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Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer

The CS-3 Compression Sustainer pedal compresses louder signals while boosting lower signals, providing smooth sustain without degrading the original sound quality. This is the perfect pedal for guitarists and bassists who want to sound their best.

Price: $34 to $74 at 19 stores
Searched Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer in Reviews


The phrase plug and play should have been invented for Boss pedals featured

Ease Of Use A compressor effectively limits the louder parts of your signal and smooths out your sound, adding extra sustain along the way without distorting. A real bonus if you what to boost your output but retain a cleaner sound for a solo for example.

There are four controls which I have described a bit more in the "Sound" section, but as with all boss pedals they are pretty easy to understand.

The (pretty short) manual suggests you start with all the controls set to 12 o'clock, which is half way for everything. This is a good base line to start tweaking from, and pretty quickly you arrive at the kind of effect you want. I could see an argument for having 2 of these. One set to limit for rhythm, and another set to sustain for lead work, unfortunately you would need to change settings on the fly to get the best of both worlds with this.

Sound Boss pedals are pretty much the standard by which all others are judged. Not necessarily the best, but definately able to cope with most applications. I have used this pedal in a variety of situations, with different amps etc for years, and it is always predictable. For the purpose of this review I tested it with a custom alder strat with PAF Pro's and HS3's through a Kustom KGA10FX

Level: Adjusts the level of the effect as opposed to your normal sound. Normally I prefer to have the level set so that the effect comes on wihtout a jump in volume, although you can use a higher level setting to give a clean volume boost.

Tone: Pretty self explanitory. You don't get a wide tonal variation from using the tone control, but it is useful for tweaking to either thicken up the sound or and a little more bite. Don't expect the same functionality or adjustment as the tone control on you guitar.

Attack: Basically this determines how quickly the effect is added after picking. Turn it up for a very intense attack or roll back to reduce the intensity. It is always a difficult one to judge, but I just play and turn the nob until it sounds right :)

Sustain: Setting the knob to fully anticlockwise turns the unit into a limiter, so you are restricting and levelling the output without adding sustain. This is actually pretty good for tightening up fast and pal muted chords. Turn the knob clockwise and this will increase the sustain of your notes quite dramatically. This does add noise to the signal though, especially with distortion so it is not one you would want to have on all the time.

The best compressors do their job without altering the native tone of the instrument and are effectively transparent to the listener. The CS3 is pretty good at this, but not perfect. You can here the limiting effect in certain situations, so it does require a bit of tweaking to get it right. To be honest, with out going down the rack route, you aren't going to get full transparency without spending more.

All in all a very good pedal, and for someone that wants a simple compressor or to improve sustain for solos, a no-brainer really.

Reliability They are arguably one of the most iconic brands, and all there pedals have a no nonsense, tough feel to them. I have had my CS-3 for about 10 years, it is one of the newest Boss pedals I own and it works fine! That is all I can say really.

Customer Support Never Dealt with Boss, because I have never had a problem with any of their units!

Liked about it Well laid out and easy to use.
Very sturdy
Does a solid, no-nonsense job.

Didn't like Some noise at higher sustain levels
You can sometimes hear the clipping, particularly when played clean
Needs a special adaptor to run from mains, that annoys me about all Boss pedals actually.

Overall satisfaction:

By nickcoumbe
Nov 13, 2009
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A good base for modifications featured

Ease Of Use The CS-3 Compression Sustainer is a fairly easy pedal to use. 4 knobs (Level, Tone, Attack and Sustain) are available to tweak, and it is all fairly self explanatory. The instruction does a fairly reasonable job of explaining how to set up the pedal too.

It is quite easy to dial up a sustaining and compression effect, as well as a limiting effect if you are wanting to use the pedal to soften a dirty channel to sound quite clean. The attack knob also helps you with softening or sharpening the attack on your notes as desired. The tone knob can help get to somewhat close to the tone of your dry signal too.

Sound The CS-3 Compression Sustainer is a fairly typical Boss pedal. It's a well built, solid pedal, as you would expect from the company, but is fairly average in terms of the sound it produces.

The pedal certainly does a good job in terms of the compression or limiting you might set on the pedal, but it comes at a cost. Unfortunately the CS-3 does have a slight effect on your natural tone. Also the pedal is quite noisy when you need to turn the level and the sustain knobs up whilst playing through the dirty channel of your amp. Thankfully it's not so bad if you have a mains power supply to power the pedal, but it is still apparent.

When using the pedal in front of my Blackstar HT-5 head I found that if I kept the level knob at around half, and the sustain at two thirds I was able to minimise the unwanted noise somewhat, but still keep the pedal at a point where it didn't, make the volume of my guitar parts lower than with the pedal off. This gave me a fairly sweet sustained sound which could carry on for a reasonable time.

If you are looking at using the CS-3 as a limiter to tame your distorted tone down to cleaner levels you will get a bit more joy.

As you probably would expect the noise level drops as you turn down the Sustain knob, and if you roll the Attack knob back in to the first half of it's range you tame a fairly aggressive distortion tone down to a sweet over driven one. Roll back your guitars volume knob a little, and you've got yourself a pretty convincing clean tone.

My primary use of the CS-3 though is as a sustainer, and unfortunately the unwanted noise is a little frustrating, especially if I want to use my overdrive pedal to check my dirty channel a little harder. Both both pedals on there is just a tonne of noise when not playing. Of course it doesn't help though that my overdrive pedal can be a little noisy too.

I have done some research on modifications to the CS-3 to quieten it down a little and make it more transparent, and I think I will embark on that journey soon. As it is though the Boss CS-3 is quite a reasonably priced pedal, so if you've only got a little cash this pedal is definitely worth getting now, and doing some simple mods if you are so inclined.

Reliability Being a Boss pedal it is built in their typically tough fashion. Solid casing, and the great battery compartment design under the footswitch. Boss pedals are definitely built to last.

The pots used for the knobs feel fairly good, and I don't see them dying any time soon.

Customer Support I haven't had to deal with Boss.

Liked about it Solid Boss build quality
* Controls have quite a good range
* Boss battery compartment design

Didn't like Colours your tone a little
* Noisy pedal, especially if you are running on a battery/and or using it in conjunction with a noisy overdrive pedal

Overall satisfaction:

By LonePhantom
Nov 01, 2009
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Sweet compression and singing sustain that makes you think you have a Fernandes Sustainer installed

Ease Of Use Typical BOSS pedal. All of the controls are neatly organized and spaced enough apart to easily tweak settings. Typical BOSS "Flip-lid" footswitch. There are 4 control knobs: Level, Tone, Attack, and Sustain.

Sound Attack knob all the way up, be prepared for some noise. My favorite setting is this: Level= 3 o'clock, Tone= 5 o'clock, Attack= 1 o'clock, and Sustain=5 o'clock. When used on the clean channel--this pedal really made the notes chime. When used on the crunch channel--stand back! I held a note for a very long time with no loss of signal quality.

Reliability Built BOSS tough--metal chassis!

Customer Support N/A

Liked about it I loved the sweet compression without losing any signal quality.
The sustain is out of this world! No need for a sustainer pickup with this one around.
Sounds great on both clean and crunch channels.

Didn't like The only thing I dislike about BOSS pedals is accessing the battery compartment. I know it's a small gripe, but I hate having to unscrew that darn little black thumb-screw out just to change the battery. Boss, please make a note of how Ibanez has been doing it with the 9-series and ToneLoks.

Overall satisfaction:

By AlaskaBat
Sep 17, 2011
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worth the penny

Ease Of Use very easy to use.. i went and watch the official demo in youtube by a vrey awesome guy and found out it can do great things!! i use my 80s mij strat standard in it and man... they blend together well

Sound i use either my early 80's fender strat and another strat (57 reissue) and well.. an 80s Peavey basic (practice amp). and man.. aint it just FUNKY!! i usually play rythm on pop, funk, jazz, fusion, and blues and it is A O K with them.

Reliability well, it is build like a tank, never been broken

Customer Support never dealt with them, don't have to

Liked about it 1:like what i said FUNKEEEEI!

2:built solid

3:it serves its purpose so far

Didn't like funky like a monkey... hiss like a snake (depends on where i blend it with). this is my main rhythm pedal... great for a decent rhythm guitarist jam.

Overall satisfaction:

By gitarudesu
Apr 20, 2010
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