The Age-Old Question Is The Wrong Question!

László

Too Many Notes
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Apr 26, 2012
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Here's the age-old question, and it is 100% the wrong question:

Would you rather put your money into an expensive guitar and a cheap amp, or a cheap guitar and an expensive amp?

The right question is, "Would you rather hear the amp or the guitar?"

Why do I say this...?

If you want to hear as much of the pure guitar as possible, you obviously play through a clean amp.

Lots of amps - even very cheap ones - will at the very least do a decent job of reproducing the recognizable sound of the guitar (yes, I know that clean tube amps contain some distortion, but you still hear the characteristics of the guitar).

In that case, maybe you'd rather put your money into the guitar. It's going to matter.

On the other hand, the more distortion you add via an amp, the more you obscure the guitar, and hear the characteristics of the amp. So in the context of a dirtier tone, you might prefer to put your money into the amp, and less money into the guitar.

If you don't know what your priority is, then you can't make the right call. There's a continuum here, to be sure, but the right question focuses your decision making a little.

"This is all pretty obvious, Laz."

"That's why it's the right question. Consider Occam's razor."
 
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Here's the age-old question, and it is 100% the wrong question:

Would you rather put your money into an expensive guitar and a cheap amp, or a cheap guitar and an expensive amp?

The right question is, "Would you rather hear the amp or the guitar?"

Why do I say this...?

If you want to hear as much of the pure guitar as possible, you obviously play through a clean amp.

Lots of amps - even very cheap ones - will at the very least do a decent job of reproducing the recognizable sound of the guitar (yes, I know that clean tube amps contain some distortion, but you still hear the characteristics of the guitar).

In that case, maybe you'd rather put your money into the guitar. It's going to matter.

On the other hand, the more distortion you add via an amp, the more you obscure the guitar, and hear the characteristics of the amp. So in the context of a dirtier tone, you might prefer to put your money into the amp, and less money into the guitar.

If you don't know what your priority is, then you can't make the right call. There's a continuum here, to be sure, but the right question focuses your decision making a little.

"This is all pretty obvious, Laz."

"That's why it's the right question. Consider Occam's razor."


Hear, hear! No pun intended :)
 
I’d rather put more money into both.
I guess that this is, if money is not a problem, the right answer.

But I can go back to when I was a teenager with a crappy Kramer striker guitar trying to imitate Mr. James Hetfield sound...I was putting all my scarce money on the sound/tone side of things. First I swapped the stock pups for some Dimarzios, bought several pedals looking for the right distorted tone (among them, the funnily infamous Boss MT2 Metal Zone) and switched amps (small ones) several times...I was kinda convinced that I would get more bang for the buck putting my resources into amps or effects rather than on buying a really good guitar.

And following László comments, now I got a bunch of really good guitars, but for playing distorted metal sounds...heck, even a 300$ Harley Benton can sound good when you put it through a cranked up high gain nice amp. Things change when playing clean parts and that's where my guitars, specially my PRSs, really shine. And I guess I would pay, for this situation, more for a good guitar than for a good amp.

But if you can have both....it makes life easier, I hate choices :cool:
 
I think that for me it’s guitar first and amp second. I’ve found that over the years I’ve formed a bond with two guitars and although I’ve had amps aplenty, they were always a means to an end.

They’ve come and gone and I have no pangs or regret. Unlike when I foolishly chopped in my Tele to fund a very expensive acoustic I had my eye on. I still have pangs of remorse to this day.

Ideally, and if the dough isn’t an issue, then I would try and get the best quality amp for my purposes that I could afford.
 
I feel like it's easier to get a guitar that you love than an amp. And even amps can sound great somedays and somehow not as good the next.

So, yeah, amps all suck, may as well focus on the guitar and settle with the amp.

Balanced precariously on top of my giant amp-heap I have two amps/cabs that, between them, can cover everything I do: Mesa Coli MkIIB and TR Akoya. Neither of them ever suck (when I play them!) :)

Sadly, neither of the two amp rigs is even remotely cheap these days: folk have picked up on what they're capable of, and how great they can sound (assuming the player isn't a hack - there are plenty of those on Ewe-tube, showing how to get crappy or just plain uninteresting sounds out of both of them). However, they were bought for very reasonable money, back when they were "unfashionable."

As for guitars, my favourite is an S-type I helped build. I still own a few much more valuable instruments, but they get very little play time by comparison.


So I guess the money's in the amp/cab/speaker, at least as far as I'm concerned.
 
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Here's the age-old question, and it is 100% the wrong question:

Would you rather put your money into an expensive guitar and a cheap amp, or a cheap guitar and an expensive amp?

The right question is, "Would you rather hear the amp or the guitar?"

Why do I say this...?

If you want to hear as much of the pure guitar as possible, you obviously play through a clean amp.

Lots of amps - even very cheap ones - will at the very least do a decent job of reproducing the recognizable sound of the guitar (yes, I know that clean tube amps contain some distortion, but you still hear the characteristics of the guitar).

In that case, maybe you'd rather put your money into the guitar. It's going to matter.

On the other hand, the more distortion you add via an amp, the more you obscure the guitar, and hear the characteristics of the amp. So in the context of a dirtier tone, you might prefer to put your money into the amp, and less money into the guitar.

If you don't know what your priority is, then you can't make the right call. There's a continuum here, to be sure, but the right question focuses your decision making a little.

"This is all pretty obvious, Laz."

"That's why it's the right question. Consider Occam's razor."
Or consider Schrodinger’s cat.
Perhaps both could be considered correct at the same time.
 
I feel like it's easier to get a guitar that you love than an amp. And even amps can sound great somedays and somehow not as good the next.

So, yeah, amps all suck, may as well focus on the guitar and settle with the amp.

You just covered a large part of why I went back to digital. Tube amps can be fussy, and the tone changes as the volume changes. I love a nice cranked tube amp, but when am I going to play in a situation that I can really open a tube amp up? Even when I find myself in a band situation again, I doubt I can really open up an amp that I love.

In my case, I want a good, solid base tone that's almost, but not quite, clean, and then I want shades of dirt. For me, that's where a modeler shines - because I don't need 14 pedals to get my dirt.

I also very much want the tone of my guitar to come through.

So, back to the original question, I'd rather hear the guitar as my fundamental tone, and then add color as needed. If I was using an amp, I can get a really nice base tone from something like a Peavey Classic 30 - so I'm going to put more money into the guitar.
 
You just covered a large part of why I went back to digital. Tube amps can be fussy, and the tone changes as the volume changes. I love a nice cranked tube amp, but when am I going to play in a situation that I can really open a tube amp up? Even when I find myself in a band situation again, I doubt I can really open up an amp that I love.
This for me really resonates. I've used tube amps nearly all my playing career right up until recently. But after buying a decent modeller and doing a few gigs, it's really making things so much easier. And tonally I don't really think punters (UK speak for audiences) will notice the difference.

Still love tube amps to bits - but they are temperamental. The divas of the amp world. ;)
 
Over my 40 years of playing I have found that amp selection makes a HUGE difference. But it doesn't mean you need to spend over 1k to get a good sound. What REALLY makes the difference is the playability and comfort of the guitar. I have played anything from cheap Hondos and Kramers to mid range Ibanez and Squire to higher end Fenders and Gibsons. The best playing guitar for me is the PRS. I have also played cheap Crate amps, Peaveys, to expensive Fender Twins, Roland JC 120, Spider Line 6...and I have a Marshall Code 50 now that blows them all away for 200 bucks. With the amp modeling tech in a lot of these newer amps, you can get a sound out of them that you would have had to spend thousands in pedals and processing tech to get. So spend the money on the guitar and go low on the amp for sure, IMO.
 
You just covered a large part of why I went back to digital. Tube amps can be fussy, and the tone changes as the volume changes. I love a nice cranked tube amp, but when am I going to play in a situation that I can really open a tube amp up? Even when I find myself in a band situation again, I doubt I can really open up an amp that I love.

Aha! And now we have a completely different debate on our hands: Analog or digital?

In my case, I want a good, solid base tone that's almost, but not quite, clean, and then I want shades of dirt. For me, that's where a modeler shines - because I don't need 14 pedals to get my dirt.

This is all personal choice stuff, but here's my take:

Modelers are terrific for certain things, but I actually think what you're talking about is precisely where modelers fail.

The old school way of doing things is this:

1. Set the amp up for your 'edge of grit' tone with the guitar volume on 5. This includes however much treble and bass you need.

2. Then control the amp gain with the guitar's volume control(s), and the amp's degree of treble with the guitar's tone control(s).

You'll never have to depend on pedals for your shades of dirt, and moreover, you'll have an infinite range of dirt as opposed to stomping around on pedals for different levels of it. Pedals then become color boxes, as opposed to 'get your dirt here' boxes, and are still useful of course.

I've yet to try a modeler that gives me a great 'edge' tone, and none of them do the above old school thing well.

Instead, with a modeler, you're stomping switches to change presets. It's like having to use pedals, only worse, because many of the subtle things you can control with the guitar don't happen.

I fully realize that most folks feel differently about it, but that's what makes horse racing - differences of opinion.

Disclaimer: There's a drawback to my old school approach. You need an amp with a good master volume control or an attenuator to fully utilize it in this day and age. I have no problem with that, but others might.

I also very much want the tone of my guitar to come through.

So, back to the original question, I'd rather hear the guitar as my fundamental tone, and then add color as needed. If I was using an amp, I can get a really nice base tone from something like a Peavey Classic 30 - so I'm going to put more money into the guitar.

And I think based on your needs, that's a wise choice.
 
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Over my 40 years of playing I have found that amp selection makes a HUGE difference. But it doesn't mean you need to spend over 1k to get a good sound. What REALLY makes the difference is the playability and comfort of the guitar. I have played anything from cheap Hondos and Kramers to mid range Ibanez and Squire to higher end Fenders and Gibsons. The best playing guitar for me is the PRS. I have also played cheap Crate amps, Peaveys, to expensive Fender Twins, Roland JC 120, Spider Line 6...and I have a Marshall Code 50 now that blows them all away for 200 bucks. With the amp modeling tech in a lot of these newer amps, you can get a sound out of them that you would have had to spend thousands in pedals and processing tech to get. So spend the money on the guitar and go low on the amp for sure, IMO.
What you're saying is very sensible, because it reflects your personal preference for playability and feel, and you're a little less picky about the amp.

My first guitar was a Gibson (they weren't even making Epis overseas back then), which at the time was a fairly pricy guitar for a young player. I still have that guitar, a 1965 SG Special, and it was always a very good feeling instrument, though not on PRS' level. However it wouldn't have been possible at the time to find a better feeling starting point.

My first amp was an Ampeg, which was a high quality item, though I came to prefer the sound of a Fender pretty quickly. Moving to a Fender was easy, because even in high school I was getting paid to gig. I'd make a hundred bucks or more on a weekend, and in those days a great amp cost maybe $300 at most. Hell, a car was only $2500 brand new, loaded with options, and I made enough in my first college band to buy one and pay cash for it.

So unusually, I've never had to deal with the usual progression from lesser to better quality. It's just been a matter of going for whatever tones I was interested in. Since the late '80s I've done ad music work, and again, there was no reason to compromise, and every incentive to use the best sounding stuff I could find.

I'm sure this warped my thinking to some degree, because it's always been, 'get what works the best or don't bother'.
 
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