Review: The Lion Tamer Compression and Sustain Pedal by Circus Freak

Compression is a great way to compliment your playing, whether you’re looking to tighten up your dynamics or add a different dimension to your sound. Recently I’ve been checking out The Lion Tamer by Circus Freak.

Circus Freak builds its pedals in the US. Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be exact. Before I go any further, I have to point out the crafty circus-themed names and artwork on all the Circus Freak pedals. I mean, there’s a fuzz pedal called The Bearded Lady!

OK, onto The Lion Tamer.

It’s a three-knob compressor/sustainer pedal. From left, the knobs are Volume, Attack and Sustain. The pedal is surrounded by aluminum and stainless steel. Circus Freak’s unique rail-mount bottom makes it convenient to tuck cables under it or mount the pedal to a pedalboard. The Lion Tamer can be powered by a 9-volt battery as well as a 9- or 18-volt adapter.

Plugging it in, the pedal is pretty straightforward. Volume acts as your make-up gain, Attack adjusts the speed of when the compression hits, and Sustain offers everything from a quick decay to a nearly endless sustain. Like any good compressor, The Lion Tamer didn’t tamper with the EQ of my signal.

How does it sound? Below are some clips.

Clip No. 1 is a Telecaster playing a country-influenced lick without The Lion Tamer. Then I play the same lick with some heavier compression added to even out the peaks and bring out that country twang.

Clip No. 2 is a Strat through a small practice amp. I have a light overdrive on and The Lion Tamer set to a low compression setting with the sustain boosted to about 1 o’clock. It makes a small practice amp sound much bigger by mimicking the natural compression you’d get from cranking a larger tube amp. This is a cool trick to try when recording.

Clip No. 3 is a Strat with single coils. I added a significant amount of volume and sustain with the Attack knob dialed back. My goal was to get the single-coil pickups of the Strat to sound more like humbuckers.

Street Price: $179.95

You can't believe everything you read on the Internet, but Billy Voight is a gear reviewer, bassist and guitarist from Pennsylvania. He has Hartke bass amps and Walden acoustic guitars to thank for supplying some of the finest gear on his musical journey. Need Billy's help in creating noise for your next project? Drop him a line at

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