Bypass… generally there are 2 types used in guitar effects pedals these days- true bypass and buffered bypass. Let’s take a quick look at the pros & cons of each.
Buffered bypass runs your guitars signal through your pedals circuit whether it’s off or on. The buffer portion of the circuit converts your signal from high to low impedance. This lower impedance from the buffer is what drives the signal through long cables. Higher impedance results in more capacitance and loss of high end tone at the end of a lengthy cable run. While this sounds great, buffers have a ‘voice’ all their own. Transparency is the goal, but a poorly designed buffer is far from transparent, hence ‘tone suck’ and the need for writings like this.
With true bypass, your signal is routed directly from the input jack to the output jack, passing the circuit of the pedal all together. Sounds good, right? Yes and no. If you use only a couple pedals, in a small room with short cables you’re probably just fine. But if you’ve got 5 pedals on a board (sounds big I know, but 5 is pretty standard) and say 2 15 foot cables- that’s about 35 feet of cabling… With that you’re really piling on the capacitance. Regardless of quality, your cables act as capacitors, those 5 pedals with jacks, switches and patch cables in between coupled with 30 feet of leads are all capacitors- each component shaving off a little bit of top end and keeping it for itself.
SO- what’s the best option to go with? That’s up to you! Personally I like a buffer up front, as I have a busy board full of true bypass pedals, I need that conversion to low impedance to allow my signal to flow without losing clarity.
Questions? Post em below and I’ll do my best to answer them.