Have you ever heard this statement? And then listened only to think “I don’t feel that sound is very good at all”. Welcome to the club. You must understand a simple truth about guitar and amp tones. There is NO one best guitar tone. Guitar and amp tone is a very subjective thing. What one person thinks is the best tone ever will fall flat on another person’s ears. This is very similar to food. What I think is the best food item ever might not please you at all. Who’s right? We both are! What makes you happy is right for you and what I prefer is right for me. Now that we understand the ground rules to a great guitar sound let us look at some popular good guitar rig sounds.
One of my favorite guitar and amp combinations is a Gibson Les Paul guitar plugged straight into a vintage Marshall stack. This rig drips of tone, it can wail and cry with the best of guitarists, bring a crowd to its feet and make them move with the music. But even this simple combination has many variations. Take for example Led Zeppelin, a truly great tone for sure but when compared to the early work of Kiss it sounds different even though the guitars and the amplifiers are the same. Another example for this same combo is early AC/DC still a Gibson guitar and Marshall stack but this sounds different again, why? Well in each case the player is different so the sound is different. It’s not just the guitar and the amp that makes these tones, the player has a huge effect on the sound. This is why everyone can use the same tools (amps and guitars) yet end up sounding nothing alike.
Let’s look at another awesome tone. A vintage Stratocaster plugged into an old Fender amp cranked up ala Stevie Ray Vaughn. This is a blistering tone for sure and many of today’s guitarists find this tone one of the best. Again this same rig played by another guitarist will sound very different.
Another great sound is a Fender Stratocaster plugged into a Marshall Stack as Hendrix did it. What sounds he was able to pull out of that rig! My point here is this. There is not one best guitar and amp sound, there are many. While there are some tried and true combos that work great together you should always use your own ears and taste to create your own great sounds.
Remember, what is awesome sounding to you, is awesome. If someone else digs it then that is a bonus. Every guitarist that I know has their own favorite sounds just as I too have my favorites. Our sounds are all different and that is ok. In the end, if we find the tones pleasing then the tone is good, if not, twist the knobs.