Everything you need to know about guitar compression: its history, how it works and how it can make your guitar sound better than ever before

Compressor pedals
(Image credit: Future)

In very simple terms, compressors are like automatic volume controls that kick in when the input signal exceeds a preset level. Then, once the input level has fallen back below that threshold level, the compressor resets itself and ceases to have any effect on the sound. 

Depending on the sophistication or design of the compressor itself, users may be able to set the level at which the compressor is activated, the speed of response, the speed at which it resets, and the overall output level of the compressor itself.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Huw Price

Huw started out in recording studios, working as a sound engineer and producer for David Bowie, Primal Scream, Ian Dury, Fad Gadget, My Bloody Valentine, Cardinal Black and many others. His book, Recording Guitar & Bass, was published in 2002 and a freelance career in journalism soon followed. He has written reviews, interviews, workshop and technical articles for Guitarist, Guitar Magazine, Guitar Player, Acoustic Magazine, Guitar Buyer and Music Tech. He has also contributed to several books, including The Tube Amp Book by Aspen Pittman. Huw builds and maintains guitars and amplifiers for clients, and specializes in vintage restoration. He provides consultancy services for equipment manufacturers and can, occasionally, be lured back into the studio.