Guitar Pedal Terms Explained: A-Z

Ever wondered what NOS means? Or what the four-cable method is? Our guitar pedal terms guide answers all your questions...

Analogue

Guitar Pedals were originally built with analogue circuitry - resistors, capacitors and transistors - before microchips became widely available. Today, analogue pedals are revered for their 'organic' sounds and response to picking, although some may argue that the gap is narrowing.

Read more about digital vs analogue guitar pedals

Artisan

Artisan is defined as "made in a traditional way by someone who is skilled with their hands", which we believe sums up the builders we work with and the pedals they build.

Read more about artisan guitar pedals

BBD

BBD is an integrated circuit and the abbreviation stands for 'bucket brigade-delay', referring to how the signal is passed from transistor to transistor, resulting in a degradation of signal. You'll find BBD chips in many analogue-style delays for this very reason.

Read more about guitar delay

Boutique

"Boutique" is a term widely used to describe guitar pedals made in small volumes, often by hand, with high quality components and eye-catching artwork. At Boost Guitar Pedals we prefer to call them "artisan"!

Read more about boutique guitar pedals

Buffer

A buffer is part of your signal chain that preserves tone. Often found in guitar pedals, it amplifies or 'buffers' the signal to help it through a pedal's internal circuitry with minimal loss. You can also purchase standalone buffers. Buffers are perfect for combatting signal degradation from long cable runs or large pedalboard setups.

Read more about true bypass and buffers

Four-cable method

Used to connect pedals up to your amp so that boost, distortion, wah etc can go in front of the amp but time and modulation effects such as reverb, delay and phaser can go through the amp's effects loop - i.e after the preamp section.

Germanium

The element germanium (Ge) is used as a semi-conductor in transistors and diodes. Germanium components were used in early guitar pedals, such as the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster, before being replaced by more stable, higher purity silicon. Germanium transistors and diodes are revered these days for the warm, organic, 'vintage' tone they confer on pedals.

NOS

NOS is the abbreviation of 'new old stock', referring to the unused vintage transistors, resistors and diodes used by some pedal builders, who scour global marketplaces for small batches of these finite components. These are preferred in pedals based on vintage circuits to get as close as possible to the original.

Oscillation

Described by the Cambridge English Dictionary as "a regular change in strength or direction in a wave or electric current", oscillation in a guitar pedal context refers to modulation effects such as tremolo, however you can also find delays with self-oscillating features and even this reverb pedal.

Patch cable

Patch cables are short instrument cables (1/4" TS unbalanced) designed to connect up several guitar pedals while minimising cable length. Excess cable length can not only get in the way but it can also affect tone.

Read more about guitar cable and tone

Power supply

All guitar pedals require a power supply. The vast majority run on 9V, allowing a battery to be used (if there is a battery snap built into the design of the pedal). While it's important to ensure your pedals run at the correct voltage to avoid damage, it's also important to pay attention to the power draw in mA. If your power supply does not provide enough mA, your pedal may not work correctly. Most analogue pedals typically draw between 50 and 200mA, while digital pedals prefer much more - up to 500mA. If you own several pedals it is worth investing in a multi-pedal power supply with outputs that allow you to tailor power delivery for each pedal. 

Silicon

Silicon (Si) is the element which largely replaced germanium as the semi-conductor of choice for pedal builders from the late 1960s onwards. Unlike germanium, silicon is temperature-stable and its purity enables a fuller tonal signal to pass through. It also appealed to builders as it is cheaper to manufacture silicon-based components. In character, silicon-based pedals can be said to be more aggressive compared to germanium equivalents.

Stacking

Stacking is the act of combining two or more drive pedals in order to push the input stage of the subsequent pedal for a saturated, gainy character. Careful balancing of gain stages between the pedals can also achieve more nuanced tones than a single pedal can produce.

Read more about pedal stacking

Tap-tempo

Tap-tempo is built into many digital time-based pedals, allowing on-the-fly adjustment to rate or time parameters in time with the tapping of your foot on an integrated or external footswitch.