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6 Tips for the Road to the Ultimate Guitar Tone

We live in the golden age of gear. But with endless choice comes decision fatigue: how do you pick the best guitar, cable, pedals? Luckily, millions of guitarists can't wait to share their experience in forums, dimly lit corners of your local club’s bathroom, or this blog.

#1 Guitar: Get the best for your personality without blowing your budget

With some research and YouTube demos under your belt, you’ve probably narrowed your choices down to a few. And there's no need to keep digging for that next best-kept secret: you can't go wrong by trusting the classics. If it worked for your favorite tone-slaying axe-wielders, you will be just fine with the same guitar.

Now it’s time to get out there and try this baby out, because just reading Amazon reviews never cuts it. Remember, you're choosing a best friend for years to come and as an old proverb goes, tone is not defined by the instrument, but rather by the player. Don’t believe me? Take a long hard look at Jimi Hendrix who went through a Strat, Flying V, Jazzmaster and SG - and still wound up sounding like Jimi Hendrix every goshdarn time.

The relationship with your instrument should be symbiotic and hassle free, because no matter what anyone says, if you’re feeling comfortable with your beat up middle-of-the-road workhorse you’ve had since high school, you can probably smoke any top tier Custom Shop big shot. Because while you’re chilling at home in your favorite sweatpants, they’re worrying about the next mortgage installment. 

Steer clear of suspiciously insane internet bargains of the far east as well as the toy aisle at Walmart unless the sound you’re going for is “dangerously out of tune”.

Just keep in mind that your guitar tone will only be as good as the rest of your chain, so don’t overspend on a sparkly glow-in-the-dark finish which in most cases rapidly fades next to any well worn in mojo machine is brimming with.

#2 Cable: Don't underestimate its power

Longevity and crystal clear signal transfer are key. Don’t overlook the length, because what might work in a cozy club setting will leave you tugging on a leash on a festival stage.

Keeping a spare cable around isn't a shoddy idea either because while trampling over the cord with your foot propped up on the monitor as you search the depths of your mind for the next chord in the progression might lose you a few style points from the first row, it should never result in the whole show prematurely coming to an unexpected end.

As a bonus, having a backup ready will reward you with lifelong friendships of those who magically misplace their cables or are confronted with their failure during the closing seconds of soundcheck. We’ve all been there, let’s not go back. Ever.

There’s no reason to break the bank on studio grade products. Industry standard offerings are the perfect choice here. Just try and avoid those that tend to tangle like crazy and make sure they can withstand a few spilled drinks while on the road. 

#3 Pedals: Try them ALL, keep the ones you can’t live without

Hey, we love pedals as much as anyone, but let’s be reasonable. Think about it like this – your pedalboard is like fancy clothes for your amp. It’s up to you to decide if it’s supposed to be a fashion show or if you’re out to get your hands filthy digging in the dirt. At the same time, you don’t get off on public nudity nor does your closet resemble that of Mr. Bean’s.

The pedal market boom of recent years has left us swimming in a sea of curious gadgets of questionable quality and immeasurable hype taunting us to sell our traffic light collection only to get it back years later for thrice the price.

But isn’t that the fun part? Evolving your arsenal until you get so overwhelmed you have no other choice than to start over from scratch?

Read "It's Time to Revamp Your Pedalboard"

If you choose to ditch all responsibility and decide that you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, screw down your “Always-On’s”, keep repeating: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” and follow the link to our e-shop.

#4 Power Source: Eliminate the hum

Unwanted hum usually comes from a poorly designed power-source or an overburdened daisy chain. Keep a table of the power draw of your effects and choose a power source that has isolated outlets. This ensures it won’t top out if you add “just a few more” stompboxes.

To get even closer to a crystal clear signal, go hardcore and run on batteries. We all know we should: it's the only way you can truly capture that sweet 50 cycle whisper of your single-coils in the studio.

#5 Amplifier: Invest in quality that fits in your car

Your amp is the house all your other gear lives in. If it’s too small it will sound like it’s about to burst. If it's too big you won’t know what to do with all the guest (head) rooms.

Pedalboard tap dancers look for a clean canvas, sonic anachronists for early break-up. It’s no secret that some of the most legendary guitar grease ever to be recorded came from tiny practice amps turned up to eleven. With that in mind, try and locate an amp that has your preferred sweet-spot at desired stage volume.

If you wind up needing more than 30-50W of valve power, well, let us know when you’re playing Glastonbury.

#6 Speakers: The most underestimated element 

Remember that totally unimportant thingamajigger which only transforms EVERYTHING into an audible reality and moves your godlike guitar goodness towards the ears of your fans?

The vigorous detective work you’ve already put into finding the right guitar, pedals, woven Aztec pattern strap, etc., should go into speaker choice just the same. And it’s not just a matter of power but of color as well.

Having an amp head rather than a combo amp saves a lot of trouble but then again an extension cab rarely achieves that sweet-sweet boxy savageness of slicked back hair, cuffed pant-leg, leather jacket clad glory days of thunderous tone.

Match the impedance for starters, treat yourself to a higher-end speaker cable of the right length (the shorter the better) and when in doubt, keep the speaker rating double the watts of your amplifier. That is if you’re not looking for speaker distortion with a sprinkle of the cone eventually blowing.

From here on out you’re on your own.

by Lazer Viking

Lazer Viking Jakub Kaifosz

The fifth rider of the apocalypse, last true anti-hero, mythical beast and living legend – Lazer Viking is a one man army on a mission to turn every seedy club, forgotten dancehall of yesteryear or your uncle’s garage into the Mecca of Rock’n’Roll. Apostle of future hits, mass murderer of trend and prophet of electric guitar despotism who knows only one speed – Balls to the Fucking Wall.