Wondering where the best place to put your compression pedal in your signal chain is? In this article I’ll explain which effects pedals usually go before and after compressors and why.
Keep in mind that experimentation with different pedal orders is encouraged though and there aren’t any strict rules. Feel free to play about with the order of all your pedals and see what works best for you.
Typically compression pedals go after tuner, wah and fuzz pedals but before overdrive, distortion, EQ, boost, modulation, delay and reverb pedals in the pedal chain. Hence, compressor pedals are typically one of the closest pedals to the guitar in the signal chain.
Wah pedals are described as impedance-sensitive which means they should go towards the start of the signal chain otherwise other pedals would interfere with the effect too much. Wah pedals should go before compressor pedals otherwise the compressor will limit the range of the wah.
Fuzz pedals, similarly to wah pedals are impedance sensitive. Compressor pedals should go after fuzz pedals in the chain. If you place a compressor pedal before the fuzz then the fuzz pedal will become insensitive to the dynamics of your playing and limit the effect.
Distortion, Overdrive and Boos Pedals
Typically, compressor pedals are placed before (closer to the guitar) overdrive, distortion and boost pedals which are place afterwards (closer to the amp).
There is a little bit of debate here though and some players like to use a compressor after any OD/ distortion pedals. This is one where I’d definitely recommend experimenting with both orders to see which you prefer the sound of.
Putting the compressor before the overdrive/ distortion pedal will sound more natural and open.
Putting the compressor pedal after the overdrive/ distortion pedal will dramatically reduce the volume but increases the sustain. However, it will not affect the dynamics of the overdrive pedal as much which some guitarists prefer. You’ll likely need a noise gate though if you put the compressor afterwards as it can result in a lot of feedback when you increase the volume.
If you are gain stacking you can even try overdrive into compressor into distortion. Some players prefer this as you still get the dynamics of the overdrive, but it doesn’t reduce the volume as much.
Brian of Wampler Pedals did a great YouTube video where you can listen to the different orders.
Typically EQ pedals are placed after compression pedals in the signal chain. Placing the EQ afterwards gives you more control over the frequency balance.
Some players like to place their EQ pedal before their compressor pedal though. The idea here is that the EQ pedal can be used to remove some frequencies that would otherwise trigger the compressor be emphasised.
Modulation effects include:
Modulation pedals are typically placed towards the end of the signal chain so are generally after compression pedals. Otherwise the compressor pedal is likely to “squish” the effect caused by the modulation pedal.
Reverb and Delay Pedals
Time-based effects such as reverb and delay should go after a compression pedal. It is generally agreed that reverb and delay pedals should go at the end of the signal chain closest to the amplifier. This allows them to subtly shape the tone and avoids other effects interfering.
Check out my article on reverb and delay pedal ordering to learn more.
If you are using a single buffer pedal to preserve the signal strength, put it at the start of your signal chain before your compressor pedal. If you are using two buffer pedals you can place one at the start and one at the end of your chain so the compressor is between the buffers.
There are a few different places where you can put a volume pedal:
- Placing a volume pedal at the start of your chain will cause it to act in the same way as your guitar’s volume knob.
- Placing a volume pedal at the end of your chain will cause it to act as a master volume control.
- Placing a volume pedal after any overdrive or distortion pedals but before any other effects works well if you are using it for volume swells.
Volume pedals are typically placed after compressor pedals otherwise you risk the signal being too small to reach the threshold of the compressor.
Noise Gate Pedals
Noise gate pedals are typically placed before compressor pedals. This allows them to reduce unwanted noise before they reach the compressor where they may be emphasised.
In or Out of the FX Loop?
Compressor pedals are typically run before the amp and not through an FX loop. Running a compressor pedal in an FX loop can squash the tone too much. Here’s an article on effects loops and which pedals should and shouldn’t go in them.
Check out my complete guide to FX pedal ordering for a complete explanation of the recommended order for each type of effect.