Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Het rijk van Nijmegen, the Netherlands
Re: True Bypass, Do you really need it?
Consider the guitar as something that drives the signal chain.
Ideally the first thing your guitar "feels" is the high impedance of a tube (or similar solid state circuitry).
High impedance means there is very low current in the path between the guitar and the amp.
Low current means preserved tone, irrespective of any capacitance in the line, since the guitar doesn't have the power to drive such a line, unless it's got active pups or a built-in pre-amp.
Put a pedal between your guitar and amp and the guitar now also feels the input of this pedal; in simple designs even if the pedal is off.
True bypass makes sure this doesn't happen. It basically creates an internal reroute around the pedal's circuitry.
The guitar now feels the amp at the end, but through a series of switches and lots of short cables and connectors.
So there is a catch, the added bypass circuitry and added cables add resistance to the line.
Poor switches and connectors, such as those in many true bypass pedals will degrade signal quality.
Another option is to build pedals with high impedance inputs. These are known as buffered pedals.
They basically have a tiny amp at the input. With a tiny amp at the output as well, they can drive long cables and complicated signal paths,
since they now have the juice to provide current. Most Boss and Ibanez pedals follow this design.
Buffered pedals will not degrade/change tone, as long as you don't overdrive their input.
However, they will introduce noise and linking many adds noise to noise.
Specific combinations of vintage pedals and buffered pedals may completely change the feel and sound of those (vintage fuzz for ex.)
You could try to drive a number of true bypass pedals with a single buffered pedal (and a buffered pedal at the end).
But that way you are still depending on the usually crappy true bypass switching.