So I've noticed that a lot of people like to use direct boxes and amp modelers on this site. That's all well and good. Are there any fellow snobs out there? I'm I alone? Don't be afraid, stand up and be recognized! Stage volume be darned...we need our TONE!

Share your stories, tips, gear and generally snobby comments here. It's a safe place!

Let me clarify: This discussion for guitarists who are always chasing that perfect tone; who think the name "Tone Snobs" is funny because it doesn't reflect what we are; who believe that great tone can be and should be reached at any venue, at any volume level; and who want to help each other out in finding the best solutions and gear for the job (that is, of course, appropriate).
Just to recap: VOLUME does not equal TONE

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Nah, just cost plus a few small bucks and a claim of durability. That's all I can offer.

"The DC operating point is represented by the red circle. It is above the 12-watt plate dissipation limit, so unlike a typical 6L6 or EL84 Class AB amp, the tubes run fairly hot at idle. At full power one tube grid reaches zero grid volts as the other reaches -20 volts, putting it into cutoff, so by definition the amp is not pure Class A, although it is certainly closer than a Plexi. Vacuum tubes vary substantially and the curves represent only average values, so it is conceivable that the non-conducting tube could still be conducting a trickle of electrons at minimum grid voltage."


Is pretty much what I wrote, but with more detail:


"EL84s tend to be hot because they're often run in class A (though often push into class AB when overdriven, like in the AC30)"


I remember this stuff (though vaguely) from when I read the Aitken article a while back.


Negative feedback is not the 'cure-all-clean-fix' some imagine, and needs careful use. Likewise valve swapping to get max clean volume out of a small amp. The thing is that one should never expect *much* clean headroom from a 5W amp at the best of times, even through a 4X12 with efficient speakers.


I'd agree about pedals being a mixed bag, and because they vary so much there's usually a fave for someone in there. Tone is derived from a complex range of sources, and the more I learn, the more I realise the importance of everything in the chain, and that while one bit may produce great tone, if it doesn't match well with another bit then the tone can still be poor.I'm sure that one of the reasons pedals are loved/hated is because they work well with certain rigs and players needs, yet mismatch badly others.


This is a good place to discuss these things - maybe someone else will come along and enjoy reading them.

Clean headroom is in the design as much as anything else. You probably get most of those 5 watts in clean headroom. By comparison, a 50 watt amp is only twice as loud as a 5 watt amp. So that ought to tell you something.

Negative Feedback - Allen includes a variable negative feedback control in some of his designs. I have one and it seem to do very little. It seems to depend on the overall design of the amp as to whether or not negative feedback will do anything at all. He and I talked about this and that's the gist I got from him.


"EL84s tend to be hot because they're often run in class A (though often push into class AB when overdriven, like in the AC30)" - It sounded like you were saying that an amp can start out in Class A and push into class AB when overdriven which is isn't the case. Biasing tubes hot doesn't make the amp Class A. It's all in the design.


My only reason for talking about Class A is to let people know that most amps that claim to be Class A are indeed not Class A but Class AB/cathode biased.


There is this misnomer that goes like this: "Man that amp sounds so creamy and warm when overdriven. That's the sound of Class A." In fact, that amp isn't Class A and the many components that go into it's design are what make it creamy and warm. 

I'd agree about pedals being a mixed bag, and because they vary so much there's usually a fave for someone in there. Tone is derived from a complex range of sources, and the more I learn, the more I realise the importance of everything in the chain


- Funny thing about pedals. There was a common thought for a while that solid state amps and tube amps were nearly identical when clean and that overdrive is what separates them. I couldn't disagree more. I think the clean tones are what really separate the two most of the time. And since many many tube amps now have diode-based clipping circuits, you're not even getting pure tube overdrive when you push them. Solid state overdrive as from a good pedal can sound very good and overdrive from various tube amps can sound terrible.

Sounds like your bias is set good for the outputs on your Vox. The EL84's in my B-Jr were running wide open (18W dissipation!), I biased em' down per Bill's recommendations...they should last alot longer. Keeping the filaments on full time, and switching down the B+ will make tubes almost last forever. Caps, well, buy some now for future, they are not getting any cheaper.

Appreciate your geek-speak  ;)


Yep, were the problem children for sure. Dang guitar players!

I have recently purchased a Fractal Audio Systems, Axe FX Standard Processor after 12 years of POD's and amplifiers (below).




Line 6

Blues JR, Fender Twin Reverb.

Eleven Rack

Remember Will Smith's line in "Independence Day"..." I gotta get me one of these "..The Axe-FX IS the bad boy!

Exhaustively tested and compared to amps most of us dream of by some of the music industries best known players. The FX more than comes close, it really is a fantastic piece. Excellent response to playing style, from super clean to muggashugga. Pristine effects, 1ms latency!

Massive granular control over a vast amount of parameters.

Here's one of hundreds of vids about the Axe FX.

This guy gives a great overview! (I used to have a massive rack of gear like this guy did)

Here's a link to Fractal Audio website (awesome mp3 clips!) 

I now run straight from the FX's stereo XLR outs to the FOH. Then 2, 1/4 " unbalanced to my phones mixer amp. I mix the rest of the team into my personal mix via an aux from the sound desk. Plug in my MIDI control board, volume pedal....and thats it boyz!

Using this thing through a FRFR (full range, flat response) rig if your house will FREAK...guaranteed!.

If you have to maintain the 88~95dB SPL threshold of a contemporary venue or, a concert level platform. Axe-FX will do it all.

I have played professionally for 30+ years, played in worship bands for 12+ years. I sold ALL my other gear to buy the Axe-FX with NO regrets...period. Is the cost high? bet..$1,500.00(USD) smackas for the Axe-FX Standard, $2,000.00(USD) for the Ultra. If you go with a boutique..Egnater, Bogner, Mesa, Orange will part with the same amount of cash..then add your pedals for effects.

No, I don't work for Cliff @ Fractal Audio. His product deserves the shout.

The down side:

Not sold in chain can't go to the local music store to try it out.

It is not mass produced with low fi components off shore, so cost is high.

The Axe FX is for "real" tone snobs...

I bought mine based on reviews and research over a period of 3 months.

If you purchase the Axe, you have 30 days in which to return it (if for some reason you wanted to).

It's a win-win situation.







Ha ha...three chords and the truth. One guitar, one cable, one amp. That's all you need.

admitting that one likes the old ProCo rat always invites the cork-sniffing boo-teek overdrive snobs to make snide comments

What? It's actually a staple of most any tone snob. Anything called "distortion" in my book moves from the realm of boo-teek into the realm of "dirt" and therefore anything goes. It's only in the "overdrive" universe that I tend to get snobby. 

Given your description of the mod, I'm very interested. Do you have any before and after sound samples? You're speaking my language when you say things like, "no grainy diode fizzies, no tubescreamer mid hump, smooth transition...".

I think you have more fun tweaking. For you, it's not about boutique or not. I built both of my amps from kits  (Allen amps) and they're excellent amps. I saved about $200? by building them myself, so it wasn't about saving money. It was about enjoying the craft.

I kind of got tired of tweaking Boss pedals because in the end, you can't guild a pig. I now have my sights set on a Wampler Paisley drive as my main overdrive.

I grew up as an organist.  You see all of those drawbars and tabs on an organ (a possible 253,000,000 tones on a Hammond Organ)?  They are not there to make the instrument loud... well, not completely (it does get loud).  But they are there to create all sorts of tone colors; and the more there are, the more you can fine-tune the tone.  Or -- very high-quality instruments may have only a few combinations, but those are finely crafted to blend with each other in a superior way.

If you are a singer, you work on your production so it comes out strong and pure (or if you go for grunge rock, as raspy and snarly as possible), for the tone is part of the message, and a tone that delights the ear captures the rest of the heart.  An Italian opera singer can bring you to weep, and you have no idea of what he is singing about.

Before there was any of this other stuff, there was tone.  Jubal sitting there, maybe twanging a sinew of one of his sheep while letting the stew simmer, while Jabal was sweating away trying to get wood for tent poles, and Tubal-Cain was out digging for things in the ground.  "The tone is so purty -- why do anything else?  Let's try different lengths of sinew and see which one sounds nicest.  This will go nicely with this row of flutes I've made from the bones."  So the first tone snob might well have been the first musician.

Hello Dan,

I'm the lead the guitarist of a nation travelling band and I'm constantly adjusting tone on the road...Every weekend we play in a different building so the audtitotiums are constantly brightening or darkening the sound of the amps or pedals. EQ is an important part of my EQ and if that isn't done right then I feel like I cannot worship fully because I am not fully happy with my sound for that night.

I agree with you on the "Volume does not EQUAL tone" Many guitarists say that tube amps sound best when they are maxed out on volume and breaking up. I do just the opposite, I love a super clean warm Fender amp, supressed in volume and any/all dirt comes strictly from FX.


I am constantly minimizing pedals on my board, depending on the set list for that night. I love when I can get away with just having my Fulldrive 2 Mosfet, Jekyll&Hyde and a DD-3 on the board for the night but when I have to add more pedals like a wah, DD-7, True Bypass Lovepedals and other stuff that's when my sound can get muddy in the mix.

I quickly found a few years back that the True Bypass theory is truely just a myth and had been proven wrong. I never thought buffers would be the win but now it makes sense. Every foot of cable or even a power supply can destroy bits and pieces of tone if you're not careful.


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