Don’t be confused and think that a buffer in your signal chain has to always be good. A decent line buffer will not generally color your tone and will help your signal get from your guitar to your amp in a decent manner. But what about what it does besides that?
Think about it this way, a buffer increases the volume of your signal. As your signal goes through the chain, some of it is lost, and if you planned it right, you are at the same volume at the end.
What about things in the chain that are effected by volume, like effects. Most effects will clip if given a too hot signal. Buffers will affect how your effects sound. If you need a buffer, play around with it in different positions in your chain. If it is at the start, will it color your other effects. If it is at the end, will you still suffer from tone loss?
Have you ever heard that too much of a good thing is not a good thing. How about too much of an average thing? That’s really what you get with the Boss HM-3. Yes I do realize I am reviewing a pedal that was first introduced 22 years ago!
This pedal was bosses highest gain pedal until the MD-2 was released in 2001. (Highest gain from 1993-2001 eight years of madness).
As a tweak monster, I hooked this bad boy up to an oscilloscope right away. The first thing I noted, is that there is no cleans possible engaged. Even with the gain all the way down, there is radical waveform clipping. The clipping is a cross between a triangle and square pattern, so think of that when thinking of the tone.
The controls of this are pretty self-explanatory. The distortion level goes from 8 to about 1.6 billion. There is too much distortion on tap with this monster and it is not controllable. On a plus side, easy to create the metal scooped sound.
The good: Tons of distortion on tap. Great for hair metal bands. Please try and make sure you keep your hairspray out of the pedal as it will void the now expired warranty.
The not so good: Sounds blah when played through a high end tube amp (such as a marshall, etc..) sounds disgusting through anything solid state. Expect notes and noises from alien life forms when leaving this pedal on too long. Sends pings to local police officers to write disturbing the peace citations when played for more than 30 minutes. Same old boss look we have been seeing forever and will see forever.
Visual Appearance: 3 out of 5 stars. The same old boss gig.
Construction: 4 ½ out of 5 stars. After 22 years, mine is still there, with a ton of paint gone, it still works great. – ½ star for being the same old boss gig.
Ease of use: 2 ½ out of 5 stars. Takes a very long time to dial in to get a useful tone. Some people will not be able to dial in good tone no matter what.
Tone: 2 ½ stars out of 5 stars. Noisy, gritty bad clipping scheme. Will make anything single coil sound like doggy doo doo. Hard to dial in usable tone. Impossible to dial in low overdrive, not that anyone who would buy this would.
Value: 3 out of 5 stars. Very average tone, but can be usable sometimes…. maybe. For under $30 if you want some silly crazy over the top distortion, then go for it. Not for tone snobs, or those who do not have a mullet. Hairspray not included.
Overall Rating 3.1 out of 5 stars. You should be able to find one cheap for under $30.
Afterthought. Boss (a division of Roland) has really come up with anything new and amazing for quite some time. They had a few success stories with the DD-20 and loop station, but nothing like the hype EHX has created. Boss has been stagnant entirely too long and need to release something new and innovative to remain competitive in the market. EHX has an amazing drive for $10 more than the Boss Super Overdrive, which is a pretty average, hard to dial in pedal that sounds, just pretty average.
The KenBJammen 5 star ratings explained: I have had a few questions recently what I mean by 5 star, 4 star, etc..
So here is how I take my personal view and give it a star rating. Remembering that this is just my opinion based on information that I have at the time.
5 star – In this domain, this product or service is in the top 10% of products. There is little if any room for improvement in this area.
4 star – In this domain, the product or service is in the top 33% of products. There is room for improvement, but because of easily noted constraints on improvement, improvement may be very challenging or cost prohibitive for the manufacturer.
3 star – Average. The product or service does not shine, nor does it bring to a level of not purchasing the item because of the averageness. Common pitfalls in product or service should be easily rectified without burdensome costs but are not taken into consideration.
2 star – Below Average. The product or service is below acceptable standards. Any customer thinking reasonably should be annoyed at the product or service at this level. A 2 star rating in a certain domain does not mean I would suggest not to purchase an item or service, just that you should know that this area needs improvement.
1 star – Unacceptable. The product or service is unacceptable. Most all users would find that the product or service would not be to their standards. Most if not all buyers should be cautioned in purchasing a product with a 1 star rating in any domain.
½ stars. If a topic is somewhere in between a category, sometimes a ½ star will be given. This shows that it is better than the lower rating, but not quite to the higher rating.
Although ratings are by my personal experience, I will not rate below 3 stars something that I cannot test because it falls in a niche market that I do not have enough experience in.