This may be the greatest weapon you didn’t know you needed.
For those of us who are a little “pedal happy” there can be some downfall to our tone. When running a pedal board with more than one or two effects, something called “capacitance” happens. This natural problem happens due to the amount of cable or line that you signal has to travel through, not to mention bad switching systems in certain pedals. The result is a very audible amount of high-end loss, weak signal, flabby bass and uncharacteristic pickup behavior in guitars. Another problem is the assumption that all “true bypass” is good. This isn’t true and actually can be worse than imagined.
This is were the “Little Black Buffer” steps in providing the perfect input impedance to your rig and giving you the final result of clear, natural tone that sounds like you're plugged straight into your amp no matter how many pedals you use.
Plug your guitar straight into the input then out into your pedal chain. No need for a switch. It runs on any standard 9v supply.
WHERE DO I PLACE MY BUFFER?
Because we get this question a lot, I thought I would give a good solid breakdown on placing your “Little Black Buffer” in the right spot on your pedal board.
Generally speaking, you want to place a buffer first in your signal chain, directly after your guitar and before the first pedal in your chain. As long as you do not use a fuzz pedal in your rig this is the standard route to go. A fuzz pedal must always be directly after your guitar to insure that it is getting the correct input impedance to operate at its designed range of tones. A lot of people place fuzz with their drive and distortion pedals; this is not the proper place to have it. If you are a fuzz lover, just place the buffer directly after your fuzz box, and this will work great. Keep in mind that a Boss TU-2 for instance is a buffered pedal, and this rule applies the same. Always have your fuzz first. I love fuzz and usually place my buffer last because it is convenient to use it as the output to my board. The LBB fits nicely under most boards and helps save space by doing so.
Should you use two buffers (sandwich my board)? One first and one last?
The answer here is “what does your pedal chain look like?” If you have all True Bypass pedals, then you should use two buffers. This will give you the best signal strength and clarity possible. I usually have a buffered pedal such as a Timefactor, Boss DD20, Boss TU-2 or even a Klon on board, and in that case, I only use one Little Black Buffer as these units are helping the front of my board. Keep in mind that I use around 6 pedals and this is a good rule of thumb for that. However, if you use upwards of 10 or more pedals you should sandwich your board no matter what you have on it in my opinion.
Use your ears. My goal as a builder is to see players start trusting their ears. Place your buffer first, last or anywhere and listen for the change. You can hear it and you can know what is best for you simply by trusting your ears.
CAN A BOOST PEDAL BE USED AS A BUFFER?
This is a good question that I hear a lot. In my opinion, the answer is neither yes or no. Let’s say you have a clean boost and you leave it on all the time, it is keeping your signal strong but it is doing so in a different way. It is amplifying by the gain stage within, and ultimately due to the nature and design of most boosts it is coloring your tone. Our Mr Magic is a good example of this because it does adjust your impedance and makes a good buffer. The difference with the MM and our LBB is that it enhances certain frequencies by design, and that means that it is coloring your sound. This isn’t a bad thing, but for some people the enhancement is not wanted. There are many other boosts out there and they can be left on as a buffer but in 99.9999% of situations they will color your tone. I lean on the side of using your boost as a boost and let a designated TRUE buffer do your buffering. There are other things like BBE’s Sonic Maximizer and even pre-amp designs that do a very good job at what they do but are not designated “by design” as buffers, and to me, fall in this same category. You can go hunting with a pellet gun but just remember that there are other guns that would work a lot better!
Hope this helps those of you wondering about the LBB and placing it correctly.