REVIEW: MXR Custom Comp

One of MXR’s early successes was the Dyna Comp compressor. This legendary little red box was particularly integral to the tone of David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, and it also found favour with country players who dug the way its rounded tone smoothed over some of the sharp edges of their Telecaster tones (which could be especially emphasised by slapback delay). And it has a permanent place on my pedalboard.

The MXR Custom Shop’s Custom Comp is built around the hard-to-find CA3080 ‘metal can’ IC (integrated circuit) used in several classic pedals of days gone by. This part is pretty rare and it’s no surprise that the Custom Comp’s Custom Shop origin denotes a level of exclusivity – who knows when MXR will come across a batch of CA3080s again? The Custom Comp also includes special RF suppression components to reduce interference. This is a very good thing. I love my little Dyna Comp to bits, but part of its vibe is that it’s kinda noisy and imperfect. Some players love that – hell, it’s what drew me to the pedal in the first place – but such gritty mojo is not for everyone, so the Custom Comp offers a much cleaner alternative. The controls consist of Output and Sensitivity pots, and there’s also an internal Attack control (accessed by removing the back plate, where you can also get at the battery compartment) and tweaking the control with a screwdriver. The unit is finished off with a TPDT (triple pole double throw) switch for true bypass.

Compared to my dear little Dyna Comp, the Custom Comp sounds crisp and defined across all frequency ranges. Love the snap and quack of your single coils but need to squash the dynamic range down to a more manageable level? The Custom Comp will do it with ease. Need to increase the oomph of your overdriven, humbucker rhythm tracks just a little bit without altering the gain structure? No sweat. The Custom Comp is so transparent and so quiet that unless you really peg the Sensitivity control and the internal Attack pot for a violent compressing effect, it can be easy to forget it’s there – until you turn it off. In fact, you can choose to either use it as a specific effect (say, for the intro to Under The Bridge), or to provide a sort of approximation of studio mastering across your entire guitar sound.

The Custom Comp is pro-level gear for those who need studio-quality compression at very low noise levels, but who also need the convenience of a pedal. It’s as sturdy as any other MXR pedal (which is to say, you could probably use one to hammer in a nail and it’d still work – but don’t try it at home just in case), and it sounds great for any musical application, whether you want to draw attention to it as an effect or to just even out your guitar sound for presentation in a gig setting.