Buffers are devices that are interposed between a signal source and an active circuit. The most simple ones do not provide signal amplification but operate impedance matching. This prevents from signal losses, espacially concerning the level and the bandwith.
They are technically very useful but little known, and sometimes badly regarded by vintage electronics purists under the pretext that historical circuits do not have any of them — and that Japanese equipment is stuffed with.
Guitar Poppa could not stay indifferent to this electronico-aesthetic quarrel…
Basic properties of impedance buffers
Their first property is to have a high input impedance
They require little. They take a very low current on the source.
This preserve the level of the source signal, and all its harmonics and transients.
Their second property is to have a low output impedance
They are generous. They can output greedy circuits like some old stompboxes, all tone controls, low impedance mike inputs.
They also are able to manage lengths of good or poor cables without losses.
Principles of the input common buffer
The stompbox input is the high impedance input of the buffer.
• The stompox is permently high impedance, and never sucks any source you plug in.
• The guitars are glad to keep all their level, their clarity and dynamic.
The buffer provides a low impedance signal to all devices in the pedal
• The effect circuit works to its full capacity.
• The bypassed signal is pure and mighty.
The main functional advantages will be found in output connectivity :
Any signal coming out of the stompbox is low impedance.
• In bypass mode : the buffer provides the output signal.
• in effect mode : A good effect circuit also has a low impedance output.
Each pedal is able to drive the downstream devices.
• Losses in connections, even several meters long and leaky, are minimalized.
• The signal imposes its spectrum and dynamics : it is no longer darkened and dulled.
Input buffered pedals eliminate chaining problems.
• There are no more compatibility and connecting order problems .
• Each stompbox works as an adapter at the advantage of those downstream.
• In particular: True bypass pedals which are connected downstream a buffered pedal will work better and with less noise.
Input buffer of a basic LikeYourFace, using one BC549b transistor.
Numerous purist fans of vintage equipment often express criticism about buffering, which focuses on two axis:
• On the one hand the fear of losing some almost magical sounds, some “mojos”.
• On the other hand the discomfort of feeling controls that respond differently.
“The input buffer changes the sonic character”
A buffered effect circuit receives a clean signal, less prone to the hazards, but also to the “good defects” of the sound chain. Many of us knows that some sound chains with separately questionable links can give an inimitable color and grain. We must admit that the sound’s mystery often holds of these combinations which however appear doubtful on diagrams. Now we must also admit that such configurations are little varied, and a bit uncertain.
We are then faced with an alternative:
• On the one hand a distinctive and affective sound, a bit always the same, which is based on a rudimentary technology, and accepts the losses and noise that come along with.
• On the other hand a less uncompromising tone, but as far not uneducated, which can keep close to historical sounds, but more developable, and especially reliable.
“Volume setting of the guitar is shifted”
The buffer pumps much less on the guitar than an ordinary circuit, and makes us feel a higher level. The usually very sensitive shift of the guitar volume knob widens. Overdrive or distortion come faster and with more presence. The Fuzz Face’s clean up effect when turning down the volume is still active, but seems less contrasted … We must act more widely the button.
Nothing has changed, but everything is changed, or the reverse…
“Tone controls do not have the same effect”
The tone control seems to have more effect, especially in low positions and maximum volume. The resonances due to the interaction between the low pass capacitor and the pickup inductance are growing in the lower medium. The overall impression is of more darkening settings.
A dilemma can then install: is it a fault inherent to the buffer, or is it that it reveals that the traditional 47nF tone capacitor is oversized most of the time, and that a 27nF or 33nF would be more musical ?
I respect those critical arguments against the buffers
These arguments are both very subjective and understandable.
Can it necessarily mean that a stompbox works badly when buffered ?
The buffers restore sound properties that were often lost in impedance mismatch or leaky cables. Therefore, we have to master a wider range of settings, which upsets some of our guitaristic habits: one can have the impression of losing some fetishes sensations. This is the story of the favorite rag of a little child that passed to the washing machine: it takes time to restore its smell …
Nevertheless, the buffers, if they bother some habits, bring a technical strength and a sonic width that are worth exploring.
Guitar Poppa’s stompboxes : with or without buffer ?
I chose to build them with a common input buffer, as I believe to the benefits of low-impedance connections, and because I module the circuits so as to take charge without acidity the nervousness caused by the buffers.
Their advantage is to be both close to their elders and more flexible in their connectivity with other pedals, less centered on a single sound, or a unique routing. However I understand the expectations of some more purely vintage lovers.
On request and at the same price, I can realize fuzz stompboxes switched to the old manner : unbuffered and with a true bypass. Just click the option you prefer when ordering.
This offer only applies to Fuzzboxes because my other pedals are originally designed with input buffer and would gain nothing being transformed.
Go and see :