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BigShot PB1 In Detail

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 amazing!

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 really functional.

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 news...

You 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!

  Features & Specifications
Circuit type:
Active buffered circuit
DRAG control: Drag™ - variable pickup load correction circuit
BOOST control: Max 15dB boost
Footswitch: Heavy-duty high-cycle switch
Power requirement 9 VDC - 40ma center negative
14 gauge steel, baked enamel finish
3.6"w x 3.9"d x 2"h
(92 x 99 x 51mm)
1.25 lb (0.56 kg)
Warranty: Radial 3-year limited warranty

Using the BigShot PB1

Following the block diagram on the left, you can see that the PB1 is extremely simple to use – you plug your guitar into the input jack and your amp from the output jack using standard ¼” guitar cables. For safety, always make connections with your amp volume turned off. Connect a standard Boss style 9V power supply to the PB1 for powering. There is no on-off switch – leaving it on will not harm it

Before you play, set the 'DRAG' (pickup load adjustment) and 'GAIN' (boost level) controls to 12 o’clock using a guitar pick or screwdriver. This will give you a good starting point. Now, turn your guitar amp volume up a bit. Always test at a low volume to prevent system damage. If all seems ok, hit the BOOST footswitch. Adjust the 'GAIN' control to suit.

Now go back and listen to the PB1 and how the Drag control works. Full clockwise takes the Drag control out of the circuit and will result in a brighter tone. Full counterclockwise will darken the tone. If you use an active guitar, the Drag will have very little effect. Find the ‘sweet spot’ that works for you and start playing.

Remember, you will have to stop and get some food at some point! Best you should arrange to have someone come find you or else you may starve!

WARNING - Possibility of electrical shock hazard exists. Please read the warnings in the user manual before attempting to connect amplifiers to this device.