Ever plug straight into your amp and be amazed at how great your amp feels compared to when you run through your pedal board full of true bypass pedals? If you haven’t, give it a quick try. Chances are, you’re still missing something even though you thought you were safe with all of those true bypass pedals on your pedal board. Pete Cornish explains why.
Guitar Buffers & Boost Pedals
Now, before you take the Cornish word as word of God (which you almost should, when it comes to guitar gear), consider another solution. Place a high quality line/guitar buffer or boost pedal at the beginning or end of your chain. What you’ll do is ensure that your signal isn’t colored by a full pedal board’s worth of different buffers, and also ensure that your signal stays strong when it hits the front end of your amp (thus avoiding tone sucking).
Companies like Lovepedal are making line driver/guitar buffer pedals which are a direct remedy for this signal loss problem of tone sucking. CAE also makes a guitar buffer that can be installed directly in your guitar, just before its output jack. However, any boost pedal will work in this application, and consider adding some tonal control. A pedal like the Xotic RC Booster will give you EQ control over your tone in this application. The Zvex Super Hard On (SHO) will add some sparkle to your tone. The Klon, Burriss Boostier or similar overdrive/boost pedal will allow you to add a touch of natural sounding breakup with it’s Input control, and warm up the tone by rolling off some high end with the High control. All of these options allow you to prevent or recover signal loss (depending on whether you place it at the beginning or end of your effects chain).
Where should you place a guitar buffer/boost pedal in your guitar effects chain for this application? When using a guitar buffer with no boost (such as the Lovepedal Mini Buffer), simply place the pedal first on your pedal board. When using boost pedals, the answer to this question lies with your other pedals. Do you like the sound of a boost before or after your overdrive/fuzz pedals? Placing a boost before will goose your overdrive/fuzz pedal, making it sound more distorted. Placing a boost after your overdrive/fuzz pedals will make it sound bigger without adding more distortion.
Do you use a compressor? If so, placing an “always on” boost before it will negate the effect we are trying to achieve. In this case, you have two options. The first option is to use the boost pedal after your pedal compressor, to avoid the compressor leveling out the slight boost you’re trying to create. The second option is to use your compressor’s level control for the slight boost you’re trying to achieve. This, of course, will only work if you play with the compressor on at all times.
In the end, true bypass is still your friend. But if you want to retain the natural feel/impedance of plugging directly into your amp, you’ll need to place a guitar buffer/line driver or boost pedal on your pedal board (and keep it on at all times) in order to retain the strength of your signal on it’s way to your amplifier’s input.