8 Best Compressor Pedals of 2024

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Compressors can be very useful audio devices. They can even out your dynamics, they can add sustain to your signal, they can act as an EQ of sorts by taming harsh frequencies, they can be employed to enhance other effects, particularly before or after overdrive and fuzz, or all of the above. In short, compressors can be an indispensable creative tool.

I’ve been fairly obsessed with compressors, especially since I play slide guitar where it is almost a necessity, and here are my favorites culled from years of hands-on experience:

1. Thorpy Fat General

best compressor pedals

The Fat General is an optical compressor (where the signal is converted into light and the intensity of that light is registered by a sensor that controls the amount of gain reduction). It is considered a fairly transparent and “organic” form of compression which subtly “blooms” and doesn’t feel to be squashing the signal as much as some other types of compression. The Universal Audio classic LA-2A studio rack unit is a famous and recognizable example of this.

The Fat General too is transparent, beautifully so, and cradles your signal like a pillow would your head, nesting it in a sumptuous cascade of sound. It will enhance everything placid before or after it in your signal chain and unlike many compressors has both an EQ knob to add back some high frequencies and a blend knob to balance dry versus wet signal.

As a bonus, it has a “juicy” mode for those players that like more squash from their compressors and this mode bypasses the clean blend knob which acts as a level knob in juicy mode. A gorgeous example of compression in a pedal that won’t kill your tone.

2. Ovnifx Smoothie

best compressor pedals

Another opto compressor and another top-of-class in this category. Like the Fat General, it too can be very transparent at lower sustain settings (around 10 o’clock) however it can get closer to chicken-picking, heavier compression at higher settings on the sustain dial. It also has a tone knob which is extremely handy in compressor pedals to bring back the high frequencies and it also has a clean blend. 

There’s absolutely nothing bad to say about the Smoothie except that it’s produced in small batches once or twice a year thus sometimes hard to find. It has a bit more range and a slightly different flavor than the Thorpy but both are extremely close siblings.

3. Becos FX Comp IQ Mini Pro

best compressor pedals

Becos compressors are voltage-controlled amplifier compressors (VCA) which means they generally have a faster response time to other attack and release compressors and handle material that has high transients very well. VCA’s can also exhibit distortion when pushed hard however many consider this “musical” distortion. Used properly though they are terrific on drums, bass, electric guitar, and for me, best on acoustic guitar for gigging. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of your signal path once you get it dialed in right.

The CompIQs have ratio control, threshold, gain makeup, clean blend, timing (fast or slow attack), side chain filtering, and knee adjustment but even if that seems mind-numbing on the surface for those who don’t have an advanced degree in compression, fear not: it’s super intuitive and easy to find your sound in a few minutes. Not every control is necessary for everyone. Best of all it’s a mini size so it will fit on any pedal board.

4. Lusithand Alma Compressor

best compressor pedals

The Alma is a new one to me but I’m so happy I found it. It’s basically an extension of an old favorite of mine (and perhaps my first compressor), the Diamond Compressor. However, the Diamond Comp had a few small issues like volume drop, etc. and Lusithand has not only addressed all of them but improved the design a bit by adding a two-way shift EQ switch and corresponding knob to dial it in even further. Brilliant.

They’ve also added a clean blend knob which is becoming pretty standard these days so it’s a very smart feature, especially in this design which can be classified as “spongy” or even “squishy” but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it is preferred by many players. The ratio is fixed at 3:1 so the clean blend is particularly important. Bass players love this pedal but I found it also particularly effective on acoustic guitar. A real winner.

5. The Effectrode PC-2A Photo Optical Vacuum Tube Compressor

best compressor pedals

The only tube pedal in our roundup and one that’s actually more closely based on the UA LA-2A rack unit. It has the strongest bloom of any pedal I’ve played which is particularly elegant and it sounds wonderful on any source.

It’s fixed ratio and has no blend control, just two knobs for compression amount and gain makeup. Every time I play it I’m shocked at how well it adapts to any instrument I throw at it and I’ve found I can get lost playing without even thinking that I have a compressor engaged.

The only giveaway is a quick rise when you hit the first note from dead silence. It’s almost a pop but that’s the fast attack catching your signal. It could be off-putting to some so definitely something to look out for. It runs on 12-volt power and it’s strongly advised to use only the supplied power supply.

A bit pricier than other compressors but worth it for that genuine, old-school vacuum tube studio experience.

6. Origin Effects Cali 76 Compact Deluxe

A 1960s-style FET compressor inspired by the legendary (and still used) UREI 1176 solid-state compressor. The 1176 was renowned for being not only a big part of John Bonham’s drum sound for Led Zeppelin but slide master Lowell George used two of them in series for his main sound for Little Feat in the recording studio.

The Origins is much quieter than the classic rack unit ever was but still imparts the same sonic character that made the UREI a go-to for vocalists like Chris Cornell who sang through it with the compressor section OFF! Resonant, responsive, and colorful is what you can expect with the Cali 76 ranging anywhere from subtle to aggressive compression.

It has as much versatility as any compressor I’ve ever played. They were very smart to include dry blend, attack, release, and input and output attenuation. Everything you could want in a colorful compressor and more.

7. The Source Audio Atlas Compressor

best compressor pedals

This is perhaps the most extraordinary compressor on this list in that it compiles optical, studio, FET, VCA, and dual-band in one compact package. In addition, it has something none of the others have (nor any compressor I’ve ever tried): two different EQs available under the hood via their innovative and ground-breaking app. Truly, it’s like two pedals in one.

Accessing the app you could combine two different compressors (dual band) in each preset if you wish, have two different blend options, use two instances of the same compressor, or an almost infinite amount of options. Best of all it sounds fantastic and you can save your presets to the pedal, upload dozens and dozens to the cloud and download presets from other users to try yourself. Brilliant.

8. Drybell Module 4

best compressor pedals

The only compressor on our list based on the Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer compressor made most famous by Mark Knopfler on “Sultans of Swing'' by Dire Straits and many other classic recordings.  Perhaps more “mid-forward” than any other compressor (accentuating the mid frequencies), the Module 4 adds some very, very clever engineering to make it absolutely a first-rate modern device.

To start with, it has a blend knob for parallel compression which the original never had and it also employs attack and release adjustment knobs so you can finely tune in your precise preferences for when the compressor circuit grabs and lets go of your signal. This is a huge asset to have so that each player can dial it in based on their own individual instrument and playing style.

The input knob determines how hard you hit the compressor circuit (thus how aggressively it will react) and the Drybell engineers were smart enough to include a switch for the Orange Squeezer circuit on or off so if you want something more transparent you can switch it off. The tone knob is active for either circuit for more tone sculpting.

An added bonus is an expander circuit for when you want any noise added to fade naturally when you stop playing. As full-featured as a compressor can get. A bit pricey but worth it.

So those are our tried and true favorites from years of playing and testing but that’s not to say there aren't many others I’ve tried that are worthy to own such as the Analogman (and other Ross Compressor variants), the Walrus Audio Mira (another new optical compressor), the Xotic SP (another fine mini with some internal controls), Fender The Bends, the Wampler Ego and my current favorite, the Capitalist Death Cult Big Money Duo $queeze which is based on a rare-ish Sola Sound Compressor plus the preamp+limiter stage which Angus Young uses with AC/DC.

It’s hard to go wrong with any of these so do check them out and play them first if you can to see what works best in your rig.

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