Pedalboard and Effects Chain

Tech Tip: Where is the Best Place to Put a Compressor in a Guitar Effects Chain?

Posted on .

Finding the right place for a compressor pedal in a guitar effects chain.

Believe it or not, some thought should be given as to where the compressor goes in your signal chain. A good rule of thumb is to place any gain-type effects before modulation effects: i.e., compressors and overdrives before delays or flangers. Another one that's practically set in concrete is to put the compressor before any overdrive, distortion, or fuzz pedal. This is why most guitarists place the compressor first, in order to send a stronger, better signal to the other effects.

There are some guitarists who place the compressor last, though, to boost their signal just before it hits the preamp of their amplifier. The drawback to this approach is that any hum or hiss introduced by other effects will be increased by the compressor's output gain. Sometimes you can remedy this by placing a noise gate before the compressor, however, the noise reduction can have an effect on the tone quality. A best-of-both-worlds approach might be to put your compressor first and use a signal booster just before your amplifier. Some guitarists also like the sound of putting their wah or envelope filter before the compressor to give it a wider frequency range to affect. Experimentation is always encouraged, but putting the compressor first is recommended.

Pedal order is a hotly debated topic. For other points of view, see our tech tip Stompbox Boogie: How to Get the Best Out of Your Guitar Effects.

Steve Vai talks about the optimal signal chain spot for your compressor (as well as all your other stomps) in our webinar.

Tags: Electric Guitars Effects Pedals

Comments  

# The Shawn connerys 2016-12-02 05:12
I like to place my wha first , then my chromatic tuner, then boost,compressor .
I use my loop at back of my laney lionheart ( killer amp by the way ) for my tremolo and delay
It works for me,
Reply
# Billy Ford 2016-04-29 15:38
I see some people using an A/B box straight from their guitar and then I suppose into two separate chains for 2 separate amps...is this a preferred method? I use my mormorley ab at the end and share my chain with both amps. Vox AC4-Marshall DSL...I have been contemplating running two separate chains...I'm fairly new to effects so I've just been toying around. Currently this my chain Guitar-Fulltone OCD-MetalPedals Dirty B*tch-Mesa Throttle Box- MXR 6 band EQ- EHX Small Clone-EHX Small Stone- Catalinbread Montavillian Echo- Visual Sounds Delay- TC Electronic Trinity 2 Reverb- Morley A/B/Y to Amps
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# Guitar Pedal 2015-09-04 07:04
Hey,
Guitar Pedal
We perform within include rings. Personal big assortment of pedals, a few I really like, a few foul odor. I quickly discovered how the just people who worry about the results tend to be additional music artists. The actual people( ladies dance mostly) might treatment much less. Therefore right now I acquired the tuner, as well as generate your pedal with regard to single sculpt.... that is this, as well as my personal sculpt rocks ! as well as straight forward. With regard to facilities felines it might be another tale.
Thanks.
Reply
# Carlo 2016-05-14 20:55
Wow, just had a flashback while reading this!
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# Brian 2016-04-01 18:00
what?
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# Bert 2015-09-27 11:00
Couldn't have said it better myself.
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# Simon 2015-09-28 12:44
LOL
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# Keith 2014-07-25 00:41
Interestingly - and I'm not suggesting anyone is right or wrong - I notice that the models on my Line6 unit show the compressor as last in the chain almost all the time. Using stomp boxes I've always put it pretty much first, as others are describing. Time for more experimentation, methinks!
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# dave 2016-02-18 12:11
Well, it's a Line 6!! Possibly the worst sounding amp ever made.
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# tamugrad07 2016-06-26 16:01
The line 6 spider valve MkII is a superb amp that is extremely versatile and sounds as good as any other. The Bogner circuit really puts it up there with amps that cost 5 times as much. Of course, those who generalize really don't make very valid arguments.
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# just saying 2016-12-07 02:23
your last point was a generalisation
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# Bandit Panda 2014-07-14 17:37
How about a compressor thru the effects loop on your amp? Comments?
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# Blake 2014-07-12 07:44
I abide by this rule of thumb with two caveats:
1) I place my volume pedal ahead of the compressor because I like the exaggerated, non-linear response of the DynaComp when I swell the volume pedal.
2) I also place my Mooer Pure Boost ahead of the compressor because the gain stage was losing some it's touch response behind the relatively flat dynamic signal coming out of the compressor.

Bottom line, these are all generally accepted practices, but there's always room for personal preference.

-B
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# Muflon 2014-05-16 14:54
My rig looks like this

GUITAR ->A/B switch, Tuner, Wah, Compressor, Dist, Booster, BOSS NS-2 (Noise Suppressor) and than EQ( NS will clean up the sound and than you have more realistic sound to play with) than Chorus, Tremolo, Delay, Reverb -> AMP
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# Scott David 2014-05-16 09:08
I play in cover bands. Own large collection of pedals, some I love, some stink. Then I found out that the only people that care about the effects are other musicians. The people( girls dancing mostly) could care less. So now I got a tuner, and drive pedal for solo tone....that's it, and my tone is awesome and hassle free. For studio cats it may be a different story.
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# Rob 2014-05-16 08:37
My rule of thumb, whenever possible, is drive the input and route the modulation. I.E. - I put compression, over drive, distortion, fuzz, and wah/filter effect on the input; and then I route flange, phase, chorus, and delay through an effects loop. I do this for a couple of reasons - 1.) I don't have 15 effects ganged together hitting my input which can effect tone, clarity, and volume; and 2.) I can shape the tone and dynamics of my guitar going the amp's input while maintaining definition, tone, and volume to my modulated effects through the buffering provided by an effects loop.
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# SzinNapalm 2016-11-04 06:11
Rob
Im on your team That The shit i do with my marshall Vs100 and you get 2 killer sounds of 2 likes of choice pedals without ab box super easy and I wrote some of my best stuff that way
P.S. line 6 pod is my modulation effect hamming up the effects loop
P.s.s and some times i do this whole thing in reverse (well i mean by just swapping the loop input stuff for the input stuff
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# Crowboy 2014-05-16 00:10
I don't normally use a compressor pedal unles I specifically want a very clean signal. I do however always put the Chromatic Tuner pedal FIRST which works in a similar way on tuner bypass. Next I put overdrive and lastly any chorus, reverb or flanger type pedals.
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# Maxn 2014-05-15 19:50
Mike Fay has the right idea. There is no better sound, only two different ones. I'm sure both have advantages. Experiment.
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# Mike Fay 2014-05-15 19:27
It all depends if you want your signal compressed for a more smooth attack or your compressed signal effected...think about it..It's a signal flow....one affects the other!
Reply
# Norman 2014-05-15 19:11
Not a bad tip I've been doing it for years
Reply
# stewart small 2014-05-15 19:04
this is so cool
Reply

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