True Bypass Explained

If you have looked into guitar gear for even a short time, you probably have heard the term “true bypass.” This term is thrown around as if it is superior or the correct/expensive way pedals should be made, but we are here to set this rumor straight! Lets talk about what heck true bypass actually is.



To look at the origins of true bypass pedals, we must first talk about how pedals work in general. True bypass refers to the type of switching of the pedal,  what you hit when you turn the pedal on or off. The basic switch, which traditionally didn’t have true bypass, would turn the pedal on when you stomped on it. When the pedal lis in the off position, the guitar signal had to still pass through the circuitry of the pedal, but it just never triggered the actual effect. This design caused players to lose a bit of top end in their sound, which a lot of players disliked. Over the years new designs of pedals where made until true bypass was finally rolled out in our beloved pedals.


What does it do

True bypass is essentially a design of pedal switching that allows the signal of your guitar to travel through a disengaged pedal without the sound being effected in any way. The signal of your guitar will essentially never pass through the circuitry of the effect, thus truly bypassing the pedal. True bypass pedals wont color your signal (give different tonal qualities), and it wont add any strength to it, it will just become a longer run of cable (in essence).


Why do people want it?

So why the heck do people want this? It allows your pickups to sound just about as exact as possible. Pedals wont change your guitar sound while off, and it will keep your clean sound crystal clear. Most praise and worship musicians consider this a must. However, there definitely are its own share of disadvantages. Since these disengaged pedals just act as a way to pass signal through it creates long runs of your cable. The longer cables you have between your guitar and amp, the more signal degradation you will get. Signal degradation is basically when you will lose a bit of your signal because it has to physically travel such a long distance to get to your amp. Anything over 20ft of cable will start to see some signal loss. If you really want to get true bypass pedals, we wouldn’t recommend more than a pedalboard of 4. Anything more than that will cause you to lose some signal. Some pedals today have what is called “buffered bypass.” This design has your signal pass through the circuit, but at the end boosts the signal to make up for the potentially lost tone in the process. Personally, we love these as well because they help our signal move through our big pedalboards. For an example, Boss pedals are typically buffered bypass, while boutique manufacturers tend to make true bypass.


Truthfully, if you like the sound of a pedal, get it! Each musician’s rig is special for your own sound. We suggest not to get concerned with subjective terms and play what you like. While true bypass offers upsides, there also are negatives. Play what you love and make some killer music!