8 Best Guitar Sustain Pedals in 2021 [Buying Guide]

Do you notice how no matter which piece of guitar equipment you’re shopping for, be it a guitar, amplifier, or new effects pedal, the manufacturer is always talking about sustain? For guitarists, sustain is like the lifeblood of your sound. Without it, your notes and chords would decay out quickly, robbing you and your audience of the guitar tone you craft so carefully. 

Fortunately, sustain pedals allow you to add seemingly endless amounts of sustain to your sound, letting your notes and chords sing out for what seems like forever. The best sustain pedals also provide many additional benefits beyond allowing your sound to carry for a longer time. 

Today, we’re going to cover everything you’ll need to know to select the best sustain pedal and take a closer look at the best pedals on the market.

best guitar sustain pedals

What is a Guitar Sustain Pedal?

A guitar sustain pedal is an effect that can increase the sustain of your playing. To better understand what that means, we must first understand the concept of sustain as it applies to music. 

With any instrument, the sound it produces is its envelope. Within that envelope are the attack, decay, sustain, and release of the note or chord you’re playing. 

The attack refers to the amount of time it takes for you to strike a string and have the note reach its full level. 

Decay is the slight decrease in volume that occurs from when a note reaches its maximum volume to the point it sustains. 

Sustain refers to the time that sound spends at its consistent level, while the release is the time from when a note begins to decrease in volume until it’s no longer audible.

A guitar sustain pedal prolongs the time the note or chord stays at its full volume level. Even if you’re standing in front of a wall of Marshall stacks strumming power chords on a Les Paul, you’ll notice that those chords decay quickly, even when playing with overdrive. But with the right sustain pedal, you’ll be able to keep those notes ringing out until the cows come home. 

Do Sustain Pedals Affect Guitar Tone?

Sustain pedals are somewhat of a nebulous area of guitar effects because there are many different ways to increase a guitar’s sustain. Depending on your playing style, you’ll likely find that one style of sustain pedal is the best choice for you. 

Some sustain pedals are compression pedals, while others are more akin to fuzz or overdrive. New designs, such as the PLUS pedal from Gamechanger Audio, function as an always-on looper. Once you engage the pedal, it will sustain the note you’ve just played at a consistent level until you release the pedal, similar to how the sustain pedal on a piano or keyboard works.

Since there are many different designs, it’s difficult to succinctly explain how these pedals affect your tone. Still, most “sustain” effects are simply compressors, and it’s easy to explain how a compressor affects your guitar sound while increasing sustain in the process. 

Compressors work by taking the quietest and loudest parts of your playing and homogenizing them, so your output signal comes through at a consistent volume level. Depending on the pedal’s settings, you can significantly prolong the time your signal spends at its full level, which translates to loads of additional sustain.

For blues and funk players, compressing the signal provides additional snarl and a punchiness that you didn’t have before, especially if you’re using single-coil pickups. Lead players can utilize the boost in sustain to let their notes scream out forever in their solos. 

What Makes A Quality Sustainer Pedal For Guitar?

If this is your first time shopping for a sustain pedal, it can be a challenge to know what to look for. Keep the factors below in mind as you shop, and you’ll have no trouble selecting one of the best compressor pedals for your rig. 

Analog vs. Digital

You’ll come across analog and digital models when shopping for a sustain pedal, and depending on the styles you play, one may be a better choice for you. 

Analog circuitry is the tried-and-true original, and it offers warmth and responsiveness that provides a vintage quality to your tone. Digital pedals are more prevalent, and what they might lack in classic appeal, they make up for with the additional versatility and control that digital signal processing offers. 

True vs. Buffered Bypass

The bypass of a pedal refers to its switching system, and it may affect the fidelity of your guitar sound. With a true bypass pedal, it doesn’t affect your tone when the pedal is off. However, driving long cable runs or large pedalboards can result in a loss of signal quality. 

Pedal manufacturers began placing buffers inside their pedals, which help drive the guitar, preserving your signal’s strength as it travels through your rig. The caveat is that with a buffer, the pedal is always on in some capacity. Even when the effect is off, the buffer continues to drive your signal. 

Just as a true bypass pedal could cause a loss of signal strength if you use long cables or power a large pedalboard, a buffered bypass pedal can input a signal boost you don’t want.


What you expect out of a sustain or compressor pedal is the most essential thing to think about when shopping for a pedal. Are you looking to equalize the input volume of your playing for funk or country styles? Do you want to occasionally add more sustain to your solos and leads? Or, perhaps you’re looking for something entirely different altogether, like the Gamechanger Audio PLUS pedal. 

One of the best compressor pedals is usually the ticket for vintage funk and country playing, while an overdrive or fuzz similar to the Big Muff Nano may be your best choice for lead players. If you’re still unsure which pedal fits your style best, the best way to figure it out is to try them all! 

Low Noise

Nothing gets in the way of an otherwise great sound like noisy compression. Many guitar effects can provide loads of sustain, but they do so with an audible hiss when you turn the level up. A high-quality compression pedal will provide low noise operation, regardless of the amount of compression you dial in on the controls. 

Build Quality

No matter how careful you are, the rigors of the road are rough on our gear. If you’re like most guitarists who are always lugging their gear to practice or different venues, you’ll want a pedal that can put up to the punishment you’re dishing out.

Look for pedals that offer heavy cast housings and use premium components. You might not be able to see the inner workings of a pedal when you’re shopping, but what you can see, like the quality of the hardware or the smoothness of the controls, are a good indicator that they’re building a quality pedal that will stand up to a beating. 

Tone Control

If there’s one complaint with sustain pedals, it’s that they tend to suck some of the treble frequencies from your tone as the level of sustain increases. To combat this issue, many pedals offer tone or treble controls that allow you to add back any of the highs you’re losing, leaving you with a fuller and punchier version of your tone, with gobs of thick sustain and a consistent dynamic level.


For many guitarists, a pedal’s size becomes a significant feature as their pedal collection grows and the real estate on their pedalboard shrinks. If you’re already working with a tight pedalboard, look for pedals that feature a mini or nano housing, as they’ll take up considerably less space than a large pedal. 

The Top 8 Best Guitar Sustain Pedal Options

From the Philosopher’s Tone to the classic Boss CS-3, we cover all the best sustain pedals down to the nitty-gritty details. Read on as we cover the best pedals on the market today.

Behringer CS400 Compressor Sustainer Effects Pedal

Best budget compressor

Sustain effects typically set guitarists back at least $100, which can be prohibitive for the budding player who isn’t even sure they need to add a compressor to their rig yet. With the Behringer CS400, you can bring a quality sustainer to your rig for about the same price as a trip to the movies and a large popcorn. 

The CS400 is essentially a carbon copy of the Boss CP series of pedals, which has been one of the most popular sustain pedals on the market for several decades. The CS400 offers controls for level, attack, sustain, and tone, which allows you to dial in a smooth and punchy tone with loads of sustain. 

When engaged, the CS400 makes quick work of your signal, helping to equalize everything at a consistent level. You’ll instantly notice your tone transform from weak and lifeless to punchy and in-your-face. 

The one caveat with Behringer’s pedals is that they’re a bit noisy. You’ll need to spend some time fussing with the controls to find the sweet spot where you’re able to reduce or eliminate noise while still achieving a bold tone with tons of sustain. 

Features & Benefits

  • Digital compressor sustainer pedal 
  • Level, tone, sustain and attack controls 
  • Bypass: buffered bypass
  • Power: 9V battery or power supply
  • Heavy-duty cast housing
  • LED status indicator 

Who Should Use This?

The Behringer CS400 is the perfect compressor/sustainer pedal for guitar players on a budget looking for a reliable and effective compressor. The CS400 will set you back less than half of what the Boss compressor knocks off costs. This pedal is a bit noisy, though, so you may want to consider a higher-quality effect if your budget allows it.  

Gamechanger Audio Plus Pedal Piano-style Sustain Effect Pedal

Most innovative sustain pedal 

Gamechanger Audio couldn’t have come up with a more fitting name for their company, as the PLUS sustain pedal is truly that, a game-changing effect taking the guitar world by storm. It’s also arguably the first sustain effect that actually does what the name entails. It isn’t a compressor or an overdrive masquerading as a sustain pedal; it’s a unique effect that delivers all the sustain you could ask for and then some. 

What’s unique about this effect is that it functions as a looper. The pedal is always capturing what you’re playing, and when the effect is engaged, the looper plays back your last note or chord, offering endless sustain until you step off the pedal. The sampling quality is so high that it’s literally impossible to hear where your real playing ends and the loop begins.

The look of the PLUS pedal is also unique, as it takes the form (and function) of a sustain pedal for piano, with a long brass pedal you press down to engage the effect. 

Since this pedal will loop your last note or chord for as long as you wish, this pedal is also a handy practice tool. Strum a chord and practice your scales or melodies over top of the sustained notes. 

The PLUS pedal also offers its own dedicated effects loop, a wet out and a dry out, and multiple effect modes. In group mode, the pedal allows you to add layers of notes or chords, adding a new layer each time you step on the pedal. In single mode, each time you step on the pedal, it erases the previous note or chord. 

Features & Benefits

  • Digital sustain pedal 
  • Real-time sampling
  • Wet/dry outputs
  • Two different effect modes
  • Blend, sustain, rise, and tail controls
  • Effects loop
  • Rear-mounted input and output
  • Requires power supply (included)

Who Should Use This?

The PLUS pedal is far and above the most unique effect on our list. It’s one of the most outstanding effects in the world. If you’re looking for a unique tool that will allow you to achieve endless sustain, the Gamechanger PLUS is for you. This pedal is also ideal for anyone who needs to create moody and atmospheric soundscapes. 

Joyo JF-10 Dyna Compressor

Best budget analog compressor

The Joyo JF-10 Dyna-Comp is the ideal compressor for guitarists on a budget who want the warmth and responsiveness of an analog true-bypass compressor without shelling out hundreds of dollars. This compact compressor offers analog circuitry and true bypass switching to ensure that the tone of your guitar and amp shine through the mix. 

The Dyna-Comp provides controls for sustain, attack, and level, which allows you to add all the punch and snarl you need to take your sound to the next level. A treble or tone knob would be a welcome addition to this compressor to help replace some of the high-end that gets lost in the fray.

Joyo makes this high-quality pedal from a durable cast aluminum mini enclosure that can stand up to a beating without taking up much space on your pedalboard. You can power the Dyna Compressor with either a 9V battery or a power supply, but you’ll have to purchase one separately.

Features & Benefits

  • Analog compressor
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • Level, attack, and sustain controls
  • Rugged aluminum mini housing
  • 9V battery or power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

The Joyo Dyna Compressor is an ideal pedal for guitarists who want warm analog compression that’s affordable and easy to use. This pedal lacks some of the features and control of high-end pedals, but it’s well under half of what you’d expect to pay for an analog pedal.

Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer Pedal

Best compression sustainer pedal

The Boss CS-3 compressor sustainer is a high-quality heavyweight that’s found a home on thousands of guitarists’ pedalboards for the last several decades. The Boss CS-3 is easy to use and effective, and it provides a healthy dose of sustain, tighter dynamic control, and a tonal richness that can breathe life into any rig.

Controls for level, tone, attack, and sustain allow you to dial in a broad range of tones, and the pedal remains virtually noiseless no matter how you manipulate your settings. With the CS-3 from Boss, you can easily dial in everything from slight compression to soaring sustain that feels like it will never end with just a few adjustments. 

Among the best aspects of the Boss CS-3 is that, unlike cheaper compressors, there’s virtually no loss of high frequencies, and the sound is practically colorless. The tone you start with is the tone you end up with, albeit with an extra dose of snarl, fatness, and body. 

Like all great pedals, they build the Boss CS-3 like they’re preparing for war. Boss provides heavy cast housing, rugged control knobs, and heavy-duty jacks. Boss backs their stompboxes with a five-year warranty. There are players who’ve had the same Boss sustainer on their boards since Jimmy Carter was president, so we doubt you’ll ever need to use that legendary Boss warranty. 

Features & Benefits

  • Analog compressor sustainer
  • Bypass: buffered bypass
  • Volume, sustain, tone, and attack controls
  • Die-cast housing
  • 9V battery or power supply
  • 5-year warranty

Who Should Use This?

The Boss CS-3 compressor is one of the best pedals for guitarists who want a low noise sustain pedal that’s going to be a workhorse that will last forever. This pedal is one of the most durable and reliable on the market, and it’s the perfect set-and-forget companion for players who want to spend their time playing instead of fussing with their gear. 

Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Distortion & Sustain Pedal

Best distortion sustain pedal

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff is one of the most iconic sustain pedals of all time, and every year it seems like Electro-Harmonix adds even more pedals to the Big Muff family, like the Nano Big Muff we’re discussing here. 

Unlike the compression pedals on our list, the Big Muff Nano is actually a fuzz box. Fuzz boxes are similar to distortion pedals, and the Big Muff has been a favorite of players like Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Roger Waters, and many more. Big Muff’s are known for the insane and unruly wall of fuzz they generate and the endless sustain that they provide to guitarists.

You can also tame the effect to some degree, which allows you to dial in creamy sustain without the uncontrollable fuzz that people love the Big Muff for. 

Unlike the original Big Muff, which seems to occupy about as much space on your pedalboard as a cinderblock, this new Nano version is trim and compact and smaller than a standard stompbox. The tiny size is ideal for guitarists who can’t sacrifice the extra space that a full-size Big Muff commands but would love to dial in some extra snarl and sustain. 

As much as there is to like about this true-bypass fuzz pedal, it isn’t for everyone. Funk, blues, and country players won’t find much use for the Big Muff. At its core, this is a distortion pedal, not a compressor pedal. This makes it an ideal choice for adding buttery sustain to your leads and solos that would regularly be overdriven, but less so if you’re looking to add punch and roundness to a funk song. 

Features & Benefits

  • Analog fuzz pedal
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • Volume, sustain, and tone controls
  • Die-cast housing
  • 9V battery or power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

The Big Muff Nano is the ideal option for lead guitarists who are happy to add some additional gain to their sound in the name of achieving loads of soaring sustain.

Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone Micro Compressor Sustain Pedal

Best sustain pedal for guitar

Pigtronix guitar effects have long been a favorite of tone-obsessed guitarists on a constant quest for the perfect sound. This pedal provides a dramatic sustain boost and helps provide body and liveliness that may have been lacking before. Most importantly, it does so without much of an impact on the noise floor of your rig, which you can’t say for most other compressors.

The latest iteration of this compressor pedal, the Philosopher’s Tone Micro, brings the same true bypass circuitry and high-quality construction as it’s big brother. The Micro provides a jolt of body and richness that players love the original for in a compact micro enclosure that’s half the size of a traditional stompbox. 

On the front of the pedal, you’ll find controls for volume, sustain, blend and treble. Even with the sustain on ten, this pedal provides low noise operation, allowing you and your audience to focus on your playing instead of the hiss in the background.

The biggest draw of this pedal is its blend knob, which is similar to the one found on the Keeley Compressor Plus. This control allows you to blend your wet and dry signals. This feature provides players with the best of both worlds. You’ll enjoy the tighter dynamics, body, and roundness of the wet signal and still have the option to dial in some of your raw tone to bring balance to your sound. 

The blend feature is especially handy for hard rock and metal guitarists. Modern high-gain amplifiers and effects tend to suck some of the natural life from your playing, glossing over it with a mechanical sheen. While this is desirable in most cases, being able to add back some of your raw and authentic tone can help you create a sound that’s equal parts polish and grit.

Features & Benefits

  • Analog compression
  • Volume, sustain, treble, and blend controls
  • Compact micro housing
  • Cast aluminum housing
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • Requires 9V power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

This Pigtronix compression pedal is the perfect pedal for guitar players who like the idea of having a sustain pedal but have concerns about noise and losing the character of their playing. It’s also ideal for anybody with a small pedalboard and limited space for new pedals. 

Wampler Ego Compressor Sustain Pedal

Most versatile sustain pedal

The Wampler Ego Compressor is one of the more unique compressors on the market. The pedal immediately stands out with its five-knob configuration, which is rare for a sustain pedal. The Ego provides a similar array of controls as the Philosopher’s Tone Micro above, but with an added attack knob, which allows for even more granular control over the pedal.

The Ego also includes a blend knob, so you’ll be able to perfectly mix your compressed signal with your raw signal and add in as much of the natural feel of your playing as you like. Even with five controls to worry about, Wampler manages to pack all of the circuitry into a mini housing, so it’s a smart choice for tight pedalboards. 

Wampler builds this pedal tough from heavy-gauge aluminum, which they finish with electric blue sparkle paint. The graphics on the pedal sync up perfectly with the status indicator light, revealing a spooky glowing eye when this true-bypass compressor pedal is on. 

Not only can you run the Ego Compressor on batteries or with a wall wart, but it’s also compatible with 18V power supplies, which adds even more juice and liveliness to the sound of the pedal. 

Whether you play metal and hard-rock, country, blues, funk, or anything in between, the Ego from Wampler is a hand-built American stompbox that’s worthy of a closer look. 

Features & Benefits

  • Analog compression
  • Sustain, tone, attack, volume, and blend controls
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • Runs on batteries or 9V/18V power supply (not included)
  • Built by hand in the USA

Who Should Use This?

The Ego Compressor from Wampler is the ideal compressor for players who demand a versatile solution to their compression needs. Regardless of the style you play, you’ll be able to dial in a great sound  with the Ego. 

Electro-Harmonix Nano Soul Preacher Compressor Sustainer Pedal

Most user-friendly compressor

The Electro-Harmonix Nano Soul Preacher is a straightforward low noise pedal that provides all the warm analog compression you could ever need. From tight and punchy dynamics to soaring sustain during solos and leads, the Soul Preacher nails it all. It’s no surprise that this pedal is one of the most popular compressors on earth. 

Using the Electro-Harmonix Nano is as easy as it gets. The front panel offers controls for level and sustain, similar to the MXR Dyna Comp. There’s also a 3-position mini switch to choose between fast, medium, or slow attack. That’s all you’ll need to worry about; the rest of the magic happens inside the pedal. 

The attack switch is especially handy. Instead of guessing at the perfect setting with a knob, you can choose between three different expertly-voiced attack modes that all sound great. 

The fast attack mode offers quickness and musicality that’s perfect for country and funk playing, while the medium attack mode is smooth and defined, ideal if you’re a fan of blues. The slow attack mode offers the most transparent and natural feel, yet it still provides a dramatic tonal improvement.

Electro-Harmonix builds their guitar pedals to stand up to years of punishment, and the raw metal finish offers an industrial vibe that only gets better with age. The Electro-Harmonix Nano includes a 9V battery, or you can power it with a wall wart.

Features & Benefits

  • Analog compressor
  • Controls for volume, sustain
  • 3-position attack switch
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • 9V battery or power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

The Soul Preacher Nano from Electro-Harmonix is an ideal guitar effects  pedal for any player who wants a compressor that’s easy to use and doesn’t require you to fuss with too much. Simple and easy to use, the Soul Preacher is the perfect “set-it-and-forget-it” compressor. 

How To Use A Sustain Pedal for Guitar

There are plenty of ways to effectively use a sustain pedal, and you may end up leveraging a few different methods depending on the styles you play. 

Many funk and country guitarists will use a compressor sustainer pedal to boost their output signal, which they leave on virtually all the time. Doing so lends sustain, punchiness, and roundness to your sound, and it’s beneficial for funky passages, like the solo on Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean or for “chickin pickin” style country playing. 

Lead guitarists tend to reach for their sustain pedals during solos and lead passages, and the additional compression allows their notes to soar through the mix, giving the audience the impression that these notes could carry on for days if you allow them to. 

Where Sustainer Pedals Go In The Signal Chain

Setting up your signal chain properly is crucial to ensure your guitar sounds its best and your pedals are playing nicely with each other. While there aren’t any hard and fast rules to set up your signal chain, once you place your delay pedal in front of distortion for the first time, you quickly realize why most players follow a few simple rules of thumb when connecting pedals. 

Most players put dynamic effects like a compressor or sustain pedal at the very beginning of their signal chain. This ensures that the effects pedal drives your guitar signal, and in turn, your signal drives the pedals. Connecting a sustain pedal later in the chain means you’re driving a signal that already has several layers of effects, which can result in a muddy sound, tons of feedback, and unruly guitar effects pedals. 

Experimenting with pedal placements will tell you more about what you shouldn’t do than what you should, and it’s a practical way to understand how different pedals interact with each other. Start by arranging your pedals in the order below, with the pedal at the top of the list plugging into your guitar input and the pedal at the bottom going into your amp input. Then, experiment from there.

  1. Dynamics (compressor, sustainers)
  2. Filters (wah, envelope filter)
  3. Pitch effects (pitch shifter, octaver)
  4. Volume pedal
  5. Gain effects (overdrive, distortion, fuzz)
  6. Modulation (chorus, flanger, phaser, etc.)
  7. Time effects (reverb and delay pedals)
  8. Looper

How To Connect It To Your Signal Chain

Setting up your new sustain pedal isn’t rocket science. If your sustain pedal is the only effect you’re running, all you’ll need to do is plug an instrument cable from your guitar to the input jack on the effects pedal. Plug another instrument cable into the sustain pedal’s output, and run it to the input on your amplifier. 

If you’re using a 9-volt battery to power your effects pedal, you’re ready to go. If you’re using a power supply, plug it into the jack on the rear or side of your pedal. 

If you’re running additional pedals, the cable running from your sustain effect’s output will plug into the input on the next pedal in your chain. If you run other pedals, you’ll want to use a power supply to provide juice; otherwise, you’ll burn through a ton of batteries.

Most guitarists daisy chain effects together, which helps save space and keep your wiring clean. Plus, you’ll be able to power your whole pedalboard off a single wall outlet instead of needing an outlet for each pedal. 

Is A Sustain Pedal For Guitar Worth It?

There’s a world of pedals out there, and they all have shiny marketing campaigns that lead you to believe that all you need to do to realize the holy grail of tone is to add their stompbox to your pedalboard. If you’re like most guitarists, you don’t have the time, budget, or room on your pedalboard to add every cool effect that catches your eye. 

So, is a sustain pedal worth it? That’s a question you’ll need to answer on your own. 

A sustain or compressor pedal is a godsend for lead guitarists as well as those who are a fan of blues, country, or funk. Still, any guitarist can benefit from the added punch and roundness they’ll have when they add a sustain pedal to their arsenal. 

But, we wouldn’t call a sustain pedal a must-have piece of gear. Many guitarists play their entire lives without ever considering one. If you’re happy with your sound now, you probably don’t need to rush out to purchase a sustain pedal. But, if you’re looking to breathe some new life into your sound and achieve a livelier and more punchy sound, a sustain pedal will be a useful tool for you.

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