Buffers â€“ it sounds technical but they can do wonders to a cluttered pedal board and endless signal chains. There are different ways of adding buffers to your setup but I recently came across the Mach Seagull/Clean Buffer â€“ a dedicated buffer pedal. Hereâ€™s my review.
Letâ€™s face it people. Most of us donâ€™t pay enough attention to what signal loss does to the tone. Noise, malfunction, dying batteries etc is easy to detect and eliminate but loss of treble, dynamics, sustain etc is harder to notice simply because we usually have lots of pedals that colour the tone and loud amps sound deadly no matter what. I will be the first to admit that I have failed on this matter. Apart from using good quality cables and having a trusty old Boss DD2 (with buffers) at the end of the chain, I havenâ€™t done much to compensate for several true bypass pedals and the biggest tone killer of them all â€“ the wah wah.
The reason you want buffers is that the pickups alone arenâ€™t designed to drive the signal through huge pedal boards and meters of cable. Most of us solve that â€“ perhaps without even knowing it â€“ with a couple of Boss pedals among the true bypass ones. But unless you have a perfectly balanced board as Davidâ€™s Cornish board, I recommend that you donâ€™t have too many buffers and that you have some idea of where to place them. Now, I wonâ€™t go into details here so check out this feature for some tips and my cents on the subject.
The Mach Seagull/Clean Buffer is housed in a rugged die cast (aprox T Rex sized) box with a bright led and high quality switch and jacks. The pedal is actually a dual effect with a clean buffer/booster and a reversed wah circuit for those classic Echoes screams.
The buffer side is active with the high input impedance of a tube amp (1 meg ohm), meaning that you canâ€™t switch off the pedal but thatâ€™s the whole nature of it. Setting the drive at 0, treble and bass at noon and the volume all the way gives you a unity level with the amp. The drive control allows considerable volume boost with a mild crunch when you turn it all the way up. The treble and bass acts as an EQ.
I’m using a Fender Stratocaster with Seymour Duncan SSL5 bridge pickup with a Blackout Effectors Musket Big Muff into a Laney Cub12. Delays and reverb is added digitally in Logic. The clips are recorded with a Shure SM57 about 4″ from the grill, slightly off axis.
Sorrow solo excerpt – Mach (flat settings) added after the Muff on the second clip. Notice how the tone gets brighter and more defined when the Mach is added.
The seagull section is basically a reversed vintage inductive wah circuit activated by the on/off stomp switch. A dedicated volume control allows full control over the volume from 0-100%.
Now, you may ask your self â€œwhat do I need this pedal forâ€. I did ask my self that very same question and I did need to spend some time getting to know it. Iâ€™m also sceptical to pedals that feature names that are used for obvious marketing reasons. But this isnâ€™t your average clean booster or overdrive but a tool much like a compressor or EQ. I placed it after the gain pedals and set everything to neutral. I instantly recognized a brighter tone with more dynamics and attack and a signal that seemed to respond better to the guitar and amp. Increasing the drive control adds noticeable volume boost and a slight crunch, which is great for adding a bit more bite to the cleans or for boosting the Muff or Tube Driver (or any other distortion/overdrive). The overdrive isnâ€™t the best Iâ€™ve heard but turning it all the way up, rolling off the treble a hair and lowering the volume to compensate for the volume boost, produce some very convincing Colorsound Power Boost tones. It needs a tube amp though as it sounds a bit harsh on solid states. I tried the pedal on both a Reeves 50w and a Laney 15w tube heads and it works nicely on both. In fact, a home set up often sound dark without the rich dynamics a loud amp produce but the Mach cleaned it up nicely even on the lowest volume levels.
The seagull feature is pretty straight forward. Engage the effect and follow the instructions shown here. The dedicated volume control allows you to lower the output volume, which can be quite deafening with a wah wah pedal. The effect works well (you need vintage style single coils) but not as smooth as with a wah. I had to adjust my technique slightly to get that â€œlaughingâ€ effect right before you roll the tone all the way down. Still, to have this effect incorporated in a pedal saves me a lot of hassle â€“ and no, I donâ€™t want to mod my wahâ€¦
The Mach Seagull/Clean Buffer might seem like one of those boring pedals you donâ€™t want to spend your savings on. After all, a good distortion or delay is much more fun to use. But, I would say that a good buffer/booster does much more for your rig than a compressor or EQ. In 90% of the cases where I need something extra I always go for the booster (Tube Driver, ThroBak Overdrive Boost, Boos BD2 etc than a compressor or EQ â€“ more on that here.)The transparent signal allows you to have complete control of your tones and use the effect for that certain something that makes everything sound better. Check out machanalog.com for more information.