What is a True Bypass Pedal?

by Jim Button
What is true bypass | Boost Guitar Pedals

You'll see it written in a lot of our product descriptions - "true bypass". But what does it mean?

Even if pedals on your pedalboard are turned off, the signal from your guitar has to go through them on its way to the amp. And it's how the signal travels through a pedal that determines how much degradation occurs before it reaches the end of its journey.

Avoiding tone suck

Cables and wiring generate capacitance which can cause loss of higher frequencies that can lead to "woolly" sounding tones. In small doses, capacitance is acceptable - even desirable - helping to roll off the bright treble of a Strat's bridge pickup, for example. But as each component in a signal path adds more and more capacitance, there will be a point where your tone suffers.

With true bypass pedals, the use of a DPDT (dual pole dual throw) switch allows the signal to take a route around a pedal's circuitry when it's turned off, rather than having to go through it like it would when the pedal is activated. This avoids the majority of a pedal's internal wiring and therefore minimises "tone suck".

In many situations - such as if you're playing at home where a long guitar cable isn't necessary, or if you only gig with three or four pedals - true bypass pedals are the perfect choice for preserving your guitar's tone.

Potential Problems

If, however, you need a longer cable for stage use or you have more than a handful of pedals on your pedalboard, you can run into problems with true bypass pedals.

Even using true bypass pedals, capacitance builds up as cable runs increase in length or more pedals are added to a signal path. At some point, you will no doubt find yourself looking for a solution that restores your core tone and all that detailed treble content.

The Solution

The solution is to include a buffer in your setup. Buffers come in two forms: firstly, as a buffer built into a pedal (eg all BOSS pedals), or as a standalone buffer in a pedal-sized enclosure. They both work in the same way - by adjusting the input and output impedance of the signal, they ensure weak signals are bulked up and capacitance is minimised to avoid high-end signal loss.

The high-impedance input is designed to accept a wide range of signal strenghts, while the low-impedance output effectively "drives" the post-buffer signal down the signal path.

Strengthening the signal in this way enables longer cable runs to be used without losing treble or clarity in your tone, and can be placed at the beginning, in the middle of, or at the end of your signal path for differing effects.

Placing a buffer first in the signal chain will drive your guitar's signal through subsequent pedals, helping to keep your core tone intact as it passes through the signal path. However, many fuzzes in particular are notoriously sensitive and may change character if placed after a buffer. Instead, you could place it immediately before a buffer instead.

FREDRIC EFFECTS Golden Eagle Front Transparent - Boost Guitar Pedals
FREDRIC EFFECTS Golden Eagle Front Transparent - Boost Guitar Pedals
FREDRIC EFFECTS Golden Eagle Right Context | Boost Guitar Pedals
FREDRIC EFFECTS Golden Eagle Front Context | Boost Guitar Pedals
FREDRIC EFFECTS Golden Eagle Left Context | Boost Guitar Pedals

FREDRIC EFFECTS Golden Eagle

£125.00

The Fredric Effects Golden Eagle is a single-pedal sized recreation of the Klon Centaur, with completely accurate electronics built to the highest specification.

Just like the Klon Centaur, it features the internal buffer and charge pump, making the Golden Eagle the perfect pedal for three tasks on your pedalboard:

  1. Buffer - Use the Golden Eagle's high quality buffer to maximise the signal capacitance and resistance of your signal path, getting the most from your other pedals (there's a great That Pedal Show video on this topic, demonstrated using a Klon Centaur)
  2. Clean Boost - Use the Golden Eagle to condition your tone, running it at low gain and unity volume. Subtle but effective tone improvements.
  3. Overdrive - Turn the gain up to drive your amp into beautifully organic break up.

Just like Fredric Effects' other pedals, the build quality is exceptional, with a folded steel chassis featuring perfectly bevelled corners. It's the small touches that count!

Features:

  • 100% accurate recreation of the Klon Centaur
  • High quality internal buffer
  • Internal charge pump converts 9V to 18V for more headroom
  • Handmade in London, UK
  • Gain, Output & Treble controls
  • Power: 9V centre-negative or 9V battery (neither included)

 

Buffer placement

Placing a buffer first in the signal chain will drive your guitar's signal through subsequent pedals, helping to keep your core tone intact as it passes through the signal path. However, many fuzzes in particular are notoriously sensitive and may change character if placed after a buffer. Instead, you could place it immediately before a buffer instead.

Placing a buffer at the end of your signal chain will preserve your post-pedal tone, counteract any high impedance pedals placed last in the chain, and drive the signal through long cable runs to your amp.

You can even place a buffer between pedals if you know you are dealing with a particularly bad tone-sucker.

Having too many buffers is a recipe for tonal disaster, however, so be sure to choose carefully where to place one or two and leave it at that if you can, otherwise you'll end up with a noisy tone that nobody wants to listen to.

So, to conclude...

Don't let the terms true bypass and buffer bypass put you off buying a pedal. Yes, true bypass is a great feature but having too much of a good thing can be detrimental to your tone. Use a dedicated signal conditioner or a buffer bypass pedal along with your true bypass pedals for the best of both worlds - a pure signal reaching your amp is the key, after all.

Originally published 16th January 2020. Updated 16th December 2020

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