The following is a guest post by Kevin Ian Common. If you are interested in guest posting, please contact me!
Hello Kind Readers!
I’ve finally figured out my camera issues and will go back to doing video with my next column!
This is another short but sweet column talking about pedals. In my research I found out about buffers. If you run pedals, every time you introduce a pedal with cables, you add more noise to your system. Guitar pickups are high impedance devices which make them susceptible to noise from surrounding electronics. Furthermore, when you break up the connection between the guitar and amp, your signal becomes increasingly noisy. You also lose treble and your bass frequencies become increasingly muddy and flabby.
Most people will say “Use nothing but True-Bypass pedals and your problems are solved.” This helps only to a certain extent, as not all pedals are created equal. Even a pedal chain of True-Bypass pedals will lose tone and add noise.
I decided to experiment with a few things. Not one to use boost pedals, I decided to use one at the beginning of my chain to drive my pedals and compensate for volume loss. I also wanted to use something at the end of my chain. This is where the idea of using a buffer comes in. It retains the original sound of my guitar as if the pedals never existed. This sounded too good to be true, but what I found was surprising.
My boost pedal of choice is the MXR Micro Amp. It is a clean volume boost and does not add anything to my tone. I’m a big fan of my tone already, why change it? I found that with using this pedal, my guitar sounds bigger and I don’t need to dial in so much gain on my overdrive and fuzz pedals. This helps with the clarity of my chords and such. However, when I really want to go over the edge, the extra boost pushes the sucker over the cliff. Surprisingly enough, my Devi Ever LP at it’s full intensity now sounds extra fuzz and ugly. It’s a dream come true!
I have quite a few Non-True-Bypass pedals in my chain–namely two Behringer pedals and one Danelectro Mini-Pedal. I love the way they sound, so I’m not interesting in trading them in for anything more boutique right now. These pedals also dare to go places most pedals won’t for the price! I’d love to regain the original sound of my Reverend direct into my Classic 30–the original sound that sold me on the guitar. I purchased a Cmatmods Buffer from eBay and hoped for the best.
What happened next was amazing:
It was like my pedals were not there. It sounded like I was plugging my Reverend into my Classic 30 with a 10 foot cable. It was amazing. My treble was sparkling and my bass was taut and pronounced. However, the best indicator of my progress lies in the EQ.
Without my boost and buffer, I found myself scooping my mids and boosting my treble and bass on my amp. I also boost the treble on all of my overdrive and distortion pedals. My signal was quite noisy. After using both the boost and buffer, I had to readjust my EQ and kept everything pretty much flat with a slightly boosted bass. Most of the extraneous hiss is all but completely gone and I am happy.
I know some people who have gone into effects loop switching as well. I cannot write about it because it’s foreign to me. I do love cascading my pedals–sometimes turning them all on at once!–so one linear line does the job for me. If i so choose to experiment further, I will be sure to write about my experiences 🙂 Sometimes, all people need is a little secondhand knowledge or experience to inspire them to experiment themselves. There are so many different options with regards to signal routing and looping and such… have fun!
Thanks for reading! I am planning to go back to real-time applications of my previous columns. We’ll take a look at a chord progression and explore different ways to play it. I might even flirt with recording guitar techniques. Stay tuned!
Kevin Ian Common loves large pedalboards. He eventually plans on running 30 pedals at once! He is a multi-instrumentalist and guitarist/vocalist for The Common Men. You can find them on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. You can reach him @ firstname.lastname@example.org