Buffers Un-Baffled

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Explanations of buffer pedal circuits are, more often times than not, over complicated. In reality, buffer pedals are simple in concept and can help your tone more than you thought possible. Today, I want to take some time and explain what a buffer pedal is, how it can help you, and where to put a buffer pedal in your signal chain.

Most guitar players use several feet of guitar cable. More often time than not, you have an 10+ foot lead going to your pedal board, 1-3+ feet of cable on your pedal board (Depending on the size of it) and an 10+ foot lead going from your pedal board to your amp. Depending on the size of the stage and your own personal setup, you could have even more total cable length than that. What many guitar players don’t realize is, all these long cables are causing your higher end frequencies to be lost in your guitar rig setup.

So how are these higher end frequencies lost through a long cable? At the risk of oversimplifying it, your guitar and cable basically creates a high impedance signal. The longer your guitar cable is, the more capacitance is created which creates a filter that changes the sound. A good buffer circuit will take your high impedance guitar signal and change it to a low-impedance one; allowing your guitar signal to flow easier over a longer distance. The “new” tone that you hear after playing through your buffer pedal is actually your guitar’s original tone.

So where in your chain should you place your buffer pedal? There are several places you can put a buffer pedal at in your signal chain. However, here are a couple good rules of thumb on where to place your buffer.
- Between a Wah and a traditional fuzz (Traditional meaning silicon or germanium based Fuzz Pedals – our Velvet Fuzz is neither of these circuits).
- Between guitar pedals that may not work well side by side together. If you have to pedals that are next together, but are noisy – place a buffer between them and hear the difference.
- Before a long run of your guitar cables. (Usually the beginning of your pedal chain.)

So do you need a buffer? Only you can answer that. So try one out and hear the difference for yourself.

If you would like to hear what difference the Wampler Decibel + Buffer Pedal can make in your signal chain, check out the video below:

-Max Jeffrey

22 thoughts on “Buffers Un-Baffled

  1. depends on the wireless, but generally you don’t need a buffer – usually it’s converted to low impedance from the output of the wireless.

  2. Thanks Brian for the info.

    Does your dB+ have a boost you can turn on and off separate from the buffer? Would be handy to have the buffer always on and then use the clean boost for solos and such.

  3. so you said if I have my compressor on that’s like having a buffer?
    would I still need a buffer even though the compressor is on?

  4. Thanks for the article Brian! Been using one of your old clean buffers for years and literally cant take it off the board!

  5. Since many pedals are buffered without the ability to turn off the buffer, could you talk about the effect of several buffers? I believe in theory it shouldn’t matter, but I have had experience that sometimes buffers don’t sound great “stacked”…rarely but in the cases I had both were great alone in the signal chain but together got too trebly.

  6. Will a buffer help decrease single coil guitars’ hum that seems to get worse when ruuning into a pedal board? Thanks Brian.

  7. Is it true bypass? In other words, it doesn’t work as a buffer until you turn it on? If so, that would be perfect for me. I have an Eric Clapton model strat which has active electronics, so it doesn’t need a buffer. I would need a buffer when I switch to my other guitars, and one has much weaker pickups.

  8. I’m also curious about the effects of multiple buffers. I think I remember reading that Pete Cornish would build his boards with a buffer at the beginning and then he’d remove the buffers that were present in the pedals within the board, due to blah blah something impedance etc.

  9. Wow thats good stuff!

    What about true bypass pedals that may cause popping after a buffer? (Such as a voodoo lab powered Tuner) .

    When using a buffer 1st in the chain, should u use a buffer at the end of your setup as well? considering u have other buffer pedals on your board as well as true bypass?

    I see a lot of cats using buffers at beginning and end of their pedal signal chain. Most of them have 8 or more pedals, some true bypass , some boss buffered. It seems that maybe 1 at front and the end would be helpful for tone.

    Thanks for your time to reply and thanks for the tech article!

  10. Great post on buffer-ing! I have to use one as I’ve got quite a few pedals going and find that a good buffer pedal will really save your tone and dynamics.

  11. Nice article Brian,look forward to trying out the decibel plus.Love my slostortion and pinnacle deluxe.

  12. Great article Brian!
    I have all true bypass pedals, but my chorus pedal has dip switches which allows for a buffered bypass which I have set that way and is run in my effects loop. Does that help or do I need something in the beginning of my effects chain? Got the Velvet Fuzz and the Ego Compressor recently, love them!

  13. BRIAN GREAT ARTICLE AND VIDEO DEMO,MYSELF I HAVEN’T EXPERIENCE THOSE PROBLEMS YET LOL,FEEL FREE TO CK MY BOARDS ON MY WEB SITE,I GET KILLER TONE ON ALL LEVELS 24/7,DAVE FRIEDMAN WIRED MY LAST TWO BOARDS.IF I EVER DID NEED A BUFFER I WOULD GO TO YOU FIRST AS YOU BUILD THE BEST REGARDS DENIEL EDWARDS. 11/14/13.

  14. This video was a nice explanation. I’ve used Monster cables for a long time, and never really noticed it, but after watching this, I plugged into my practice amp using a short 6 inch cable, and then a 15 foot Monster cable, and I did notice some high end loss.

  15. buffer issues are a bit misleading at times. An always on buffer really only helps your clean tone as when any modern pedal is on it creates a low impedance output and is therefore technically speaking a buffer and all the benefits therein. So if you just any compressor or clean boost that is always on, you have a buffer in place. Since any pedal is a buffer when on it is hard to fathom why one would need a switchable buffer as it is just a misnomer because any pedal when on is a buffer anyway.
    I love Wampler Pedals and as a boost the db is great as a switchable buffer, so is everything else.

  16. Brian-
    You rock. I was reading that Boss TU 2 and TU 3 have a buffer in them and I was wondering what you thought of this?
    Are they any good?-g

  17. I use the “four cable” method – guitar to [tuner, wah, compressor, tube screamer] to amp, amp send to [chorus, delay, sonic maximizer] back to amp return.

    To maintain the low impedance signal (and tone) should I use two buffers, one in each pedal chain?

    I keep the compressor on for a few reasons, and one is the brighter tone…but this might give me a compressor-less option for retaining the tone. Also wondering about the effect loop. Thanks for the excellent use of text and video to explain details and let us hear the difference!

  18. There are hundreds of papers out there on this issue.
    Simple truth is only one buffer is needed near or up front of the chain, and if you run long cables back to your amp and end buffer as in a sandwich is ideal. Buffer/bypass pedals/buffer. Any number of bypass pedals are easily lifted from loading by a single buffer in front of them. You certainly can have too many buffer circuit pedals and they will gradually cause a noise floor hiss cascading from buffer to buffer.
    Boss buffers are not the greatest but a tuner buffer up front is usually good enough. A chain of Boss or other pedals with buffer after buffer is not a good thing. One or two cool, a bunch very bad.
    And like I said any modern pedal which produces a low Z impedance output is technically a buffer when on. That is the fact.

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