Guitarist

TONE CONNECTION

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In your Bought & Sold articles, I’ve been struck by the answers to the question: 'Would you rather buy a really good guitar and a cheap amp or a cheap guitar and a really top-notch amp?' I used to think the answer was fairly obvious: given a finite budget, you would get the best return on investment (sonically speaking) if you put your money towards an amp. A cheaper but well-set-up Squier Strat, paired with a decent valve amp would sound better than a high-end equivalent going into a soulless solid-state amps that many of us had to make do with.

Leaving aside golden-era US guitars, where a ‘student’ instrument was often a stripped-down version of the ‘pro’ model, the quality of mass-produced budget guitars and amps has increased dramatical­ly. Advances in solid-state design and digital modelling have meant cheaper amps can sound closer to the rigs of our heroes – and at more practical volumes.

If you’re a home player looking at modelling amps, devices or software, then perhaps it makes sense to spend money on the guitar. If you’re gigging with a drummer then a decent amp (and maybe pedals) become more important. But then this has changed, too. Quiet stages, noise restrictio­ns or just wanting an easier life mean that digital amps or floor units are popular choices for many gigging guitarists and the financial focus can again shift towards the guitar. I think what lies at the heart of the question, though, is that sense of connection where guitar, amp and speakers combine and react together. Jonathan Waller, via email Thanks, Jonathan – the tone equation is becoming more complex to solve… or should we really say ‘easier to solve’? It’s tempting to feel like we need to belong to a particular ‘camp’, but there’s no need to be dogmatic. Modelling is a great solution for certain situations, valve amps are a great solution for other scenarios. In general, we’d recommend avoiding the very cheapest of products, but there are (rare) exceptions even to that. After all, Mike Rutherford uses a £120 Squier Bullet Strat on Genesis world tours (see page 82). So go figure. Mike does make an interestin­g point, however, about modelling amps sometimes struggling to cut through the mix in a way that valve amps don’t. Anyone else experience­d this? Modelling fans, if you have a great solution to this perceived weakness of modelling amps – or think it’s a non-problem – write in and let us know, we’ll share the best viewpoints here.

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