Vocal Compressor Pedals – Best Vocal Compression Processors 2020

In this article, we’re going to be discussing vocal compressors, and in particular, listing the top 4 vocal compressor units that are available in 2020.

However, before we jump straight into that, we’re going to briefly discuss what the role of a compression processor is, and what types are available.

TC Helicon 996003005 VoiceTone T1 Vocal Effects Processor
ART Pro-VLA II Two Channel Vactrol-based Compressor
dbx 166xs Professional Audio Compressor/Limiter/Gate Dynamic Processor
MSRP
$138.00
$359.99
$316.15
Our Rating
95
92
88
Dimensions
2.3 x 3.5 x 5.4 inches
21.8 x 12.4 x 5.9 inches
10.6 x 5.9 x 20.3 inches
Weight
0.92 pounds
11.02 pounds
7.34 pounds
Type
Compression/EQ
Optical
Compressor/Limiter
Frequency Range
20Hz to 20kHz
10Hz-100kHz
20Hz - 20kHz
Power
18V DC power supply
18V DC power supply
12V DC power supply
TC Helicon 996003005 VoiceTone T1 Vocal Effects Processor
MSRP
$138.00
Our Rating
95
Dimensions
2.3 x 3.5 x 5.4 inches
Weight
0.92 pounds
Type
Compression/EQ
Frequency Range
20Hz to 20kHz
Power
18V DC power supply
More Information
ART Pro-VLA II Two Channel Vactrol-based Compressor
MSRP
$359.99
Our Rating
92
Dimensions
21.8 x 12.4 x 5.9 inches
Weight
11.02 pounds
Type
Optical
Frequency Range
10Hz-100kHz
Power
18V DC power supply
More Information
dbx 166xs Professional Audio Compressor/Limiter/Gate Dynamic Processor
MSRP
$316.15
Our Rating
88
Dimensions
10.6 x 5.9 x 20.3 inches
Weight
7.34 pounds
Type
Compressor/Limiter
Frequency Range
20Hz - 20kHz
Power
12V DC power supply
More Information

So let’s get to it!

What are Vocal Compressor Pedals?

Vocal compression is an effect used to limit the dynamics of a vocal take, this can be both in a studio environment or live on-stage.

However, singers who want to have vocal compression for on-stage performances will want a solution which is 100% reliable, since there’s only one chance to get the performance right! That’s where vocal compressor pedals come into usage.

Vocal compressor pedals offer singers the ability to activate the vocal compression without the need for a complex setup, such as a laptop/computer, which is running a compressor program, which could freeze or crash at any given time.

Instead, the singer can have a small piece of hardware, the vocal compression pedal, which is situated directly in front of the singer on-stage and can be activated and de-activated with the touch of a button.

Best Vocal Compressor Pedals for Vocals

vocal effects pedals

There is a range of multifunctional vocal effects pedals available that provide vocal compression which you can find here; however, there aren’t many pedals with the compression effect as it’s singular functionality.

Additionally, there are also vocal compressor processing units (usually rack-mountable and lacking foot pedal functionality) which can be used for both live and studio vocal compression… Therefore, this article has been split into three different sections:

  • Singular-Function Footpedal Vocal Compressor Pedals
  • Singular-Function Vocal Compressor Units for Live & Studio compression
  • Multi-Functional Vocal Compression processors

Multi-Functional Vocal Compression processors

The following effects pedals have built-in compression effects and foot-pedal functionality. These processors also have a range of other effects that are available to the user, so if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, these processors are for you.

Best Vocal Compressor Pedal Processors

TC Electronic Singles VoiceTone T1

The T1 is part of the VoiceTone Singles series and offers singers a single-button stompbox with ‘Adaptive Tone Technology’, allowing singers to easily control Vocal Compression, Gating, De-essing and EQ all with the control knobs on the front of the processor.

Main Features/Benefits

  • Simple to use vocal compression pedal, with on-off stompbox functionality
  • Studio quality microphone preamp with 48v Phantom Power
  • Easily adjusted Shape, Compressor, De-essing and Warmth settings
  • On/Off Integration with  TC-Helicon MP-75 and MP-76 microphone for remote control wherever you go on-stage.
  • Connects to computer/laptop for downloadable updates.

Disadvantages

  • Inability to save presets, therefore any modifications to these presets must be done via the on-pedal filter knobs.
TC Helicon T1 Review

Who is this pedal perfect for

This TC Helicon T1 vocal compression unit is perfect for any singer looking for a singular functioning effects pedal. This pedal’s primary function is to help a singer control vocal dynamics and tone.

The processor is ideal for use in practices and live performances. We would recommend this to a hobbyist singer/songwriter/musician.


T-Rex NEOCOMP Compressor Pedal – designed for Guitar, Bass and Vocals

The T-Rex Neo Compressor Pedal is suitable for Guitar, Bass and for Vocals. It provides users with up to 9:1 compression, attack, release and gain controls meaning that it can provide anything from a light, breezy compression, up to full, heavy squashing of the signal.

This drop in volume can be made up by the pedal’s Gain knob.

Main Features/Benefits

  • Simple to use stompbox
  • Aaility for the singer to further refine the compressed sound with attack, release knobs.
  • An additional gain knob to increase the compressed signal volume
  • Extremely small in size, so it won’t take up additional space on your pedalboard.

Disadvantages

  • Not primarily designed with vocal compression in mind

Who is this pedal perfect for

This pedal is for the musician who wants the ability to use their compressor pedal on vocals, guitar and bass. Truly suited for the musician as opposed to the singer.


ART Pro-VLA II Two Channel Vactrol-based Compressor – (#1 AMAZON BESTSELLER AND OUR EDITOR’S RECOMMENDATION)

The ART Pro-VLA II Compressor processor & leveling amplifier is the perfect rack-mountable solution for Live and Studio use, and is incredibly versatile, being able to be used on any instrument with beautiful sonic detail.

With it’s tube compression circuitry, it really gives a warm natural sound to the vocals, and acoustic guitar [refer to the demo video below].

We have been particularly impressed by this processor, with the compression really adding to the overall sound of the vocals, without taking away the naturality of the vocal line.

Main Features/Benefits

  • Optoelectronic design circuitry (as opposed to VCA) means more compression can be used with a much more natural sounding output signal
  • Features a 12AT7 vacuum tube in the gain stage which gives the output a warm sounding output
  • Incredibly versatile, being able to apply compression/dynamic levelling to any instrument in any scenario (both live and studio)
  • Diverse compression ratio, from 2:1 to 20:1
  • 2 x XLR inputs & 2 x 1/4″ inputs
  • 2 x XLR outputs, 2 x 1/4″ outputs

Disadvantages

  • Not a stompbox, therefore compression will be active throughout the performance (but will variate based on the input signal)

Who is this pedal perfect for

This processor is the perfect solution for the serious singer/musician/engineer, looking for high-quality compression that can be used in both the recording studio and live (stage) environment.


dbx 166xs Compressor/Limiter/Gate

The dbx 166xs compression unit, limiter and gate is another processor designed for multiple uses; This processor is suitable for integration with vocals, guitar, bass, drums, etc and oozes high quality due to it’s patented ‘overeasy compression technology’.

This processor is versatile in its use and can be utilized within any environment, whether you’re running a live stage performance or an isolated studio recording.

Main Features/Benefits

  • New gate timing algorithms ensure the smoothest release characteristics
  • Separate precision LED displays for gain reduction, compression threshold and gate threshold allow quick, accurate setup
  • Stereo or dual-mono operation
  • Balanced inputs and outputs on 1/4″ TRS and XLR connectors
  • Side Chain insert
  • Classic dbx® “Auto” mode

Disadvantages

  • Not a stompbox, therefore compression will be active throughout the performance (but will variate based on the input signal)

Who is this pedal perfect for

Again, this processor is the perfect solution for the serious singer/musician/engineer, looking for high-quality compression that can be used in both the recording studio and live (stage) environment.


dbx 266XS Compressor/Gate

The dbx 266xs compression unit, limiter and gate is another processor designed for multiple uses; Similar to the 166xs, this processor is suitable for integration with vocals, guitar, bass, drums, etc but does not have a limiter, or in other words, does not have as high maximum compression threshold as the 166xs.

Similar to the 166xs, this processor is versatile in its use and can be utilized within any environment, whether you’re running a live stage performance or an isolated studio recording.

Main Features/Benefits

  • New gate timing algorithms ensure the smoothest release characteristics
  • Separate precision LED displays for gain reduction, compression threshold and gate threshold allow quick, accurate setup
  • Stereo or dual-mono operation
  • Balanced inputs and outputs on 1/4″ TRS and XLR connectors
  • Side Chain insert
  • Classic dbx® “Auto” mode

Disadvantages

  • Not a stompbox, therefore compression will be active throughout the performance (but will variate based on the input signal)

Who is this pedal perfect for

Again, this processor is the perfect solution for the serious singer/musician/engineer, looking for high-quality compression that can be used in both the recording studio and live (stage) environment.

However, for anyone looking for hard compression (limiting), I would recommend the ART Pro-VLA II or 166xs instead.

We’ve featured a video demonstration of the dbx 266xs below:

In Conclusion

To conclude, there are plenty of options when it comes to the kind of compression unit that you require, some are more portable and more affordable in price, being more suited for a gigging musician.

Other more expensive units are more suited to the professional musician who wants the ability and versatility of using the compressor for both studio and live performances.

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Vocal Compressor Pedal - Best Vocal Compression Processors 2020
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Vocal Compressor Pedal - Best Vocal Compression Processors 2020
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