Many guitar players are always searching for the next great pedal to put on their massive spaceship of a pedal board. Whether that is a cool delay or modulation effect or a gnarly fuzz, everyone is searching for the next pedal that will inspire them to create the sound that has been in their head for years. It is always an incredible feeling to find that next cool, wild pedal but there are also a few pedal board staples. One of those staples is a compressor. If you were to look at most pedal boards, most players are going to have a compressor of some kind in their signal chain. We all have them, however do we know what they are actually doing to our tone and how they work? In this post I am going to talk a bit about compressors, what they do, how they do it, and a few of our favorite compressors here at Lunar Music Supply.
Compression is easily the most misunderstood effect in the history of guitar effects. So, what is Compression? The easiest way to explain a compressor is to describe it almost as a little helper in your signal chain. With a compressor engaged, it is going to help with dynamics. It helps to keep signal dynamics under control so that you don’t have to crank your amplifier for little quiet parts and then so it doesn’t destroy the audience’s ears when that kick ass solo comes up. This is why compression is often referred to as a leveling amplifier. Compression is an extremely helpful tool that can add body to your tone without waking the neighbors as well as add sustain to your sound. Compression is an automatic volume control that is turning down and turning up when necessary. However, it does this faster than anyone could turn up or down a knob on a pedal or rack unit and when it is mixed appropriately, it can be very transparent. Compression should only add to your sound and not take anything away.
Most players when adding compression to their rig will put it in the beginning of the signal chain. They do this for many reasons: One reason is because they are designed to hold dynamics in a certain range and if they are placed after delays and reverbs then it will cause the compressor to alter the fading out of the “wet” effects and then causing it to not sound natural. However it is important to note that putting a compressor in front of certain overdrive and distortion pedals can severely limit and alter the dynamics of the pedal and compression is not needed. Putting compressors in front of these pedals is very common and can be extremely useful, players just must be careful to avoid altering the tone too much. Compressors are extremely useful for clean tones or lightly overdriven ones. Compression with these types of tones will add sustain and help those more intricate, quiet parts to stand out more.
Overall, Compression may not be as cool or flashy as some other types of effects but it can really make a tonal difference. A touch of compression can be a player’s best friend and add a nice touch to anyones tone. It can give a nice finished sound while adding thickness and much more. The moral of the story is you probably need a compressor and if you have one you need to use it correctly, you and your tone will be better off for it!
Here is some of our favorite compressors on the market right now, with a brief description from the manufacturer. Thanks for reading!
Cali 76 Compact Deluxe by Origin Effects - The Cali76 Compact Deluxe is an 1176-style studio-grade FET compressor.Featuring high-current, low-noise, discrete Class-A circuitry, and a dedicated parallel compression controlall contained in one compact, stompbox-sized package!
2026 Compressor by Bondi Effects - The 2026 Compressor is a full featured, high performance Blackmer® VCA powered compressor/limiter. It has all five traditional compression controls; RATIO, THRESHOLD, LEVEL, ATTACK and RELEASE; as well as a KNEE toggle switch. The 2026 is a completely transparent compressor. It does not filter or effect your tone in any way other than compressing it. Because of this it works equally well for bass as well as guitar.
Deep Six V3 by Walrus Audio - The Deep Six is a true bypass studio-grade compressor in stomp box form, inspired by the performance of the Universal Audio 1176 with the simplicity of the Ross and Dynacomp.
Pulp ’N’ Peel V4 by JHS Pedals - The Pulp ‘N’ Peel V4 is the truly transparent compressor pedal you’ve been hoping for and much more. Its smooth-sounding parallel compression circuit offers you the power to blend in your ideal balance of compressed and uncompressed signal.
Compressor Pro by Keeley Electronics - Keeley Compressor Pro. The stomp-box sized compressor/limiter is made in Oklahoma, USA and engineered to be an indispensable tool for your musical endeavors. It is in no way limited to be used with only guitar. It has been designed to work as a studio compressor accepting any range of inputs and a frequency response and noise level matching the finest compressors made.