Best Guitar Sustain Pedals – 2020 Top Picks Reviewed

A sustained note is something many guitarists use to express themselves while playing.

Many audiences likewise enjoy the profound effect of a properly played and perfectly positioned sustained note that really emphasizes a musical statement.

When you really want to connect with an audience, a sustained note, aided by a quality sustain pedal will do just that.

Comparison Chart of the Best Guitar Sustain Pedals

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Simple, easy to read and adjust
  • Highly affordable and professional quality
  • Great sustain pedal for single-coil pickups
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  • Best guitar sustain pedal for the money
  • Endless sustain and smooth compression qualities
  • Easy controls for level, attack, tone and sustain for easy sound shaping
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  • Professional quality dynamics
  • Maintains natural qualities of the sound
  • Includes high-quality controls for sustain, tone, blend, and attack
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  • Fast response time and perfect for stage use
  • Noise reduction features and LED-lit knobs
  • Premium quality, compact design, and lightweight
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What is a Sustain Pedal?

A sustain pedal is an effects pedal that lengthens the amount of time that the signal is sent to the amplifier. That creates a longer, more sustained sound when holding a note. It also is more of a time-delayed effect and often is paired with delay effects pedals.

Most sustain pedals are labeled and sold as compressor pedals. That is because they even out the tones created by the various effects in your chain with sound compression. That same compression has controllable elements that can give you greater sustain while playing.

What Does a Sustain Pedal Do?

With a simple press of your foot, you can hold longer, more accentuated notes while playing. One click turns it on, and another turns it off. That is about as simple as it gets with an effects pedal.

Many quality pedals include additional controls to help you dial in the tone you want. In its simplest form, a sustain pedal does its work in four primary ways. Those are the:

  • Attack, which refers to the amount of time it takes a sound wave to go to its absolute maximum volume or level.
  • Decay, which refers to the time it takes the sounds to fall from the maximum level to the sustained level.
  • Sustain, which refers to the time during which the sound remains at a stable level.
  • Release, which refers to when the player ends the note.

Guitarists collectively refer to the entire attack, decay, sustain, and release components of sustain as the “envelope.” Additional controls often include level, ratio, and signal compression. That helps you to adjust the bass and treble levels with a simple equalizer knob. The compression better melds various effects together into a smooth and viable signal that your amp will relay to sound much better.

How to Choose a Sustain Pedal

The market has a wide variety of sustain pedals available. It helps to limit your choices by looking for desirable components. 

Ability to Sculpt Your Tone

It helps if it includes additional controls to better dial in the effect. You can find good ones with simple controls and others that integrate a compressor and more tuning adjustments to help you dial in the perfect tone

MXR Dyna Comp Effects Pedal

True Bypass Keeps Things Quiet

 A pedal with true bypass will help to keep your sound as natural as possible when the pedal is off. When you turn it on, the effects take over and color your tone. Like most effects pedals, you want one that does not cause your amp to “pop” when you activate it, and that does not detract from your sound. 

Capable of Withstanding Touring Rigors

To handle the rigors of daily use and potential touring, you need one with a sturdy metal body. It helps to have a rubber pad that helps to keep it in place rather than slipping about while trying to turn it on and off while playing. An internal battery compartment and external 9V power adapter jack will give you options for power.

Review of the Best Sustain Pedals

Most of the best brands in the guitar effects business make compressor pedals that double as sustain pedals. Some are very simple in configuration and cost. Others can be more complicated to use and costly to obtain. The following are our top picks.

MXR Dyna Comp Guitar Effects Pedal (M102)

PROS

  • Gives excellent sustain
  • Solidly built to last a lifetime
  • Accepts 9-volt battery or power adapter
  • Two simple controls for output and sensitivity
  • Proven industry favorite at an affordable price

CONS

  • Some report excessive noise when playing single-coil pickups
  • Does not include a battery, which means there really are no major complaints

What Recent Buyers Report

While it seems like an overly simplistic pedal, it produces lots of great tones. The two control knobs make it a lot easier to dial in an ideal tone. It works especially well with humbuckers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Some effects pedals prove themselves worthy time after time. The MXR Dyna Comp has been around for more than three decades and firmly established itself as one of the absolute best. Despite growing competition and occasional upgrades to the pedal itself, the Dyna Comp continues proving its value nearly every time a guitarist tries it for the first time. It is simple, effective, bullet-proof, and affordable. That makes it a truly outstanding pedal.

Who Will use This Most

Anyone looking for better sustain and greater tone control, plus the added benefits of compression. Compression helps to even out all the effects and playing style to produce a viable final sound instead of a muddled mess. The Dyna Comp is an industry-leading compressor that gives you great sustain as an added bonus.

Bottom Line

Simple, functional, and affordable with decades of proven success make the MXR Dyna Comp one of the most commonly found and used pedals on the planet. A tuner or possibly a Wah might be the only more in-demand pedal around.

Behringer Compressor/Sustainer CS400 Ultimate Dynamics Effects Pedal,Green

PROS

  • Incredibly affordable
  • Quiet and smooth tone
  • Excellent compression to even out the tone
  • Sturdy ABS-plastic construction keeps costs low
  • Outstanding sustain that many guitarists choose to use without the compression

CONS

  • No power adapter provided
  • Plastic instead of metal body

What Recent Buyers Report

The sustain works phenomenally well, and the compression helps even out the highs and lows. The plastic casing makes it look a little on the cheap side, but its performance proves it is a high-quality pedal. It offers a quiet and almost transparent compressed tone while enabling soaring sustains.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This Compressor/Sustainer, or CS, pedal outperforms many that cost much more. The sustain is exceptional. In many ways, this pedal plays well above its weight and price while helping you to improve your sound, tone, and playing.

Who Will use This Most

Anyone looking for a quality compressor-sustainer pedal will love the CS400 and its incredibly low price point. This might be the most affordable pedal for the price and punches way above its weight when playing live gigs.

Bottom Line

When you can buy a brand new SC400 at a bargain price, you really have nothing to lose. The pedal offers a lot of upside with very little risk. Many who try it and like it wind up buying several for home, touring, and using with other instruments.

Wampler Ego Compressor V2 Guitar Effects Pedal

PROS

  • Solid metal body and five-year warranty
  • Exceptional tone contouring and control 
  • True bypass keeps it whisper-quiet while not in use
  • Works equally well as a compressor or as a dedicated effects pedal
  • Provides several suggested settings for different playing styles, such as chickin’ pickin’, jazz, country, and heavy metal

CONS

  • No power adapter provided
  • Higher price range than most others

What Recent Buyers Report

The Wampler Ego Compressor creates a smoother and more organic tone that makes your sound sparkle. The pedal remains totally silent while in use and does not alter tone unless you dial it in on purpose. There also is no annoying hum that so many other compressors produce. You can get a clean sound and excellent sustain when you use the Wampler Ego Compressor pedal.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is possibly the most complete compressor and sustain pedal on the market. The price you pay gets returned in outstanding quality and the ability to absolutely dial in the perfect tone you seek. The compressor does not mute your playing unless you want it to do that.

Who Will use This Most

The Wampler EGO Compressor appeals to anyone seeking that elusive creamy and thick driven tone you get from tube amps. Instead of cranking the amp to push it to its limits, you can set the pedal to deliver that same tone and still keep the sound at reasonable volumes. That really helps with practicing at home.

Bottom Line

A downright outstanding compressor and sustain pedal that delivers a lot of value. It is built to last and really helps you experience all that a great compressor pedal can do for a growing guitarist.

Fender The Bends Compressor Pedal

PROS

  • Analog processor delivers lush, natural tones
  • Uses dual internal audio pathways to reduce noise
  • High-current symmetrical control path quickens the response time
  • Durable brushed aluminum body with a magnetic hinge for the 9-volt battery
  • LED amp jewel visibly tells you how long the compression is in use and how long it affects your signal by changing from white to pink

CONS

  • LED lights can be annoyingly bright
  • Limited compression on mid-range tones

What Recent Buyers Report

The pedal has excellent build quality that really helps you to know what the peddle is doing. The LED amp jewel that adjusts to show the signal processing and tonal impact is especially useful. This is a truly high-quality pedal that comes at a reasonable price range.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Fender made a great compressor pedal that should work better with its popular single-coil pickups as well as humbuckers. The design and construction quality are excellent and enable the pedal to work well for guitarists of all playing abilities.

Who Will use This Most

As it is designed for studio use, it will work very well for professional players. The price is affordable enough that anyone seriously looking for improved tone will love this pedal. You get an outstanding piece that really can help you find that elusive tone that makes you regret putting down your guitar.

Bottom Line

Fender wanted a great compressor pedal and came through with an outstanding one that truly delivers great sustain. The LED jewel is a great touch that really helps you see, as well as hear and feel, how it truly impacts and enhances your playing style.

Boss CP-1X Compressor Pedal and Boss PSA-120S2 Power Supply

PROS

  • Reduced noise due to digital circuitry
  • LED gain-reduction indicator displays compression amount
  • Works well with any electronic instrument, including keyboards
  • Internal voltage pump boost internal electronics to 18 volts to handle active, as well as passive guitars
  • Uses Boss’ Multi-Dimensional Processing (MDP) technology to produce more expressive tones based on how you play each note

CONS

  • Not ideal with bass guitars but does work with them
  • Designed more as a compressor that also provides sustain

What Recent Buyers Report

Boss markets this more as a compressor pedal, but the sustain is outstanding. The compression works clearly across all frequencies and provides a very transparent tone. The sustain works very well with the MDP technology, making each note sound natural and as perfect as possible. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The pedal is designed as a compressor and works incredibly well as such. The added sustain controls make it a true double-threat pedal that gives you outstanding sustain and signal compression without muddying up your sound. It even is priced competitively with other high-quality compressors, but with the added benefit of sustain.

Who Will use This Most

It is a Boss, which means experienced professionals will love this the most. Considering you get a great compressor, as well a pedal that boosts the sustain, the retail price makes it downright affordable and a solid candidate as a top bang-for-your-buck effects pedal. It is not cheap, but it will not take a big bite out of your wallet.

Bottom Line

This dynamite pedal works exceptionally well as a compressor while boosting the sustain. The ability to dial in your preference helps to deliver exactly the right tone.

Pros and Cons of Sustain Pedals

Sustain pedals offer many great advantages for guitarists. When used properly, the sustain pedal sculpts the tone and delivers a prolonged emphasis. You can hold notes and the attention of the audience much better while truly playing with feel instead of tossing out countless notes with no real meaning behind them. When a guitar player really has something to say, the sustain pedal helps to make it happen.

Pros

The following are some pros of this kind of sustain pedal:

Helps Fatten Your Tone

A sustain pedal does a great job of helping to even out your tone while enabling greater sustain. When dialed in properly, you get the same effect as pushing a tube amp and getting that fat, creamy tone that audiences have loved for decades. 

Provides Compression

As our list of the best sustain pedals affirms, you need compression to make it work. Compression is what you get when you push a tube amp nearly to its break-up point to get its true personality out for the entire audience to hear and enjoy. It also gives you a lot of sustain. Many early rock guitarists like Eric Clapton learned to use nothing more than their volume and tone controls to drive early tube amps to their break-up point for gobs of controllable tone and sustain. 

Built to Last

You will use a sustain pedal often. That means it will take a pounding from your foot while touring and playing gigs. All that loading and unloading, transportation, and stage use mean that it will get beat up, banged around, and still needs to work as designed. 

Cons

Wherever there are pros, there is bound to be at least one con:

Affects Tone

About the only downside to a sustain pedal is when it adversely affects your tone. But that is something you can control better with modern sustain and compressor pedals.

Conclusion

When you want to sculpt an ideal tone, a sustain pedal is an essential tool of the trade. You can find great pedals ranging from relatively affordable to incredibly expensive. Ultimately, the best one fits your budget and gives you the tonal control you desire with even greater sustain.

People Also Ask

Sustain pedals clearly do more than simply elongate your tone. The compressor aspect evens out the sound when you have multiple effects pedals at work. And the ability to create a truly devastating tonal presentation makes it a very useful pedal for a lot of pros. Yet, many players still have questions. The following are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Is a Sustain Pedal Necessary?

The more pedals you have, the more necessary a sustain pedal becomes. It evens out the tonal variances of other pedals, while greatly enhancing your own playing style.

When to Use a Sustain Pedal?

A sustain pedal is the best tool for holding longer notes while controlling the potential chaos of multiple effects pedals in use. Whenever you want to push your tone to get those fat, creamy, long-sustaining notes that a tube amp produces near breakup, a sustain pedal is your best friend.

What is the Difference Between a Damper Pedal and a Sustain Pedal?

A damper pedal does one thing: It dampens the tone. When combined with a sustain pedal, you can dampen the sustain with a half-damper effect. That gives you yet more subtle tonal variations to add to your playing palette.

Are Sustain Pedals Universal?

Guitar sustain pedals are universal. They work with all electric guitars. While researching guitar sustain pedals, you likely are seeing piano sustain pedals. Those are different and can create confusion when looking for the effects pedal for electric guitars.