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Last Updated on September 28, 2022
One of the most vital studio tools in history, the compressor does the job of “keeping in check” the louder spikes of a signal, allowing for a more consistent overall volume: by attenuating the louder sections of the signal, the compressor will make the quieter sections sound closer in volume.
Compression could be described as the balancing act between the loudest and quietest you want your guitar to sound: if you abuse it, you’ll lose sensitivity, if you bypass it, you may hear uneven notes and unwanted spikes.
A Buyer’s Guide to the Best Mini Compressor Pedals
This is a guide to the best mini compressor pedals on the market, however, we thought it wouldn’t hurt to go through some basics about this often misunderstood effect.
HOW COMPRESSION PEDALS WORK
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We organized the lists below mostly by price range, but also grouped ones that have particularly useful options like the “Blend/Mix” and the “Level/Output” knob, or use a different technology (optical compressors).
The pedals in each gallery are organized by “perceived” popularity – most popular first.
As usual… Clicking on the pedal images will open a demo video!
HIGH-END MINI COMPRESSOR PEDALS ($100+)
These options offer top-notch compression, a transparent sound and amazing build quality. Many have additional controls for extra fine-tuning of the signal. They all offer a post-compression volume, which might tell you something…
Xotic SP Compressor
Really transparent, offering the high-quality design Xotic is known for. A 3-way switch lets you choose between compression modes of hi, mid, and lo to dial in your perfect compressor ratio (i.e. the amount of squish). Useful blend knob allows you to mix back in the uncompressed signal for a more natural result.
Keeley Compressor Mini
A two knob mini compressor delivering parallel compression, consisting in blending compressed and clean signals for a more natural and dynamic-sounding tone. An automatic tone recovery circuit ensures crystal clear highs at any compression level, while the transient release time is set to make both single coils or humbuckers sound lively and expressive.
Wampler Mini Ego
The most versatile mini compressor. 5 controls let you sculpt your sound, including wet/dry Blend, Sustain, and Volume. Tone switch lets you alter between dark or bright sounds, and Attack switch sets slow or fast compression.
JHS Whitey Tighty
The JHS Whitey Tighty is a mini FET compressor with 3 simple controls over Compression, Volume, and Blend. It was designed to be used as an “always-on” device. Particularly useful to have a blend knob for a more subtle parallel compression.
Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Micro
An optical compressor design featuring 4 controls. The specially-tailored EQ control is focused around 2kHz, which is a frequency area that can make or break guitar tone. Internal power rails boost the effect to 18V, providing maximum clean headroom no matter what kind of rig you run. I features a “Blend” knob.
Fairfield The Accountant
A high-quality, small footprint JFET compressor with lots of twists and turns. Two 3 position switches for Pad (from 0db to -16db) and Ratio allow a great deal of flexibility. The big knob is for the Volume which can be dialed in to bring your signal back or even boost it beyond the original level.
One Control Lemon Yellow
Very musical, with controls for compression ratio, amount of compression, and level. A switch on the side allows for increased release time (more sustain), and a small footprint and solid construction round out the feature set.
Becos CompIQ MINI Compressor
A studio-grade mini VCA-style compressor pedal providing essential controls and also a Soft/Hard compression knee option. Dynamic Auto Attack & Release Timing circuitry replaces the need for a dedicated attack knob, with a toggle switch allowing to pick Fast or Slow dynamic response. Features a useful (and unique for a mini pedal) gain reduction meter.
Henretta Engineering Orange Whip
A unique pedal inspired to the Orange Squeezer casting an incredibly small footprint and internal trimmers for subtle controls. Great for super-squishy, funky tones. Even when dialing in subtle settings, it’s a fairly obvious sound.
MID-PRICED MINI COMPRESSOR PEDALS ($50-100)
You don’t have to spend more than $100 to find a rock-solid mini compressor pedal. The options in this category offer a great combination of performance and price, but the lower tag implies either a lack in versatility (fewer knobs) or a cheaper build, which could cause a lack of transparency and durability.
The exception here is the TC Electronic Hypergravity Mini, which is more affordable because based on a digital design, which actually preserves the transparency of the tone and allows for extra versatility. However, the downside, in this case, is that not everybody likes the word “digital,” when applied to compression.
MXR Dynacomp Mini
A legendary compressor pedal rehoused in a smaller enclosure, with additional switch (the standard size is just 2 controls) to choose between fast and slow attack times.
Mooer Yellow Comp
A smoother, slower-attack compressor based on an optical design. Controls for amount of compression, EQ, and volume make this perfect for adding just a touch of dynamic balance. It doesn’t really color your sound, but that’s the point.
TC Electronic Hypergravity Mini
The only digital mini-compressor on the market, it offers almost limitless tonal possibilities. A vintage mode gives you the flavor of classic (more colored) compressors, and Tone Print feature lets you to take control over virtually every parameter of sound to dial in exactly what you want.
Joyo Pipebomb JF-312
Great for single-coils, a little muddy (non transparent) with humbuckers. The coveted mix control lets you dial in parallel compression as a dry/wet blend. Built with a handy control cover, it also features a “Level” knob to bring back up the signal.
Hotone Skyline Komp
Another take on optical compression for guitar, based on the venerable LA2A studio compressor. Very transparent, almost not even there, perfect for subtle compression on rhythm and acoustic guitars.
Malekko Omicron Compressor
A standard 2-knob compressor from a mini-pedal pioneer, with controls for Sensitivity (amount of compression) and Level. Built with the same components found in legendary vintage Ross compressor pedals (NOS ca3080 IC, anybody?).
Outlaw Effects Wrangler
A clean and, for the price, fully featured compression that lets you dial subtle, transparent compression, or a more pronounced effect with prolonged sustain. The Tone control gives you the option of adding some color to your sound, while the Normal/Hi Cut toggle switch lets you reduce unwanted brightness with a flick of a switch.
Mosky Mini Dyna Compressor
A single knob compressor that stands up surprisingly well to others. It has fixed attack and release times while offering a unique approach to guitar squeeze, but lack of output control somewhat limits the amount of compression you can use, without losing a lot of volume.
Fender Micro Compressor
A middle-of-the-road (tonally) compressor that’s a bit subtler than the average. While many compressors sound the best on a clean signal, the Fender works surprisingly well on heavy, distorted sounds.
BUDGET MINI COMPRESSOR PEDALS
You don’t have to break the bank to find a compressor that works for you. These budget models offer a variety of options at incredible value. If they work for you, (and if you are a “delicate stomper”) they might be all you need.
Donner Ultimate Comp
A surprisingly subtle, great sounding compressor. Best for a spanky sound, not so much for sustain. Works well for country, blues, funk, and jazz rhythm tones.
Flamma Analog Comp
A repackaged but cheaper (and better looking) version of the Mooer Yellow Comp, an optical mini-compressor with controls for Compression, Volume and EQ.
Azor Mini Compressor
Winning the battle of affordability at just $25, this tiny compressor also gets pretty good reviews on Amazon, with a surprising 4.5 stars. It also provides a good amount of controls with three knobs for Level, EQ and Compression.
One of the lowest-end options, it delivers a surprisingly sufficient sound. It fattens things up a bit, and tames harsh peaks. They obviously skipped on the construction, but for the price point it’s worth a shot.
MiMiDi Mini Compressor
This insanely affordable compressor landed an “Amazon Choice” on the popular shopping site but has no videos of it. It features knobs for Compression, Level and EQ. Reviews are mixed. Probably an old version of the Azor.
Similar to the Mooer Yellow Comp, with controls for amount of compression, EQ, and output volume. Small, and well-built for a budget model. Equally at home for rhythms or leads.
MINI COMPRESSORS WITH “BLEND/MIX” KNOB
We decided to create a separate category for the pedals featuring the “Blend/Mix” knob, because they really work in a different way compared to your regular compression (maybe that’s why this kind of compression has its own name: parallel compression). By allowing you to blend your clean, uncompressed signal with the compressed one, these pedals create a more natural sounding effect, where the natural dynamics of your style aren’t entirely lost.
OPTICAL MINI COMPRESSOR PEDALS
Optical compressors are based on a technology that just sounds different from your regular design, normally based on a Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA) or a Field Effect Transistor (FET). They can be very transparent and feature a slower attack and release.
By Brandon Stoner and Paolo De Gregorio
Jun 28, 2017
I really like the Mooer Yellow comp.