IK Multimedia Z-Tone Buffer Boost: The Premier Guitar Review

An understated, utilitarian buffer/boost/preamp that can profoundly reshape your tones.

 

Ratings

Pros:
Intuitive and transformative impedance control. Excellent transparent boost. Includes AmpliTube 4.

Cons:
Feature set might be overkill for some.

Street:
$149

IK Multimedia Z-Tone Buffer Boost
ikmultimedia.com


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In its relatively nondescript matte-black aluminum enclosure, the Italy-made Z-Tone Buffer Boost isn’t likely to stoke longing at a glance. But plug one in and you may find its pure utility hard to live without.

But calling the Z-Tone Buffer Boost merely a buffer/boost sells it short. Yes, it offers up to 10 dB of relatively transparent boost and +/- 8 dB of output gain. But it also offers the flexible impedance control from IK’s AXE I/O interface, a feature that can dramatically change the way pickups interact with the rest of your rig. Engineers can write volumes on these esoteric electronic relationships, but the impedance control makes it easy to feel your way to the best match between your guitar and pedalboard—or for that matter, a less ideal match that coaxes unusual but useful tones.

There are switches for accommodating active or passive pickups, as well as for moving between transparent “pure” boost and a more colorful and midrange-y JFET boost. And useful routing options include a balanced XLR output and a link output that mirrors the input so you can route to multiple sources. Add in a full, downloadable version of the AmpliTube 4 modeling application, and the Z-Tone Buffer Boost might be the most flexible pedal value you didn’t know you needed.

Test Gear: Fender Telecaster Deluxe, black-panel Fender Vibrolux


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