Your True-Bypass pedals may be killing your Guitar’s Tone, read on to find out why…
What is True-Bypass?
True-Bypass is a term that has become synonymous with bespoke, boutique, high value effects pedals and is often used in the manufacturer’s sales pitch. The premise is that the pedal’s circuitry is completely by-passed when not in use and its popularity is based upon the “nothing gets in the way of your tone” mentality…However, the signal is still passing through some sort of conduit to be able to continue its journey and is still affected by a simple Scientific principle. Ohm’s law.
Here comes the Science bit
The strength of your guitar’s signal whilst travelling through your Effects Chain and eventually ending up with some form of amplification, is governed by a simple equation. Ohm’s law. Named after Georg Simon Ohm, the German Physicist and mathematician who discovered the relationship.
Ohm’s law states that the current through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the potential difference across the two points.
Put simply, the Voltage of your guitar signal is the V in this equation and the Resistance (R) is dictated by all the wiring in your chain. So those 6 foot guitar cables used either side of your pedal board and all the circuitry inside your favourite stomp-boxes all make up quite a considerable resistance when your relatively weak guitar signal tries to travel through them. This ultimately means that the more cable and pedals you use…the weaker your original signal becomes.
Such a loss in signal can have quite a dramatic effect on your eventual tone which often manifests as quite a noticeable drop in high frequencies. This is obviously exacerbated as the length of your guitar cables increases too.
So all that time, effort and money spent on those pedals is fruitless, right?
No, all is not lost! If you’re willing to accept the Science that governs electrical circuits and concede to using at least one pedal in your chain that isn’t True Bypass, then you can potentially have your cake and eat it all at once. All you need is a Buffer.
Buffering is a very simple element of many Effects pedals which effectively takes the input signal and ensures that, once it’s travelled through the pedal, it remains the same or greater on the way out. So, even a Tuner pedal which uses Buffering at the beginning of your chain will ensure your signal stays strong enough to keep your tone in check.
Open Your Mind
Keeping an open mind and sticking with the facts will always help you make informed choices with regards to your gear purchases and ultimately, what you sound like. The principle of True-Bypass is an honest one but you can’t ignore scientific reality so don’t be fooled into thinking that everything has to be hand wired and true-bypass for it to sound great.
Having just one pedal in that boutique chain of yours could make all the difference whether you’re playing to an audience of one, or one million!
Lee is the Dawsons in-house Guitar presenter for all guitar related videos. He is also the UK demonstrator for Roland & BOSS, performing all over the UK.