This thread might be interesting for you: viewtopic.php?f=419&t=11064&p=103782&hilit=strat#p103782
As far as an alternative to the buffer/OBEL, there are a few but none will be the same result. For example, you don't need the OBEL if you just want to use the buffer. It will still preserve your highes, but there really isn't any way to duplicate the obel. You can use true bypass loopes for each effect pedal or one bypass loope for a whole pedal board and these techniques (as well as others) will improve your true tone, but your guitar signal will be going thru the tone and volume pots first instead of going directly from the pickups to the effects and then back, which is what the OBEL accomplishes. I wouldn't have the OBEL in all my guitars, but definetly in at least one for that true untouched signal to the effects. As far as the preamp/buffer, I'd have one in every guitar!