A profound observation on guitar amplifiers

I am a big fan of the a monthly newsletter called The ToneQuest Report. It’s a real treat for guitar geeks and it has great interviews, interesting reviews, and is sometimes just plain silly. But it’s informative, written well, and does not suck up to the flavor-of-the-month for guitar gear or trends.

The latest issue has a great interview with Mike Zaite (Dr. Z) of Dr. Z amplifiers. His last interview with ToneQuest was over I decade ago (I have it) and so I was pumped when the new issue arrived today with a big “Z” on the cover. In this interview Dr. Z makes a very profound statement about amplifiers that I will quote if full:

“You have to remember too that there is no pedal in the world that is going to give you a clean tone. You gotta have that from base and then you can layer on top of that. If you don’t have a good, rich harmonic clean tone, there is no pedal in the world that is going to give you that.”

Huzzah! Dr. Z nailed it, and I could not agree more. I have been advising customers and friends for a while to find the best clean tone they possibly can, and then experiment with a couple pedals to spice it up. No pedal is going to turn a ho-hum amp into a killer rig. The foundation has to be there for the structure to exist. You can’t build a house on sand, and putting a raft of boutique pedals in front of a runt is a waste of money. Put your hard earned dollars into an amplifier that makes you mumble, “damn this thing sounds good” every time you power up. You will have spent your money wisely, and saved your self a lot of aggravation and gear churning down the road.