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BUFFER PEDAL PLACEMENT

From: Shootout Guitar Cables UKBest Guitar Cables Explained

See also: The Shootout Guitar Cables Range

When you understand the effects of Guitar Cable Capacitance and Resontant Frequency on your tone from passive guitar pickups, you then understand why a buffer pedal might be a useful device for your setup. However you also need to know the best position for placement in your pedal chain.

We will explain this using three scenarios (diagrams coming soon):

Guitar to amplifier with no pedals.

Ordinarily a guitar amplifier is likely to have an input impedance of 1Mohm and you will want to ensure ideally that your buffer pedal likewise has an input impedance of 1Mohm as input impedance combines significantly with cable capacitance, volume and tone controls, to change the tonal landscape of a passive guitar pickup as part of that interactive circuit.

You can then run a cable from your guitar to the buffer of at least the length necessary for you to move around as you wish, and perhaps much longer if you want a high total capacitance to affect your tone by shifting your pickup resonant peaks to lower frequencies.*

The cable after your buffer can then be very long without affecting tone as the buffer will have a low output impedance, and is powered, and can drive long cable lengths with no tone loss, assuming that it is a good quality buffer and has itself not messed with your tone by adding distortion.

If your guitar amplifier has an input impedance significantly lower than the buffer pedal input impedance, then plugging into the buffer vs plugging directly into the amplifier will change your tone. For example the input impedances of the 'I' low sensitivity inputs on old Marshalls are lower input impedance tha the 'II' input in addition to having lower gain. Some buffer pedals have excessively high input impedances of over 1Mohm, not generally found in guitar amplifier designs either new or old, and so there can be a mismatch because of that. Some buffer pedals have a variable input impedance to overcome such differences and are useful for fine tuning tone more generally.

We will use a Summit Audio TD-100 Class A Tube Direct Instrument Pre-Amp with variable input impedance to demonstrate the input impedance effect on the output of passive pickups in the near future with some sound files etc.

* Note that if you do use this long cable high capacitance technique perhaps for peaky single coils with vintage fuzz for example, that less brightness from high end does not usually mean less 'ice picky' if you have that problem, until you get the resonant peak down to around 2Khz with likely a whole lot of cable capacitance, and in which case, you are then not going to need a buffer in the first place as you will have very very long cable and high total capacitance by choice. This technique is however an unusual one for the modern guitarist as it wrecks tone choice overall for the sake of overcoming a specific pedal issue like taking a sledgehammer to a picture pin; here in the 21st Century there are better, smarter ways like for example just putting a length of cable in a true bypass loop in front of the offending fuzz or whatever particular pickup/pedal combination to switch the extra capacitance in with the pedal.

Guitar to pedal board with true bypass pedals or true bypass looper.

Here you are mainly interested in overcoming the capacitance of the cable length from the output of your last pedal to the input of your amplifier by using a buffer pedal placed inbetween. If you do this then by using the same cable length for both home/studio/stage from guitar to pedal board you can get a consistent tone for all three, as the length of cable from the board to the amplifier will no longer affect the tone.

In this situation you can also bring the buffer placement position further forward (nearer to the guitar output) in the pedal chain depending upon what pedals you are using.

Some pedals don't respond well to a buffer being placed before them. This could be due to a buffer having a low output impedance as opposed to a passive pickups high output impedance affecting a pedal having a lower input impedance which would have affected the tone when connected directly.

Fuzz pedals are best known for not behaving well after buffers, but in general we recommend placing a buffer pedal no further forward in the chain than the last dirt pedal i.e. fuzz, overdrive and distortion, before the modulation/pitch/delay/reverberation sections. This allows the tone shaping dirt pedals to all react as if they are first in the signal chain input impedance and all (so long as they are true bypass or in true bypass loops).

You can easily find out which pedals sound fine after a buffer by removing all other variables and comparing the pedal with and without the buffer before it paying particular attention to when using low output single coil pickups.

Guitar to pedal board with buffered pedals.

Here you may feel that you don't need a dedicated buffer pedal at all, however consider that inbuilt buffers are not typically high end transparent designs, and that also due to input impedance differences, your 'off' but buffered pedals may mess with your tone in unexpected ways due to these differences. The solution to these things takes us back to the true-bypass scenario above and why true bypass has become such a big deal these days; there are many good reasons why it makes sense.

Some vintage pedals don't have either true bypass or buffered bypass and the signal continues to travel through some of their circuitry in a bad or 'interesting' way. These old gems are best dealt with by true bypass and/or a buffer as appropriate to their own special unique tone changing/sucking weirdness.

In short we recommend placement of a high quality Class A buffer pedal with ideally the same input impedance as your amp (likely 1Mohm) immediately after your fuzz/overdrive/distortion pedals especially for long cable runs and also perhaps for 'powering though' non-dirt vintage effects pedals that don't actually switch out completely when they are supposed to be switched out etc.

Also in this guide:

Guitar Cable Capacitance and Resonant Frequency

Guitar Cable Capacitance Chart

Guitar Cable Length and Signal Loss

Guitar Cable Myths and The Cable Fairy

Guitar Cable Shielding and AC Hum

Guitar Cable Microphonics and the Triboelectric Effect

Braided vs Spiral vs Foil Guitar Cable Shielding

True Bypass Pedals vs Buffered Pedals

DIY vs Premade Guitar Cables

Silver Plated Copper Cables and 'Red Plague' Galvanic Corrosion

Copper vs Silver Signal Conductor Guitar Cables

Gold Plated Guitar Cable Jack Plugs and Galvanic Corrosion

Guitar Cables vs Guitar Pedal Board Patch Cables

Analogue Guitar Cables vs WIFI

Low Capacitance vs High Capacitance Guitar Cables

Oxygen Free Copper Guitar Cables

Cheap vs Midrange vs Expensive Guitar Cables

Glued Heat Shrink vs Unglued Heat Shrink Guitar Cables

 

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