Teach Me On Buffers...

Discussion in 'The Tone Zone' started by SlapHand, Jun 14, 2018 at 2:36 PM.

  1. SlapHand

    SlapHand New Member

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    I've read a bit about buffers lately since I'm planning a new board for my pedals.

    it is explained that a pedal with buffer provides the same signal out as you get in. Some people say `put a buffered pedal first in the chain and you are good`.

    My logic tells me that this will only apply until the signal meet a new signal sucking pedal in the chain.

    How many pedals without buffer can I have after a buffered pedal such as Boss TU-3 without loss of signal? Also, how long a cable will it feed?

    I understand that it will vary with the type and quality of the pedal and cable, but I guess my question is if my logic is wrong.

    I have also read somewhere that more than 3 pedals with buffer in a chain is bad. Is there anything to this?
     
  2. mickeydg5

    mickeydg5 Well-Known Member VIP Member

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    I all depends on the gear and order used.

    What are you using and intend to use?
     
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  3. SlapHand

    SlapHand New Member

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    Thx for responding:)

    At the moment, my board has mostly buffered Boss pedals on it. Its not a very practical build so I am planning to build a new one. I also want to swap (or at least try something else) some of the Boss pedals over time.

    The buffering issue is something that comes into play in the planning.

    As stated, I’m planning something new and I honestly don’t know what I will end up with… Guess I never will be able to say I’m done. It will change over time.

    Here is my setup at the moment:

    Wet/Dry setup with 2 amps (Marshall DSL40c - Marshall JMP MV 2204) and Octaswitch MKII looper. Modulation and timebased effects in FX-loop on DSL.
    JMP usually on low sensitivity Channel /DSL on Green Crunch.
    Boost function on overdrive manually selected when called for.
    Wah manually selected when called for.

    Pedals today:
    Looper: Octaswitch MK2
    Tuner: Boss TU-3
    Switch for Wireless or Cable: El Nano Switch Blade
    Noise Supressor: Boss NS-2
    Wah: Dunlop GCB 95 Cry Baby
    Octavier: Boss OC3
    Compressor: Boss CS-3
    Overdrive 1: Fulltone Full-Drive 2 Mosfet
    Overdrive 2: Boss SD-1
    Maximizer: BBE Stinger
    Volume Pedal: Ernie Ball EB-6180
    Equalizer: Boss GE-7
    Chorus: Boss CH-1
    Delay: Boss DD-2
    Tremolo: Boss TR-2
    Reverb: TCE HOF mini
    Splitter: GigRig Humdinger

    The Compressor is not in the chain at the moment.

    Pedal chain:
    Guitar —>Tuner —>Switch for wireless or cable -—>NoiseSupressor in/NoiseSupressor send -
    —>Wah —>Octaswitch in:

    Octaswitch Loops:

    Loop 1: Octavier
    Loop 2: Overdrive1 and 2
    Loop 3: BBE
    Loop 4 send: Equalizer —> NoiseSupressor return, NoiseSupressor out —> Volumepedal —> HumDinger, Humdinger Buffered Ch.—>DSL, HumDinger Isolalated Ch.—>JMP
    Loop 4 return: From DSL FX Send
    Loop 5: Tremolo
    Loop 6: Chorus
    Loop 7: Delay
    Loop 8: Reverb
    Octaswitch out: DSL FX Return

    Any other suggestions concerning my setup other then the buffering issue are very welcome!

    Thx!
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018 at 5:30 PM
  4. Marshall Stack

    Marshall Stack Well-Known Member

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    So you have the distortion pedals in tyke effects loop?
     
  5. SlapHand

    SlapHand New Member

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    Everything before loop 5 on the Octaswitch go in front of both amps.

    Loop 5-8 go in the fx-loop on the DSL.
     
  6. mickeydg5

    mickeydg5 Well-Known Member VIP Member

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    It seems the DSL is the wet amplifier. All that looks ok. I am not familiar with all the pedals but is seems to be a users call as to what may be needed. The Octaswitch has a buffer at the input. But the chain before and after needs to be addressed after setup as to if the signal requires a pick me up and where or what point to place it.
     
  7. ricksconnected

    ricksconnected Well-Known Member

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    everywhere you wanna be.
    maybe you can find a pedal like the nova system that has these effects in them and
    free up some real estate on your board and less pedals to send your signal through.

    Loop 5: Tremolo
    Loop 6: Chorus
    Loop 7: Delay
    Loop 8: Reverb
     
  8. pedecamp

    pedecamp Well-Known Member

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    Buffer as I understand it is for long cable runs, say like youre guitar cable is 30 feet or longer, put a buffered pedal at the end of your chain to boost your signal to eliminate any signal degradation, I don't know I often think its hair splitting and doesn't really matter. Do a little trial and error and see for yourself if you can tell the difference. Pretty sure all Boss pedals have a buffer, I have my tuner in the middle and EQ at the end, I only have 6 pedals in my chain, if I plug straight into my amp and bypass the pedal board I do hear an ever so slight difference but not so much to worry about.
     
  9. Matt_Krush

    Matt_Krush Well-Known Member

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    A buffer is a unity gain amplifier (or as close to unity as possible).
    A buffer should have high input impedance and low output impedance. It should also not color the source tone.
    Buffers can be used for impedance matching of pedals, removing capacitance impedance from long cable runs, or just looking cool on your pedal board.

    If you have an overdrive/distortion pedal....those are buffers (while active). Every pedal that uses an op-amp or some type of FET amplifier at the input stage of the signal chain is a buffer.

    If I ever truly needed a buffer, I'd get an overdrive pedal or boost, set the drive to zero, and just use the level/output control as necessary.
     
  10. SlapHand

    SlapHand New Member

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    Thx for inputs!

    I have a bunch off Boss pedals in the chain and mickeydg5 is right, the Octaswitch has an optional buffer at the input.

    The HumDinger I use as splitter also has a buffered output.

    I still notice degregation off the signal when i compare plugging the guitar straight in to an amp vs. going through the pedalboard... I must admit, my patch cables at the moment are cheap, moulded cables. I have a package of Evidence Solderless waiting but I wont start cutting cables in the proper length until the transition from the current to the new board is happening.

    Today all pedals are fastened with pedalboard tape with no easy access to cables and powercords, Because of this, I have not stacked pedals much around. (One of the reasons for the new build)

    I suspect things in front and after the Octaswitch to be the `problem` as no patches engage more then 3 pedals beside those always active (Eq and Ns-2). Loop 4 has to be permanently on to get anything to work in this setup.

    I am considering a multi-FX in the loop of the DSL, but I like the possibility to diss a pedal and replace it with something else. I have tried some of the Boss Multi-FX´s but find them sort of ´sterile´…. or like having the same sauce on every dish in a meal… :rolleyes: I find them different from the pedals, even though I have mostly Boss in the FX-loop. :shrug:

    Nice walk-through on buffers from Pedecamp and Matt_Krush. I feel a bit more enlightened.

    Looks like I´ll be ok.

    Thx again to everybody contributing!
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018 at 11:04 AM
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  11. Dogs of Doom

    Dogs of Doom Moderator Staff Member

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    Buffers are not a solution for such a complex problem. From what I gather, buffers are meant to keep, for ease of terminology, the impedance stable over a signal path that's being degraded (for whatever reason).

    The problem is that, when you start adding too many, they can work against each other, causing a degradation of their own making.

    @zachman , IIRC, has a pedal controller, that works like a bunch of individual effects loops (so each pedal is on it's own independent loop), that is totally programmable, so that a specific patch turns on loop x, x, & x, while another bank can turn on y, y, & y, yet, another can turn on x, x, & y, y, or any combination thereof.

    Taking the time to figure out a multi-effects rack unit to replicate the combinations of the reverb/delay/chorus you use will be worth your time for simplicity's sake. Then use whatever pedals that you can't replicate, or want specific control over on your board.

    A lot of die-hards modify their effects to remove the buffers. Maybe that's what you need to do, just make sure you leave some buffers on the 1st in line of each channel/path.
     
  12. zachman

    zachman Well-Known Member

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    Buffer placement is a legit consideration, depending on which pedals one chooses. If one uses a pedal like a Germanium fuzz, and/or Envelope filters, you may want to put buffers after them, because they rely on your high impedance guitar signal w/ passive pickups, to work as designed-- so when you roll off your guitar volume the pedal cleans up properly, or w/ the envelope filters which operate based on the input level being fed from the guitar. Towards the end of the chain, buffers are often used to drive the relatively high impedance signal down a longer cable run, by converting it to a low impedance signal w/ enough signal to drive the relatively low voltage unimpeded. Other than that, one needs to consider combinations of pedals being utilized simultaneously, as it goes to what order pedals are routed. If a player only uses one device at a time, they don't need to sweat the pedal order. It when we start combining things that the order may need to be considered. Too many true bypass pedals can present their own challenge, and result in a loss of high end clarity due to high capacitance, because it's a series chain of events and even if all the pedals are off, the signal goes through each cable and connection-- so if there are ex 6 TB pedals in line, a buffer at the end of the line will help to offset the high capacitive loading of the signal, which can lift that wet blanket from the signal before it hits the amp's input.

    Switching systems solve several challenges, because when you turn off a device, you don't actually turn off the device, like when stomping on a pedal. It physically removes the device and the cables connecting the device from the signal path entirely, so it's MUCH more quiet ie. less noisy and more available fidelity, while in operation. Also, they can eliminate tap dancing, because one can then activate/deactivate multiple devices simultaneously, via MIDI by creating presets where combinations of devices can be controlled w/ one button press.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018 at 2:45 PM
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  13. pedecamp

    pedecamp Well-Known Member

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    Pull 1 cable and 1 pedal out of the chain at a time find the offender. Could be a pedal could be a cable, you don't know.
     
  14. mickeydg5

    mickeydg5 Well-Known Member VIP Member

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    Pedals themselves, including jack contacts and cables in between, along with their settings can be a problem causing "tone suck" as some call it. All the buffers in the world will not help that situation. That goes along with with what some of the others have mentioned.
     
  15. zachman

    zachman Well-Known Member

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    From Custom Audio Electronics:
    What are buffers and how are they used?
    Buffers are extremely important in a multi-component system. They are often misunderstood and often get a bad rap by those who are uninformed. In a CAE system, a buffer is a unity gain (input level equals output level) impedance converting circuit. It essentially protects your high impedance guitar output (or any other high impedance source, such as an amps' effects loop send) from being loaded down by the input it is connected to. In effect, it converts high impedance to low, which means subsequent stages are then driven by a low impedance source (the buffer's output). High impedance sources such as your guitar's output (assuming you have passive pickups) has very little current drive capability and it's signal is subject to a harsh environment once it leaves the guitar. You already know the adverse affect a long cable has on your tone. Same thing happens if you pass your signal through a bunch of effects pedals. Even if they have "true bypass" (an ugly, over-used term), each one will suck a little more of your signal along with the cables and connectors, mainly due to capacitive loading of your high impedance guitar signal. The end result is a muffled weak signal that lacks clarity. But once your high impedance guitar signal hits a properly designed buffer with a high input impedance, the buffer takes over, and uses its higher current capability (remember, its an active circuit that requires a power supply) to drive all subsequent stages, thus preserving your instrument's tone. This brings us to buffer quality. Buffers come in all types of designs, from discrete transistor, op-amp, to esoteric tube designs. All have their own unique sonic stamp. At CAE we use the op-amp approach. It has served us well for years, is low noise, and is extremely transparent to our ears. Buffers often get blamed for causing an overly bright sound, but we feel if its designed properly, any perceived "brightness" is because now the guitar is not being loaded down by subsequent stages!

    Buffers can cause problems, too. There are some effects devices that don't like to see the low output impedance of a buffer. These are typically discrete transistor designed fuzz circuits (such as the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face). They react better to the high impedance output of the guitar. In fact, the guitar output, cable and input stage of the Fuzz Face complete a circuit that is highly dependent of those 3 components to work correctly. Fuzz Faces clean up nicely when you roll back the guitar volume control... not so if a buffer is between the guitar and Fuzz Face input. So if you have a pedal board with a Fuzz Face on it , put it first! Other pedals may react the same way. Experiment to see what works best for you. Keep in mind all active pedals (such as Boss, Ibanez, etc...) act as buffers and will impart their own sonic stamp even when bypassed. This is what started the whole "true bypass" (ugh! that term again) craze. See? Too much of a good thing can be "bad". Which brings us to how we utilize buffers in CAE custom switchers. We only use buffers where absolutely necessary. Typically, in a pedal based system we will not buffer until after the first 4-5 loops, which is usually just prior to sending the signal down to the pedal board (via a long cable run, hence the need to buffer) to hit the wah/volume pedals. Any more than 4 or 5 loops, and the guitar signal may be affected by capacitive loading. So the first few loops is where you would put any impedance sensitive effects. This also means your guitar will go through fuzz, overdrive or distortion pedals BEFORE the wah. We prefer this order because the wah then has a more harmonically rich signal to filter. Try it yourself. Of course, if a specific order is required, we will do everything we can to make it happen. Buffers are also necessary to drive isolation transformers, since the relatively low primary impedance of the transformers may be detrimental to whatever circuit is feeding it. This is also why amp splitter circuits must be buffered. You can't drive multiple amps with a relatively high impedance source. So there usually is a buffer somewhere in the output stage of your custom switcher. That's usually it. 2 places minimum. There may be more active stages depending on your system requirements.

     
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  16. SlapHand

    SlapHand New Member

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    Very Good Information!

    I dont expect my signal to travel through all my mess (with all pedals off) and hit the amp as pristine as when it left my guitar.... but as close as possible :jam:

    Obivously buffers matter!

    Thx for sharing!
     
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  17. zachman

    zachman Well-Known Member

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    The crappy thing is, when it comes to 'as pristine as possible'-- things start getting expensive quickly. Less than that-- it's a matter of how good is 'good enough', and only the individual can decide for themselves. Best of luck on the tone solution.
    :cheers:
     
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  18. Dogs of Doom

    Dogs of Doom Moderator Staff Member

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    not only that, but some of this degradation has a character of it's own. One of the most notoriously crappy buffers is in the old Cry-Baby wah pedals. But, it gives the pedal a certain character in it's degradation of tone, that's rock & roll.

    If you want zero degradation, you will use solid state & never push it to clipping. Tubes are a natural compressor/limiter, that distort when pushed. It's just that, w/ tubes, you can get some pleasing tones w/ that degradation of the original sound.

    See a pattern?

    It's easy to get sterile & generic, by going overboard on "pristine". You just have to make the right compromises to get you the best result in tone/sound for you.
     
  19. zachman

    zachman Well-Known Member

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    That's what's nice about using a w/d/w configuration... The ability to control gain structure across the signal path, limiting capacitive loading, etc... and eliminating the need to process everything through the A/D-D/A converters, when using a line mixer, and choosing series//parallel routing, and whether or not a pedal is TB or not is made an irrelevancy.
     
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  20. SlapHand

    SlapHand New Member

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    @zachman yes, I get that. I might have to moderate my statement to «as clean as my wallet can handle»

    When I put in the Humdinger to get rid of the ground loop (which was a success), I noticed how noisy my GE-7 is... :shrug:

    @Dogs of Doom I can see the pattern! And some people will call all of this cork sniffing... but hey... Its The Tone Zone!

    Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate a good, clean tone. I also feel I cant control my wet, dirty signal unless I can handle the cleans. A house is never better than the foundation its built on!

    I dont gig out. We are some old farts that get together a couple of times a month, jamming and playing for fun.

    The tweaking has become a kind of hobby and I like it :eddie:

    Thx again!
     
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