Why True Bypass Pedals Can Suck Tone!

In recent years almost many effects pedals have been described as true bypass which implies that when the effect pedal is not engaged it should sound like guitar was just plugged into the amp. Players who buy one soon discover this is not true. A noticeable loss of treble, presence and signal strength is apparent with a true bypass pedal off. So what gives?

True bypass pedals basically work by having the foot switch either send the signal to the pedals circuitry or shunt it to the output jack on the pedal bypassing the pedal's circuit. Hence the name true bypass. However while this seems like a logical approach it is inherently flawed. The flaw is that signal loss occurs over lengths of wire. As wire get longer is picks up resistance and inductance. You can hear a difference in presence and treble between a 5 foot and 25 foot guitar cable. The same thing is happening in your pedal but is magnified by the fact that the signal is being squeezed through some very small gauge wire and running through jacks and switch of the pedal. While your guitar cable is probably 16 GA wire the wire in pedal (or PCB traces) are likely closer to 24 ga.

So what do you do? That's a million dollar question. Buffer and booster pedals can help restore the signal to full strength by amplifying the degraded signal by you cannot get the signal back. Pretty much every solution for tone sucking has that same problem. My biggest suggestion is to use the bare minimum of the pedals you need. Less is more...what good is using twenty pedals if using twenty pedals makes all of them sound bad? For that matter try the AC/DC approach; not a pedal to be found and tons of tone!