Amp tone=Musician's Age

As a child of the fifties/sixties and an old guitar player at heart, I have spent my life believing that the only real tone of an amp is that produced by a Fender blackface made somewhere between 1963 and 1966.

When I hear electric guitars in my head, they have that clean, bright Fender sound. I was one of those who firmly believed that overdrive was something to be avoided.

Even after seeing Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix in concert in the late sixties, I held on to my Super Reverb and bought a Vox Tone Bender to get me an overdriven tone when needed, but I primarily played it clean and loud, with that sweet single coil/Fender tube sound.

I'm finding these days that, when talking amps with customers, if they're over 50, they tend to agree with me and really appreciate the blackface amps in the store. The 40-somethings go for the Marshall half stack, always putting the drive at about 3:00 and getting that crunchy overdriven sound from the seventies. They will almost always grab the guitars with the humbuckers and rip into ZZ Top or Zep in their attempts to dial in the right tone.

If the customer is under 40, it's usually pure distortion they're after. Push the saturation to the max, back off the mids and go crazy. If the amp can't do it on its own, there is certainly a pedal or two that we can bring into the mix that will turn the amp into insanity, which, these days, is considered a good thing.

So when I'm in the back room and I hear someone testing an amp, I can usually guess their age by listening to the sound from the amp. Is there anyone out there that doesn't comply with my hypothesis? Let me know.