As you’ve probably guessed by now, I don’t write for a living. I’ve never been one for reading or writing 300 words when 50 will do. When I pick up something to read, I want to be straight into the action.
However, I thought I would try a little bit harder and write a little bit more about that elusive tone that keeps us guitarists so keen.
For me (and I’m guessing most people), the sounds I like to hear vary drastically depending on how I feel. I like most kinds of music (except for a few, which I won’t mention) and anything from Classical to Heavy Metal will be on my iPod.
There is one constant, though, that I never tire of hearing. It’s a sound that makes me feel good, makes me want to play and that is the sound of an overdriven guitar.
I have narrowed that sound down to a few guitars and a few amps in combination and it’s always a constant.
Sure I haven’t played every guitar and amp on the planet, but I have probably heard them all at some point and I know exactly what I like.
They all have one thing in common. Valves or Vacuum Tubes!
It’s funny, because as a kid, I was also fascinated by these, but in a different way. I used to vist the local TV and Radio repair shop and fill my pockets with old valves. On the way home I would stop at the viaduct and launch them in the air.
The bigger they were, the louder the explosion when they shattered on the ground. If I had only known at the time, how much these valves would have been worth nowadays. If only.
There is something magical about the sound of an overdriven valve in a guitar amplifier. Audio purists would agree the sound of a valve in an amplifier (but NOT overdriven) is perfect.
For a rockier sound it has to be EL34s or EL84s (for the smaller venue). Both produce such a creamy, thick sound known to some as the Brown Sound and for the cleaner tone, definitely the 6L6.
I would never go back to playing an amp without valves, but then again it’s all very subjective. I’m not saying that my sound is your sound and each to their own, etc, but the thermionic valve certainly strikes a chord with me.