So up until now I’ve been through 3 compressors - all Minis, and I have to add that I’m very happy with all of them, and especially my current Wampler Mini Ego Compressor. I started off with an Xotic Mini SP Compressor, and then a Modified Alchemy Audio version of that, before taking up the Mini Ego - which has served me really well for the longest while. I’ve considered the two Mini Pigtronix compressors also as hot-swappable alternatives, and at one stage I thought I might never need anything larger than a mini compressor.
Then Origin Effects entered the picture, and I was convinced that their Cali76 Compact Deluxe was now the compressor for me - it was for a long time at the top of my wishlist, I then decided once more that the Mini Ego was perfectly fine - before getting and being majorly impressed by the Origin Effects RevivalDrive - where the Cali76 shot back up to the top of the list.
I’ve considered all the compressors featured on this page at one stage - and at one point was probably right on the point of triggering a purchase. Most recently I was almost 100% decided that I was definitely going for the Cali76 - while also being really impressed with Thorpy’s Fat General. But then Jackson Audio came along and gazumped everyone - for my preferences that is.
The way the Jackson Audio Bloom combines Compressor Presets with EQ and a Boost-Swell is ingenious and really hits an home run for me. This is exactly the kind of pedal I like - dual footswitches with smart combination functions and super high fidelity. While others may perceive it to be a touch-over gimmicky and prefer the more vanilla nature of the Cali76 or the simplicity of the ThorpyFX Fat General.
As previously stated - I have seriously considered all these compressors, and all are worthy of addition - you will need to wait until the end of September though to experience the Jackson Audio Bloom - if you can stand the wait!
Pedals listed alphabetically by brand as usual.
This is a really smart unit with high performance Blackmer® VCA powered compression and a 2-way toggle which allows you to select Dynamic (Blue) or Manual Mode (Red). The former automatically applies the Attack and Release values depending on your playing style, while Manual allows you to tweak all 5 dials to your own preferences. This was most definitely one of my frontrunners for a while, and it’s a lesser known one which is often overlooked - but so worthy of consideration.
Anyone who’s read my blog regularly will know that I’m a huge fan of Foxpedal’s output, and their 5-knob Refinery V2 is another great offering. This model is based on Valve Wizard’s Engineer’s Thumb circuit which uses an LM13700 Operational Transconductance Amplifier (OTA) - a modern version of the CA3080 chip that was core to the original Dynacomp compressors. Foxpedal add a touch more finesse to the circuit - with full-range controls for Attack, Release, Level, Ratio and Blend, and a toggle for more brightness. Version 3 may replace the toggle with a full-frequency tone or presence dial. Another less-often-featured but exceptional compressor.
The Optical Compressors have a significant noise-floor advantage over the more typical VCA / Dynacomp style ones - and this Greer Amps one is a particularly good example of this. Possibly not quite as feature-rich as some, it does have the pretty essential Mix / Blend dial, alongside Volume, Treble and Compression - with Release time set via 3-way toggle, Medium, Fast or Slow. At one stage I was considering getting the Pigtronix Micro Philosopher’s Tone Compressor - also optical, but kept coming back to this Greer. As it was, I then decided that there were other compressors that appealed to me a little more - definitely worthy of consideration though.
I featured this very recently on ‘Glance’ - as soon as I watched the above video, I knew this was the one for me. I’ve had the Jackson Audio Prism Boost/Buffer/EQ/PreAmp for quite a while now, and the Bloom actually tackles a few of my feature requests for that - full 3-Band EQ, separate secondary Boost Switch and ‘Presets!’. I’ve always thought the Prism could have done with a secondary boost, buffer state toggle, and a mid frequency control dial. Though if used in combination with the Bloom - that pedal adds most of what the Prism is/was missing. For me this is the smartest Compressor pedal out their currently (or soon to be). It arrived at a very fortuitous time too, as I was right on the point of going for a Cali76 Compact Deluxe - which is of course still amazing - I just find this one is more my type!
Robert Keeley has become best known for his Compressor pedals, and this is still most likely his best-selling pedal - while the competition for boutique compressors has heated up a lot since Keeley’s heyday really. This industry-standard 4-pot compressor does just what you need it to do without some of the more contemporary additions. The majority of pedals on this page are 5 dials or more - but the Keeley does of course have that essential ‘Blend’ one. Simple and effective - and very reasonably priced too!
Another Optical Compressor and one in pretty much direct competition with the Greer Lamplighter above - both are exceptional pedals and do much the same thing at much the same price. There’s a very slight difference in control topography here - with a mini Release dial here instead of the 3-way toggle of the Greer above. Not much between those two at all - they both even have top-mounted jacks! I guess it all comes down to availability and colour / graphics choice in some respect.
I love my Origin Effects RevivalDrive, and they have become the go-to maker now for pro compressor pedals. Seems like they have slightly usurped Keeley to a degree, but to be fair this is quite a different price-point. That said though, this is now the most likely compressor pedal to be seen on pro pedalboards and with good reason too. Featuring 6 full-frequency dials to help you set your compression for exactly how you need it, this is probably the undisputed current champion of compressors, and I was all set to get one too - until the Jackson Audio Bloom materialised from nowhere. I may still get this one anyway at some stage - for occasional swap-out, but for now - my sights are set on the ’Bloom’.
I love Adrian Thorpy’s pedals and this one is no exception - he always does things a little differently - and here gives you a very simple control topology but with killer sounds as always. As an avowed tweaker - usually the more dials the better for me, but I do see the advantage of simplicity too. I was initially going to do just a 3-way piece here and feature this alongside the ‘Bloom’ and the ‘Cali76’. These were my 3 favourites overall, but I feel all the pedals featured here have merits and some will suit some players better than others. The whole point of this blog really is to let you know what the best options are out there and what alternatives you have available to you.
Considering how much I love my Mini Ego - I could not leave out its original inspiration here - which has full dials for Tone and Attack - which are replaced by 2-way toggles on the mini. I still think Brian could have used mini dials on the mini for those functions, but I find the Mini Pedal is pretty perfect as it is. The original gives you that same crisp tone with just a little more control. I feel that Keely was - still is to a degree ’The Compressor King’ - but the Ego started stealing away customers, and now the Origin Effects Cali76 has been winning over many of the key pro players. It will be interesting to see the impact of the Jackson Audio Bloom - I guess it really depends on what you’re looking for, and what your price-point ceiling is.
This whole selection features boutique pedals really, and I was thinking I needed a more mainstream Compressor to list as an alternative here - something like the standard Dynacomp - in fact there is a new four-pot version of that recently released. Yet my preferred MXR compressor is actually the very boutique-priced Studio Compressor model. I thought I would therefore include the above comparison video for a little overview of why I prefer this model over the other MXR ones. It holds up well against all of the above listed ones, and completes my top 10 as such.
When I last did a compressor overview I covered all the different sizes and price-points - while here I am really concerned with the best of what is available at the regular or compact enclosure size. From my original listing, the only one I’m missing out here is the TC Electronic Hypergravity which is now a pretty wallet-friendly £100 or thereabouts - and comes with the celebrated TonePrint functionality. It however failed to make my top 10 on this occasion, had I done a top 12 - it would most likely have featured.
For my own needs and taste - the above 9 are all the ones that I have been considering most recently - with my top 3 candidates being the Jackson Audio Bloom ($329), Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe (£269) and ThorpyFX Fat General (£219) - I would be happy with any of those 3 to be honest, and each does things slightly differently. While my final preference is pretty much per the alphabet. I will most definitely be getting the ‘Bloom’ in September or thereabouts, and I may acquire one or both of the others at a significantly later stage - for periodic swap-out and comparison. They’re all slightly different tools, so you can kind of justify owning each of them, although only deploying one at a time.
One of the main reasons I do these posts is to firm up my rationale, review all the criteria, and really validate that I’ve come to the best possible decision. For your purposes - this just highlights some of the key choices out there, and hopefully brings you closer to finding your ideal pedal within this category.
I often get asked why I overlook this or that pedal - it all comes down to what you are exposed to, and what appeals to you. On occasion I may have overlooked something or not been aware of it, while at other times I may already have reviewed and rationalised a specific pedal and decided that it was not for me - and hence not included in one of my overviews.
Hopefully this has brought you a step closer in any case …
I keep forgetting to include this very reasonably priced 6-control compressor - with dials for Sustain, Output, Attack, Blend, Tone and Input. This is an often overlooked but really smart and dynamic compressor that deserves more coverage - so here it is!