What Are Bucket Brigade Chips?

If you have spent any amount of time looking at delay pedal, chances are you've bumped into the term "bucket brigade." A bucket brigade chip, also known as bucket-brigade device (BBD), refers to a distinct time analog delay chip that was developed by Sangster and K Teer in 1969. This chip provided signal delay that moved charge packets from one capacitor cell to the other. The signal was then split into two on entering the analog delay unit in a way that half of the signal was taken directly into the output while the other half passed through the chip. While Bucket Brigade chips can be found in a wide range of applications, they are best-known for their use in analog delay pedals.



The name BBD comes from an analogy in which a line of firefighters used to pass buckets full of water to fight water. In those old days,Bucket brigade was a method used by firefighters to put out fires. During those days, firefighters lined up holding buckets of water as they passed water from the source to the fire. As the water was passed along,some spilled due to continuous dumping and catching of the buckets. As a result, by the time a bucket reached the fire, it was far from full. To cover a wide area, these bucket men used to either add more firefighters or to spread the existing firefighters. In either way, it resulted in more spillage and less water by the time the bucket got to the fire.

Now without getting too technical, the water source represents the guitar signal, the firefighters with bucket represents the circuit while the fire represents the amplifier. In our case, the bucket-brigade circuit is made up of a series of capacitors that store electrical charge from the guitar signal and passes it along the line at a specific rate. Similar to the bucket brigade line where water spills from one individual to the other, the guitar signal also degrades along the line and ends up as a fraction of what started. Also, the more your signal gets dumped while moving from one capacitor to the other, the more the signal leakage occurs, resulting in high-frequency loss. To add on that, just like spreading firefighters to cover wide ground resulted in more spillage, spreading the capacitors also increases the signal leakage.

Suppose your house was on fire would you prefer bucket brigade or the modern fire fighting techniques? I wonder whether you would prefer bucket brigade. But there's a good reason why many guitarists still prefer the old bucket brigade analog technology as opposed to a modern digital delay unit. The main one being that analog delay doesn't overwhelm your entire sound. Besides that, its lack of high frequencies also makes the repeats sit back in the mix much better, adding fullness and depth to the music while still allowing the guitar's original notes to cut through. They are so popular, in fact, that many players are willing to pay a premium in order to buy a delay pedal that houses one of these chips.

These Bucket Brigade pedals are so popular, in fact, that many players are willing to pay a premium in order to buy a vintage delay pedal that houses one of these chips. Furthermore, several manufacturers make modern analog delay pedals with similar technology (and make it a point to let players know). The MXR Carbon Copy, Way Huge Supa-Puss, and the Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail are three such pedals that use Bucket Brigade chips in their circuitry.

Hopefully, the information in this quick article has given you an idea of how Bucket Brigade chips work and why some players still prefer them over today's technology.


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