BigShot PB1 Development
After the successful launch of the Tonebone
Switchbone, scores of guitarists told
us how much the liked the power booster.
They liked the fact that it did not color
their tone and the buffering helped quiet
down their system. The natural progression
was to incorporate a refined version of
our booster in the Loopbone. The PB1 follows
the same topology by providing a no-nonsense,
'best-of-the-best' combination power booster
and buffer for the most demanding guitarists.
But what makes a power booster better?
How about buffering? Is this not a total
affront to the concept of true-bypass
switching? In many ways, the answer to
the second question is subject to personal
taste and akin to asking: what is better;
a Strat or a Les Paul?
Let’s start with the easy question…
What makes a great power booster?
It is safe to say that the very best
devices ever invented have a base in science
and technology. A fast sailboat, a winning
race car, a great sounding amp, or a great
feeling guitar all begin with someone
taking the time to work through the problems
and find a winning balance.
Most guitar products that made their debut
since the first Fender Bassman came from
musicians trying to create a solution
to a given problem. Only a handful of
these designs came from guitarists with
a solid background in electronic engineering.
To make matters even worse, very few electronic
engineers actually play the guitar.
Engineers do not
usually understand tone. The results are
predictable: the guitarist creates musical
solutions that may not perform to minimum
technical standards while the technician
(the engineer) produces products that
are not always musical.
So what do you
get? You plug in a typical power booster
and the signal gets louder. But for some
darn reason it just sounds bad. The most
common reason for this is that chip or
op-amp based preamp circuits are easy
to develop, low power consumption, low
cost and low noise. This makes it easy
to produce a workable solution that can
be driven with a battery. But they have
one huge downside… they sound bad.
Since the early
days of electronics, audiophiles have
always migrated to class-A circuits. Listening
test after listening test have proven
that discreet components (i.e. separate
resistors and capacitors) sound better
than ICs. The problem with discreet class-A
circuits are: they take more time to build,
they are larger and therefore more expensive;
they never shut off and therefore are
inefficient and power hungry; and they
are fraught with noise unless painstaking
attention to detail is undertaken at every
turn. But gosh darn it… they sound
So once you created
this exceptional preamp called a power
booster, the question becomes: what else
can I do with it? This is where buffering
versus true-bypass comes into play.
To begin, the
difference between a power booster and
a buffer is simple: They are both preamps.
A buffer is usually a unity gain device
where it takes the signal coming in and
drives it at a lower impedance without
increasing the level. A power booster
is the same with a variable output that
lets you amplify the signal to create
a clean boost.
And just like
a poorly designed power booster, buffers
share the same dilemma. Low cost chip
based devices work and do buffer, but
do so at the cost of tone. This is why
so many guitarists prefer true-bypass
pedals: Their experience with low quality
buffers has turned them off.
But even with
a great buffer like the BigShot PB1, not
all is rosy. You see, the one problem
that pretty well all pedal manufacturers
have overlooked is the natural relationship
that exists between the guitar, the cable
in between, and the amplifier. With a
buffer like the PB1 in between, the signal
is ultra clean and sounds boosted. What
happens is that there is no load on the
pickup and the natural relationship –
that ethereal balance – is now gone.
This is how we came to invent Drag Control.
This idea did not come from the laboratory;
it came from playing guitar and listening
and knowing that there was something amiss.
Drag Control lets you dial in the desired
load so that the guitar – cable
– amp relationship is back to normal.
Load correction: Simple, effective and
With the buffer
in the circuit, we can now switch the
power poster on and off without the popping
noise that most true-bypass pedals introduce.
All of a sudden, noisy pedals and tone
robbing tuners no longer seem to get in
the way. Longer cables and less noise…
Hmmm kinda makes you wonder why some folks
prefer true bypass… but wait! Good
can use the PBI on your pedalboard and
still have true-bypass! All you do is
insert the PB1 in one of the BigShot EFX
loops and presto! Best of both worlds!