Compressor pedals can pack a punch for any guitarist as these pedals can add life to any signal chain. A compressor essentially aims to add balance to a guitar tone by subtracting over-prominent tonal characteristics and adding lesser-prominent characteristics. The resulting tone can be more well-rounded, with more sustain and a lesser degree of attack.
These handy pedals can also function as a beautiful boost pedal that can potently beef up a guitar signal when placed at the beginning of a chain. Compressors can also shape distortion-type pedals if placed after that particular section in a pedalboard. This invaluable pedal for metal guitarists can give you a consistent and well-balanced tone that can likely serve as an “always-on” utility pedal.
This post will cover the best compressor pedals for metal guitarists available on the market today.
Compressor Pedal Overview
The Keeley Compressor Plus is one of the best compressors currently available. So much so that the pedal is often in low supply due to high demand.
Beginner guitarists will find a wide range of capabilities in the budget friendly Donner Ultimate Comp.
The Xotic SP Compressor Mini is the compressor that has the most value per cost, providing transparent Ross Compressor-like compression in a tiny footprint.
The JHS 3 Series Compressor is the best compressor for those on a tight budget.
For those with no budget looking for the best money can buy, you can’t go wrong with the Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe.
Session guitarists may want to go with the MXR Dyna Comp, a long reliable studio standard known for enhancing clean tones.
Other worthy candidates for compressor pedals include the mid-priced Wampler Ego Compressor and always reliable Boss CS-3 Compressor. Each of these offers straightforward usability, making it easy to dial in tasty and helpful compression.
Read on to learn more about these compressor pedals in greater detail. By the end of the article, you will have the information to help you navigate the waters of the many compressor pedals available today.
Keeley Compressor Plus – Best Overall Compressor for Metal
- Precision of a studio rack mount JFET compressor in a pedal
- True bypass
- Blend knob for the perfect mixture of wet/dry mix
- Modes for humbucker or single-coil pickups
If you want the very best compressor available on the market today that is still relatively affordable for most budgets, you can’t go wrong with the Keeley Compressor Plus. This versatile compressor pedal is flexible and accommodating and performs well no matter what guitar you play.
The Keeley Compressor Plus features control knobs for sustain, level, and tone. A handy blend knob allows the guitarist to dial in the proper mix of clean signal and compressed signal.
One of the more attractive features of this pedal is a selector switch that changes the mode of compression to suit either humbucker or single-coil pickups. The mode switch essentially makes this one of the more flexible compression pedals available, and it makes this pedal a hard contender to beat.
- A high degree of control, with a blend knob for the perfect mixture of wet/dry mix
- Mode selection switch for humbucker or single-coil pickups
- The pedal is in high demand, which can cause a shortage of available supply.
Donner Ultimate Comp – Best Compressor Pedal for Beginners
The best compressor pedal for a beginner will provide a wide range of features while also being relatively easy on any budget. The Donner Ultimate Comp is a compressor that fits these criteria quite nicely.
If you’re new to pedals and unsure if a compressor is right for you, you can’t go wrong with the Ultimate Comp. It is a good basic compressor pedal and quieter with less tone coloration than some other more expensive pedals. Although cheap, Donner has a good reputation of producing good sounding and reliable products.
The Ultimate Comp has controls for Tone, Comp, Level and a switch to select between Normal and Treble mode. The Normal mode provides a more neutral optical compressor sound with more warmth while the Treble mode provides a brighter sound with more bite.
- Budget friendly
- True bypass
- Small foot print
- Effect may be too subtle for some uses.
- Requires a 9-volt DC power supply that is not included.
Xotic SP Compressor Mini – Best Value Compressor Pedal for Metal
Despite only being slightly more affordable than the Keeley Compressor Plus mentioned above, the Xotic SP Compressor Mini is a pedal that packs in the most value for its price.
The Xotic SP Compressor Mini is based on the Ross Compressor, a highly sought after and reputable compression pedal that could provide a clean and transparent compression with excellent performance.
This straightforward pedal features controls for blend and volume and a 3-way mode selector switch to change the level (low, mid, high) of compression. Internal dip switches are located within the pedal to provide even more customization.
Functionality aside, the Xotic SP Compressor Mini has a minimal footprint with its miniature-sized frame. The pedal has true bypass routing and is powered by a 9-volt DC power supply.
- Based on the iconic Ross Compressor
- A high degree of flexibility and performance
- Minimal footprint saves space on any pedalboard
- Some may prefer to have more controls available
- You can find a more inexpensive pedal
JHS 3 Series Compressor – Best Budget Metal Compressor Pedal
If you’re on a tight budget but looking for a fully capable compressor pedal, the JHS 3 Series Compressor is likely to be a good fit for you. This pedal packs much of the same functionality as seen on higher-end models but at an affordable price.
The JHS 3 Series Compressor features controls for volume, attack, and sustain. A selector switch changes the mode of compression to bias a brighter compression tone. Overall, this is a very straightforward pedal that isn’t very complicated to use.
The pedal features a super-clean white aesthetic constructed in a durable housing frame. A 9-volt DC power adapter is needed to run the pedal.
- Straightforward and easy to use
- Toggle switch available to brighten up compression tone
- The pedal can tend to muddy up the bass frequencies of the tone.
Wampler Ego Compressor – Best Mid-Priced Compressor Pedal
Another great compressor pedal available on the market is the Wampler Ego Compressor. This pedal can effectively beef up and balance any guitar signal and offers a wide range of control.
The Wampler Ego Compressor has controls for volume, sustain, attack response, tone, and a blend knob for wet compression/dry signal mixture. With these controls, the Wampler Ego Compressor allows you to easily shape the guitar’s tone in a straightforward, no-frills manner.
The pedal is handmade and housed in attractive blue sparkle housing. A 9-volt battery or 9-18-volt DC power supply is needed to power the pedal.
- Wide range of controls on tap
- Not likely to be suitable for some budgets
Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe – Best Premium/High-End Compressor Pedal
Suppose you are a metal guitarist with no budgetary concerns and are looking for the best studio-quality compressor pedal that you can add to your signal chain. Then the Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe is what you are looking for. This compressor is modeled after high-end rack unit compressor effects and delivers in a small package.
The Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe features a dry signal blend control and controls for compression ratio, levels for both input and output, sustain, and attack response. The pedal also features Class-A circuitry, low noise components, and buffered switching.
The pedal is housed in an attractive and durable stainless steel housing. Each Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe is handcrafted and inspected, and powered by a 9-volt or 18-volt DC power supply.
- High-quality components
- Studio-grade compression in a small housing
- A large number of control parameters are available
- Only for those with no budget
MXR Dyna Comp – Best Compressor Pedal for Session Guitarists
The MXR Dyna Comp is a standard among Nashville session players, but it’s popularity isn’t limited to country music. Over the years it’s been seen on the pedalboards of many guitarists covering all musical styles.
MXR takes pride in the color the Dyna Comp may add to your tone and is unapologetic about it not being a transparent compressor. It is known for enhancing a clean tone and increasing sustain. Can also be used as a clean boost.
The simple 2 knob controls make it easy to dial in the perfect settings.
Some players complain it can be noisy, but sometime it’s just doing it’s job and amplifying noise that’s already in the signal chain. An internal bias trim pot can help clean up some of the extra noise.
- Nashville studio standard
- Simple 2 knob control
- Enhance clean tone & sustain
- Clean boost
- Not transparent, added tone color may not be for everyone
Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer – Best Clean & Quiet Compressor
Boss got it right with this one. The top selling Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer has been in production since 1986. The only updates over the years have been to add a power supply jack and a change to an internal amplifier chip.
The CS-3 is known as subtle clean & quiet compressor with lots of sustain but it can also squeeze the signal hard to get percussive country and funk tones.
Controls for Level, Tone, Attack, and Sustain allow experts or beginners to dial in the perfect tone.
- Clean & quiet operation
- Reliable design & operation
- Tone coloration
Compression pedals are great utility pedals that can provide balance, sustain, and a sense of liveliness to any guitar signal chain. These pedals are often used in an “always-on” application due to the tonal benefits guitarists receive.
Sure, these might not be as exciting tone-changing as a modulation pedal. However, compressors can give your guitar tone that magic touch equivalent to a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae.
Compressor Pedal Recap
To briefly review our findings of the best compressor pedals available today that metal guitarists can benefit from, we found the Keeley Compressor Plus to be the best compressor overall. The pedal offers a degree of flexibility that can accommodate both single-coil and humbucker guitars. It can be out of stock quite often due to high demand.
The compressor that has the most value is by far the Xotic SP Compressor Mini. This pedal packs in top-of-the-line transparent compression in a small form factor suitable for any pedalboard, and it is also straightforward to use.
Those on a tighter budget will find a fully capable compressor in the JHS 3 Series Compressor. This pedal delivers compression in a no-frills manner while being easy for most budgets to handle.
Those with no budgetary concerns will find that the Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe is one of the best compressor pedals money can buy. The pedal features studio-grade compression and is handmade with Class-A circuitry and low-noise components.
Beginner guitarists will find the Donner Ultimate Comp to be an excellent option for their first compressor pedal. This pedal is easy to use, and easy on the wallet.
Other noteworthy alternatives include the Wampler Ego Compressor and the Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer. The Wampler Ego Compressor has a high degree of control, while the Boss CS-3 is a classic reliable pedal.
Don’t overlook the importance of a compressor. Take a moment to try some of these pedals out in a music shop near you. By trying these pedals out firsthand, you will be able to develop an internal catalog of which pedals have the best tonal benefits provided to your playing style. You might find the missing puzzle piece of your tone that you’ve long been searching for.