will be a bit tough to judge what it is actually doing. However, when you take it away after playing with it for a while you will truly miss it. It is kind of a best-kept secret for touring and gigging guitarists. It helps create a studio like sound when playing live and helps you ensure your tone and guitar sound is going to be on point and mesh with the rest of the band.
It is important to also know it goes in the pedal chain. Some people like compression before or after effects like fuzz or distortion, while some like it to be before any type of pedal or even amp reverb. I personally like to have this pedal right next to my tuner, so it is essentially the first pedal on my board.
Some people may be asking if the actually need a one of these things? To that I would say, if you are asking then you should go out and try one. Chances are you don't know what you are missing until it is gone... or was never there in the first place.
Compression is very much like it sounds. It compresses your guitar signal and based on your settings will limit the amount of certain signals entering the signal path and going down the line. Simply put it can make the elements of the signal that are too loud go quieter and the elements of the signal that are too quite go louder. It balances out the sound of your guitar and helps you maintain consistency in your playing.
This can be extremely helpful for controlling your guitar when you are playing live or jamming with other people. I know in my own experience I can get excited or amped up when I am playing live and thus start to strum my guitar a bit too hard, or pick a quiet part a bit to aggressively. In these moments of human error, I know I can rely on my compression settings to ensure no bad sounds get amplified through the monitors and to the audience.
These effects can come in all shapes and sizes and can include a wide variety of controls. Some pedals only have limited compression controls while others are extremely detailed and precise. When choosing a compression pedal it is important to take into consideration what you need out of it and where you are in terms of level of playing.
The MXR Dyna Comp is an extremely easy to use and effective compressor pedal. Like all MXR pedals it is a very well constructed unit and can be relied on during the test of time. It has also been around since 1975 and is known as being one of the most popular and best out there.
The Dyna Comp has two dial knobs that control the output of the pedal and the sensitivity of the compression. The output knob is fairly self-explanatory; essentially the louder you want your guitar the more you will turn this knob up. The sensitivity knob is the amount of compression added to the signal. The lower the sensitivity the drier the signal, the higher the sensitivity more of the effect is added.
What is pretty cool about the Dyna-Comp is it is actually an analog compressor. So it is probably the most similar to any old school compressor that you would have found on late 60's early 70's tracks. I purchased this guy a little while back and really like it. It can sound kind of gritty on your clean tones but honestly I like that. Kind of gives my solid state a tube amp feel. I would say though, you may want to buy this one as well as another effect that gives you more options, since it is pretty limited.
One thing though, if you are looking for a really clean sounding effect then you may want to go to one of the digital compressors or something that is designed to be a bit more modern. All and all though, this is a dope pedal!
This is a fairly boutique pedal to be on this list but it is definitely one of the best out there in my opinion. It has unbelievable tone control and hardly makes any noise when engaged, which can be a downfall for some compressor pedals on the market.
The pedal has four control knobs on it: a level knob, sustain knob, attack knob and a clipping knob. The level and sustain knobs are basically the same type of controls as the output and sensitivity knob on the Dyna Comp respectively. The level knob controls the overall output of the pedal and the sustain knob controls the amount of compression put on the signal.
The attack knob controls how quickly the timing is activated and can be a beneficial control to tweak the tone of the pedal and your guitar to make it a bit more aggressive or to back it off a bit.
The clipping knob is an interesting control unique to the Keely 4 Knob Compressor and almost acts as a pre gain or pre level for the signal entering from the guitar. It can be very helpful if you are experiencing some natural distortion or clipping if you have sustain cranked. With this knob you can dial it back to get a clean sound with a tone of sustain.
Boss is pretty much on all of my lists because I just really like how well their pedals are constructed and where they come in for price point and the quality you get. Just like the boss pedals we have reviewed in other articles like the best distortion & chorus pedals, the CS-3 is no exception to that and is a solid unit that simply gets the job done.
It isn’t fancy and nor is it claiming to be. The CS-3 produces a solid compression and it would be a great first compression pedal to pick up if you are just getting started with playing live with a band or by yourself!
The CS-3 has 4 knobs to assist you in reaching perfection in your tone. There is a level knob to control the overall level of the pedal. A tone knob to help mix in either low or high frequencies. There is an attack knob, similar to the Keely compressor, to enhance the aggressiveness of your signal. Finally a sustain knob to control the amount of compression applied to the signal.
This is really cool pedal in my opinion and it sounds great! At first glance I was a bit shocked at the price compared to some of the other pedals out there and the options they come with. However, after diving into this pedal I realized how versatile it really is.
The construction of this pedal is very solid for its size and it is surprisingly heavy for a little pedal the size of some of the Donner pedals we have reviewed, which are cheaper pedal options overall. There is nothing cheap about the Xotic Effects SP Compressor though.
On the face of the pedal it has two knobs to control the volume of the pedal and the blend of the compression from the dry signal to a compressed signal. There is also a three-way tone switch to toggle between Hi Lo and Mid compression.
Where this pedal gets interesting is when you unscrew the back to access the battery and chipboard. There are four switches in the back compartment to assist in picking the best tone and compressor settings for you. I personally really like this feature of the pedal because with compression, you may not be changing it too often and sometimes when all of the controls are on the front they can get switched around in transport.
When talking about cheap pedals I always feel like I need to say you do really get what you pay for. This is especially the case for compression as it is usually the first pedal that your guitar signal hits and controls the overall signal.
When you cheap out here you run the chance of accidently cheaping out further down the line. However, the below pedals are the best you can get on a budget, and like a lot of struggling musicians out there, I understand you may not always be able to get the best of the best.
Behringer is a bit of a king when it comes to cheap pedals. They get the job done and do not hurt the bank balance one bit. However, something to take into consideration is the noise these pedals can make and sometimes you even get radio signals through them, but hey, maybe you want to listen to some radio while jamming!
However I have owned these pedals before, they are especially great for just starting out with an effect and experimenting with it to see if it is right for you and your style of playing.
The CS400 is kind of a carbon copy of the Boss CS-3 when it comes to the control knobs. It has the exact same four knobs for level, tone, attack and sustain. If you are looking at getting the CS-3 but don’t have the budget, go for the CS400 instead!
I really like Joyo pedals when it comes to cheaper pedal options. I think I would say this is the best cheap option because it doesn’t make as much noise as the Behringer pedal does.
It does the trick and when it comes to compression is pretty solid for the price. It has three control knobs on the face of the pedal. The knobs are for sustain, or amount of compression, the level to control the overall output of the pedal and also the attack knob to control how aggressive the signal is.
I like the design of this pedal as well. Although it doesn’t add any audible benefits it sure looks cool in your pedal board. I mean, can you really go wrong with having a cool ass scorpion on the front of the pedal? I think not.
The wah pedal is one of the most iconic pedals out there. It has been used by guitar legends such as, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Eric Clapton not to mention countless other artists in many hit songs. In this review we look at four different wah pedals to help you find the best wah pedal for the sound you are striving for!
I personally love the sound of the wah pedal because of its ability to create human like tones from the guitar. This may sound goofy, but there is no simpler way to explain the sound the wah makes than to say “waka waka” over and over. Plus, when paired with some other pedals like a phaser & tremolo it can get pretty wild.
Your voice makes a similar kind of sound that the wah pedal can produce by moving the pedal from top to bottom. However, for a less goofy and more audible example of the wah pedal in use, take a listen to Jimi Hendrix’s song Voodoo Child In the below video:
The wah pedal, also known as the wah-wah pedal, was created by accident in the mid 60’s by an engineer by the name of Brad Plunkett. At the time he was a junior engineer for the Thomas Organ Company and was tasked with replacing an expensive circuit switch with a cheaper transistorized solid state mid range boost circuit. However, we don’t need to bore you with the technical jargon.
Basically they were messing around with a solid-state amp and wanted to control the tone better. They put the circuit into an organ volume pedal casing, because they were an organ company, and the result was a footswitch that could create sweeping tones at the touch of your foot.
At the time there was nothing like it on the market and as we know it became extremely popular. Known for being used heavily in psychedelic blues in the late 60’s, funk in the 70’s and much more versatile uses in modern day music, it is a must have for any guitar player.
Considering the Wah came out around the same time as some gain pedals did it is no wonder that a fuzz pedal matched with the perfect fuzz or distortion sounds unreal! Check out our picks for the best fuzz pedal and distortion pedal options.
This is the original wah pedal. The design of the modern day Original Cry Baby stays true to the construction and electronic design that Brad Plunkett created at The Thomas Organ Company. In modern day, there are a dozen different versions of the Cry Baby wah pedal out there but there is something special about the sound of the Original Cry Baby Wah.
This was the wah pedal that was first used in so many hit songs by guitar legends Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. When these guys used this pedal it revolutionized blues music and psychedelic styles of playing. If they used it, I will use it 100%.
Its rugged metal casing, and well-built foot control pedal makes this an awesome pedal that will last the test of time. It is extremely simple to use, nothing fancy at all, but in this case simple is the best way to go.
When used with a clean setting it creates the classic sounding funk wah tone known and loved in the genre. When paired with a distorted fuzzy tone it can make an epic solo sound even better or create a psychedelic washing sound in the background of what you are playing.
All and all this is the pedal to go for if you are searching for the classic tones and sounds of the original wah pedal. Definitely a contender for the best wah pedal out there!
Vox also made a wah pedal in the late 60’s and was quite popular, offering a different tone and construction to the cry baby wah pedal. The modern day design of this pedal is sturdy and well constructed; it is a strong pedal with a great tone and will definitely last the test of time.
The tone when the Vox Classic Wah is engaged is a warm, tubey sounding signal with lots of play and versatility in the foot pedal movement. This is could be a contender for the best wah pedal for funk music as it has a warm tone for rhythmic parts but also a big growl when it needs to.
There are subtle differences between the Vox Classic Wah vs the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah. The main differences between the two are basically the tone and whether or not they are true bypass. To me, the Vox pedal is a bit warmer and tubey where the cry baby is a bit crisper. One thing to consider as well is the Vox pedal is not true bypass and the Cry Baby is.
Check out the below video that compares the two:
Today there are many different wah pedal variations out there. Throughout history different guitar legends wanted different tones, sweep ranges and controls on their wah pedals and manufacturers complied. Because of that you can buy many different guitar player’s wah pedals online or at your local guitar store. However, if you don’t know what sound you are going for or want to create your own tone why not buy a pedal that can accomplish that?
This is why I wanted to include the Dunlop Multi Wah into this review. We went over where the wah came from and the two best classic wah pedals on the market. Now we need to talk about the modern day wah pedal.
The Multi Wah looks and feels like a cry baby wah pedal. However, it is vastly different. Mainly because there are several controls that allow you to adjust the pedal’s sound for various songs, or to tighten up the sound you like best!
Although pretty basic, the controls on the wah pedal offer some great versatility. There is a large dial on the right hand side of the pedal that controls 6 different settings. Setting 1 has more treble and as you switch to setting 6 the sound contains more bass signal and becomes pretty fat.
On the left hand side across from the large setting dial, there are two smaller dials that control the sweep range of the wah pedal, going from very little range to a lot of range, and the boost control that increases the wah level by up to 15 db. The boost on the wah is toggled on and off by using a small red kick button on the back right side of the pedal.
All and all this is a great pedal for anyone who is striving for the perfect tone and wants versatility in their wah experience. Definitely a pedal to consider bringing it home with you.
I wanted to include this pedal in this review because I think it is a pretty cool design. The sound is also really great and it was made with the influence of Steve Vai so can’t really go wrong there either.
The best feature I think this pedal has is the fact that it is a switchless wah pedal. Meaning you do not need to click in the small button at the bottom of the wah like you need to with the Cry Baby, Vox Classic Wah and Multi Wah. Instead, all you need to do is put your foot on the pedal and the pedal engages the wah.
There are also some controls on the Bad Horsie 2 that make it pretty desirable. Two dials on the side of the pedal to control the level and intensity of the pedal. These controls can be engaged when you click the button on the contour of the pedal, appropriately named contour mode.
The chorus effect is known for broadening a sound and adding a beautiful air around the signal we put through it. It does that by repeating the same sound overtop of itself multiple times, but in a very different way than the delay pedal. It is the same pitch but with slight modulation so the sound becomes fuller. It almost sounds like the tone is submersed underwater.
Chorus has been used in audio recordings and composition for many years. It was first integrated into music by grouping like sounding instruments together like the human voice or string ensembles. Today we can recreate it using technology so individual instruments and artists can use the effect with ease.
Early composers realized how outstanding the same part repeated multiple times using the same instrument can sound. Some of the best classical music uses the chorus effect just by adding in 3-4 layers of the same part. In a choir people sing the same parts and it makes the part sound amazingly full compared to having just one instrument play the part.
The unfortunate thing about creating a chorus effect naturally is that we are not all composers that have access to multiple musicians and instruments. Luckily for us we can achieve a similar result through technology.
Using technology we can duplicate an audio signal coming from one instrument and modulate it to create an awesomely full chorus effect. Most chorus effects are designed to be pedals, rack plug-ins or even tabletop units.
The basic mechanics of the chorus pedal are fairly simple. The incoming signal gets split and one of the signals pitch gets slightly modulated and the timing gets slightly changed. The two signals get paired back together and the result is a signal that sounds airy and broader.
In today’s day the chorus effect has been extremely well used in some of popular music’s greatest hits. You can hear it clearly used in Nirvana’s hit Come As You Are. Also, it was used very widely in the 80’s. So if that is a time period you love, you will most likely love the chorus pedal. However, if you don’t like the 80’s, you still might love the chorus pedal!
It is a modulation pedal at its basics. We did a review on the best phaser pedal which was also a modulation pedal, click the link to check it out! Also, the chorus pedal pairs really well with a delay pedal to give a really submersed and ambient sound.
Take a listen to “Come As You Are” below:
In this review we take a look at three of our top picks for the best chorus pedal out there. These were picked due to the tones they produce, popularity, durability and price. Chorus can be a very subjective sound for what you think sounds best, so make sure to listen to the videos posted below as well!
The beautiful thing about this pedal is that is an analog pedal. Meaning it keeps true to the input signal without digitally modulating it. This gives it a really warm and natural feel.
The controls on this pedal are straightforward and awesome. There are two EQ knobs to get your high and low-end sounds mixed perfectly. There is a level knob that controls the amount of chorus mixed in with the clean tone. There is a rate knob that controls the speed at which the timing of the split signal gets altered. As well as a depth knob that controls how deep the sound feels.
The pedal comes stock with a beautiful aqua blue, specifically suiting to the underwater sound of the chorus pedal. The MXR Analog Chorus Pedal is an outstanding warm sounding chorus pedal with a great tone. It definitely deserves a spot on the list of the best chorus pedals out there!
Take a listen below:
The Super Chorus is a more modern sounding pedal then the MXR Analog Chorus Pedal as it is a digital chorus pedal. However, there maybe previously made analog super choruses out there I have not found.
It is a very simple to use pedal with 4 control knobs and a signature boss style stomp switch to toggle it from true bypass or chorus. There is a knob to control the EQ, however, I am partial to having more than one EQ knob but one is better than none! It also has a knob for effect level, a knob for depth and a knob for the rate.
It is a clean sounding chorus pedal that errs closer on the side of the highs then the low frequencies. It is used best with a brighter sounding amp. The pedal pretty much matches the volume of the guitar not adding or taking away any signal strength.
All and all this is a great sounding pedal if you are looking for a generally brighter sounding chorus pedal or looking to get the stability and durability of a boss pedal!
Take a listen below:
This pedal is on the list due to the tone it creates, as the tone is unbelievably nice. It is one of the most true chorus sounding pedals out there and has been used by some of history’s great musicians, including Kurt Cobain.
It is extremely simple to use. It has one knob on it to control the chorus. This means a lot of the guesswork can be taken out of the picture to create a great chorus tone through the EQ knobs like you do with the MXR or Boss pedals, but for some players I know this will be a huge downfall for it. It also has a switch that can toggle between deep or shallow chorus sounds.
It is an analog pedal as well so one can really hear the warmth in it. I think it sounds warmer then the MXR personally, but decide for yourself and listening below:
This pedal is on this list because it is a great sounding chorus pedal for its price point. It is the cheapest pedal on the list and could be a strong contender that could classify as the best cheap chorus pedal on the market. Because of this though, it won’t sound quite as smooth and warm as the MXR or bright and full as the Super Chorus but it will do the job a chorus pedal needs to do!
For how cheap it is it really does sound full. Most cheap pedals out there sound a bit flat and empty when the effect is engaged. Pretty much because of the cheap parts used in the circuitry. However, the Joyo Classic Chorus Pedal almost sounds as warm as the MXR Analog Chorus pedal, but not quite. This would definitely be a better suggestion than a Behringer pedal in this instance because the Behringer Chorus pedal does have a bit of a metallic sound, tinny and too light.
Take a listen below:
There are many great delay pedals on the market and to be honest it was a pretty tough decision putting together this list. The below review is our pick for the top 5 best delay pedal options. The review includes a mix of digital delay pedals and analog delay pedals, as well as two cheap delay pedal options for the budget conscious guitar player.
Before getting into the details on the best delay pedals we chose for this review, lets take a look at what a delay pedal actually is. More advanced players can feel free to skip ahead.
The delay pedal is essentially the same effect as an echo or repetition of a certain sound or signal. It is like yelling “HELLO!” in a big valley or empty hall. As cliché as it is if you listen carefully enough you will be able to hear hello being repeated even though you only said it once.
Similarly to the reverb pedal, using large spaces in nature was one of the first and most rudimentary ways to create delay, and due to that the effect has been reproduced as a recording technique throughout history. Early composers used different types of rooms to create delay effects, similar to how different rooms were used to create reverb. The effect caught on and people began to experiment with different techniques to create delay or echo.
Initially, delay was introduced in the recording realm in the 20’s and 30’s using an analog reel-to-reel magnetic tape recorder. Engineers figured out that if you recorded a sound live onto a magnetic tape and then at the same time turn on the play back system. The result is an echo or delay effect.
Essentially the sound gets recorded magnetically on the tape and the tape moves towards the play back system. Depending on the speed of the reel you can control the time period of the delay. This is due to the fact that it takes a certain amount of time for the magnetic recording to reach the play back system.
Engineers started to recognize the power and potential of the delay effect and started experimenting with different ways to produce the effect. Through that development came the use of electronics to create delay and the modern day delay effect was born.
Today, and for this review, we will focus on the two main types of delay pedal options, analog delay pedals and digital delay pedals. The two types of delays are very similar in terms of practicality but have some distinct differences in terms of tone and sound. This is the same as other types of analog pedals vs digital pedals such as a tremolo or a chorus pedal.
As a rule of thumb, digital delay pedals are crisper and cleaner sounding and analog delay pedals are warmer and have a more vintage sound. There can be benefits and drawbacks for each pedal option so you will need to know your sound in order to pick the best delay pedal for you.
Probably one of the most popular delay pedals on the market, the Boss DD-7 is a digital delay pedal but has a mode that models an analog pedal. Like all boss pedals the DD-7 is constructed using industrial parts so it is made to last.
The pedal itself has a large boss style stomp switch and 4 knobs for
· Analog: models the tone of the DD-2. It is a warmer sounding delay that is full and while not quite a true analog delay it does a pretty good job of emulating it.
· Modulated: modulates the signal to produce a chorus/phaser type of sound within the delay. If you are going for an “airy” type of sound this is definitely a good setting.
· Reverse: reverses the signal and produces a backwards delay. Jimi Hendrix used this type of effect in an amazing way to produce some backward sounding solos.
· Hold: acts as a loop so you can experiment with different harmonies, or looping effects. However, it should be noted that if you are looking for a loop pedal then you might want to search elsewhere. The DD-7 allows for a 40 second loop but you cannot store any presets.
One great feature that was added to the DD-7 when it came out was the tap delay time where you can tap the pedal to set the delay. Tapping the pad that comes with the pedal though is a bit tricky for live settings because as soon as you disengage the delay it forgets your tempo. However, you can buy an external pedal that you can plug into the DD-7 and control the tempo at any time through it.
All and all this is a great pedal and you get a lot of bang for your buck because of all of the different types of delay options within it. It also comes in at a fairly solid price so wont necessarily break the bank account.
The Flash Back delay pedal is a great sounding unit with plenty of versatility and options. Like Boss TC Electronics design a solid pedal built to last. However, the Flash Back has a few more delay options then the DD-7 has.
The pedal includes 9 different types of delay, a loop option and a tone print option where you can download signature delay sounds from the TC Electron website. It also includes a click button switch, delay switch (for breaking up the delay into quarter notes, dotted quarter notes and eighth notes), as well as 3 knobs. The knobs control the effect level, delay time and feedback of the delay.
The different delay options are chalked full of some really interesting sounds to experiment with:
· 2290: This is a basic clean digital delay. Very crisp and keeps the delayed signal free from any muck as it repeats.
· Analog: like the DD-7 the Flashback has an analog setting. The delay is warmer and fades away a bit quicker then the 2290 option.
· Tape: the tape delay setting emulates the warmness of using an actual tape delay. Can be a great option if you want the sustenance of a digital delay with the warmness of an analog delay.
· Lo-Fi: the lo-fi option is a really cool delay effect that produces a really gritty sounding delay. Lo-Fi meaning low fidelity, making it a bit grittier.
· Dynamic: This setting is dynamic to the way you play the guitar and when used correctly can offer some really interesting sounds.
· Modulated: Like the DD-7 the modulated setting modulates the signal to produce a chorus/phaser type of sound within the delay.
· Ping Pong: this setting can be used if you are using the stereo outputs. It “ping pongs” the signal from the left speaker to the right speaker.
· Slap: this is a similar tone to what the slap back reverb would sound like we reviewed previously. But has more sustain on the delay then a reverb would… being it is a delay!
· Reverse: this reverses the signal producing a backward sound, just like we explained above with DD-7.
· Loop: a 40 second loop setting.
· Tone Print: this setting is pretty awesome because you can print different kinds of delay sounds from the Internet to get the perfect sound you are looking for.
The Flash Back is a great delay pedal option and very versatile. It comes in at a comparable price to the DD-7 and would be a great pick due to the different options of delay that come stock. If the regular flashback isn’t enough for you, TC Electronics offers 3 different kinds of flash back delay pedals with multiple presets as well as looping options.
This is a truly analog delay pedal and because of that it puts the analog settings on the DD-7 and Flash Back to shame. It has very warm repeats and as you stack more sounds on top of each other you can hear the repeats get broken up in true analog fashion.
Analog delay pedals aren’t for everyone or every type of music though. Since it is truly analog when you overload the signal it can start to sound a bit off, or if you plug too many pedals in to your chain and activate them it can have a dubious effect. But for a lot of players, analog is the only way to go.
The Carbon Copy is a pretty simple to use pedal. It has a click button type switch, three knobs controlling regeneration, mix and delay time, plus it also includes a button for modulation so you can get those nice sounding chorus repeats.
You can hear the Carbon Copy in action in the below video from Pro Guitar Shop Demos:
Like in some of our previous reviews, we like to throw in a couple of cheaper options for beginners or guitar players who aren’t ready to throw mega bucks in to their gear. Although it goes to say you do truly get what you pay for, these two delay pedals are a great bang for your buck!
The VD400 is a strong contender for the best cheap delay pedal on the market. It has one delay option that is a fairly clear digital delay sound. It has three knobs to control the repeat rate, echo and intensity.
Like all Behringer pedals it needs to be taken good care of in order for it to really last, but if you can do that then you have a good sounding delay pedal at an amazing price!
This is an extremely simple but great sounding delay pedal for the price it comes in at. I think I like the tone of the delay repeats from the Donner over the Behringer VD400, but both are good cheap delay pedals.
The controls on this pedal consist of a large knob for controlling the time of the delay repeats. It also has two smaller knobs to control echo and amount of feedback. All and all a great sounding pedal but on the cheaper side!