Another popular pedal from one of the most well-known manufacturers ever; this time is the Boss CS-3 compressor / sustainer pedal. The CS-3 is the latest model of Boss’ famous CS compressor line, and while it shares both the colour and the ‘CS’ name, this pedal is in fact very different to the previous incarnations. Compressor pedals are used to clean up and even out every note you play, no matter how hard you push. With their special attack and release function, they help to create distinctive popping notes which are clear and crisp, either for chords or single runs. The CS-2 was a wonderful pedal – sadly quite hard to find now – but I believe that the CS-3, while it does do everything a compressor should, doesn’t do these things as good as other compressor pedals out there.
The problems with the CS-3 come largely from the sound and the way in which it changes the guitar tone. For a start, I’d say that compressors do their job best when you can’t even tell that they are there. This compressor, however, is about as transparent as a brick. It does provide the popping guitar notes and a bit of sustain, but not quite as much as the CS-2. When used as something to boost signal and power distortions and overdrives, the CS-3 will work, but it brings with it a fair amount of unwanted background noise too.
A lot of these issues arise from the fact that Boss have changed a few things for the worse with regard to the inside workings of the effect pedal. While these changes allow Boss to continue to offer the best low prices for their pedals, sound quality unfortunately suffers as a result. At around $100 on musiciansfriend.com this pedal is definitely affordable, but the problems can make it a little hard to play with. The main thing is how it works on a clean tone; notes can be uneven in attack as well as volume, which is not a good thing in a pedal designed to regulate exactly these two things.
Absolutely great on the outside! As with all boss effects pedals, this stomp box feels like it would survive a month or two at ground zero of a bomb testing site. Aside from the cutting back in quality in the inside of the pedal, there are no complaints from me about the durability of the CS-3.
Boss pedals are known for reliability, durability and affordability; the CS-3 compressor / sustainer really doesn’t disappoint in this area. Built to last, and easily one of the more affordable compressors on the market. While it works better with a distortion, overdrive or modulation in the chain after it, inconsistent performance on the clean tone reduces the score considerably. With the price considered, the CS-3 is still good as an entry level effect, but if you have the cash to spend there are other compressors (to be reviewed soon) which are much better all-round performers!