Buying a compressor for an acoustic guitar is the best way to tame the strumming attack or playing intensity if you tend to dig in. It can smoothen out your tone, add sustain, and give you the option for an occasional clean boost to spice up your solos.
While electric guitars often reply on compressor pedals to tame overzealous or aggressive strumming. Acoustic guitars, on the other hand, are mostly plugged into pedalboards with delay, reverb, and the occasional kiss of the chorus effect.
A compressor may not be mandatory for an acoustic guitar, but it’s absurd to say that it kills the dynamic range. It’s 2021 and pedals are nearly identical to studio-grade compression. All you need is the know-how to use it for increased flexibility without compromising the core sound.
Being here, you are aware of the need for a compressor in your effect chain. So, I won't focus on reasons to add a compressor to your acoustic guitar rig. Instead, I’ll rank and review the best compressor for acoustic guitars based on performance, price, and customer reviews.
Table of Contents
Quick Answer: What is the Best compressor for Acoustic Guitar in 2021
- Best Multi-Use: L.R. Baggs Align Session Acoustic Guitar Pedal on Sweetwater
- Best Budget: MXR Dyna Comp Effect Pedal on Amazon
- Editors Pick: Wampler Mini Ego Compressor
- Best Versatile: Boss CP-1X Compressor Pedal on Sweetwater
- Best Budget: Mooer Yellow Compressor Pedal on Sweetwater
- Best Compact: XOTIC SP Compressor Pedal
- Best Premium: Strymon OB. 1 Compressor and Clean Boost on Sweetwater
The LR Baggs Align is my top recommendation for anyone looking for a versatile and reliable compressor for acoustic guitar. It has meaningful features, ease-of-use, and can be useful to add warmth or shimmer as the occasion calls for it.
The MXR Dyna Comp is a time-tested classic that comes a close second. It’s a top-notch compressor for electric or acoustic guitars with a simple 70’s style operation. It won’t break the bank but rewards you with fantastic performance and build quality.
Strymon OB.1 is another killer compressor if you venture into the premium category. It’s a great ‘always-on’ pedal but has a hefty price tag. The pedal scores high on performance, transparent compression, and dynamic nuances, all of which are apparent on stage or in the studio.Here are the reviews of the best compressors for acoustic guitar.
1.L.R. Baggs Align Session Acoustic Guitar Effects Pedal
L.R. Baggs makes yet another splash in the acoustic effects with its saturation and compressor effects unit inspired by the Handcrafted Studio Sessions. It aims to be the signature Nashville studio sound to bring out the sonic warmth and rich harmonics without taking up too much real estate in your acoustic guitar pedalboard.
- Compression with EQ
- Saturation to add warmth
- Adjustable gain for both passive and active pickups
- Powered by 9V battery or DC adapter
- True bypass switching
With the Align Pedal, LR Baggs delivers studio-quality sound in a portable enclosure. The pedal offers two effects – saturation and acoustic guitar compression with EQ. It sports a circuit specifically designed for acoustic guitars that enrich the harmonic content of your sound.
You can use the pedal’s saturation to smooth the levels further and add some organic warmth. L.R. Baggs has voiced the saturation to mimic analog warmth to add depth, dimension, or enhance the harmonics in your recorded sessions.
The compression is powerful and versatile. You can use it for gentle compression or squash the signal. Furthermore, the 3-band EQ allows you to tweak and tune out frequencies till you find the ideal sound for your acoustic guitar. The responsiveness of the pedal is its key selling point.Low, mid, and high-frequencies respond to real-time strumming. They dynamically increase or lower the compression based on how light or heavy-handed you play. The footprint of the pedal is nominal and the true bypass ensures it doesn't adversely impact your signal when disengaged.
2.MXR Dyna Comp Effect Pedal
MXR makes excellent pedals for guitarists and bass players. They offer several compressor pedals, of which I find the MXR Dyna Comp to be the best compressor for acoustic guitars. This compressor has been around since the 1970s and is a tried 'n tested classic. It's easy to set up the compression level and easier on the pocket if you are budget conscious.
- Analog Compression
- Clean sound and rich sustain
- Adjustable sensitivity
- 9V battery or DC adapter
- True bypass switching
MXR Dyna Comp delivers dynamic range compression with a hint of “fat” color. The 2-knob operation translates to one control for Output and another for Sensitivity. Output is the level control and Sensitivity decides how gentle or aggressive the compression will be.
With gentle compression, the pedal does a killer job of smoothing out the sound. It’s all the more impressive in a pedalboard with some modulation or delay. Throw it at the end of your signal chain and you’ve got yourself an always-on winner.
The compressor pedal is a blessing for strummers, especially in scenarios when heavy handed strumming drowns out the vocals or delicate accompaniment. Fingerstyle acoustic players can employ it to make quiet phrases louder without sucking out the dynamics.
If you are likely to lay it in, you can tweak the controls further ways and introduce some saturation. Either way, the compressor’s fixed attack speed and added sustain are ideal to enhance your playing or bring the acoustic guitar up to sit well in a mix.
3.Wampler Mini Ego Compressor Pedal
The Wampler Ego was wildly successful, and the mini version does justice to the legacy that brought it forth. It’s a modestly priced compressor with responsive controls that can smoothen out the signal of an acoustic guitar. It's not particularly surgical, but it's an easy-to-use pedal that does improve sound and playability.
•Compact Compressor Pedal with Blend
•Tone Selector – Dark/Bright
•Attack Selector – Slow/Fast
•Powered by 9V DC adapter
•Versatile Mini Compressor for Acoustic Guitar
The front panel of the Wampler Mini Ego features three knobs, two switches, and a blue LED indicator. The left selector allows you to switch between a bright and dark tonality. The right one is to toggle between a fast and slow attack.
The compressor pedal is natural and transparent. The agenda is simple - tame the loud parts and prop up the quieter parts. In doing so, it gives you more control over your sound without robbing the feel of the instrument or making it sound boxy.
The compressor pedal levels the sounds without adding any color, which makes it the perfect "always-on" compressor for acoustic guitars. By keeping the clean blend of the original to make sure the pedal picks up notes that are weak and increases the sustain.
The plethora of options makes it one of the most versatile compressor pedals for an acoustic guitar, at least among the "mini" options. If you want more choice, you can always get the Wampler Ego, the big brother. However, given the size and performance of the Mini Ego, it's one of the best compression effects for acoustic guitars in this price range.
4.Mooer Yellow Classic Compressor Pedal
The Mooer Yellow is a pocket-friendly optical compressor with a classic sound. It features a sturdy metal shell with a very small footprint. However, the “small package’ delivers smooth attack and decay without disrupting the original signal transients. If you are out for a set-n-forget comp, this is one of the most affordable options.
- Classic optical compression pedal with EQ
- Compact but sturdy Metal Casing
- Powered by 9V DC adapter
- True bypass
- Best Compact Compressor for Acoustic Guitar
The control panel features a compression dial with two small knobs to control the volume and EQ. It also has an LED status indicator and true bypass switching to keep your signal intact when the pedal is disengaged. In use, it does a fantastic job a subtle or gentle compression.
It's not ideal for those who have heavy squashing or aggressive compression. However, acoustic guitar players seldom use a compressor for a full squeeze. Additionally, the Mooer compressor pedal is low noise and transparent. It does not add any color and preserves signal transients.
The compressor flies under the radar in most roundups, but it's one of the most cost-effective ways to tighten up your sound and add some fullness to it. It demands very little space on the ‘board, but the downside is you can only power it with a 9V DC adapter.
Overall, the Mooer Yellow pedal is a little bit of compression and a clean boost with tone control. Not only does it smooth out the sound, but it also adds dimension and fullness to the body of the sound. Based on that, it's a great always-on choice for your pedalboard.
5.XOTIC SP Compressor Pedal
Xotic Mini pedal is one of the most popular ‘always on’ pedals among electric guitarists. It is famed for its combination of compression and boost with highly usable attack/release options. The pedal may not be feature-packed as some others, but it has all the hallmarks of an ultra-compact workhorse for acoustic guitar players.
- Compression with +15dB boost
- Two-knob operation
- 3-way switch: Hi, Lo, Mid DIP
- Excellent value for money
- Best Compact Compressor for Acoustic Guitar
The XOTIC SP Compressor doesn't make any lofty promises or lure you with bells and whistles. It does everything a great compressor pedal should do, and it does it well. It’s has been so widely used that it’s a no-brainer to add control to your playing. Without breaking the bank, that is.
This compact pedal is a class act. It is transparent with top-notch construction quality. You can use it with an 18V power supply for more headroom and a tighter sound. The sheen of quality it produces occupies very little pedalboard space.
You can find your sweet spot in less than a minute thanks to the simple operation. All you need to do is dial it to the point where your ears are pleased. It can sound natural and clean, but there is "warm" tone coloration, which sounds great for strumming, fingerstyle, and Flatpicking.
In a nutshell, the SP is the best compressor for acoustic guitar if you need to smooth out the overtones or add some warmth and sustain. It is also quite capable of squashing the sound and picking up the not-so-strong notes. For the price, it’s an invaluable addition to any pedalboard.
6.Strymon OB. 1 Optical Compressor and Clean Boost
Strymon pedals are synonymous with quality and rich sonic characters. Their OB.1 pedal is yet another brilliant effort that deserves praise. The OB.1 effects pedal delivers transparent compression via an analog signal path using world-class components and low noise circuitry. The inclusion of a clean boost makes it a versatile addition to any live rig.
- Optical Compression
- Clean Boost with EQ curves
- Studio-quality sound with near-zero noise levels
- 9V battery or DC adapter
- Premium analog compression pedal for acoustic guitar
The Strymon compressor is one of the most premium stomps in the optical compressor pedal segment. It’s a studio-grade pedal with robust construction and highly responsive controls. It may be pricey, but it delivers a stellar core tone with control of every aspect of compression.
The compression is transparent, easy on the dynamics, and highly versatile. From taming sharp and strident plucking tones to softening percussive half-muted strumming, and reckless squashing, the OB.1 is highly regarded for its versatility, and it lives up to the hype.
A little knob-tweaking can take you from subtle to squashy. If you are still not satisfied, the only thing that you appease you would be a rack mount. Among other things, the OB. 1 compressor excels at light compression. It’s among the most transparent compression you can find in the current crop. The versatility and circuit make it worthy of any gigging guitar player’s rig.
7.Boss CP1-X Compressor Pedal
Boss CP-1X is yet another commendable pedal that can amplify, boost, and smooth out the sound of an acoustic guitar. It rests its laurels on a proprietary digital technology that offers a wide range of compression settings that add brightness and density without sucking out the natural tone of your acoustic guitar.
- Responsive compression - Multi-Dimensional Processing Technology
- Versatile performance with ultra-low noise levels
- 16 LEDs to monitor gain-reduction
- Powered by 9V DC up to 18V DC for extra headroom
- Versatile Compressor for Acoustic guitar
This pedal has the iconic Boss enclosure – robust and built like a tank. The top panel features four knobs for Attack, Ratio, Level, and Compression. It also has the best optical feedback among compressors for acoustic guitars thanks to the 16-LED gain-reduction meter.
The CP-1X uses Multi-Dimensional Processing to read the incoming signal in real-time and optimizes the response using its digital circuit. According to Boss, the processing reads overtones, note registers, and other aspects of your playing to respond appropriately.
While the idea sounds complex, it pans out well in real-world use. The response to solos and strumming are easy to distinguish with the same settings. It does not have a blend knob to mix the dry/wet signal but the digital tech ensures that there is no need for it.The CP-1X allows you to move into aggressive territory without losing the natural tone. It also has buttery sustain that sounds fantastic in blues, rock, and open-tuning folk music. The pedal can be powered by a 9V power supply up to 18V in case you need extra headroom. You can also use a 9V battery but don't expect it to last beyond 3 to 4 hours.
Buying Guide: 5 Ways to Use an Acoustic Guitar Compressor
Smoothen the Sound with Compression
Compression brings more focus to the lows, tightens the sound, and/or adds a transparent clean boost to the acoustic guitar. It lowers the volume of loud parts and brings up the volume during weak parts, this "compressing" it in a range decided by the user.
Either way, an acoustic guitar compressor reduces massive spikes or swings in the volume and dynamics during your performance. A good compressor will undoubtedly save the day when you are using a bad PA or an instrument that has tinny highs or boomy lows.
Balanced Sound without Squashing
Playing style, strumming intensity, and a host of other factors make the acoustic guitar a dynamic instrument. These factors alter the volume and sound, especially if you use a thick guitar pick or generous attack. The pros eventually learn to control every aspect of their playing, but having a compression pedal in the signal effect chain can act as a safety net for beginner-to-intermediate players.
Some compressors have a 2-knob operation while others offer more options to tweak your sound. Look for a pedal with true bypass switching, transparent compression, and a 'Blend' control. The blend knob allows you to mix the dry and wet signal to retain more of the natural guitar tone.
Clean Boost to Super Charge Your Playing
Acoustic players may need an occasional volume boost while soloing or during assertive parts of the song. Many guitarists use a compressor for a subtle boost to add volume during a solo or to draw more character from the amp during certain parts of the song.
Don't confuse this with a boost pedal, because the compressor's boost is transparent and won't add any color to your tone. It may not be necessary for couch practice or recording, but it is immensely useful to cut the mix if you use a looper pedal, backing track, or play with a live band.
Linger on with Enhanced Sustain
Adding sustain is more of an electric guitar thing. However, it's always handy to have that option with an acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars have relatively low sustain because of their hollow body. It's all good because most acoustic players don't need the notes to linger on when they strum.
You only need it if you are using modulated passages with ‘verb or delay or during single-note phrases. In some use cases, additional sustain can be helpful to even out the note length to hide imperfections in playing.
Better Tone for Live Performances
There are many factors that contribute to the unplugged sound of an acoustic guitar. However, the plugged-in instrument relies heavily on the pickup, and acoustic guitar pickups are notorious for feedback and mud. Mud refers to boomy lows and unclear mids which make it hard to distinguish between notes. Poor pickups tend to muddy the sound of strumming as well.
Compressors for an acoustic guitar (especially those with an EQ) can be used to clean up the sound and eliminate the problematic frequencies. They can add color, fullness, dimension, and volume. Of course, you need to spend some time finding the sweet spot with your compressor pedal. But once you do that, you will level up and improve the sound of your acoustic guitar.
The right compressor pedal will eliminate spikes and strident sounds without squeezing out too much of your dynamic range. It can add consistency, stabilize the volume, and add smoothness to the clean-toned sounds.
A good compressor can cost anything between $70 to $200, depending on the features. I have included several options that are US-made but highly affordable. Hopefully, you will find the right compressor to pair with your acoustic guitar on this list. As always, Happy Hunting!