Better Now or Then? – The Tone Survey Results!!!

Better Now or Then? – The Tone Survey Results!!
As promised, this month we’ll take a look at the results of The Tone Survey.

Last month, I published a survey that asked questions about the state of electric guitar tone as it is today vs. what I called the “golden age” of rock and roll.

If you missed it you can find the survey here.

Survey Questions & Results:

Mackrill Tone Survey 2010: Question 11) There’s lots of high quality gear available if you’re willing to pay for it, but how has the flood of inexpensive gear affected tone quality in general?

  • 62% – I believe that, compared to the golden age of rock and roll, the average piece of gear’s tone quality has decreased.
  • 38% – I believe that, compared to the golden age of rock and roll, the average piece of gear’s tone quality is at least as good.

Mackrill Tone Survey 2010: Question 2

2) Compared to the 60’s and 70’s, has the glut of inexpensive gear on the market caused a general decline in electric guitar tone as heard on recordings, in live venues and at home?

  • 59% – I believe that, in general, electric guitar tone is not as good as it was in the 60’s and 70’s.
  • 41% – I believe that, in general, electric guitar tone is at least as good as it was in the 60’s and 70’s.

Mackrill Tone Survey 2010: Question 3

3) With all this inexpensive gear at their fingertips, do today’s guitarists spend less time working on their craft and more on finding equipment to make them sound “good”?

  • 74% – I believe that, in general, today’s guitarists spend less time perfecting their skills and more time trying to find gear that will make them sound good.
  • 26% – I believe that, in general, today’s guitarists spend at least as much time perfecting their skills as they did in the 60’s and 70’s.

The results were conclusive and interesting!

In general, the majority of the over 120 survey respondents believe that the electric guitar world was a better place in the 60’s and 70’s.

60% of them believe that gear and recorded/live guitar tone sounded better back then.

However, when it came to how much effort guitarists invest in improving their skills, almost 75% of respondents said that today’s guitarists are slackers compared to the good old days.

Comments ranged from wistful nostalgia and anecdotes from back in the day to virtual shots to the head demanding that guitarists get over vintage envy and take advantage of the cornucopia of gear available to today’s guitarist.

Click here to check out all of the survey comments.

So, are you surprised by the results?

Does it confirm that the gear market and guitarists in general have strayed from the path of tonal nirvana and earnest sweat and toil or that most of us are hopelessly stuck in the past?

Should the gear industry take note and make product development decisions on what appears to be a majority view that, on average, their products just aren’t as good as they once were or should they forge ahead taking as much advantage of technological development as possible?

Email me at Don@MackAmps.com with your thoughts and if I get enough feedback I’ll discuss the deeper issues related to this topic in next month’s article.

Don Mackrill
www.MackAmps.com
Don@MackAmps.com

Comments

  1. B. Barmes says

    Interesting survey,i have to agree to some degree that tones were better in the golden age but is it as much the equipment or the musician, everything is easier now compared to 40 years ago.The other night i was tuning my guitar via harmonics and fellow stated you don’t see that anymore i never really thought about it but it’s true,the days before tab i would sit an 8 hour day figuring out the Vanhalen’s & Hendrix’s of the world today just about everything is printed somewhere so what took a day maybe an hour now,Tone is a personal thing but great tone whether it be blues jazz or metal or what have you takes a fair bit of tweaking ..some would say the majority is produced by the musicians own hand which i agree is a huge part.if this is the case then maybe the fact that things are much easier may play a huge role.when i say own hand i am including the ears brain everything that contributes to the musicians ability.If one hasn’t experienced trying to figure out pieces of music by ear i think they have been robbed of essential ear training a big part in understanding tone.thanks for your wb site it is very cool.

  2. says

    Very cool idea for a survey. I’ve been playing guitar for “many” years. And over the years I’ve recorded the bands I was in, as well as my solo stuff. The funny thing is, my tone isn’t much different today as it was them. Sure you get better as a player and learn more things, but in general the tone is in your hands and equipment is not as important. I consider myself a modern /classic hard rock player. I incorporate modern sounds with old school styles. Take the best from each decade and add to it. The problem for me with vintage gear is you have to use pedals to get any kind of gain out of a Fender Twin, or a non master volume Marshall. Power attenuators are a great idea, but if your amp doesn’t have enough gain on 10, it won’t help. A modern amp that has more than enough gain is a big help. You can always back off on the gain if needed but it doesn’t work the other way around. Another aspect of tone that wasn’t mentioned is the way our favorite tones we’re recorded. Probably not a computer in sight….haha. I love computer recording with it’s clarity and ease of editing. But those vintage mics and consoles could make a difference. As far as the cheap gear flooding the market…. bring it on! It will just take a bit more time to wade through all of it, but there is probably some good ideas and tone there. I’m not a tube snob either. Most of the amps I own are tube. But whatever works. I have some solid state amps as well as a few modeling and software products. I like it all! A man for all seasons. Thanks.

  3. M.Embree.Smith says

    Most old stuff sounded like drek …

    c’mon …
    did You play out with a stock Ampeg Reverborocket …??
    A Guild thunder 1 ..??

    of course not

    you modded a marshall, to have a master volume, and put a preamp in front of it

    at least I did

  4. rg7120 says

    I think the old amps definitely sound a lot better than the new ones. But a lot of the cheap guitars from the 60s were unplayable. I have one and the action is very high and won’t go lower, can’t adjust intonation, the tuners are cheap and don’t stay in tune, the neck is extremely thick, truss rod isn’t adjustable, frets buzz, looks bad, and sounds bad. If price didn’t matter, then 60s stuff is better. But the best guitars from then were and still are too expensive for most guitarists.

    You can find a good Squire cheap that actually sounds good. But the new amps are mostly PCB distortion boxes made in China, and most new tubes (except reissue Tung-Sols) are crap.

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