True Bypass is great and buffered bypass sucks. Wait. No. The truth about true and buffered bypass isn’t that simple. Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at these two methods of bypassing a signal in an effects pedal.
When a true bypass pedal is in bypass mode, the signal will go directly from the pedal’s input to its output without passing through the pedal’s effect circuitry or connecting to any other circuitry within the pedal. When a buffered bypass pedal is in bypass mode, the signal is still going through the pedal’s buffer. The buffer conditions the signal to prevent loss and tone change.
It’s all about the signal path. When you plug your guitar directly into your amp the only thing between the two is a cable. The length and quality of that cable will affect your overall sound. The farther your signal has to travel, the more your signal will degrade. It’s usually most apparent in the loss of high frequencies. That’s capacitance at work. The more pedals you have in your effects chain, the more cable you need to connect them.
With true bypass your signal is passing directly through-without the pedals doing anything to boost, enhance or load down the signal. If you’re a player that only uses a couple of pedals and you are using a relatively short cable, say less than 18.5 feet, true bypass is a great way to go.
However, if your pedalboard is packed with pedals and you are using a long cable, buffered bypass can have certain advantages. With buffered bypass, the buffer is always acting on your signal, even when the pedal is off. This strengthens and conditions it, restoring your signal and tone. Of course, all buffered circuitry is not created equal and the quality of the circuit design and componentry are extremely important. That said, even the best buffers add some noise to your signal, they always require power and limit the headroom of your bypass signal. Here at EHX our engineers take great pains in all aspects of our pedal designs, including whether to include buffered or true bypass, and the design of the former.
True bypass and buffered bypass pedals can and do happily co-exist in the same setup. Ultimately, rely on your ears and the way your rig “feels” as the final arbiter. Pedals should enhance your creativity and we all don’t see and hear things the same. So… experiment and find out what works best for you.