Whether you want to build atmospheric guitar parts or hold notes for longer periods of time when soloing, a premium quality sustain pedal is a very useful acquisition.
In this article, I’ll shine a light on some of the best sustain and compressor pedals available to guitarists today. We’ll look at their strengths and weaknesses so that you can identify the right one to add to your pedal board.
The Best Sustain Pedals for Guitar
The Gamechanger Audio Plus pedal exceeds the capabilities of your average stompbox, providing you with a number of sustain and compression options which are well suited to both rhythm and lead guitar playing.
With a classical piano styled foot pedal, you have complete control over the amount of sustain the pedal produces in real time. There’s also the unique real time audio sampling feature which can be used to capture small segments of audio and loop them.
Built to the highest standards, the Plus pedal is durable and looks the part. There are lots of built-in paramteres which you tweak to create the desired sustain effect. These include volume, fade-in/out speed, tone, number of layers and many more.
Is there any audio processing effect that Electro-Harmonix can’t produce? The Freeze Sound Retainer has all of the qualities we’ve come to expect from this prolific manufacturer, with some interesting add-ons too.
If you like to create layers of textural guitar parts, this pedal is perfect for that. You can essentially freeze a moment in time and transform it into the foundation of a song. With the simple press of a footswitch, the Freeze Sound Retainers creates infinite sonic sustain.
One thing I really like about this pedal, and all of electro-Harmonix pedals for that matter, is the simplicity of its controls. There’s no unnecessary buttons or knobs, you just get a switch which controls the time of sustain and an effect level control.
Not only is the Freeze Sound-Retainer great for building tension of stage, it’s also a valuable practice tool. You can use it to create pad-like drones using the latch function, then compose melodies and chord sequences over the top.
3. Boss CS-3
Boss’ CS-3 is an affordable sustain pedal which boosts lower signal and compresses loud signals to create a smooth sounding sustain with no adverse effect on the original sound source’s quality.
The pedal uses high quality circuitry to deliver reliable compression and sustain to your guitar or bass. There are four controls installed on the Boss CS-3: level, tone, attack and sustain.
Unwanted hiss and noise isn’t a problem with this pedal. Its low-noise design ensures it stays quiet when activated or being bypassed. Also, Boss’ generous 5 year warranty is included with the CS-3.
The Nana Soul Preacher by Electro-Harmonix is a compact sustain pedal which has some detailed features. The three variable attack options provide you with accurate, articulate compression to make your guitar stand out in the mix.
This pedal is a great choice for guitarists who want to create long, drawn out sustains to create atmosphere within a song. The fast, medium and slow attack switch can be used to smoothen out the notes and make them as ear-friendly as possible,
On the front of the pedal there is an LED light which is lit when the pedal is turned on and dark when it has been bypassed. When bypass mode is active, the output is connected to the input jack via a buffer.
This analogue pedal can be powered by either a 9v DC battery or a power supply. If you want long, smooth sustain then the Electro-Harmonix Nano Soul Preacher is definitely a worthy addition to your pedal board.
The last sustain pedal I’m going to review is the Seymour Duncan Vise Grip. Designed with the intention of creating a studio-quality compressor circuit for electric guitar, the Vise Grip allows you to take complete control over your volume level.
The greatest quality of this sustain pedal is its versatility. Admittedly, it lacks an expressive pedal to control sustain while you play, but the four control knobs on its front make up for this.
At the top centre of the pedal there is a high/mid booster switch so you can hone in on the exact frequencies that you want to add sustain to. You also get a blend control which acts like a wet/dry knob, which essentially decides how much of the pedal is present in your guitar’s output.
The attack control determines how quickly the compression comes into effect when a notes is played, and the underneath sustain control can be dialed down for thickening the sound or cranked up to create long, smooth tones.
You really can use the Vise Grip to create any kind of sustain you desire. Subtle tail offs are easily achievable, or you can add a hint of clarity and volume to your melodies. It’s also a great tool for creating dramatic sounds at the end of a show.
Where to Position Sustain Pedals in Your Signal Chain
It’s all well and good choosing a top-quality sustain pedal to add to your rig. But if it’s not positioned properly among your other pedals it probably won’t live up to its true potential.
Let me start by stating the obvious – there’s no right or wrong when it comes to guitar pedals. Indeed, some of the most innovative tones have come from doing things the so called “wrong way”.
Assuming you want a sustain pedal to boost your signal, add some compression and produce short or long sustains after you’ve played a note, there are some useful guidelines to follow.
The logical place to position a sustain or compression pedal is first in your chain. Why? Because a compressor effectively amplifies the signal that passes through them, raising up a soft signal and squashing down loud ones.
If you were to position “noisy” pedals before the compressor, such as a fuzz or overdrive, the noise they produce would be compressed and sustained, creating a muddy mess.
Muddy messes can be interesting, but for the most part, placing the pedal at the start of your signal chain would be a wise move.
The handful of sustain compressor pedals that I’ve reviewed in this post all have different qualities, so hopefully you’ve selected one which ticks the boxes that you are looking for.