This feature was submitted by Guitar Jar contributor: Pedals For Hire
I remember exactly when it hit me. I had been lurking on guitar forums for a year or two, reading all these posts about true bypass, boutique pedals and something called a Klon. I had bought a few nice pedals and amps but never really got into what I was really doing with my sound chain.
…Those chasing tone can do so to the nth degree – and why shouldn’t we?…
Then, I was reading TheGearPage forums and there was a long debate about which cable was best. This boggled me a little. A cable can be best? Surely they must be pretty similar? It’s a piece of metal wrapped in plastic that transmits my sound. Can’t be much going on there. But yet there were pages and pages of debate about which brand was best. I read all the way through, well scanned; not really taking it in. At the end it seemed like a manufacturer called George L was up there with the best and I found a stockist in the UK. They were only a few quid so what the heck, I took the plunge.
Before this I was using a Fender cable. Now, Fender are a big brand, they’ve built great guitars for a long, long time so why should their cables not be perfectly adequate for my needs? Well, I went for a simple test. Guitar into amp, clean settings, nothing else going on. I strummed a few chords and played some lead lines all over the neck. Sounded fine. Then I swapped to my new George L 10ft. Strummed a chord. Something was different. I couldn’t quite identify it yet. So I played on, and as soon as I ventured past the 12th fret the treble just soared out of my guitar. Wow! I hadn’t heard that before. It was literally like someone had taken a blanket off the front of my amp. The clarity and carry of each individual note was much greater, the sound just seemed to float out of the speaker and hang in the air longer. I went back to strumming some open chords and now I could hear a difference, the notes seemed more distinct within chord, it seemed to ring brighter but not harsher, just better.
This discovery was so exciting! I had found a way to sound better without practicing!! I was grinning from ear to ear and played for ages, revelling in my new tone.
However, a few days later it struck me. What else was sucking my tone? I started reading around more forums, discovering all about true bypass, buffers and pedals notorious for their tone suck. One such pedal is the TS9, a pedal I had in my collection. So I ran another test. By this time i had a few more George L’s so tried guitar into TS9 into amp using two George L’s but not turning the pedal on. Even worse than before, the treble was gone and the clarity was lost.
Now, there is a place for tone suck. Hendrix never had true bypass pedals. SRV depended on this TS9 performance for his trademark sound. And let’s face it, great guitarists would sound amazing if they were playing a piece of string tied to a stick (which some do!)
But in the current age we have so much more available to us. Those chasing tone can do so to the nth degree (like Eric Johnson getting his tech to move his pedal around stage until it was in just the right spot) and why shouldn’t we? Hobbies should be fun, they should entertain, they should make us happy, and if that means spending more time reading about the virtues of buffer placement in your signal chain than actually playing guitar – who cares?!
Just watch out though – a £20 cable might just change your life…
Main photo featuring Austyn Brown (The Frequency) with his impressive guitar collection.