Is It Okay to Use Multiple Buffered Guitar Pedals?

There are several ways that your signal can pass through effects pedals. 

In older pedals, the signal would travel through the pedals’ circuits. 

Nowadays you can find pedals with true bypass technology that allow the signal to pass through without going through the pedals’ circuitry when you are not using them. 

And finally, buffered pedals do a little magic to ensure that your signal stays strong from your pickups to your amplifier.

Buffered effects pedals have the advantage of helping you compensate for the loss of signal due to long lengths of instrument cable. And you don’t have to worry about them damaging your equipment. But they aren’t flawless either and using too many at once can cause a slight change in your tone.

The most popular pedals have got to be Boss brand effects and Boss uses buffers in all of their pedals. 

So if you have used any Boss pedals then you should be familiar with at least the term “buffered”. 

Some people like to choose one brand and stick with it, so what happens if you use all Boss effects pedals?

What is a buffered pedal?

With a buffered pedal there is an active circuit that helps to make up for the impedance of the instrument cables and the resistance that is present in the guitar itself. 

A guitar with passive pickups (most of them) outputs a high impedance signal once the vibrations from the strings finally get to the output jack. 

On the other hand, active pickups will help to lower the resistance and give you a low impedance signal. 

Now running your guitar with passive pickups straight to your amplifier with a cable that is shorter than about twenty feet (18.5 feet is the exact length) is the norm and you won’t suffer a lot of signal loss or weaker high frequencies. 

So without going into technical details that would only confuse you (and myself) a buffer simply helps to compensate for the resistance of cables and pedals in your signal chain especially if you use a pedalboard with a lot of effects.

Can stacking buffered pedals damage them?

Luckily you don’t have to worry about damaging your pedals by chaining too many buffered pedals together. 

Remember that buffers are only supposed to compensate for signal loss; they are not boost pedals or high-gain amp devices. 

Since all Boss pedals use buffers now, you can obviously use them together. 

Think about it; that would be a pretty horrible business strategy for Boss if you couldn’t.

Can too many buffered pedals damage your amp?

Once again I am happy to say that you don’t have to worry about your equipment going up in smoke just because you have buffered pedals. 

And if you fed too hot of a signal into your amp I think you would clip the amp long before burning out any components. 

There are some different types of buffers but I believe that the normal definition is a 1:1 input/output gain stage so you aren’t actually raising the decibel level. 

Seriously, using some pedals’ effects is going to do way more to change your signal than the buffer circuit ever would.

Can using multiple buffered pedals hurt your tone?

All of this seems like such a perfect solution but things don’t always go as planned in the wild. 

Quite a few people complain that buffered Boss pedals do just what they aim to avoid and can ruin/suck their tone, weakening it and changing the frequency balance. 

I have found a video where up to eight boss pedals are added and removed from the signal chain to demonstrate the difference. 

And I do think that there is a slight difference even with Youtube audio compression.. Check it out here:

In the video, Michael mentions that although the clean tone does seem to change when a lot of pedals are in the path, you probably wouldn’t notice it if you were using an overdrive. 

This brings up the question: if you have a huge pedalboard and use a lot of effects how often are you actually using a clean tone? 

And even though there is a noticeable difference, does it matter that much? It’s certainly not the end of the world and an audience likely wouldn’t notice. 

If it is really important to you and you have multiple inputs on your amplifier, you could place an A/B switcher pedal before your pedalboard with one output going to your pedals and the other going straight to the amp. 

Then you could leave the pedals that you want to use engaged and just switch to the second output when you need them.

How many buffered pedals are too many?

From observing the video it seems that four buffered pedals seem to be a fair recommendation if too much tone change bothers you. 

In the video, there is definitely a change in sound when all eight pedals are running and six to ten pedals on a pedal board is pretty common. 

So if you have some true bypass or vintage pedals or you are just starting to build your pedalboard it is nice to use them in conjunction with the buffered type. 

Also, you can use as many buffered pedals as you want and simply tweak your sound with your amplifier’s gain and equalizer controls until it is satisfactory to you, provided it also sounds good when you have the pedal effects engaged.

What’s the recommended number and position for buffered pedals?

Since effects pedals add more cable and resistance it is nice to have at least one buffered pedal in your signal chain and it is usually recommended to put it at the beginning of your effects since your cable connection between your amplifier and pedal will likely be the longest one, especially if you are playing on stage. 

This can be accomplished with a Boss or TC Electronics buffered tuner pedal since that is usually placed at the beginning anyway. 

An exception to this that I have read about is certain fuzz pedals that work best when connected straight to the guitar but that is a pretty specific situation. 

The other recommended position for buffered pedals is at the end of your pedalboard to make up for the signal loss through your other pedals. 

So perhaps a buffered EQ at the end would be helpful to boost and reshape your sound to what you want. 

Other than that you can put them in as you want in accordance with “correct pedal order” recommendations from professionals. 

Or just play around and find what works best for your particular pedal collection. 

And consider that sometimes less is more

So if you feel like your clean tone is suffering then it’s time to take a close look at your pedalboard and weed out anything you don’t use, no matter how cool or rare it is.