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Post new topic What would using a "buffer" add my rig?
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Author Topic:  What would using a "buffer" add my rig?
Jack Hanson

San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 6 Nov 2018 10:50 pm    
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I play three old push/pulls from the '70s -- a D-10, and two hot-rodded student models. All three have their original pickups and electronics. My signal chain consists of a pair of patch cords in and out of a standard Emmons passive volume pedal, connecting the instrument to a '77 Peavey LTD 400 with a BW 1501-4 pulled from a newer Nashville 400.

On rare occasions, I have been known to add a pedal or two. A Van Amps Sole-Mate analog reverb, a Sarno Earth Drive, a Hilton Legend Pro Delay, and a BOSS RT-20 Rotary Simulator are what I use, albeit very infrequently.

The setup sounds pretty good to me. What would I gain (or lose) by adding a Li'l Izzy, Black Box, or other popular device to my signal chain?
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Paul Sutherland

Placerville, California
Post  Posted 6 Nov 2018 11:35 pm    
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I can't say anything about a Li'l Izzy as I've never used one. But a Sarno Black Box in front of a solid state amp is a very good move. Put it as the first device coming out of the steel; even before the volume pedal. It will take off some of the harshness and shrillness of any solid state amp.

It's fairly subtle and at first you may think it's not doing much. But after using it for awhile take it out of the circuit and you will realize the benefit the device was providing. I wouldn't want to play through a Peavey without using one.
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.
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Barry Coker

Alabama, USA
Post  Posted 7 Nov 2018 4:41 am     Buffer
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I agree 100 per. with Paul The Black Box is Great. I have an Izzy Plus (Very early model) which makes a difference but the black box is best. It gives you a sound a little closer to an old tube amp. To my Ear closer to my 65 Fender Pro Reverb than straight through my Peavey.

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Douglas Schuch

Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 7 Nov 2018 5:18 am    
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Craig Baker, deceased maker of the Li'l Izzy, suggested I try this - put my amp as close the jack on the pedal steel. Plug straight to the amp with the shortest quality cable you have, and play some. Then add back the volume pedal with normal-length cables. That will give you an idea of what the true tone your guitar puts out is, and how it is changed by resistance in the cable and possibly your volume pedal. Keep in mind, you will have to re-equalize when you use the short able - your EQ settings are compensating somewhat for the loss of high frequencies that occur. Listen for tone, and also string separation. If you like what you hear, then a buffer might be a good move. If you hate it, you just saved $100. Same thing if you don't hear any difference. I used a Li'l Izzy for a while, but currently run Alumitones, which has a transformer built in, so the Li'l Izzy is not needed.
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Jack Stoner

Inverness, Fl
Post  Posted 7 Nov 2018 6:06 am    
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The lil Izzy and similar devices present a "fixed" load to the pickups and convert the high impedance pickup to a low impedance - Nothing else. Nothing really "magic" in the electronics.

I have the same thing in my Goodrich MatchBro that basically has a "matchbox" in the bypass mode and it has a low impedance output.

The Hilton Volume Pedals do the same thing, and probably the Telonics Volume Pedal.

Many effect units do the same thing.

I had a Black Box (an older model that Brad converted to the latest model). It does what is advertised. At the time I had an amp with a 12AX7 tube in the preamp and really didn't need the Black Box so I sold it.
Franklin D-10, Hilton VP, POD X3, MatchBro, Steelaire Rack, EPS-15C, Cakewalk (Sonar) by BandLab and Studio One 4.1 Pro DAWs, MOTU 896mk3 Hybrid
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Erv Niehaus

Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 7 Nov 2018 8:15 am    
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I would pickup a Goodrich Matchbox.
I have played through one of them for years.
The 7A has a switch on it so you don't need to pull the cord to disconnect the battery but I use a 6A that I installed a switch on.
The Goodrich unit has a volume and tone control on it also that is very handy. Very Happy
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Godfrey Arthur

Post  Posted 7 Nov 2018 8:17 am    
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A buffer avoids loss to the audio signal, mimicking the sound benefits of plugging directly into an amp, or line drivers that send a low output impedance signal with a high current output to help "drive" the signal over long cable runs.

They come in simple circuits to multi tube presenting unity gain, all-tube buffering. A tube buffer presents a high impedance load on the input to prevent signal loss and loading from the previous circuit, and sends a low impedance load on the output.

Pete Cornish's LD1, a low noise discrete component Class A pre-amplifier designed for problems with amplification of electric instruments using magnetic transducers, (pickups) and problems of mismatch of the impedance in the electrical circuit between the pickup and subsequent equipment and to isolate long cable feeds which can cause signal and tone losses at the end of an effects chain, particularly if the final effect has a high impedance output.
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Greg Lambert

Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 7 Nov 2018 7:00 pm    
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I always use an Izzy on the output of my volume pedal. I like the sound best there. The Izzy will give you good string separation at this point and even better separation at the guitar itself. It will also "seem" to add highs which can be overcome with amp settings.
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Jim Cohen

Philadelphia, PA
Post  Posted 7 Nov 2018 7:45 pm    
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Greg Lambert wrote:
I always use an Izzy on the output of my volume pedal. I like the sound best there. The Izzy will give you good string separation at this point and even better separation at the guitar itself. It will also "seem" to add highs which can be overcome with amp settings.

So you like the effect better at the output of the VP than right at the output of the guitar itself? Never heard of anyone doing that before... interesting. Are you saying there's "too much" string separation at the guitar and just the right amount at the VP output?

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Los Angeles
Post  Posted 8 Nov 2018 6:52 am    
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The answers here give an idea of what it "can" or "might" do that you might notice.

Is there something wrong with your sound now, or are you simply curious?
Let's assume the latter.

And, let's forget about the effects for a second.

Steel - Emmons VP - amp.
I assume that the VP is passive.
What value of pot is in the pedal.
THAT can make a difference that you'll notice.
If it is 250K, increasing it to 500K or 1 Meg ohms can add a little more high end to your sound, just enough that you might notice it.

In most cases, a buffer is added:
Guitar - buffer - VP - amp.
This will help to present a constant load on the guitar, and negate the changing load induced by moving the volume pedal, as well as long cables, etc.

Now, the effects.

This is a hard one to answer.
Maybe the main reasons are:
1) Effects switching or bypass.
For any single effect, is the design true bypass, hard wire bypass (NOT the same as TBP), or buffered bypass?
This will determine what load if any is placed on the signal chain.
And this by default plays right into........
2) Effects order, and the number of effects.

To further complicate things, if you are going to be adding/removing effects constantly to the chain on a casual basis, it is like an equation with multiple variables all changing at the same time. So in that case it is very hard to give an answer.

Buffer: If you want to try one, you may not need to buy anything. One of the effects that you have may work as a buffer if it has buffered bypass electronic switching. If not, probably any Boss effect or a Tube Screamer will work. Just put it in the chain and leave the effect OFF.

I hope that by now you have an idea as to the answer to your question.
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Tom Campbell

Houston, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 8 Nov 2018 8:45 am    
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Does the Li'l Izzy function the same as the Freeloader (- the tone control)?

I am under the impression the Li'l Izzy adds clarity and boosts the "highs". I'm not too "crazy" about boosting the "highs"...I play through an Evans.
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Georg Sørtun

Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post  Posted 8 Nov 2018 11:26 am    
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Tom Campbell wrote:
Does the Li'l Izzy function the same as the Freeloader (- the tone control)?
The FreeLoader has variable input impedance – not a tone control as such. The Li'l Izzy has a fixed – quite high – input impedance. Other than that they do the same job with different circuits/components.

Tom Campbell wrote:
I am under the impression the Li'l Izzy adds clarity and boosts the "highs". I'm not too "crazy" about boosting the "highs"...I play through an Evans.
What may be perceived as "boosting of highs" compared to other buffers, is actually "lack of damping of highs" as a result of a fixed high input impedance. That is: the Li'l Izzy does not load the PU as hard as some other buffers – resulting in a higher roll-off frequency, so higher frequencies "survive" without being severely dampened.

As no two types of PU has the exact same characteristics, there is no perfect input impedance that will fit all. Whatever buffer you like is the right for you, and if you don't like the effect of any buffer in your sound-chain, that is right too.

I have put aside all my dedicated buffers, as a BOSS LMB-3 (rigged as buffer) makes all my PSGs sound to my satisfaction. But, I also use a 50K VP and no pre-amp, as the LMB-3 works fine with VPs down to about 10K load, and contains all the EQ'ing I need to run my NV112's power stage. My preferences … my choices.
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George Kimery

Limestone, TN, USA
Post  Posted 9 Nov 2018 10:50 am     What would adding a buffer do for my rig?
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Here is my 2 cents based on my experience.The first buffer I ever had was a Lil Izzy and a Lil Izzy Plus. At the time, I didn't know which one would be best for me, so I bought them both from Craig at Scotty's the first year Craig had them on the market. Herby Wallace did a demo in one of the conference rooms. He had a guitar cord that must have been 50 ft.long. He showed how muddy the sound was and that the high end was very lacking. Then he plugged in the Lil Izzy and it was clear as a bell. Of course this was because the Lil Izzy converted the signal from high impedance to low indeledence. This is why professional grade mic's are low impedance so you can run the cords long distances without the loss of highs.When somebody tries a buffer (even George L cords) for the first time, they often comment that it changed their tone and made it too bright,so they got rid of it. It is an illusion. What is really going on is they were losing highs through cords, volume pedals,and maybe stomp boxes. The buffer keeps you from losing highs, which may or may not be a bad thing. I just acquired an Evans pre-amp I couldn't turn the treble past 1 1/2. Then I got a Lehle 90 volume pedal which is 2mg instead of my 120 pedal, which is 500k. This combination blew the highs up so much, I couldn't bring them down.I could use my 120
Pedal or my Stereo Steel with no problem. I liked the
Evans and Lehle both so much I was determined to make them work together.The perfect solution was a Black Box with the variable Z control.Just straight from guitar to Black Box to Lehle pedal. I set the Z control on 12 o'clock. Now I can adjust the treble on the Evans up or down to taste.

I had a Match Box and a Match-Bro many years ago but don't recall much about the sound as far it was concerning highs. My advice is if you want to add a buffer, go Black Box. That tube in it just makes a difference you're not going to get with all solid state. And if you have an Evans,it and the Black Box are a marriage made in heaven, especially if you use the Lehle 90 volume pedal
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Bill L. Wilson

Oklahoma, USA
Post  Posted 9 Nov 2018 9:29 pm     Love the Buffers.
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I’m running a L’l Izzy, a Goodrich Matchbox, and an Emmons pot pedal into my amp. I like the tone I get, one thing I noticed is the tone control on the Matchbox doesn’t function with the Izzy plugged in. But I like having the volume control on the Matchbox, easily reached.
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Charley Paul

California, USA
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2018 8:10 am    
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I’m a very big believer in having a good buffer first in your signal chain. It’s one of those things that is not drastically noticeable....just maybe adds a very little extra bit of sparkle and depth to the sound. However, the effect a buffer has becomes more dramatic with increased volume. For example, you might think your buffer isn’t doing anything at practice volumes. But at gig volumes, you hear a difference....still not drastic, but enough.

For practical purposes, I think an active volume pedal does the trick. I like the Lehle, it has a very musical and detailed sounding buffer, without being too stiff sounding or harsh.

However, if you have a pedalboard already, and are using digital effects like Reverb or delay, or even just a solid state amp....then I can’t recommend the PettyJohn Lift enough. It runs at 9v or 18v, and still buffers the sound even when not engaged, the footswitch engages a beautiful clean boost. In addition, there are hi and low EQ shelves. The EQ isn’t drastic, it’s more to refine the sound of the guitar before it hits the amp. I run mine first in my fx chain.

The Lift has a big brother, called the Predrive. This pedal adds a few features, and has a bit more of a vintage feel too it. The boost can act as a clean boost or a nice transparent overdrive. It’s got a buffered balanced output as well as instrument level out, and even a buffered tuner out.. The downside is that it’s big and power hungry, it requires 18v, but sounds best at 36v to me....more headroom.

I still want to try a Sarno Black box, which seems to be the king or buffers.
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Tony Glassman

The Great Northwest
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2018 9:49 am    
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I place a Black Box between my push-pull and Telonics VP running into a TCA500 amp & it improved the “tone” significantly. I tried an Izzy instead of the BB, which I liked except for untamable highs.
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