Guitar Pedal Terms Explained: A-Z

by Jim Button
Guitar Pedal Terms Explained | Boost Guitar Pedals

Ever wondered what NOS means? Or what the four-cable method is? Our guitar pedal terms guide answers all your questions...

Analogue

Guitar Pedals were originally built with analogue circuitry - resistors, capacitors and transistors - before microchips became widely available. Today, analogue pedals are revered for their 'organic' sounds and response to picking, although some may argue that the gap is narrowing.

Digital Vs Analogue Guitar Pedals - A Boss Multieffects Pedal

Read: Digital Vs Analogue Guitar Pedals

Artisan

Artisan is defined as "made in a traditional way by someone who is skilled with their hands", which we believe sums up the brands we work with and the pedals they build. See BOUTIQUE.

BBD

BBD is an integrated circuit and the abbreviation stands for 'bucket brigade-delay', referring to how the signal is passed from transistor to transistor, resulting in a degradation of signal. You'll find BBD chips in many analogue-style delays for this very reason.

How To Use Guitar Delay

Read: How To Use Guitar Delay

Boutique

"Boutique" is a term widely used to describe guitar pedals made in small volumes, often by hand, with high quality components and eye-catching artwork, but it is actually defined as "a small fashionable business that sells a particular product or service". We believe "boutique" is best used to describe the very high quality tones these pedals are capable of producing, hence our slogan: Artisan Pedals | Boutique Tones. See ARTISAN.

What Is A Boutique Guitar Pedal?

Read: What Is A Boutique Guitar Pedal?

Buffer

A buffer is part of your signal chain that preserves tone. Often found in guitar pedals, it amplifies or 'buffers' the signal to help it through a pedal's internal circuitry with minimal loss. You can also purchase standalone buffers. Buffers are perfect for combatting signal degradation from long cable runs or large pedalboard setups.

What Is A True Bypass Pedal?

Read: What Is A True Bypass Pedal?

Clipping

Clipping is a type of waveform distortion that occurs when you push a circuit beyond its capabilities, leading to the peaks of the sine wave turning into more of a square wave. Different components clip in different ways; the two key types of clipping are soft and hard clipping.

What Is A True Bypass Pedal?

Read: What Are Clipping Diodes?

Diodes

Diodes are components used in a guitar pedal to achieve clipping. There are many different types of diode that can be used, including silicon, germanium and LED. See CLIPPING for more.

Four-Cable Method

Used to connect pedals up to your amp so that boost, distortion, wah etc can go in front of the amp but time and modulation effects such as reverb, delay and phaser can go through the amp's effects loop - i.e after the preamp section.

What Is The Four Cable Method?

Read: What Is The Four Cable Method?

Germanium

The element germanium (Ge) is used as a semi-conductor in transistors and diodes. Germanium components were used in early guitar pedals, such as the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster, before being replaced by more stable, higher purity silicon. Germanium transistors and diodes are revered these days for the warm, organic, 'vintage' tone they confer on pedals.

Tate FX Hot Coals Germanium Rangemaster Treble Booster Pedal

Read: Let's Talk Hot Coals and Rangemasters

NOS

NOS is the abbreviation of 'new old stock', referring to the unused vintage transistors, resistors and diodes used by some pedal builders, who scour global marketplaces for small batches of these finite components. These are preferred in pedals based on vintage circuits to get as close as possible to the original.

Oscillation

Described by the Cambridge English Dictionary as "a regular change in strength or direction in a wave or electric current", oscillation in a guitar pedal context usually refers to modulation effects such as chorus,  tremolo and vibrato.

GREENHOUSE EFFECTS Logos Chorus-Vibrato Front Transparent | Boost Guitar Pedals
GREENHOUSE EFFECTS Logos Chorus-Vibrato Front Transparent | Boost Guitar Pedals
GREENHOUSE EFFECTS Logos Chorus-Vibrato Context Left | Boost Guitar Pedals
GREENHOUSE EFFECTS Logos Chorus-Vibrato Context Right | Boost Guitar Pedals
GREENHOUSE EFFECTS Logos Chorus-Vibrato Context Wide | Boost Guitar Pedals

GREENHOUSE EFFECTS Logos Chorus-Vibrato

£158.00

Modulation Powerhouse...

The Greenhouse Effects Logos Chorus-Vibrato is a cleverly designed and beautifully executed modulation powerhouse: select from 3 chorus modes or turn the Mix knob to 100% to access a classic vibrato effect. What's more, an expression pedal input makes it even more controllable and versatile on the stage.

Pitch shifting, multiple voices, LFO, feedback, envelope detection, waveforms, distortion and even reverb are blended together and rearranged to make 48 different combinations of awesome sounds.

The pedal's party trick is its "Logos" mode, which is a chorus with an LFO featuring various pitch interval settings and added reverb. As Roy at Greenhouse Effects says, "it feels like an organ player is playing along with you in a large hall!"

The 3 Chorus Modes:

  1. Order Mode: Classic chorus with up to 8 cascading voices, normal to extreme depth, DSS: Max Depth for noisy chaos. Hidden feature: Automated rate.
  2. Chaos Mode: 8 chaotic modes of pitch modulation, envelope LFO, waveforms and double voice. DSS: Max Depth
  3. Logos Mode: Beautiful, dreamy chorus with 8 combinations of modulated intervals, octave up/down, 5th intervals, and flanger-like modulation at lower settings. This setting includes a hall-style reverb for added angelic ambience. DSS: Max Depth for noisy chaos. Hidden feature: LFO off. 

One genius implementation is the DSS (Dual Switching System) , which gives you access to secondary functions in each mode when you hold down the footswitch for more than 200ms. There are also "hidden" features for each mode, accessed by maxing out the Rate control.

The Logos is another example of the great work Greenhouse Effects has been doing combining analogue circuitry with digital controls. Sit down with this for a weekend and explore all the sounds it has to offer - there's a lot to discover!

Features:

  • Multi-mode chorus pedal with vibrato setting
  • Unique "Logos" mode
  • Mod, Depth, Rate/Sens/Pitch & Mix controls
  • True bypass
  • Power: 9V power adaptor, centre-negative (not included)

 

View Details

Patch Cable

Patch cables are short instrument cables (1/4" TS unbalanced) designed to connect up several guitar pedals while minimising cable length. Excess cable length can not only get in the way but it can also affect tone.

Guitar Cable Tone

Read: All About Guitar Cable Tone

Power Supply

All guitar pedals require a power supply. The vast majority run on 9V, allowing a battery to be used (if there is a battery snap built into the design of the pedal). While it's important to ensure your pedals run at the correct voltage to avoid damage, it's also important to pay attention to the power draw in mA. If your power supply does not provide enough mA, your pedal may not work correctly. Most analogue pedals typically draw between 50 and 200mA, while digital pedals prefer much more - up to 500mA. If you own several pedals it is worth investing in a multi-pedal power supply with outputs that allow you to tailor power delivery for each pedal.

Silicon

Silicon (Si) is the element which largely replaced germanium as the semi-conductor of choice for pedal builders from the late 1960s onwards. Unlike germanium, silicon is temperature-stable and its purity enables a fuller tonal signal to pass through. It also appealed to builders as it is cheaper to manufacture silicon-based components. In character, silicon-based pedals can be said to be more aggressive compared to germanium equivalents.

Stacking

Pedal stacking is the act of combining two or more drive pedals in order to push the input stage of the subsequent pedal for a saturated, gainy character. Careful balancing of gain stages between the pedals can also achieve more nuanced tones than a single pedal can produce.

What Is Pedal Stacking?

Read: What Is Pedal Stacking?

Tap Tempo

Tap-tempo is built into many digital time-based pedals, allowing on-the-fly adjustment to rate or time parameters in time with the tapping of your foot on an integrated or external footswitch.

Valve

Valves can be used in pedals to give a more amp-like, analogue character. Some players value the response and transparency that valves give compared to MOSFETs, op-amps and transistors.

What Is Pedal Stacking?

Read: Valves In Guitar Pedals

Originally published 11th Nov 2020. Updated on 22nd April 2021

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