Monday, January 3

New Gear: JHS Little Black Buffer

It's been quite a while, but if you are at all like me, you know that the Christmas season makes things busier, rather than more relaxing. Something about working for the Church seems to transform me into Bizarro-Superman, where I only work weekends and holidays mean I'm at work (church) for five Masses in 48 hours. Such is life.

Between Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, my normal Sunday that followed, and a week-long trip to Chicago for New Years (well deserved and well received), I've been much too busy to string two words together on the internet, but I assure you that the time spent in real life (hereafter referred to as RL) was well worth it. Time to refuel and relax, and spend time with the people I love. That is, after all, what the holidays are all about!

First, a bit of bad news. Yesterday, Sunday, directly following my noon Mass, I slipped on my awesome gold String Dog Cable. I love this cable. It sounds boss, and I've yet to hear guitar tone as nice as simply going guitar -> String Dog Cable -> amp, mostly because I think that the tone faeries that they've somehow managed to enslave and bind within the insulation of said cable are at their happiest when there are none of those tricksy pedals getting in their way. But beware if you get this cable, on a tile or otherwise smooth, hard surface, it is very slippery. Low coefficient of friction. I've almost bit it a couple of times in the past, but this Sunday I couldn't catch myself, and I landed on my guitar. Kind of.

Luckily for me, I was using my now-relegated-to-backup-status Breedlove. Lucky because the Breedlove is built really solidly, whereas my Taylor probably would have had some serious damage. There appears to be almost minimal damage to the guitar itself (though appearances can definitely be deceiving), but the electronics aren't quite unscathed. The guitar has developed an interesting grounding issue, to the point where I get a very off-putting hum that randomly flares up during moments of quiet contemplation, and which render the onboard tuner sometimes useless. When plugged in. Unplugged, it's just fine. But in my position, mostly useless. So my options, as I see them, are to either get it fixed, which probably won't be too bad, or use it as an excuse to catapult myself towards an premium guitar. I love excuses. To be continued...

I did get a bit of an early Christmas present to myself, in enough time to wire up my electric board and play for two Christmas Masses. Normally it makes me really nervous to go out and play some untested gear for the first time, but let's just say that I was completely in love with my tone. I give you, the JHS Little Black Buffer.

Since my latest incarnation of my electric board, where I have my old-school, tone-sucking Volume Pedal first in my guitar chain, I'd noticed, well, a lot of tone-sucking. Particularly when I'd engage a loop that had a pedal with a buffer in it (mostly my delays) and I'd get an extremely noticeable increase in highs simply because of the presence of a buffer, any buffer. The true-bypass strip was doing it's job, but it was doing it a bit too well. The problem being, I thought that all of my buffered pedals buffers sucked too much to move to an always-on position.

So I did what I always do when faced with a gear-related decision: I checked what some trusted sources had done to combat the problem, then copied them completely. For this one in particular, I noticed that James Duke had recently gotten a buffer from JHS and loved it. Some quick perusing of some sound clips of theirs and I was hooked. I also want a lot of their drives, but that's neither here nor there. $95 later, (free shipping, no less) and my order was on it's way to the factory.

(I should note a dissenting (kind of) opinion. Karl likes the Fryette Valvulator buffer, which has an honest-to-goodness tube in it, and can also serve as a regulated power supply for a few effects, which is really handy. As it is also like $240 + shipping, and the sound-clips on JHS' website were sufficiently impressive, I saved a little money. Still, tubes.)

Got it on the Monday before Christmas, and installed it thusly:

It's all secret, strapped to the bottom of the board. It's almost like it's not even there, just hanging out, making my tone insanely better without garnering any attention of it's own, just like a buffer should. The chain is guitar -> Pedalboard bypass -> buffer -> everything else, so that the first thing the guitar sees is, effectively, about an extra foot of cable and jacks, then the buffer.

Let me just say, wow. I've taken to plugging straight in lately because I really like tone, and this buffer gives it all back. Only I still get to play with my pedals and I get complete control over my volume/distortion level with my volume pedal. All the life, all the snap, all the feel, all the vibe, all the everything is there. Buffers are cool. Get one.

And it makes me laugh that every guitarist I talk to who has put a buffer on to his board says the same thing, that they can't believe what a difference a buffer makes. And yet most guitarists don't have one. Particularly for me (my style is very much rhythmic, as opposed to lead, which makes sense since I grew up leading worship from an acoustic and am not a "good" guitar player by any stretch), where clean tone is really important, having an actual clean tone that is, well, clean, is huge. Get one.

1 comment:

  1. Does the buffer play nice with fuzz pedals?