I am curious to know what most people's experience has been with true bypass (or the lack of it) on their pedalboards

I run a whole bunch of boss pedals on my board (e.g. the Chorus Ensemble, the TU-3, etc.) and some Digitech stuff (Bad Monkey, DigiDelay) and also a modded Vox 847 Wah (which I understand gets a lot of criticism for its tone suck) but also one oddity, which is an ancient Boss ME-20 that I use basically as a volume pedal/ EQ/ occasional basic flanger/ tremolo pedal...this whole paraphernalia is hooked into a very nice little handwired 18W tube amp (12AX7's/ EL84's, Celestion Vintage 30, 1x12 combo)

After reading a lot of stuff on the supposed virtues of true bypass, I recently picked up a Radial EFX True Bypass switcher and experimented a bit with switching my pedalboard in and out of the chain

Here's the thing - there's no doubt that in isolation, my pedals suck tone to varying degrees. But the interesting thing is that if I fiddle a bit with the volume and EQ settings on the pedalboard, it is virtually impossible for me to tell the difference in tone between the bypassed pedalboard and the signal running through all the effects, even when the amp is cranked up

I asked one of my friends who's an amp technician and presumably a little more familiar with these things than I am to participate in a blind tone test, and he wasn't able to distinguish between the two tones either (admittedly, with the amp only at 12 o'clock in this case)

I had originally almost commissioned a techie in my city to do a true bypass mod on some of my pedals (which would have destroyed their original look and feel btw) but now I think this is simply not worth the effort

I'm curious to hear other UG'ers views on this because you read and hear a lot about why true bypass is to die for, but at least this limited experience of mine doesn't seem to bear this out. In fact I have noticed a bigger difference in tone with a different of cables

By the way, the bassist in my band uses a whole bunch of Carl Martin's on his pedalboard, which is vastly superior to and obviously a lot more expensive than my setup...I swear on some of his pedals, you can hear an audible click on his amp when he switches effects on and off, which you don't get with my setup

Any thoughts?
either is fine, I use both.

But a pedal with a bad buffer will suck
2002 PRS CE22
2013 G&L ASAT Deluxe
2009 Epiphone G-400 (SH-4)
Marshall JCM2000 DSL100
Krank 1980 Jr 20watt
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GFS Greenie/Digitech Bad Monkey
Morley Bad Horsie 2
MXR Smart Gate
Balance the amount of each out to avoid the cons of each (tone loss of buffered, signal loss of true bypass). and like rob said, avoid bad buffers.
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Last edited by Maidenheadsteve at May 11, 2014,
I wouldn't be too concerned. Using the bypass switch you bypassed everything including the cables. If you modded each pedal to true bypass you would probably not get the same benefit as a complete bypass with the loop switch. You still have a bunch of connectors and cables causing potential losses. Sounds like you have already achieved your goal by tweaking the eq.
Well, you never want ALL true bypass without a single buffer or 'always on' pedal. The reasoning being that the longer your cable is, the more upper end of the frequency range you lose.

People with REALLY good ears begin to hear a difference in brightness when your cable length exceeds about 18'-20'. Most of us can't really hear a difference until we get into like 30' of cabling. What happens is the guitar's tone starts to sound darker and loses some of the upper harmonics.

So the consensus is that you want a buffered bypass pedal, a stand-alone buffer, or an always on pedal every 18'-20' so that your signal stays strong. True bypass pedals, when they're off, are effectively 'lengthening your cable' so if you have all true bypass and you have them off so you're completely clean, your guitar is likely to sound a little uglier than if it was plugged directly into the amp with a shorter cable.

On the flip side, having all buffered bypass pedals can muddy the signal. The worse case are stuff like Ring Modulators where you can actually hear (very subtly) the modulated signal when the pedal is off. Another one I heard a VERY noticeable difference in (and it might just be the way my rig is set up, who knows?), was an MXR Dynacomp. I wasn't really using it, took it off my board, and it was like night and day. That was before I even understood what true bypass and buffered bypass meant.

That being said, most of the change in tone there is pretty negligible. I would say if you had 20 BOSS pedals on a board you might be able to hear a pretty big difference if you did a test.

I would say with the amount of pedals I'm guessing you're using (around or less than 8?), there won't be any noticeable difference. And with all the companies putting true bypass switching into their pedals, it's actually a better idea to worry about having a buffer of some kind on your board.

I think people make more of a big deal about it than what it's worth. As long as you think your rig sounds good, than it doesn't matter. People will always try to justify why their rig sounds so much better than yours. If you feel like you're having problems with your signal, try running a clean signal through your entire effects chain, then plug your guitar into the amp directly. If it sounds 1000x better directly in? Then maybe a looper is in order (provided you like your digitech and BOSS sounds). If it sounds good either way to you? Don't worry about it

No one in an audience is going to know whether you have AL TRU BYP455 or if you're running a chain of BOSS pedals. It's the elitist guitar players that will.
Last edited by mjones1992 at May 11, 2014,
If you don't notice a difference in an A/B (or don't care), then don't worry about it, basically. Sounds like you've already done enough research to satisfy yourself that it's not causing any adverse effects for you, so that's great
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