||BOSS CS-3 Compression/Sustainer
Summary: If you’re looking to really squeeze your signal, this box’ll do it.
Pros: 4 knobs provide great flexibility to shape your compression. For the money, it’s a pretty good deal.
Cons: Has probably some of the most severe compression I’ve ever experienced, which results in a loss of tone. Sounds okay with solid state amps, but horrible with tube amps.
Price: $89 Street
Back when I was looking for a compressor to fatten up the tone of my Strat to compensate for the really bright Tex-Mex pickups, I evaluated a bunch of compressor pedals, from the high-end (Maxon, Demeter) to the low-end, one of which was the BOSS CS-3 and MXR DynaComp.
I recently went through my review notebook and saw that I didn’t do a review of the CS-3, so here goes…
To start with, if you don’t want to read the entire article, if you’re a hard-rock/metal player, I think you’ll like this pedal. It’s real squishy, and combined with an amp that produces a tone of low-freq, it will definitely get you that super-compressed distortion. On the other hand, if you’re a jazz/blues or classic rock player, you will not like this pedal as it can really muddy your clean tone.
That said above, the CS-3 is not a bad pedal. It’s well-made, and compared with other BOSS I’ve owned in the past, it is probably just as reliable. But the CS-3 follows in pretty much the same formula as other BOSS pedals: You get decent tone for a relatively cheap price. They’re made for a mass market audience. Not that that is intrinsically bad, but if you’re a real tone freak, it won’t be up to par tonally with what you’ve come to expect. But high expectations aside, as I said, the CS-3 is not a bad pedal, and with the right amount of tweaking you can get a decent tone from this box.
One thing I really liked about this pedal is its configurability. It has four knobs for Level, Tone, Attack, and Sustain. The Tone knob really comes in handy as you increase the sustain, as I found that increased levels muddied the high-freq tones. The Tone knob helps to compensate for that to a point. But dial in too much highs and your tone becomes really “tinny” irrespective of the guitar you use. Having an Attack knob is a pretty cool feature as well, as you can adjust how fast the compression kicks in. Not bad for a $89 pedal.
The unit I tested was a little noisy when engaged, not matter how much I tweaked the knobs. It wasn’t so apparent when tested with a Roland Cube 60, but with a tube amp (tested on a Fender Twin and 65 Super Reverb Reissue), the soft hiss was a bit annoying. But with either type of amp, as I mentioned above, this thing really squeezes your signal to the point that there’s a noticeable difference in tone between the unit being engaged and not engaged. In comparison, my Maxon CP-9 Pro+ when engaged retains my tone even at higher levels of compression, but just “feels” fatter. Very transparent.
All in all, the BOSS CS-3 is a decent pedal. For someone on a budget who wants to add some compression to their signal, as I said above, this will do the job. But if you’re looking for transparency, this isn’t the pedal for you.
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