Top 11 Best Compressor Pedals For Guitar & Bass


Compressor pedals may not be flashy or exciting but they can play a major role in producing a tone you can be happy with. The thickening/sustaining effect of a compressor can add presence, weight and strength to your signal like no other effect. Compressors can even go as far as producing pleasant distortion in your signal.

Whether you’re playing live, recording in the studio or even just practicing in your room, a compressor pedal can be an invaluable tool to getting you the tone you deserve.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top 11 best compressor pedals in the world. There will be 5 pedals designed for guitar signals and 6 pedals for bass guitar. Of course, we can mix and match and still achieve great results. I’m just going for the best options for guitar and bass guitar separately.

The 5 best compressor pedals for guitar are:

The 6 best compressor pedals for bass guitar are:

Let’s discuss each pedal on this list and the reasons why they are the best.

Note that any “best of” list like this is subjective. I stand by my choices and would expect you to have your own top 11. Hopefully, there’s plenty of overlap!


What Are Compressor Pedals & How Do They Work?

Compressor pedals, as the name suggests, work to compress the input signal.

Compression is a dynamic effect that acts to reduce the dynamic range of a signal (the difference between the highest amplitude and zero amplitude).

Compressors do so by attenuating the amplitude of an input signal above a certain threshold point. They do so with three main controls:

  • Threshold: the amplitude level at which the compressor will kick in to reduce the signal level.
  • Ratio: the amount of attention that will happen as the input signal exceeds the threshold. Ratio is written as [input level above threshold]:[resulting output level above threshold].
  • Attack and release: the amount of time it takes for the compressor to engage and disengage once it’s triggered, respectively.

So then, the peak amplitudes of a compressed signal are brought down in level, bringing them closer to the lowest amplitudes of the signal. This helps to even the level out between hard and soft notes.

This reduction in dynamic range yields more sustain, a more controllable signal and, in some cases, audible distortion.

The overall level of the compressor output can be brought up to match the peak amplitude of the input signal via the unit’s make-up gain.

Compressor pedals act on the dynamics of the guitar (or other instrument) signal and are, therefore, best placed at or near the front of the signal chain. Experiment with different placements to find the best results for your tone.

Related article: How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)

With that being said, let’s talk about some compressor pedals!

To learn more about compressor pedals, check out my article What Are Compressor Pedals (Guitar/Bass) & How Do They Work?


Boss CP-1X Compressor

First up is the Boss CP-1X Compressor (link to check the price on Amazon): an industry-standard when it comes to compression pedals.

Boss CP-1X Compressor

The CP-1X utilizes Boss’s proprietary Multi-Dimensional Processing (MDP) technology. This advanced multiband compression analyzes the various elements that make up the incoming audio in real-time. These elements include frequency, overtones, dynamics, pickup response, and more.

MDP even analyzes playing characteristics (note register; single notes or chords; bends, etc.) to process the signal in a detailed manner and output a high-quality signal with superb compression.

If we step aside from the complexity of the advanced MDP technology, we see that the CP-1X is rather simple.

It has 4 knobs:

  1. Level: adjusts the output level.
  2. Attack: adjusts the time it takes for the compressor to kick in after the threshold is surpassed.
  3. Ratio: adjusts the ratio of compression above the threshold.
  4. Comp: adjusts the threshold of the compressor circuit.

Along with the knobs is a gain reduction indicator to show exactly how much compression is being applied to the signal.

This pedal works amazingly well with all guitar types, including electro-acoustics and 7, 8, 9 or other large guitars. It also works well with bass, though Boss’s CB-1X works better (we’ll get to that once later in the “best bass comp” section).

With simple controls and high-tech signal processing, the CP-1X is a superb choice for a guitar compressor pedal. This innovative pedal thicken the tone without any unwanted side effects of typical compression (colouring, noise, flatness, etc.). That gives it a top spot in this list!

Boss is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Keeley Compressor Plus

Second on the list is the impressive-sounding Keeley Compressor Plus (link to check the price on Amazon).

Keeley Compressor Plus

The original Keeley Compressor is perhaps the most popular “boutique” compressor pedal in the world. The Compressor Plus takes things a step forward.

The pedal itself is simple and straightforward like any great compressor.

One cool feature is the Release Switch that is tuned for single coils or humbuckers. These two pickup types have different sonic characters and this pedal works brilliantly with either.

The Tone Control acts to emphasize the most sensitivity harmonics that are often lost in a typical compressor to maintain the high-end clarity of the guitar signal.

The Blend Control allows the dry signal to be added back into the output perfectly in-phase. Think of this similarly to Manhatten/Parallel compression techniques.

This allows the peaks of the guitar signal to shine through while improving the tail end sustain of the signal. This effect makes the Compressor Plus a compressor and sustainer.

The Sustain knob adjusts the compressor ratio and increases sustain. The Level knob takes care of the make up gain.

Keeley’s Compressor Plus is a superb, versatile and transparent compressor. Tune it to your specific guitar and rig and you’ll have yourself an invaluable stage in your signal chain. This compressor is one of the best for guitars!

Keeley Electronics is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Wampler Ego Compressor

The Wampler Ego Compressor (link to check the price on Amazon) is another top-performing compressor pedal for guitar.

Wampler Ego Compressor V2

The Ego Compressor has that “industry-standard” sound to it. Its 5-knob design makes it adjustable, allowing it outperform most other compressors with any guitar in any rig with any tone.

The good folks at Wampler designed with pedal with transparency and added sustain in mind.

Like many guitar compressor pedals, the Ego Compressor offers a clean blend control. This allows the direct signal to be mixed in with the compressed signal, giving us the sustain benefits of a great compressor without the overt squashing of the transients. Again, this is the magic of Manhattan/Parallel compression.

The Tone knob adds extra sparkle and presence to the sound, which works to bring life back into an overly compressed signal.

So with the Ego Compressor, we get a clean sound with beautiful sustain. All we have to do is dial in the knobs according to our guitar signal. This compressor pedal, like the others in this list, works incredibly well as an “always-on” pedal.

Wampler Pedals is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe

The Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe (link to check the price on Amazon) is based on the legendary Universal Audio 1176 compressor and is completely deserving of a spot on this list.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe

As mentioned, the Cali76 is modelled after the UA 1176. The 1176 is a beloved studio-grade outboard compressor that was first introduced in 1968 as the solid-state successor to his tube-based 176 limiting amplifier.

The magic of this highly sought after compressor unit has been compressed (pun intended) into a rather compact stompbox unit. Origin Effects brings the wonderful world of studio compression to a guitar effect.

This studio-grade FET compressor pedal will help us to recreate our favourite guitar tones high-current, low-noise, discrete Class-A circuitry.

The compressor control panel featured 6 knob, which is more than we typical get from a guitar pedal compressor. These controls are:

  • Dry: adjusts the amount of direct signal in the output and, therefore, the amount of parallel compression.
  • Out: adjusts the amount of makeup gain applied to the signal post-compression.
  • In: adjusts the gain of the input preamplifier and, therefore, the level of the signal being sent into the compressor.
  • Ratio: adjusts the compression ratio.
  • Attack: adjusts the attack of the compressor (the time it takes for the compressor to kick in once the threshold is passed).
  • Release: adjusts the release of the compressor (the time it takes for the compressor to disengage once the input signal drops back below the threshold).

The pedal also features the classic 3-colour jewel lamp as the gain reduction meter.

The pedal is built into a robust all-metal construction. The circuit has a high-impedance buffered bypass to maintain signal clarity throughout the circuit and provide silent switching between on and bypass modes.

This pedal may be a bit expensive but considering the classic circuitry and sound we get out of it, it’s a solid choice and well worth it on most rigs.


MXR M228 Dyna Comp Deluxe

Last up for the guitar compressor pedal section is the classic red box MXR M228 Dyna Comp Deluxe (link to check the price on Amazon).

MXR M228 Dyna Comp Deluxe

The Dyna Comp Deluxe is the successor of one of the most iconic compression pedals in history: the original Dyna Comp. It’s built around the same integrated circuit and shares the same low-noise, transparency and dynamic characteristics.

This updated pedal brings forth additional control to the classic sound of the original, allow us to further shape the compression to our specific needs.

The controls are found in 4 knobs and 1 switch (other than the on/bypass switch):

  • Clean knob: adjusts wet/dry signal mix added to the compressor’s output.
  • Output knob: adjusts the volume of the compressed signal.
  • Tone knob: shapes the EQ of the compressed signal
  • Sensitivity knob: adjusts the sustain time.
  • Attack switch: toggles between slow and fast attack times.

From the squashed 70’s funk-style compression to massive sustain to the lightest compression, the Dyna Comp Deluxe has you covered.

MXR is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


MXR M87 Bass Compressor

The MXR M87 Bass Compressor (link to check the price on Amazon) is, hands down, one of the best bass compressor pedals on the market.

MXR M87 Bass Compressor

This pedal has a small footprint but a big sound. Its studio-quality components and Constant Headroom Technology (CHT) keep the low-end of the bass signal tight and clean.

It has a complete control panel for the compressor circuit with knobs to control the attack, release, ratio, input and output (makeup gain) of the compressor.

The ratio options of 4:1, 8:1, 12:1 and 20:1, along with input control, offer everything from light compression/peak-limiting to the thick squashing of the signal. Tune the MXR Bass Compressor to the sound you need!

The CHT technology gives us plenty of headroom to play with to ensure clean performance without clipping. This tech gives the Bass Comp a very transparent sound and a full dynamic range below the threshold point.

Any gain reduction can be clearly visualized in the 10 individual LED indicators at the top of the pedal.

The MXR Bass Compressor is a superb choice and is certainly worth checking out if you’re in the market for a clean and transparent compressor that still brings out the best in your bass guitar tone.


Boss BC-1X Bass Comp

The Boss BC-1X Bass Comp (link to check the price on Amazon) is the bass version of the aforementioned CP-1X and is another awesome choice for a bass compression pedal.

Boss BC-1X Bass Comp

Like the aforementioned CP-1X, the BC-1X Bass Comp is designed with Boss’s proprietary Multi-Dimensional Processing (MDP) technology. This advanced multiband compression analyzes the various elements that make up the incoming audio in real-time. These elements include frequency, overtones, dynamics, pickup response, and more.

This high-tech processing provides a perfectly natural compression that never overwhelms the true character of the bass guitar. Of course, the pedal does add size, punch, and sustain to the bass signal but it does so without dulling it out.

Besides the MDP, the BC-1X is rather simple. It has 4 knobs:

  1. Level: adjusts the output level.
  2. Release: adjusts the time it takes for the compressor to disengage once the input signal drops below the threshold.
  3. Ratio: adjusts the ratio of compression above the threshold.
  4. Threshold: adjusts the threshold of the compressor circuit.

Along with the knobs is a gain reduction indicator to show exactly how much compression is being applied to the signal.

This pedal works amazingly well with all bass guitars and even with guitars and other instruments if need be.

The combination of user-friendliness and high-tech signal processing makes the BC-1X a superb choice as a bass compressor pedal.


Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher

Small, simple and powerful, the Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher (link to check the price on Amazon) is a go-to compact bass compression pedal.

Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher

The Bass Preacher is a dead-simple compressor/sustainer pedal build by bassists for bassists.

The compact form factor allows this pedal to fit on the tightest pedal boards and to deliver its superb compression to the incoming bass signal.

We don’t have much control over the parameter of the compressor circuit. However, what we can control can make the bass sound amazing.

This pedal has a volume knob to adjust makeup gain; a sustain knob to control the overall amount of compression, and a 3-way toggle switch to check the attack between fast, medium and slow settings.

For more transients, set the attack to slow. For a more squashed sound, set the attack to fast.

From transparently peak-levelling to intense squashing, the Bass Preacher is the number one easiest compressor solution!

Electro-Harmonix is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Empress Effects Compressor

The Empress Effects Compressor (link to check the price at Empress Effects) sounds as solid as it looks. Unfortunately, the pedal has been discontinued, though there are units out there in the used market.

Empress Effects Compressor

Empress Effects is a “boutique brand” that always comes through with solid pedals, even for the most basic effects. The Compressor is one such pedal.

This pedal has a very pleasing sound; all the basic controls, and some extra functionality we don’t often see with bass compressor pedals.

From our discussion on the previous pedals, we already know what the input, attack, release, mix and output knobs do. These controls alone, combined with its sonic quality, would make this pedal on the best.

However, Empress Effects takes it a few steps further.

Ratio is toggled on a 3-way switch with options of 2:1, 4:2 and 10:1. All great options for bass compression ratios.

The indicators can be set to meter the input level, the gain reduction or both. These visuals help us to understand exactly what the pedal is doing.

The coolest part is that Empress Compressor has a sidechain input.

Sidechaining is a common mix technique (especially in electronic music) that uses an external audio source to trigger the compressor that is acting on the input source. By inserting an audio source other than the bass guitar, we can use this new source to affect the ducking/compression of the bass guitar output.

We can also send the bass guitar signal out through the sidechain into an effects loop and use this effected signal to control the sidechain. Using a high-pass filter, for example, would remove low frequencies from the gain reduction circuit and, therefore, only cause the compressor to act upon higher notes on the bass guitar.

The Empress Effects Compressor is an awesome pedal with neat features and is certainly a top contender for “best bass compressor pedal”.

Empress Effects is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


TC Electronic Spectra Comp

The TC Electronic Spectra Comp (link to check the price on Amazon) is epitome of simplicity when it comes to compression. TC has done a wonderful job of combining all controls into a single easy-to-use knob.

TC Electronic Spectra Comp

This pedal sounds great on bass guitar. There’s really not much more to say. The advanced studio-quality compression algorithm works perfectly on the lower tones of bass guitar and helps to even out and thicken the tone of the instrument.

Adjust the knob to adjust the amount of compression and be on your way to great-sounding bass guitar!

As is the case with all TC Electronic pedals, the Spectra Comp has true bypass. However, this pedal is often left in the on position since its sounds so good.

Markbass Compressore

Last but not least is the state-of-the-art Markbass Compressore (link to check the price on Amazon).

Markbass Compressore

The Compressore from Markbass is a solid compressor. There’s nothing all that fancy about it. It just simply sounds incredible.

All the necessary adjustments are present on the pedal to dial it in to our liking. Spend some time with it and you’ll surely find the perfect compressor setting(s) for your bass guitar(s).

I really dig that the knobs of this pedal are labelled appropriately. Other than the “Volume” knob, which is often called “Make Up Gain”, each of the controls is pretty much equivalent to what you’d see on a typical studio compressor unit or compressor plugin.

Again, basic but highly effect. The Markbass Compressore sounds awesome and wraps up our list of best compressor pedals for guitar and bass guitar!

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