The Best Compressor/Sustainer Pedals For Under $50

Dynamics (relative loud and soft notes) are an important part of music, but uncontrolled dynamics can really mess up an otherwise great piece of playing.

A compressor pedal lowers the output sound relative to your input signal. In other words, it smoothes out the dynamics by producing consistent sound levels. Incidentally, this also has the effect of improving the sustain of each note.

Compressor and sustainer pedals are great for players looking for that searing blues solo, and metal players alike.

Compressors are also great for slap-style bass players, making thumb slaps, string pulls and muted notes all the same volume, for an extremely percussive effect.

Here are two great compressor/sustainer pedals that sell for less than $50.

Behringer Compressor-Sustainer CS400

behringer_cs400_002

The Behringer CS400 compressor/sustainer pedal adds some great impact to your tone and near-endless sustain. It is easy to Operate with 4 knobs to let you dial in the amount of compression and sustain you’re looking for.

The Behringer CS400 has dedicated knobs for:

  • Attack
  • Sustain
  • Level
  • Tone

Attack lets you dial in the amount of compression, while sustain controls…well, the sustain. 😉

The Level control allows you control the amount of volume boost – from subtle to “monster” volume boost. The tone knob controls level of highs.

The Behringer CS400 is great for everything from clean, snappy country leads to searing blues solos to rock solos that really scream. The CS400 also provides an LED to tell you when it’s on, and on/off switch that will put the pedal in bypass mode when off and runs on either a 9 V battery or PSU-SB DC power supply

At $23.99 on Amazon, the Behringer CS400 compressor/sustainer pedal is a steal!

Rogue Vintage Compressor

rogue-belcat_compressor_002

Rogue Vintage Compressor is about twice as much as the Behringer CS400, but it’s “Vintage”. 😀

“Vintage” means it’s likely to produce some added “noise” to your signal when put after other pedals in your signal chain. But for some players, that “noise” is the vintage sound they’re after. After all, Hendrix had a pretty hairy tone in a lot of his live recordings..

The Rogue Vintage Compressor Pedal is also a bit more simplified in its appearance, with only 3 control knobs:

  • Compressor threshold (sensitivity)
  • Sustain
  • Overall volume

The Rogue Vintage Compressor is a true bypass pedal, so disengaging the effect won’t rob your tone. An LED indicator shows you when the effect is engaged and gets dim when it’s time to change the battery.

The Rogue Vintage Compressor is made of aluminum and built to last.

The Rogue Vintage Compressor at a glance:

  • Sturdy, lightweight aluminum case
  • True bypass switching
  • Easy-to-use Threshold, Sustain and Level controls

Powered by either a 9 volt battery or external 9 volt DC adapter

The Rogue Vintage Compressor Pedal sells for about $49.99 on Amazon.

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The Best Delay / Echo Pedals For Under $50

Here are three awesome delay/echo pedals for under $50. If you’re wondering how delay and echo are different than reverb, then read on. If you’re only interested in the best bang for your buck on an effects pedal, then skip to the “The Best Delay /echo pedals for under $50” section below.

Delay vs Echo vs Reverb.

The Delay effect is both easy to understand, and easy to confuse. Many people equate reverb and delay as the same thing. They are not, but they are related.

It is best understood with example.

Imagine yourself in a large, empty gymnasium. You shout “Hello” in a loud voice. The first “hello” you hear reflected back to you from the nearest wall is an echo, caused by a delay.

As the echo mixes with other echoes reflected off other walls, bleachers, the floor, etc.. it creates reverb.

Think of delay as an exact copy of the sound, stored in the pedal and played back at a later time.

The length of time between the original sound and the copy being played back (echo) is the delay. The delay may be less than a second or several seconds.

A good delay pedal will cover a good range of time periods and even multiple echoes.

Here are two of the best in the under $50 price range.

The Best Delay /echo pedals for under $50

Digital delay effects pedal

Behringer DD400 Digital Stereo Delay/Echo

behringer_dd400_delay_pedal

With 7 different modes and a delay time of up to 1.3 seconds, the Behringer DD400 effects pedal ranges from subtle to radical stereo delay.

Behringer DD400 control features:

  • Dedicated Mode
  • Time
  • Feedback
  • Level

The DD400 has a bypass mode and blue status LED indicator for on/off and battery check.

The DD400 runs on a 9 V battery or a DC power supply.

At around $35, the Behringer DD400 gives you a great bang for your buck considering the available controls and sound shaping ability.

check out the Behringer DD400 in action:

Analog delay effects pedals

For those who prefer a more organic sound, here are two great analog delay pedals for under $50. Some people complain that these pedals can be “noisy”, but that’s part of the analog experience – even with pedals in the $150 range.

Behringer VD400 Vintage Analog Delay

behringer_vd400_delay_pedal

The Behringer VD400 Vintage Analog Delay effects pedal delivers true analog delay ranging from vintage slap-back echo that rivals any tape delay, to space-aged echo.

The VD400 has controls for:

  • Intensity
  • Echo
  • Repeat Rate

Like its digital cousin, the DD400, the VD400 also sports a blue status LED for effect on/off and battery check.

The Behringer VD400 Vintage Analog Delay sells for about $22 and runs on a 9 V battery or a DC power supply.

The VD400 is a clone of the BOSS DM-3 (no longer made), but at a fraction of its cost.

The VD400 Vintage BBDs produce up to 300 ms of delay and advanced noise reduction circuit keeps your signal clean.

The Behringer VD400 Vintage Analog Delay effects pedal demo:

Rogue Analog Delay

rogue-belcat_delay_003

The Rogue Analog Delay pedal creates echo effects from vintage country and rockabilly style slap-back to longer repeating echoes.

The Rogue Analog Delay pedal has only three control knobs:

  • Echo speed
  • Volume
  • Number of Echoes

This streamlined interface keeps things easy and un-cluttered.

The Rogue Analog Delay pedal is a true bypass pedal and includes an LED indicator showing when the pedal is on or off as well as when it’s time to change the battery.

The Rogue Analog Delay pedal is made of aluminum and built to last.

Rogue Analog Delay pedal features:

  • Sturdy, lightweight aluminum case
  • True bypass switching
  • Easy-to-use Time, Repeat and Level controls
  • Runs on either a 9 volt battery or external 9 volt DC adapter

The Rogue Analog Delay pedal sells about $10-15 more than the Behringer DD400 Digital.

The Rogue Analog Delay Pedal Demo:

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Amps, Effects and Modeling – oh my!

Every guitarist reaches a point in his playing life when he begins to come across terms like “Combo Amp”, “Rack mount”, “Stompbox” and the like. This may happen early in his guitar journey, or much later – particularly if he has played acoustic for many years before venturing into the realm of the electric.

That was me. I played acoustic guitar for over 10 years before I ever picked up an electric. I never paid much attention to terms like “amp head” and “rack mount”. But after receiving my first electric guitar for Christmas one year, I quickly found myself immersed in a world of terminology completely foreign to my otherwise knowledgeable self.

Today, I am going to provide some detail on these terms. (since I was unable to find any decent info on the Internet that wasn’t loaded with too much info).

E n j o y.

What is a Amp Head?

An amp head (sometimes referred to as simply a “head”) is the base amplifier. In it’s simplest definition, the head is the box that receives the signal from the electric guitar, and routes it out to the speaker(s), P.A. system or headphones.

The 50w Marshall JVM205H Guitar Amplifier Head.

It may be solid state (i.e. using integrated circuits and a digital processor to carry the electronic signal) or tube (i.e. Using Vacuum tubes to carry the signal). Tube amps are also sometimes referred to as valve amps.

It is called the head because it historically sits on the top, or at the head, of a speaker stack or cabinet.

The amp head is usually rated by power consumption, ex.: 15w or 30w, meaning it consumes 15 or 30 watts of power while in use. The higher the wattage, the more muscle. Amps today range anywhere from less than 1w to over 400w.

A final word of caution on amplifier wattage: more watts does not always mean louder sound. It’s only a measure of potential power, the ultimate sound quality and decibel level is also a factor of the input and the speaker(s).

What is a Combo Amp?

So, if the amp head is the amplifier itself, what is a combo amp?

The Fender '65 Twin Reverb combo amp

Put simply, a combo amp is both the amplifier and the speakers in a single unit. Combo amps are ideal for learning to play and for practicing, whether solo or in a band. Everything you need to produce sound (outside of the actual instrument) is in a single, self contained unit.

Combo Amps vs. Amp Heads

So which is better, an amp head or a combo amp?

That depends on your desired use. Each has it’s benefits and drawbacks.

Amplifier heads are typically better amplifiers than combo amps. This is because you’re paying top dollar for just the head. Many combo amps have very good amp heads and good speakers, but generally speaking you get a better amplifier for your money when you buy an amp head.

Combos are ideal for practice and learning, but the speaker(s) in a combo amp cannot compete with stand alone cabinets for concerts or live shows.

Most hobbyists will do just fine with a combo amp, while most professionals favor the stand alone amp head with speaker cabinet set up.

What are Effects?

OK, with me so far?

Good.

Now that we know what gets the sound from the electric guitar out through the speakers we can turn our attention to sound effects.

There’s no definitive list of effects, but the most common types include:

  • distortion
  • modulation
  • dynamics
  • filter
  • time-based
  • pitch/frequency
  • feedback/sustain

Much of a guitarist’s sound is the result of their choice of effects.

Effects should be viewed as an added layer of sound put on top of the base sound from the guitar. It’s for this reason that the most important aspect of an amp is it’s ability to deliver good, clean tone without any (unintended) distortion or sound degradation. After all, if you start with a muddy sound, you’re only going to end up with a muddy sound at the heart of whatever effect you’re applying.

Effects can be applied to that sound a number of ways. Here are the 3 most common.

Stompboxes

A Stompbox is an effects pedal, designed to lay on the floor and be turned on or off by the player stomping it with his foot. The stompbox may have 1 or more effects, and a multitude of controls affecting volume, signal, etc..

The Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal.

The instrument cable is connected from the guitar to the stompbox, and another cable is connected from the stompbox to the amplifier. Sometimes, multiple stompboxes may be chained together, creating a more complex sound as the signal is modified by each box on its way to the amp.

Common pedal effects include:

  • compression
  • wah
  • overdrive
  • chorus
  • flanger
  • phase shifter
  • delay
  • echo
  • reverb

Rackmounts

Lexicon MX400 Dual Stereo/Surround Reverb Effects Processor

Rackmounts get their name from the fact that they are larger than stompboxes and require that they be mounted in a rack, like the kind used in telecommunications and networking.

Rackmounts are larger and usually offer more control over the signal, making for a more complex sound. Since they are not as easily toggled on/off as stompboxes, rackmounts are favored in recording studios or sometimes used in live sound mixing, whereas the stompbox is used by the guitarist at home and on stage.

Some of this separation has disappeared as modern rackmounts can now be controlled by foot switches, much like a stompbox. However, they are still less portable than their stompbox cousins.

Modeling Amps

Fender Mustang III modeling amp

Lastly, some amplifiers provide sound effect features on-board, eliminating the need for the stompbox or rackmount. These are usually called “Modeling amps” as they model the stompbox or rackmount capabilities.

Some newer amps take modeling to a new level, modeling other amplifiers themselves. These amplifier modeling amps make it possible to emulate vintage amps that are often too expensive for the beginner, which makes them great amps for the hobbyist.

Conclusion

The world of electric guitar is much broader than that of the acoustic, at least in terms of gear and equipment available. But that’s part of the allure. After all, who doesn’t love to roll up their sleeves and play around with a different sound now and then?

It may seem like a lot of info, but it can open up whole new worlds of sound to explore.

Happy exploring!

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