Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Boss CS-2: This is an earlier version of their current CS-3. The CS-1 was a completely different circuit, but the CS-2 and CS-3 are similar. The main differences are the VCA chip (made by Roland in the CS-2, made by THAT Corp. in the CS-3) and the tone knob that the CS-3 has and the CS-2 doesn't. The rest of their circuits are similar enough to not make much of an audible/functional difference.
 
I've seen people describe the CS-2 as "warmer" or "smoother" than the CS-3; what I've found in my own testing is that really it just rolls off the highs somewhat, which often makes things sound warm or smooth. You can get the exact same EQ shape (and thus the same "warmth") by just rolling the CS-3's tone knob back to around 11:00. The CS-2 seems to have a bit less noise, but that may just be because of the rolled-off highs.
 
That said, the different VCA chips do have a bit different action, and the envelope of the CS-2's compression seems a bit more fluid or organic than the CS-3 (which basically just flatlines your signal). So you might find the CS-2 to have a more "musical" action. But the difference I'm describing is fairly subtle. Some people insist the CS-2 is significantly better than the CS-3, but I think they're exaggerating.
 
The setting I like the best is with the compression somewhere between 10:00 and 12:00, and the attack around 12:00. This allows your initial pick/pluck attack through crisply, but then clamps down on your signal for more sustain. It's a nice compromise for somebody who wants more of a squashed effect but without losing articulation.
 
The CS-2 loses some low end, similar to many other comps meant for guitar. I'd bet that a couple of larger capacitor values would make it more bass-friendly. The construction quality, power supply, and bypass footswitch are the same as most other Boss pedals--though it actually loses a little bit of the lows even when bypassed.
 
Price in USD: used $90 to $200, no longer available new.
 

 

 
 
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