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The weakest link is my pedalboard. Signal buffer? Bypass?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by newbold, Apr 15, 2010.

  1. newbold


    Sep 21, 2008

    For months I've thought that my amp, my bass, my cables, my strings, and even my hands were to blame for the lack of tone I got...I knew exactly what I wanted from my bass, as I'd go to a music store and play this and that, and even some of the cheapo basses impressed me.

    Then I'd come home and dial in a great tone with this or that pedal on and then disengage the pedals and want to turn them back on immediately.

    Well...yesterday I was playing and then plugged my bass into my amp...


    How is...am I...that can't BE!


    Looking for that 'open tone', hearing that certain something...feeling the difference...how did I do it?

    Well, I listened for noise. Single Coil noise. All the knobs on my bass full out, I listened to that awful sound. In pedalboard. In amp.

    I took my pedalboard apart and tried each pedal one by one. I know that my pedals are buffered and don't think that I should mod them or replace them because I really like what they do...well, what IT does (my Pigtronix OFO Disnortion)...I think that's the main culprit, but the OC-2 and Bassballs might take some of the blame someday. I do know that the OFO cuts the frequencies that I was listening for in bypass mode.


    I know that there are 'signal buffers' on the market that might get me where I want to go, but they would most certainly change how my OFO sounds when engaged.

    I'm already mostly using the Fuzz and OD in low gain modes, and adding gain would most certainly work well with my envelope follower (I could just turn the sensitivity way down)...so where I'd win some ground there I would still have an aggressive distortion...

    My other option would be to buy a Boss LS-2 or other bypass.

    Am I overlooking an option other than not using my pedalboard at all?

    Thanks for looking!
  2. Are you wanting to turn them all on and off at once? Individually? You could get a true bypass looper with the amount of loops you want.

    I also am confident that your bassballs is not a buffered pedal, but probably an output bypassed pedal. Most older EHX pedals are. An LS-2 should do you, but it is also buffered and not everyone likes the bypass on it. You would have to try it to know for sure.

    So to sum up: True bypass looper, or parallel looper like a LS-2.

    I've been pumping these like crazy because I like mine and the guy who made it for me. Badger Schism. Similar to an LS-2 with a little more versatility. Downside is it's bigger, spendier, and a little tight with the footwork.
  3. Zerstorte Zelle

    Zerstorte Zelle

    Jan 8, 2010
    New York
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amplification, D'addario Strings
    As far as I know if your pedals are buffered you won't gain TOO much by purchasing an external buffer. What I do know is...

    Some people think you should have a buffer before AND after each and every pedal (Pete Cornish for one.) That would become really expensive so the next best thing to do is make sure that the first thing your bass goes into is a buffer. The better quality the more fidelity you will get ( in theory ) but the effect is still the same. This allows the pickups to "see"
    the proper impedance which loads it correctly and in theory makes it function as though you are plugging directly into an amp.

    If that doesn't make sense perhaps this could help.


    I found it interesting anyhow.

  4. newbold


    Sep 21, 2008
    If the VHT Valvulator had a 12VAC instead of the 4th power being DC then I'd be set with one of those, as I could sell my Powerall and solve another pedalboard issue...a power tank with an 12VAC out (unless I get an EP-2 or swap my EP-1 for something DC which ain't happenin' anytime soon).
  5. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    One option to consider is it might be a problem with one of your patch cables. I think the idea of several extra buffers added is flat-out nonsense, but adding one especially good buffer to your chain could possibly help, and then you could test it at the beginning, at the end, or before/after any one "problem" pedal, etc. I can see an argument for two buffers, one at each end, but honestly I think even that's a stretch, unless you have a chain of like twenty pedals.
  6. I have a chain of twenty pedals. But I have them all divided into 3 different loops. However, sometimes I need one or two of the pedals in one lopp and another 2 pedals in a different loops so technically all of the loops are on.

    So a buffer at the beginning (and possibly end) might resolve the degradation in sound quality if I am using effects?

    Who make a good buffer?
  7. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Damn near everyone makes a decent buffer. Buffers are easy. The one thing to watch out for is you don't want a buffer with a volume knob at the end of the circuit. Make sure the volume knob (if any) is a gain control within the buffer circuit, not a passive attenuator after it. Of course most pedal sellers won't mention this detail in their ads, so you have to ask them.
  8. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    And yes, in your case one at the beginning and one at the end is not a bad idea, though it may not be necessary. Start with one.
  9. Thank you Bongo!
  10. newbold


    Sep 21, 2008

    Montreaux anyone?
  11. Here is what I am up against.. I might change things around and put all of the other pedals except for the volume in two loops instead of three and just have the Korg Pitch Black in its own loop


    Read Custom Passive Bass
    Effector 13 Feedback Loop Oscillator
    Loopmaster 3 Loop Bypass

    1st Loop
    Electro Harmonix POG
    z-Cat Hold
    Blackstar HT Dual
    WMD Geiger Counter
    Wounded Paw Battering Ram

    2nd Loop
    Moogerfooger MF 102 Ring Mod (attached are two Alesis exp. pedals)
    Markbass Supersynth
    Digitech BSW
    Plathegiraffe Barf Bag
    Maxon CS9Pro

    3rd Loop
    Line 6 Liquaflange
    Line 6 Verbzilla
    VFE Echo Ohce
    TC Electronic Nova Delay

    (out of Loopmaster pedal) to:

    Boost pedal (still need to get)
    GigFX Chopper
    Headrush 2
    Boss FV300L Volume pedal

    Markbass F1 Amp

    I also plan on still getting a good, clean octave up which would go right before the POG
  12. Silent Fly

    Silent Fly Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 8, 2006
    London - UK
    Owner/designer [sfx]
    Very cute.

    [sfx] Micro-Buffer with variable output impedance
  13. Silent Fly

    Silent Fly Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 8, 2006
    London - UK
    Owner/designer [sfx]
    It would be interesting to know the type of bass you use (active/passive), the brand/model of the pedals and their sequence in the signal path.

    Buffers are impedance adapters. In other words, they give the signal the "strength" to drive long cables and complex signal paths when the device before the buffer cannot do it (my professor of electronics – now retired - would scream in horror to the equation “impedance” = “strength of the signal”. I hope he’s not reading this thread :) )

    In practical terms, this applies to two cases. When a passive bass needs to drive long cables (but in this case the buffer needs to be in the bass). When the pedalboard is complex and contains a lot of true-bypass pedals.

    True-bypass pedals exclude the pedal circuit but they are not free from drawbacks. The result of a lot of t/b pedals is a long invisible connection with the signal going in and out of t/b switches several times. This is not a problem if the signal source is low impedance (i.e. is has the necessary “strength”) but if it is a passive bass (high impedance) it can produce tone losses.

    The best way to address the problem is use a buffer as the first device of the chain.

    Any pedal that is not true-bypass would work. Essentially, any Boss pedal can operate as a buffer.

    There is another situation that can potentially create problems: the first device is a buffer and there is a lot of t/b pedals all switched off.

    Before reaching the amp, the signal needs to go through all the pedals and the cable before reaching the amp. If the cable is long it might create tone loss.

    The best way to avoid this is another buffer at the pedalboard output.

    In a nutshell, if the pedalboard is with a lot of t/b pedals, the bass is passive and cables are long, the best configuration is a sandwich with two buffers and the pedalboard in the middle.

    Bongomania is right. Buffers are not complicated devices - at least conceptually. Building a good quality device is not the same thing as thinking or designing one though.

    If you use high-gain distortion, the distortion pedal will amplify by several times everything that comes before. If the buffer generates even a tiny noise, at the end of the pedalboard the result will be a strong hiss.

    Recently I built a complex pedalboard for a guitar player. The only pedal that required me fine tuning was the buffer. I modified it 3 times before get exactly what I wanted.
  14. Silent Fly

    Silent Fly Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 8, 2006
    London - UK
    Owner/designer [sfx]
    It is possible that some components of the buffered pedals are not working as they should. Some capacitors have a limited lifespan and they may need to be replaced.
  15. Bob C

    Bob C

    Mar 26, 2000
    Duluth, MN
    This thread is a great read that has prompted me to revisit other bypass threads, starting with the one in the FAQ's sticky.

    In all of the "Post Your Pedalboard", etc threads there are often mentions of loopers, blenders, boosters and volume pedals. But I'm sure there are more untold sagas of tone-suck, volume loss and added noise.

    I'd like to know if anyone (everyone?) else on a pedal board journey has dealt with the same obstacles as saving grace (OP). And did you overcome them or live with them?

    Okay, I'll "do a search" now. See you in a week.
  16. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    I think most of us who have spent a lot of time assembling pedalboards have run into this situation, probably more than once. :D For me, the solution has been to keep the chain as minimal as possible. That means either fewer pedals, or putting larger groups of pedals into a single bypass loop (per group of pedals). That way for example you could have say thirty pedals and put them in three bypass loops; when you bypass the loops, your signal only goes through three 3PDT switches instead of thirty of them. But I do like buffers as well--I usually have a compressor or EQ "always on", usually at the end of my chain, so it acts as a buffer.
  17. I tired... AND FAILED!

    hahaha. I WANT to have less pedals, but I struggle and feel that there are things I am missing when I want to activate a ghost during songs.

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