Dreamed, designed, and created at our small batch distortery™ in Columbia, South Carolina.

FAQ #7: Are your pedals true bypass?

January 2, 2011

Is the Wave Cannon™ ‘true bypass’?

Yes. Our pedal uses a mechanical triple pole, double throw (3PDT) foot switch on a special circuit board to remove your signal completely from the effect circuit when the effect is turned off.  When bypassed, the negligible amount of capacitance from the short wire and the switch has no effect on your tone. In contrast, many of our competitors and almost all mass market products use electronic, buffered switching processes that can produce a ‘thinning’, anemic feeling to your other effects even when they are turned off. More technical geekiness after the jump.

Now, before the internet rumor tone police jump down my throat, I’m not going to say ALL buffers are bad, or true bypass is the only way ever to go. We have our reasons for why we do it this way.

In our testing and experience, we found that the buffered bypass pedals we tested tended to affect the performance of other effects downstream. For example, an analog delay after a true bypass pedal maintained the rich warmth it had displayed when we plugged into it directly, but most of the buffered bypass pedals we put in front of that device made the sound a good deal less dynamic.

I’ve heard of people saying the brightening effect of a standalone buffer ‘improves’ your tone.  We believe that such ‘improvement’ is subjective, and if a player had wanted the extra brightness they could adjust their amp and guitar settings to sound that way in the first place.

Many distortion effects don’t fare so well when they get a low-impedance signal from a buffer. Our “havoc” mode on the Cannon doesn’t work, most transistor fuzzes turn unresponsive, and others can get a kind of piezo-sounding splatter to their attack.

And finally, here was our research and design cost analysis when it came to designing a buffered bypass that we would find worthy of integrating into our circuit:

Buffered bypass (that we might like): countless hours of testing, parts choosing, audio analysis of the alternatives, argue with electrical engineers, re-design, adjust our layouts, repeatedly explain ourselves to our customers how it doesn’t affect your tone, but it kind of does, but in a way we think is good, not like company X’s buffer, not that there’s anything wrong with company X, apologize and explain that fuzz pedal may have to come before ours in your signal chain for it to still sound good, and so on….or

True bypass (that we know we like): purchase reasonably priced and reliable 3pDT switches, move on with our lives.

If you really want the benefits of a buffered signal, almost any cheap pedal will do. I recommend the Boss TU-2, it does triple duty as a tuner, a mute, and a buffer, and you can find them for $40-50 on eBay. During my minor-league pseudo rock stardom purgatory, I used one *after* my signal had visited all my effects but before the long cable run that went to my amp. That way, I could mute everything, check tuning, and troubleshoot any problems; if I had signal that was getting to the tuner but no sound when I turned the tuner off, I knew the problem was downstream from the guitar and pedal board.

Again, we aren’t saying ALL buffers are bad – almost any effect you have has them inside the design, and they can have a wondrous effect in certain settings. For the purposes of signal bypassing, we’ve decided true mechanical bypass is the way to go.