Troubleshooting Poor Tone

Troubleshooting Noise

Troubleshooting a Defect

Troubleshooting Poor Tone

There is one primary reason for having poor tone with a PedalSnake System. A proper buffered pedal is not being used as the last buffer in the pedal chain.


When the output impedance of a signal source is too high for the capacitance of the cable, a dull sound will result. This is merely a lack of treble, aka "tone suck".

This can happen in any guitar rig if too much cable is being used without a buffered pedal. With PedalSnake, a proper buffer is essential. For more, see Preserving Tone with PedalSnake.

Most pedals are buffered. Those that are not are call "true bypass". 99% of buffered pedals have an output impedance of 2k ohms (2000 ohms) or less. This is what PedalSnake likes to see. Contrast this with a passive guitar pickup, which has 6k ohms or more. So a buffered pedal can drive at least 3 times more cable than a guitar pickup.

Some pedals, mostly a few old ones from the 1970s, could have some odd output impedance that is too high (more than 2000 ohms). This is rare, but you may want to check.

The only buffered pedal that matters is the last one in the pedal chain. This is the one that actually "drives" the cable when all pedals are off. So if you experience tone suck, try a different buffered pedal as the last one in the chain.

But be aware, a true bypass pedal also acts as a buffer, but only when it is ON. So any true bypass pedal that come AFTER the last buffered pedal must be turned on to see if it is causing the poor tone.

How Do You Know if a Pedal is Buffered?

If a pedal is buffered, it will not pass any signal through when power is removed.
  1. Turn your rig on and make sure you can hear your guitar.
  2. For the pedal in question, turn the effect OFF.
  3. Remover the power plug (or battery) from that pedal.
  4. If you can still hear your guitar, that pedal is not buffered. It is true bypass.
  5. Conversely, if you can no longer hear your guitar, the pedal is buffered.
NOTE This is why a buffered pedal must be unplugged to preserve the battery. The circuit remains on even if the effect is turned off. (Another good reason not to use batteries).


To make sure an improper buffer is not the cause of your poor tone, try another pedal as the last buffer in the pedal chain.

To test this, a buffered pedal can be ON or OFF. A true bypass pedal will have to be ON.

You will have the best chance of success with a major brand, especially Boss, which makes only buffered pedals.

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Troubleshooting Noise

All players should consider maxmizing their signal-to-noise ratio. This helps with any kind of noise. See Improving Signal-to-Noise Ratio.

PedalSnake has included a Guitar Noise Manual at the PedaSnake Blog. Each type of noise is identified with a specific set of solutions.

The types of noise are:

BUZZ   The most common noise encountered by guitarists

SOUNDS LIKE   “brrrrrrrrrr”, like a chain saw

See Dealing with BUZZ.

HUM   A low tone caused by AC currents (60 Hz in the USA)

SOUNDS LIKE   “mmmmm”, a low tone, a bit sharp of Bb

HISS   Most often encountered by high gain players

SOUNDS LIKE “shhhhhhhhhh”, a high-pitched white noise

POWER SUPPLY NOISE   Encountered by guitarists using power supplies to power their effects pedals

SOUNDS LIKE lots of different things (sorry)

See Dealing wtih POWER SUPPLY NOISE.

DIGITAL NOISE (whine)   Becoming more common as guitarists use more digital devices

SOUNDS LIKE many high pitched tones at once, a subtle screech

See Dealing with DIGITAL NOISE.

CABLE MICROPHONICS   Every cable has it, to some degree

SOUNDS LIKE noise thru amp when touching or handling the cable


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Troubleshooting a Defect

It may not be hard to determine that you have something broken. The trick is finding out exactly what is broken, so it can be returned. PedalSnake offers a full One Year Warranty on all parts.

If a problem is found to be in cabling, it is almost always an intermittent problem (at least to begin with). Broken cables are usually due to a broken solder joint in the connector.

The best way to determine the culprit is this:
  1. Grab a connector and hold it firmly, so that it does not move.
  2. Wiggle the cable that attaches to that connector.
  3. Bend it right, left, and also pull it away from the connector, and push it into the connector.
  4. If the connector is the problem, then one of these motions should produce the problem, and be repeatable as you repeat the motion.
Once a broken connector is found, that part can be replaced. If it is a PedalSnake part that is broken, it may still be under our One Year Warranty. If so, it can be returned for a refund, or exchanged for a new part.
PedalSnake Returns
5209 Birchleaf Drive
Raleigh NC 27606

Be sure to Contact Us first. Email is best. Include a printed copy of the email with the returned part.

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PedalSnake® is the trademark name for Stage Magic's All-in-One Pedal Cabling Solution. Copyright © 2012 Stage Magic, Inc.