Do I Need a Compressor Pedal? (The Ultimate Guide 2022)

The compressor effect pedal is many times ignored by beginner guitar players, as it is relatively more subtle as compared to the distortion or delay effects. Although it is one of the versatile effects and can improve the tone drastically, it is certainly not for everyone.

So, Do You Need a Compressor Pedal?

The compressor pedal is a great pedal that is used to balance out the dynamics while enhancing the overall sound quality. It prolongs the audio signals by adding sustain to them and handovers many controls to play with dynamics in order to achieve the desired tone.

What Does a Compressor Pedal Do?

The compressor pedal delivers you a more balanced and kind of beefy-sounding tone while enhancing your guitar sound in a quite significant way.

It makes the louder parts of your audio signals softer whereas quieter parts become a little bit louder to provide you with a more balanced tone by giving you control over the levels and overall dynamics of the guitar signal.

One more thing that I personally love about this pedal is the way it adds sustain to my sound because clean guitar tones are more likely to decay quickly after you plucked the string.

But with compression applied you can easily prolong your signal and amplify it to make sure it won’t get drawn in the band’s mix. Definitely, you can increase your amp’s volume for this, but many players love the subtle effect that this pedal adds to their tone.

In addition to that, the compressor effect does an excellent job to achieve a great-sounding fingerstyle tone. It levels out the subtle differences (in terms of dynamics and volume) caused by different fingers and delivers a more consistent audio signal.

Basically: It detects the volume of your audio signal and makes sure you hear the quieter parts better while avoiding unwanted clipping or any other kind of distortion, depending on the parameters you dial in.

Personally, I love the compression effect and I think it’s definitely worth it for you to try at least once!

How to Choose the Best Compressor Pedal for You?

Different guitarists have different needs but the compressor pedal is one of those gears that would fit in everyone’s collection, especially if you spend most of your time playing through a clean channel.

1. Control Knobs / Versatility:

Generally, every compressor pedal comes with two knobs, sustain and level. Depending on your exact model, It may also have additional controls. Let’s take a look at some common terms, so you can choose the perfect pedal as per your needs:

  • Sustain: It is one of the crucial control knob that allows you to adjust the amount of compression your guitar signal will recieves. But use it neatly, as very high sustain might introduce a little noise in your signal.
  • Level: It is a quiet straightforward control knob that provides you control over the overall volume levels.
  • Attack: This knob is used to control how fast the compression effect will kicks in. If you set it to fast attack, you’ll get an immediate compression whereas with slow attack, some part of the note will pass unaffected.
  • Blend: It is one of the important control that enable you to control the mix between the compressed signal and your guitar’s original clean signal. You should definitely play around it to get the most out of your pedal.
  • Ratio: It controls the amount of dynamic range reduction (dip in the volume) once compression comes into play. For Ex: If the ratio is 4:1, that means if input signal increases by 4dB then output will be raised by 1dB.
  • Recovery: It is used to adjust the length of release time that compressed signal takes to relax and return back to normal gain once it falls below the threshold.
  • Drive/Dirt: Compressor pedal tends to work nicely with the overdrive pedal and guitar tube amplifiers. That’s why to hit some sweet breakup and leverge the extra decibles, some compressor pedals comes with a dirt knob.

2. Budget Range:

It’s important to decide how much money you’re willing to spend because that makes it easy for you to set realistic expectations and pick a sweet spot between affordability and versatility.

In almost all cases, the more high-end pedal you choose, you’ll get more quality both in terms of tonal versatility as well as build quality. But: That doesn’t mean you can’t find a great budget-friendly model that suits your needs!

Here’re some of my Recommendations for you:

Where to Put a Compressor Pedal in the Chain?

Generally, compressor pedals are placed early in the signal chain after wah and EQ pedals. Many players prefer to put it before distortion or overdrive pedal in order to compress the clean guitar tone because compression might alter the character of those effects significantly.

If you try to put the compressor pedal after the phaser or delay pedal, you might end up having an unwanted effect on your output. But: don’t limit yourself and try different positions to get your desired tone.

Final Thoughts: Do I Need a Compressor Pedal?

Whether you’re a country player looking for a thick-sounding tone that suits all those double-stops and hybrid picking licks or a blues player who wants to make their tone fatter, the compressor pedal will be a great choice for you. If you haven’t tried it before, I think it is worth your at least one shot.

I hope I helped you to resolve your query about whether or not you should get a compressor pedal. If you find this article helpful, do let me know in the comment section. Also, don’t forget to share it with your fellow guitarist friends.

Happy Music!

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