Tone Suck?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by cassius987, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. cassius987

    cassius987 Inactive

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    My new band is forcing me to step up and finally get real about effects... my rig is a 2-band preamp fretless Ric bass through a fEarful 15/6 right now and that's all I really ever wanted, but these guys are wanting genuine distortion and, interestingly, chorus. I think I've got it covered with a Big Muff Pi and a Boss CEB-3, as well as an MXR M-80 at the front of the chain for a DI. The problem is, while the effects sound cool and all, when I'm using my clean sound only it seems like there is some tone lost. If I go straight in or just the M-80 the tone is noticeably more "authentic" and "three-dimensional" (I know, I know). I didn't think this was an issue if you were using an active bass, since the impedance wasn't a problem. Can anyone advise me how to minimize this effect so I can use... effects?
  2. Check each pedal individually to see which one is sucking your tone and once you find it look into replacements. Boss pedals don't have the best bypasses in my experience and squash a little bit of the upper-mid and top-end content of your bass. DIs are designed to be very transparent without the EQ being used so, as you said, you can pretty much rule it out. The EHX pedals I've owned (none of the older stuff) has had a nice bypass as well.

    You don't have to have true bypass everything but get feedback on how "clean" the pedals you're considering are.
  3. SVE


    Dec 20, 2010
    Probably the Boss chorus, as hinted at by Kwesi. Boss i believe has the buffered bypass which sucks your tone. Analogman makes a good chorus, check that out.
  4. cassius987

    cassius987 Inactive

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Upon testing as suggested above they both cause some tone suck (the Muff and CEB-3). It's as if you are rolling off a bit of treble, but there's also a "shape" to the sound that goes away. I wonder if the Big Muff Pi is true bypass or not? I can't find info about it, so it probably isn't.

    This sucks (no pun intended)... these pedals sound quite good when active, but I hate that my overall signal, the one I care the most about and use >99% of the time, is compromised. I didn't think this would be an issue with an active bass.

    Wonder if I can convert them easily enough? I just don't have the kind of budget to support these crazy $500 pedals people love so much. And I'm not an effects guy either; my clean tone is my favorite tone.
  5. southpawpa


    Feb 16, 2011
    If you like the sound of the pedals engaged but are not digging the pedals in your chain bypassed, get your self a true bypass looper.

    Simple inexpensive passive pedal that will take whatever you plug into it in & completely out of your signal chain. They'll work w/o power too as the battery or adapter is only used to power the led.

    If you or some one you know is handy w a soldering iron, you can make one for about $30 or less.
  6. Hyssar


    Jun 23, 2008
    I was in the same situation as you. I wanted to try something new but my pedals were sucking my beloved awesome clean tone... so I bought higher end stuff. Losing some "texture" in my sound and making my bass sound like a cheap generic lifeless bass was unacceptable to me, even if I know that most people can't hear the difference.

    All my pedals now are true bypass except my Tech 21 Red Ripper because the buffered bypass on that one is so good that it doesn't suck any bit of tone. Just test them extensively at the store before buying. Use an amp/cab that sounds the most like your own setup. In my experience, Tech 21, MXR and pretty much any boutique pedals tend to have either true bypass or a good quality buffer while Electro-Harmonix and Boss pedals tend to have poorer buffers.

    Edit: as southpawpa said, true bypass loopers will do the trick. Here's 2 options that are popular here on TB: (this one let's you blend your clean tone with your effects chain)
    Both are true bypass and won't affect your tone.
  7. A great suggestion! And if you're not so handy with tools and stuff you can find one for $50 or less easily.
  8. cassius987

    cassius987 Inactive

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Would it help at all if I used my effects loop off of my amp instead of going from the bass, through the pedals, to the input stage?

    So is this like a series of switches that regulates whether an effect is bypassed? I'm great soldering if I understand the concept, otherwise I get nervous about it and tend to get too flustered to finish the project.

    I know some people hate on true bypass being passed off as a gold standard but isn't it roughly equivalent to another foot of cable or so? In that case an active bass would not be hindered by it at all and it would be a really good thing for situations like this. I don't know what's so great about a buffer you don't want!
  9. cassius987

    cassius987 Inactive

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Okay I think I found what you're talking about. Maybe I'll get one of these...

    2-Loop Effect Switcher (LED Version), Loop-Master Pedals

    ...and stick the DI and distortion on one and the chorus on the other. The DI doesn't tone suck that my ears can tell but apparently it isn't true bypass. That's word on the street anyway.
  10. Not unless the effects loop on your amp can be disengaged. If it can't all it does is determine whether the tone suck happens before or after the preamp.

    Essentially, yes, but usually for a group of pedals and not just one (unless you only want it for one of course). It's a very nice alternative to having your existing pedals modified for true bypass. They look pretty easy to build if you don't want anything fancy and you can get kits with everything you need like this:


    You probably only need one with one switch considering you only have a handful of pedals and I'm sure there are kits for those too. This guy does good work and he can do a custom build for the same price as the above kit (more options, same price):

    Custom True Bypass Loopers « T1M EFFECTS

    I honestly don't know the difference between buffered and true bypass besides the fact that true bypass completely removes everything between the in and out jacks of any effects making it little more than a cable connector. Good for some effects but not so much for reverb and delay where you want them to ring out a bit even after the pedal is disengaged. So long as it sounds good, it is good.
  11. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    FTR, buffers do not suck tone. BAD buffers suck tone. And true bypass has its own issues. Yes this switcher will be an improvement over a bad buffer, no mistake--I just hope to avoid misunderstandings about cause and effect. ;)
  12. cassius987

    cassius987 Inactive

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    What are the issues? If it's electronically the same as a straight cable when things are bypassed I don't get what issues there could be.

    Sorry, I just feel like your last post was a bit vague! Smiley face doesn't help.
  13. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    All the ehx pedals i've tried are true bypass. Which ones were you talking about?

    If you use a passive bass and many true bypass effects without a single buffered bypass, the collective impedance when you are "all bypass" could affect your tone. Theoretically, your tone is best preserved when your first pedal has a good buffer.

    Secondly, depending on luck and design, true bypass switches can be extremely noisy - both mechanically as well as electronically - when switching. Haven't had that problem with buffered switches yet.
  14. father of fires

    father of fires Commercial User

    Nov 29, 2006
    Chief of Medicine at Damnation Audio
    He was saying that buffers by design do not suck tone. Old school buffer-less pedals suffered from tone suck because impedance issues (as you mention earlier). Boss actually makes a fine buffered bypass.
  15. cassius987

    cassius987 Inactive

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    So the first point is basically the same argument against a long cable. I have an active bass and a DI; most people have at least one of those. It's probably not a big worry for me.

    I'm not sure why the switches would be noisier since they are the the same rough construction other than the number of poles. Are you saying the buffer corrects for this?

    Apparently not in the case of the CEB-3.

    My admittedly inexperienced take is, if your bass is buffered already by and active preamp and/or a DI, there's no point in having more buffers along the way because you should be able to drive a long signal length (i.e. cable) without changes to your sound if every other circuit is bypassed.
  16. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    The difference is that with mechanical true bypass (like a 3PDT), the mechanical switch is directly in the audio path, and in many cases you can hear it--for example if static builds up on one side of the switch, you hear a loud "pop" when you click the switch. With a buffer, or with relay-based true bypass, the physical switch is not in the audio path. The circuit opens and closes silently.
    Yeah, I don't know why this is, but Boss, DOD, and other "cheap" buffered brands are a mixed bag--with some of their pedals the buffer sounds great, with others it sounds like total crap. Sometimes the issue is only apparent when you have several of them in a chain. We have to take them on a case-by-case basis.
    That is true, mostly. Generally speaking, if you have an active bass you don't have to worry about signal loss unless you go through a pedal with bad-quality bypass, or unless an effect you use has crazy high output impedance. And if you use a DI, then you don't have to worry about further signal loss between the pedalboard and the PA. Of course the DI doesn't help your signal going to your amp. And if your tone is dulled by a bad bypass on the pedalboard, then a DI can't retroactively fix that.

    One way or another, you're right that an active bass should have no impedance problems with true-bypass switching.
  17. If I were you, I would leave the DI out of the loop. That way you can always use the XLR out on it. If you don´t need the DI out, however, it doesn´t really matter.
  18. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    +1. That much mass moving quickly (the physical connections need to be made as quickly as possible to prevent electrical noise) inside the TB switch also makes it mechanically noisy when actuated. Compare EHX switches to Boss ones, for example. This can be avoided with relays but I haven't seen too many of those in the effects world.

  19. cassius987

    cassius987 Inactive

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    I didn't want to build something for myself if I didn't have to but the DIY box Kwesi linked (thanks Kwesi!) is exactly what I need. A master bypass over both loops and a channel selector so you toggle from one loop to another. There are times I need to quickly get from Effect A, to Effect B, and then back to clean... so I think I've got a winner. Gotta heat up that soldering iron now... Thanks for the advice everyone.
  20. tech21nyc

    tech21nyc Commercial User

    Aug 17, 2010
    Manufacturer: Tech 21
    The Big Muff is true bypass and all your other effects have buffers. A TB pedal can rob some tone but if you are already going through a buffered preamp there should be no loss. As stated not all Boss pedals use the same buffer. The best way to know for sure is to run each unit through an FFT. A well designed buffer should be unity gain/flat response.

    The downside to running too many buffers in series is there will be some added hiss. If the buffers are all well designed there "shouldn't" be any high end loss.

    What is your exact signal chain? Which preamp? Are you using the preamp before the M80 and running that DI to the board? Are you positive all you cables are working probably?

    It may possibly be a gain structure issue. Do you have the preamp set for unity gain. If you are running your preamp "hot" it is possible that you be may overloading something further down the chain. There are quite a few variables. A true bypass looper may solve the issue but it may not be needed.

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