You can have multiple effects pedals, a quality amplifier, and a great guitar in your setup, but without a buffer pedal, there's always the risk that your signal strength would be depleted.
Granted, there are flashier pedals out there, but it’s hard to find a more effective one than a buffer pedal. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the best options available for maintaining your guitar’s tone.
The Best Buffer Pedals for Guitar
Table of Contents
- The Best Buffer Pedals for Guitar
- Positioning a Buffer Pedal in the Signal Chain
- Things to Consider When Buying a Buffer Pedal
The High-Wire dual-buffer is a reliable pedal that minimizes any potential signal-loss caused by the effects on a pedalboard. It features a solid design and is compact in size, so it doesn’t take up unnecessary space amongst your other pedals.
Dual-buffer circuitry is a highly effective method that keeps your guitar pickups’ impedance load at an optimal level. It also does a great job of tailoring the signal to perfectly suit your chosen amplifier, therefore preserving your tone.
In addition to the high-quality circuitry, Mesa/Boogie has generously installed some other useful add-ons. There's a +3dB level-comp switch which is great for handling long cable runs, an output for a tuner, and a mute that can be operated by footswitch. The separate effects loop also ensures that your signal path is kept clean.
At first glance, the High-Wire buffer pedal looks minimalistic and basic, but when you get into the various features, it soon becomes apparent that it is a very detailed offering.
With the Little Black Buffer, JHS adds another quality pedal to its ever-growing range of guitar effects. Designed to be the perfect solution to your signal issues, the Little Black Buffer works to even out any weaknesses across the frequency range.
Capacitance problems often occur when there are many cables present in your signal chain, even if the majority of pedals have true-bypass switching. This JHS buffer pedal makes your signal more consistent. Simply position it at the start of your chain, and it will do the job.
By calculating and providing the perfect impedance for your guitar rig, the Little Black Buffer pedal reinvigorates your sound. You’ll notice the tone becomes more full-bodied and clear.
Sometimes, buffer pedals can make a guitar’s tone sound a little artificial if they are not of a certain standard. This JHS offering is handcrafted, with real care taken over its construction and the choice of materials used.
The result is a natural tone that doesn't deviate from the authentic interaction between your guitar and amp. Another bonus is that this buffer pedal is compatible with bass guitars too.
Having a true-bypass pedal is undoubtedly an effective way to keep your tone consistent, but when multiple are used in your signal chain, the overall sound will suffer. Long cables add to these tonal troubles, but thankfully, there are pedals like the Xotic Super Clean Buffer to combat this.
The Super Clean Buffer, as its name suggests, monitors your tone and gets the best out of your rig. With a top-quality preamp that is based on the well-respected JRC4558 chip, this buffer pedal produces a clean and well-rounded sound.
The inner buffer circuitry is understated in design and performs brilliantly when it comes to producing a wide range of tones. With +12dB of a clean boost and a selectable boost frequency, it also doubles up as a useful gain pedal.
If you find that there are noticeable differences between the way your guitar, pedals, and amplifier sound in the practice room compared to the stage or studio, you can use the frequency booster to hone in on the aspects that need reviving.
The SCB is also very robust, housed in durable metal. It has a heavy-duty footswitch, so there are no concerns over its ability to withstand some on-the-road wear and tear.
If anyone knows about the relationship between effects pedals and your guitar’s signal, it’s TC Electronic. Although we’re used to seeing mind-bending offerings of space or distortion based effects from them, the BonaFide buffer pedal is just as impactful on a rig.
A general rule to observe is that if your total cable length is longer than 20ft, you need to take measures to prevent the tone from becoming muddy. Inserting the BonaFide buffer pedal into your chain keeps your bypassed signal sounding like it’s going straight into the amplifier.
The compact size of this TC Electronic pedal means that it can slot onto your pedalboard with ease, taking up minimal space. Whether you play guitar or bass, this pedal will maintain the clarity of your tone.
Not only does it combat the loss of treble caused by long cable runs, but this analog buffer pedal also has an intelligent bypass relay installed which switches to true bypass mode if the power gets unexpectedly cut out for whatever reason.
Based on the identical preamp circuit that was used in the iconic EP-3 tape echo unit, the EP-3 by Catalinbread is a solid choice for guitarists or bassists who want to breathe new life into their rig.
Designed to make your tone bigger, fuller, and more powerful, the Epoch Boost EP-3 preamp produces a notable improvement as soon as you plug it in.
The delay pedal which it is based on soon became popular amongst musicians purely for its boosting ability, so it makes sense that Catalinbread would produce a pedal focused solely on that.
When used as a buffer, the pedal should be positioned at the end of your signal chain. It then goes to work on your signal, maintaining the dynamics, and smoothening any weak points.
The way the EP-3 does this is by internally shifting the 9-volt power supply up to 22 volts. This may sound unorthodox, but it is a brilliantly effective way to create more headroom.
If you desire a thicker tone with consistency across the frequency range, it's worth considering this quality offering from Catalinbread.
6. JHS Prestige
The Prestige buffer pedal by JHS may look simplistic at first glance, but it's a multi-faceted buffer pedal that provides you with a trio of useful tools to add to your tone-shaping arsenal.
The pedal’s functions are based around the centerpiece rotary knob that controls its performance. By adjusting the said parameter by particular amounts, you get three primary functions from the Prestige.
If the knob is set anywhere between 0-25%, the pedal functions as a straightforward buffer. In this mode, it simply compensates for any of the high-end frequencies that are diminished due to long cable runs or pedal circuitry that is not ideally buffered.
When the knob is set somewhere between 25-50%, the pedal acts as a gain boost. This is particularly useful if you use overdrive pedals and require a little more power when playing a guitar solo.
Finally, when the Prestige is pushed past the half-way mark, it produces a drive that sounds authentic and warm. When combined with a decent tube amp, this setting flourishes, causing break-ups in the signal and natural-sounding distortion to occur.
The dB+ V2 pedal by Wampler is a dual-purpose option that provides a handful of benefits for your tone and signals integrity. Designed to avoid the dreaded tone suck of large pedalboards and cable runs in mind, this buffer pedal keeps your signal in check.
Operating the dB+ V2 is pretty straightforward – simply set the gain level to match that of your amplifier, and the whole signal chain will be successfully buffered with no loss of clarity.
This Wampler offering also doubles up as a solid boost pedal. When used for this purpose, it adds subtle coloration to your tone and is the perfect solution for giving your solos and riffs that little bit extra oomph required to cut through a hectic mix onstage.
The inner circuitry includes high-grade film capacitors and resistors that were selected by Wampler due to the crisp overall sound and response that they produce.
With true bypass switching, the db+V2 pushes your amplifier towards the edge without causing any impairment to your original tone. If you need a simple buffer to combat long cable runs, and your tone could do with some extra power, this might be the perfect pedal for your needs.
There comes a point in every guitarist's journey when they consider using multiple axes on stage to give them more flexibility and control over their tone. The issue that many run into when doing this, especially with a busy pedalboard, is that the signal strength is adversely affected.
That's where the Fender Level Set buffer pedal comes in. This classy pedal eliminates the problems of switching between single-coil and humbucker style guitars onstage and alleviates any worries over long cable runs or crowded pedalboards sucking the life out of your tone.
To design the pedal, Fender consulted a range of renowned guitarists and asked for their help. The result is a versatile buffer that is simple and effective. There's a Level control, Hi-Frequency parameter, and a Load control that allow you to manually adjust your signal strength.
Another impressive feature is the Mute footswitch, which allows you to silently tune your guitar without interrupting the single path. The Level Set buffer pedal is constructed from lightweight anodized aluminum, and all of the knobs are backlit by LED lights.
On the back of the pedal, there's a 9-volt battery door that is magnetically latched, so you can quickly change the batteries with no need for screws.
Positioning a Buffer Pedal in the Signal Chain
Pedal placement is a subjective topic when discussing effects like distortion, reverb, delay, or chorus, but where buffer pedals are concerned, it's important to get it right, otherwise the pedal will be rendered redundant.
Generally speaking, it’s best to position a buffer pedal before your first pedal, as this will allow it to affect the whole signal chain. However, if you use multiple true bypass pedals on your pedalboard, you may find that heavier pedals like fuzz sound a little weird if they’re positioned after the buffer.
To combat this, you can position the buffer pedal after your "dirt" based pedals like fuzz, overdrive, or distortion. When the buffer is positioned, your signal will be at its strongest immediately after it, so bear this in mind.
Things to Consider When Buying a Buffer Pedal
Buffer pedals are arguably the most underrated part of a fully functional effects signal chain. Here are some of the prominent features you’re likely to encounter when using one.
Many buffer pedals also feature the capability to boost the strength of your guitar signal. This is commonly offered in the form of a rotary control.
Unlike a generic boost pedal, the buffer doesn’t add any gain to the signal, but rather preserves the tonal qualities while increasing the overall level. This is useful if you use many true bypass pedals in your signal chain.
When true-bypass pedals are used, there is a risk that the signal strength could be compromised, especially with long cable runs. Therefore, the buffer’s boost function is ideal for keeping the dynamics consistent throughout your pedalboard.
Send & Return Effects Loop
Buffer pedals also commonly include a send and return effects loop. These are essentially additional inputs and outputs, which can be used to isolate certain pedals to prevent them from being affected by other effects.
This feature is particularly useful if you use distortion and modulation effects in your signal chain. When these effects are combined with reverbs and delay, things tend to get a little messy.
By creating an effects loop using the buffer pedal’s additional input and output, you can ensure that the effects which have the most transformative impact on your guitar’s tone are separated from each other, which increases the overall clarity of your signal chain.
Not All Pedals Are Exciting
As guitarists, we all want to spend our time experimenting with far-out effects and chasing the elusive perfect tone. Buffer pedals often get overlooked because they don't dramatically transform the sound as other pedals do.
This doesn't mean they're not important though. A good buffer pedal will impact your sound just as much as any other present on your pedalboard, so they're a worthy addition.