Compressor pedals control the dynamics of your playing, smoothing out
the overall level by squashing the loud bits and swelling the
quiet bits. The result is a more balanced sound, increased sustain and,
in some cases, added bite and attack.
Many guitarists play for years without feeling the need, or simply not
understanding the need for compression. But once they try it, there's
often no turning back. It really can give your tone the life it needs,
especially if you're relying on cheap amplification. It's no
coincidence that compression is a staple part of any professional
studio and stage rig.
Take a look below for what are considered among many pro guitarists the
best budget compressor pedals available brand new today.
Best Compressor Pedal Under $100
A faithful reissue of a studio classic the MXR
M-102 Dyna Comp is the go-to pedal for many pro musicians,
yet far from the most expensive. Ideal for guitarists who want that
crusty, biting attack on their overdriven lead lines and smooth,
balanced sustain on their cleans. It's not the most transparent of
pedals, but then most people buy a compressor to enhance their tone.
Typical, minimalist MXR configuration with two controls - Output and
Sensitivity. Simply match the output level to your bypass/raw
signal volume and tweak the sensitivity to taste. Push the output
further for a pleasant boost.
Also typical is the robust, tank-like build, so there are no
reliability concerns for even the hardest working musician.
The Dyna Comp can add a real punch to
your pick attack. Users note how it brings your tone to life, surfacing
and boosting those otherwise hidden away percussive dynamics. It's
often described as the "clicky" sound you hear on professional
recordings, the crisp edges of each note. Chicken pickers and jagged
rhythm players really appreciate this pedal. It brings
humbuckers out of the dark and gives single coil tones even more chime
So bear in mind, the M-102 is not just a leveller and sustainer, it
adds depth and attack. Underneath the crust is smooth, balanced,
singing sustain. Users who have been trying to tap or play serious
legato stuff without decent compression feel a new lease of
life. That's a confidence boost along with the tone! Runs flow more
fluidly as the "roll" effect is enhanced. No longer will you need to
crank up the distortion in an attempt to melt each note into the next.
The only issue that brings the rating down in a few cases is the noise,
when coupled with moderate to heavy distortion. As experienced players
will tell you, this is a common issue on compressors in general,
especially with single coil pickups, but nothing a noise gate won't
fix. Ultimately, noise is the price you pay for such a sweeping signal
boost. Those who play clean or with a conservative twist of overdrive,
however, will have less need to tame the beast.
Best Cheap Compressor Pedal for Tight Budgets
You can always trust Behringer for decent quality pedals at a
ridiculously low price (we're talking less than $30). The reviews are a
bit more mixed, but the overall consensus is that the DC9
pedal is a capable and reliable addition to your board for
looking for basic compression. An absolute steal for the price.
Overall gentler compression than the Dyna Comp, the Behringer
DC9 does what your basic compressor should - equalises
increases sustain and adds a little bite to your pick attack. Gear
enthusiasts will tell you that the DC9 actually uses the same circuitry
and configuration as the Dyna, just with cheaper parts, which
is why it's often referred to as a "Dyna clone". Technically, perhaps,
but there is a
clear difference in sound.
The DC9 gives you a boost, but with a bias toward the treble. This can
either be seen as a flaw (for example, some see it as an undesirable
inbalance and/or loss of low end warmth), or an enhancement for those
who want a tight but punchy funk effect. The increase in treble can
always be compensated for through your amp or EQ if the compressor is
The key thing is it doesn't SUCK tone, whether on or bypassed.
You don't get that satisfying click of the Dyna Comp, but for those who
simply want to smooth out their playing, limit any over indulged pick
attack and generally tighten things up, it does a fine job. It'll also
give your cleans that little bit of extra sparkle.
The pedal itself is solid and will withstand years of stomping, which
puts the similarly priced Danelectro to shame (and no disrespect to
Dan, they make a killer
The bottom line is, if you just want a basic compressor, save your
money and go for the Behringer. However, if you're looking for some
serious extra bite and sustain, or at least want the option for more
heavily squashed sounds, it's worth saving that bit more for the MXR.
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