Empress buffer+

A buffer or a buffer+ ??

What does the Empress buffer+ do, and do I really need a buffer? … I mean there are several interesting pedals out there that can do some really exiting stuff, so why spend money on a pedal that doesn’t add a wild distortion or other ‘stuff’ to your sound? Well let me try to tell you about my experiences with buffers and why I just got the Empress buffer+.

When I made my pedalboard a couple of years ago I spent hours reading about true bypass, browsing the internet to find the right pedals, cables and jacks. I was very happy and excited about most of the stuff I ended up buying. But I must admit I was confused and disappointed when I finally put everything together and plugged my guitar into the board and amp … what happened to that nice warm and present tone I just had a minute ago, going directly into the amp?

Empress Buffer+ @ Soren Reiff board 2014
Overview of my board 2014 with the Empress Buffer+ down in the right corner

After talking to some of my more nerdy friends who have had boards for years, I was recommended a buffer. Actually a guy in a music store already mentioned a buffer to me, when I was complaining about how all the volume pedals choked the tone while I was trying out all the different brands – and back then I replied that I was looking for one good volume pedal … not a volume pedal AND something to fix it. But now I was a bit more ready to hear about buffers. Again I’m not into all the technical stuff … I just want it to sound good.

Let med try to explain very briefly what a buffer does.

It’s a kind of loop, that makes your output sound similar to the input with a loop added. The hidden treasure of this loop is that it makes up for differences in impedance, so everything in the loop (your pedals) has the optimal signal type/impedance to work with and what ends up coming out of the loop and out of the buffer is optimal for your amp … already now I’m out of my comfort zone – so I’ll recommend you to browse the internet if you want to get more into the technical stuff – maybe this link.

So let’s forget the tech-stuff – does it work and why the Empress buffer+??

Yes it works … for me, very well indeed. Suddenly I can recognize the sound of my guitar going directy into my amp again, and then I get several super cool extras with the buffer+. If you’re using the really old school kind of overdrives, you might want to place them outside the buffered chain … but it differs from which overdrives you’re using. You just have to check it out yourself.

Back to the buffer. The Empress buffer+ is meant to be the complete I/O interface for your pedal board. This means you’ll keep the highest fidelity to your guitar’s signal, with no signal loss even if you’re using long cables. And with the buffer+ you’ll also get some really nice features on top of that.

Empress Buffer+ @ Soren Reiff board 2014
Empress Buffer+ @ Soren Reiff board 2014

For instance, a convenient mute button for when you want to tune up (maybe you can skip your volume-pedal because of this feature? … I’ve been considering this, since I don’t want to run my signal thru the tuner, and earlier had fed my tuner from my volume pedals tuner output). Do you get more … yes – you’ll get noise filters … very nice – and an input pad and input volume control, so you can easily match the volume if you like me are using several different guitars with single coils and humbuckers – extremely nice and handy. And then the Empress Buffer+ has a clean volume boost that makes me cut another pedal I only use for clean boost … super nice.

Actually – that’s a serious benefit apart from the overall improvement to the sound – I’ve really been searching for a solution to get my rhythm and solo levels optimized – and a way where I can easily make a small fill stick out and then get back to normal rhythm level.

And in addition to all this – just like with some of the other Empress products I’ve bought, I feel I get more that I could expect when purchasing the pedal … that’s very nice. Things that show you that the people who have made this, have been thinking a lot about different scenarios – for instance, the fact that you can use the tuner output as an extra output if you are using two amps … nice – it’s stuff that makes me feel I really get value for money.

Close up of the Empress buffer+ in Soren Reiff's board 2014
Close up of the Empress buffer+

Maybe you don’t need all these features … just a buffer and you have other ways to make input and level changes – then go for a regular buffer – for most people I am sure it will be great.

Will I recommend the Empress buffer+?

YES, without a doubt. Would I travel without my Empress buffer+? NO – I would really miss it, and I would rather leave the volume pedal back home than letting this go, so once again: buy buy buy 🙂

Yeah, I know it can be expensive visiting my blog … but at least the blog is free of charge 🙂

All the very best

Soren

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9 Replies to “Empress buffer+”

  1. But it is still a matter of sound, right?
    Hendrix used very long coiled guitar cables that changed the sound of his Fender Strat a lot. He liked that. He probably wouldn’t use a buffer – would he?
    Yes – a Keeley modified Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive is much cleaner than a stock SD-1. But is it better? It still depends on what sound you want.

    1. Absolutely Martin … if your sound is thru 100 meter of the cheapest cable into a second transistor amp that has the one tone knob, but it sounds awesome … go for it, and enjoy it.
      People who buy all the latest and hippest pedals because they think it’ll make them sound hip are mistaken … actually most of your sound and tone IMHO comes from your fingers and your note choices … all the other stuff … buffers, overdrives are just tools! … but very nice tools that can … CAN help you in improving your sound 🙂

      1. I hate noise and things in the way of what I like to hear. So – I will allways go for the best I can find – from pickups (when I first tried a handwound pickup by Seymour himself – never went back to stock pickups – never) and all the way to speakers.
        Never used buffers – maybe I should try 🙂 – I’m not Hendrix anyway 🙂

        1. Ha ha … that’s funny … I’m not Henrix either 🙂
          I think a buffer REALLY is good for me and my set-up … and maybe you too.
          And I hate noise and hum just like you … one of several reasons to my love for the Cioks products (have you seen my post about the pussy power?)
          And the buffer+ also has different types of noise filter built in, so maybe that’s convinient for you as well.
          All the very best
          Soren

  2. Hi, great review!

    can you tell me more about the noise reduction, i saw in a diagram how it works, but in the practice it really works? i have a RC booster so I’m considering to skip the + version to a non plus version, to stick a tuner in top of it

    It’s a real need the out/in controls?

    greetings from Mexico City

    1. Thanks Arthur for your positive comment 🙂
      Again I’m not a tech person … so I can’t tell you details about how the noise filter works … but it works 🙂 If set to little it removes a little of the hiss … more in the more serious mode – my setup is actually quit silent, so I don’t really use it – but I’ve tried it and it works without changing the tone, so you don’t recognize your basic sound 🙂
      All the very best
      Soren

  3. Hi again I forgot to tell you i have a sparkle drive and a BB preamp, do you consider to put them out of the buffer chain? ’cause i want to be noise free, and take the advantage of the NR system,

    1. I don’t really know the products you’re using …
      Considering the buffer+ or the “standard” … well if you can get the money I would definitely buy the + version cause you get those extra features … but I write that because they are useful to me … in the end I think I would rather buy the standard than non, if the + version is to expensive at the moment … it’s difficult to advice you on that 🙂

  4. People have asked me on my FB site and thru personal emails about the importance of a buffer … and the budget.
    Of cause I can’t say that everybody needs a buffer … it depends on your setup, which pedals you use, how many pedals, how long cables you have and all such things.

    For me, even though I bought all high-end products, I definitely needed a buffer, to keep my signal as close to the direct to amp sound I love – so I would definitely miss my buffer, it I hadn’t one.

    My experience from my guitar camps, clinics, workshops and related situations is that a lot of guitar players still need a simple, effective solution to change levels between soloing and comping – the buffer+ is a super solution for me, since it has the boost function.
    The other features are extra bonus … I’m really happy for a simple solution for boosting guitars with single coils in the input on the buffer+, to equal differences between my ES346 and my Washburn … but maybe other players don’t need this.

    So as I wrote in my original post I would rather use money for the buffer+ than a volume pedal, and if I was going to do everything all over again I would rather have fewer pedals to start with, but make sure they sound best possible, than cut out the buffer to add an extra overdrive or similar … but all this is just my personal experience and opinion … there are no rules for such issues 🙂

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