Finding a quiet compressor pedal is a solid headache. There isn’t any given measure of parameter through which this “noise’ or ‘hiss” can be pointed out. We know this is exactly where you’re struggling, and it’s the only reason why you are here.
There are also a bunch of pedals available to you. There are these VCAs, the parallels, the opticals, and whatnot! It’s also quite confusing which quiet compressor to choose from all the categories.
But to make your day a little better, we did take the trouble. We tried a bunch of compressor pedals from each category to find out the quietest compressor pedal. And we came to a conclusion!
Not only that, but we also got you covered on which “quiet” compressor would be best for your needs. Well, this is not all. You will also get to know about how to actually have a quiet experience from compressors pedals.
So let’s not waste any more time and get straight at it.
Types of Compressor Pedals
I know you’re looking for the quietest compressor pedal to work with. But before jumping into the quietest one, it’s essential to know in which category these quiet compressors belong to.
That’s because you need to understand the tradeoff while choosing between different quiet compressors. Did you think only being quiet ensures the best quality? Ah no!
There are mainly 4 types of compressors used widely. These are Parallel, Optical, VCA, and multiband. These 4 comps are used for specific purposes.
And, not all of the compressors in these categories are quiet. But we’ve tried out compressors from each category and found out which one is the quietest among them.
You need to choose the quietest one depending upon which type you want first.
For your ease, we’ve made a comparison table among these 4. Let’s see-
|Good For||Taming down the peaks signals.||Providing a transparent and warm tone||Mixing and compressing specific frequencies.||Providing a mixture of both dry and compressed signals.|
|Ease of Use||Moderately easy||Average||A bit complicated||Easy|
|Quietest||Page Jump||Page Jump||Page Jump||Page Jump|
Now that you’ve seen the quick comparison, let’s jump into their details.
VCA (Voltage Control Amplifier) Compressor
A VCA compressor is a kind of amplifier that changes gain with proportion to the voltage which is controlled. They are designed for their prominent gain reduction technology.
Here the peaks above the threshold set by you are compressed heavily. So all those heavy transients are beautifully punched down by a VCA comp.
VCAs are also famous for their fast response. So if you are transient-heavy, peaky, or a rhythmic player, VCA is the one to go with for you.
In addition to these, you get a versatile control of various compression parameters. You typically get attack, release, threshold, ratio, and also gain controls. So it gives you great control over your tones.
A multiband compressor is all you need to tweak specific frequencies for the mix you wanna create.
You can specifically smooth out external inputs too. For example, that aggressive vocal or that drums in the background can be balanced out with this. To put it more simply, rectifying any kind of frequency issue is specifically the main task of this comp.
But there’s a setback here. It’s quite complicated to use a multiband compressor. You need to set the crossover points on your own. This is done so that different frequency zones are set accordingly. Even for each frequency setting, you need to change the compression parameters on your own to adjust.
Coming to optical compressors, these are used when musicians want that transparent tone in their playing.
The input signal is split into 2 parts here. One through the detection circuit that determines the level of compression action. And the other one is the compressed signal and is given to the output.
There’s an optical sensor here that is triggered when the input audio signal is converted into light. Most optical compressors have a fixed ratio which is 3:1
So, if you want a more transparent and warm tone, Optical is the way to go.
Parallel compressors are probably the most desirable ones in this era.
See, all the signals above the threshold in any compressor are compressed and evened out. But this leads to a less dynamic tone overall. That’s because all the tones are compressed, and none of the natural dry signals remain.
So what parallel compressors offer is a mixture of both dry and compressed signals. This leads to a more dynamic range of tones.
A pro tip, choose the right amplifier between solidstate and preamp. Amplifiers complement compressor pedals.
Apart from these 4 types of compressors, there’s also another one. That is a sustainer compressor. The specialty of this type of compressor is that it lets you add sustain. You can find these sustainer-type compressors from Boss mainly.
However, we do have certain parallel compressors that have the same sustain option available.
In addition, the 4 types of compressors that we mentioned belong to 2 wide categories. They are-
- Digital Compressors
- Analog Compressors
We’re gonna talk about these in detail in the upcoming segment.
Which Category is The Quietest?
Theoretically, digital compressors are the quietest compressor pedals. But this doesn’t mean that all analog compressors are noisy. Let’s see-
Digital compressors have an unlimited amount of headroom. It’s the difference between the maximum and normal operating level the guitar can pass without distortion. So the higher the headroom, the lesser the distortion. And the lesser the distortion, the lesser the noise from the compressor.
However, you can maximize headroom in your mix by certain methods.
This allows the compressor to function quieter than analogs.
But, there’s a catch. In the history of compressors, we’ve seen the rule of analog compressors. Digital compressors are comparatively new and more and more developing over time.
The overall tone and sound of digital compressors have surprised us all compared to analogs.
Among the 4 types of comps we mentioned, the multiband compressor is only digital.
All you musicians are very much familiar with analog compressors. These have been around since forever. Parallel, optical, and VCA compressors are analogs.
Analog compressors, in contrast to digital, have limited headroom. This results in an amount of operational noise which is absent in analogs.
However, this is all theory. I mean, it should work like this on paper.
All this doesn’t mean analog compressors are noisy. I mean, analogs have been around for years. This is what most people have used in comparison to digitals. Many analog compressors are extremely quiet. So stay with us to find them.
Quietest Analog Compressor Pedal (Parallel)
Now let’s get into business. From this section, the journey of the quietest compressors begins.
In this section, we’re gonna cover the quietest parallel compressors.
|Image||Product Name||Controls Available||Thump Sound While Switching||Quietness||Price|
|Xotic SP Compressor||Volume, Blend, Compression level||Has a thump on the start.||No noticeable noise in low and mid settings.||Check Amazon Deals|
|Wampler Ego V2||Blend, attack, volume, tone, sustain||Seamless. No thumps on switching on.||Very much quiet.||Check Amazon Deals|
Wampler Ego: More About This Pedal
Our first stop on parallel compressors is the Wampler Ego. Well, this is a multi-purpose compressor for sure. That’s because it has both blend and sustains in it. And also, it’s quiet. In fact, it’s the quietest compressor in this section.
It doesn’t have the hiss or, as people say, “white noise” in the background. Plus, it’s straightforward to dial in and makes no sound while engaged.
Being a Ross-style comp famous for noises, it’s the quietest one we’ve had our hands-on.
This is also a sustainer type comp. So you get to have the sustain effect in a parallel compressor. And to be honest, the sustain worked more than fine for us as in a compressor.
However, it seemed to us that the pedal was producing a hell lot of bright tones. I mean I know high pitch is not bad but a bit warmer tone would have been nice.
Another thing that was an issue to me was the volume. I found the volume of the next product in this segment to be more satisfactory than this one.
This particular compressor pedal has a lot of treble in it. We got a dark and rich tone out of it. But it’s not a must for you to be a fan of treble. Taste differs. In that case, we dialed back the tones and it was decent.
Talking about transparency, this comp held up the end of the bargain pretty well. We didn’t find any discoloration of the basic sound from using it. The signal path stays unaffected due to the blend and tone knobs.
It has 5 knob controls on the front, which is pretty uncommon. You get the Blend, attack, volume, tone, and sustain. So you get a more versatile control over everything.
Room For Improvement
- The volume of this comp is a bit lower than its competition, the Xotic SP. So if you want higher volume, go with Xotic SP.
Xotic SP Compressor: More About This Pedal
Let’s talk about the second quietest parallel compressor. The Xotic SP compressor pedal.
We used this compressor for quite an amount of time. And, we can gladly say this was extremely quiet. Although the high compression setting added a little bit of noise, the medium and low settings stole the show.
Please note that the Wampler Ego had no such issues. We were pretty much satisfied with its quietness under the highest level of compression even.
So the compressor is quietest without any noticeable hum or hisses while at low and medium compression settings. And to be honest, that’s pretty much workable. Most of us don’t use the high compression setting anyway.
The looks of this compressor are often deceiving. But what you get inside is pretty much unexpected looking at its such compact size.
This is a 3-way switch compressor with 2 knobs and a power switch. With these 3 way switches, you can set the compression at low, medium, and high. There are also internal DIP switches for setting the attack/release in 4 different options.
The volume knob can provide a boost of +15 dB, which is rarely found. So, you are getting rid of the compressor noise and also getting a high volume in the package.
There’s also the blend knob present here. With this, you can taste both dry signals and compressed signals for a more dynamic tone.
If these were not enough already, the compression tone is the best part here. It is based on the Ross compressor which is the best compressor ever, according to many. So in terms of tone, we were much more satisfied with Xotic SP than the Wampler Ego. The Xotic SP uses the same OTA (operational transconductance amplifier) technology as Ross’s.
Room For Improvement
- Xotic Sp is famous for the squash effect found in Ross-style comps. However, this same squash is unfamiliar to many looking for a quiet compressor. You can see optical compressors if you want both quiet and squash-free effects.
Quietest Analog Compressor Pedal (Optical)
When it comes to optical compressors, we’ve got only one for you. This is the quietest optical compressor we’ve had our hands-on. Okay, let’s not roam around the bush anymore and get right into it!
Mooer Yellow Comp: More About It
Mooer Yellow Comp is a very basic compressor and especially for you folks looking to have the cheapest quiet compressor ever.
This is the most budget-friendly compressor we’re gonna talk about today. This is an absolute value for money compressor. Being an optical compressor, it is unexplainably quiet.
It has a volume, EQ, and a comp knob. Yeah, you don’t get a take on the versatile controls over the tone like Wampler Ego or the CS3. But given its price point, you can definitely work with this one very quietly.
Mooer Yellow comp has the common true bypass, input, and output, and a status LED light. The EQ knob is a plus point here. You don’t get it on any other products we reviewed today.
The EQ knob brings up the bass and the treble according to your needs. You can set it at zero or at the maximum.
This comp was quite transparent when we played. There was no noticeable discoloration in the sounds. Also, there is no squishy effect in this compressor. This can be a plus point for those who are not a fan of the squishy effect comps produce.
The attack and release were also pretty smooth.
However, you can’t play country songs here. It’s just not made that way.
So if you are on a budget, want a smooth compression in the most compact size, you can definitely check this out.
Room For Improvement
- Lacks versatile control options over the different tones. You can check out SanJune GB-CP, an optical compressor with a versatile control overtone. It has the attack, release, gain, comp, and volume knobs.
Be careful about unplugged guitar amp humming issues.
Quietest Digital Compressor Pedal (Multiband)
You might already have a lot of expectations for the quietest digital compressor out there. We don’t blame you. Multiband compressors with many added features are surely a lucrative deal to grab.
So what did we find? Let’s see the quietest digital multiband compressor out there.
Boss CP1-X: More About It
The Boss CP1-X is a very decent compressor in terms of its quietness. Remember we said earlier how digital compressors are the quietest?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is one of them.
The Boss CP1-X is a multiband digital compressor. Since it’s digital, it has more headroom than analog compressors. Theoretically, digital compressors are quieter than analogs. And the Boss CP1-X just proves that.
Through our usage of this compressor, we’ve found no significant hiss or hum in any level of compression. This has been possible due to this being a multiband compressor. It compresses separate ranges of frequency in separate ways.
Here the signal stays natural, plus a smoother tone is achieved while at higher compressions. So there’s significantly less noise and that muddy tone from it.
Apart from the quietness, Boss CP1-x still has a lot of other surprises under its sleeves. This is probably the only one here that has artificial intelligence to it. It’s achieved through MDD technology.
The Multi-Dimensional processing (MDD) technology has a huge advantage for players. What it does is dial into different parameters on its own so that you and I don’t have to do it manually.
We used a 7 string electric, a bass, and a 6 string acoustic. Due to the MDD technology, the pedal accommodated on its own while switching these multiple instruments. There was no additional noise or hum while we switched to a new guitar. It adapted on its own.
This also implies using a single instrument only. There were no additional changes that needed to be done on the pedalboard. The compressor provided the best sound quality it could provide under any condition. We didn’t need to tweak anything.
Furthermore, this compressor has an 18V DC. This maximizes the headroom. But surprisingly, it can even run on a 9v battery. How cool is that!
Room For Improvement
- The treble is a little low compared to higher bass upon hitting the footswitch. For a more boost on the treble with a balance of bass, you can check out the Boss CS3 compressor sustainer.
- If you are used to playing strats through amps like fenders, you might be more comfortable with a warmer tone. But this comp adds a bit of edgy signal. This problem will differ according to the kind of tone you prefer.
Quietest Compressor Sustainer
We know you’re confused right now. Like how’s a compressor gonna hold up as a sustainer too? Well, rest be assured, it works fine. We already covered a sustainer type of compressor before, the Wampler Ego.
But that was a parallel type of compressor that had the sustain in it.
Here the quietest compressor sustainer is the Boss CS 3. It’s specialized as a sustainer. Let’s have a look.
Boss CS 3: More About It
The Boss CS 3 is a quiet compressor sustainer for those to whom sustain is an absolute necessity. If the sustain part is not a big deal for you, the Boss CP1-x is a much better option.
This is one of the vintage comp sustainers of Boss. It’s specialized in boosting those underlying notes and leveling out those high ones.
The noise part of this pedal is quite confusing to many people. When we tried it out, it did make some noise in the beginning. However, we didn’t have an independent circuit back then.
After installing an independent circuit for the pedalboard, it made insignificant noise.
As we said earlier, this is a combo package of a compressor and a sustainer. If sustain is something your composing can’t be done without, this is a deal-breaker for you. You get both compressions and sustain out of it.
However, the Boss CP1-x is quieter than this one. It also provided better-compressed tones. But hey, there was no sustain in the CP1-x. So you need to make up your mind which one is important to you.
We’re gonna say it again. The noise here is not that noticeable. So you can definitely work with this one. Plus, you are getting the sustain that comes with the box. Not to mention, you also get a warranty from Boss.
Room For Improvement
- The noise of this pedal depends on the electric connections you got at home. Presence of an independent circuit removes that.
- There is no LED indicator of the compressed signals. If this feature is what you’re looking for, you go with Boss CP1-x
What To Do for a Quieter Operation?
Okay, so far, you have seen the quietest compressor pedals out there. But now we’re gonna share some important knowledge about compressors and their quietness.
You see, compressor pedals tone down those peaks in the signal and tone up the low underlying ones. So it’s quite normal to have a little noise. This is because those underlying tones are now brought up.
Another thing that happens is the crackling noise coming from solid amps. These are external noises that many think are coming from compressor pedals.
But it’s a concern when the noise alters with the natural tone you deserve. And this is why we took the trouble of trying all these pedals to give you the quietest ones there.
Another common mistake that most musicians make is putting the pedal after their drives.
Putting the pedal after your drives can make hiss and noises. That’s due to the nature of a compressor. Since it brings up the quiet tones, the hiss from the overdrive is equally brought up. This happens when you put the comp pedal after your overdrives.
So always make sure to put those pedals before the overdrives to avoid unwanted hiss.
Why are compressor pedals loud?
Compressor pedals are loud because it brings up those quiet underlying signals. This is one of two things that a compressor does. Also, due to a limited headroom limit in the analog compressors, there’s a presence of some extra noise and distortion.
Where should compressor go in pedal chain?
Compressors should always go before the gain-type effects and the modulation effects. These include distortion, overdrives, flanger, chorus, etc.
Do metal guitarists use compressors?
No. Metal guitarists are not a fan of compression. Their heavy distortion and pickups already do the work of compression. So they don’t really need that anymore. Also, their aggressive playing style doesn’t complement compression additionally.
This is the end of the line, good people. We really tried to share some knowledge that we gathered by trying out a bunch of compressor pedals for you.
You see, the number of pedals that we came up with wasn’t much. That’s because we had very few that met our bar to acknowledge them as quiet.
Still, the ones we chose for you will not disappoint you in terms of noise. We’ll give you that. It’s up to you as to which category you should go with.
So, make sure to choose the right one. Best of luck to you on your new quietest compressor pedal.