Guitar FAQ

What to look for when buying an amp
Descriptions of Marshall tube amps
Proper care of tube amps
What's the difference between Gibson & Epiphone?
Fret size, radius, and scale length
Staying in tune
What's the correct way to form barre chords?
What pick should I use?
What does NOS mean?
What is an effects loop?
What's the difference between set, through, and bolt-on necks?
What's the difference between maple, rosewood, and ebony fingerboards?
What's the theory behind the humbucker?
What causes frets to buzz?
What does it mean when my hands start to hurt?
What are some good pickups?
What's a Hot Plate?
What is a capo?
What is a Silent guitar?
What is a Guitar Synth Pedal?
Glossary of Guitar Terms

Fret size

Fret size: refers to the actual size of the frets... they are measured in terms of width and height... height is from the fretboard to the top of the "crown" or the peak of the fret... width is measured from the top edge to the bottom edge as in the fret being measured from the part closest to the nut to the part closest to the bridge...
some people prefer smaller frets so that their fingers can feel the fretboard while others prefer larger frets where the fingers only slightly touch the fretboard...

Radius: refers to the curvature of the neck from high E to low E... simply stated if you were to take a ruler and put a point at one edge and put a pencil at the other end and draw a circle... then cut out the width of the fretboard along the circumference of the circle you would get the radius... if you use a 7.25" inch ruler to do this you would get a 7.25" radius which is rounder than using a 12" ruler with a 12" radius which is flatter...

Scale length: refers to the length from the nut to the bridge... when scale length is different you'll notice a slightly different spacing between fret positions... the other byproduct of different scale length is that the same gauge strings will feel more taut on a longer scale length guitar over a shorter scale length guitar...

Staying in tune

This article is now to be found on the TUNING page

What's the correct way to form barre chords?

A good rule of thumb when FIRST learning guitar is to put the thumb in the very back of the neck. in other words, DON'T hang your thumb on the edge of the fingerboard like you often see, as this will decrease your range. in order to grab barre chords easily and effectively, you need to increase your range of efficient motion, and that means that you need to be able to move your hand around pretty easily. i use the thumb as a pivot point--kind of like a basketball player who is pivoting around on one foot when he's looking for a clean shot or someone to pass it to, while he's being guarded and pushed around by the players on the other team.

If you keep your thumb in the very center of the back of the neck and use that to pivot from, you're going to find that you can really reach a lot farther than if your thumb was hanging on the side of the fingerboard. this will go a long ways towards helping you play barre chords more easily.

One more final tip...when fingering chords, it's a good idea to keep your fingers arched so that you finger the strings with just the tips of your fingers. you don't want to lay your fingertip flat across the string, because then you will fret other strings or keep other strings from ringing, resulting in a dull, sloppy sound.

As always, take these things slowly and DON'T overexert. guitar playing is a physical activity, and you can definitely ruin your hands if you try too hard to do something. if your hands start to hurt, STOP! there is a fine balance between pushing yourself and overexerting yourself, but pain in general is a sign from your body to quit for a while.

See also: What is a Barre Chord? on the Chords section of this site

What pick should I use?

IN GENERAL, thinner picks give you a brighter, more crisp sound, while heavier picks give you a darker tone. this makes a difference on BOTH acoustic and electric guitars, too. the materials involved in making the pick make a huge difference, as well. i've found celluloid, the stuff that standard fender picks are made of, to be a bit on the clicky side, but it's the industry standard and feels good. i personally use the dunlop jazz III red picks, which are made of a type of nylon, and these are warmer-sounding, with less pick noise. two other common materials that are used in picks are delrin and tortex.

Experiment around and find out what works best for you! you may very well discover that you like specific picks for specific tones...i like the dunlop jazz III reds for electric, but i like a regular fender medium for acoustic.

Also see our roundup of the best guitar picks.

What does NOS mean?

NOS stands for New Old Stock, and refers to ANY product that is in it's original, and unused packaged condition. Therefore it covers all manner of "old" items/products (e.g., auto, appliance, music, electrical, etc., etc.)

What is an effects loop?

Effects loops give you the opportunity to plug effects between the preamp and the power amp. This is best for modulation (phaser, flanger, chorus, pitch shifting) and delay effects because it allows them to effect the distorted signal as opposed to the preamp distorting them. It also runs a line-level signal, instead of instrument, which works better with most rack mount effects. (Distortions and boosters, etc, usually work better going straight into the guiatr input where they can affect the preamp gain)

Most have output jacks that run to the effects and input that run back to the amp. Regular guitar cable is good to use for these jacks. A few have one stereo jack that has both input and output and require a stereo-plugged "Y" guitar cable with one cable running as the input, one as the output.

Serial effects loops rune directly between the preamp and power amp, parallel ones allow you to mix the "wet" loop signal with the "dry" preamp signal.

You may also run the preamp signal out of the effects loop into the effects input of another amp to get a "slaved amp" effect or just to use different preamps with different power amps.

There is no "wrong" way to set effects up before the amp, in the effects loop or both. You just have to experiment with what you like best. Many effects, wah and chorus for example, will sound more dominate in the effects loop. This could be desired or not. I run my wah and Micro-Vibe into the guitar input (slightly overdriven for rythym), because I like how the preamp's O/D softens, or delutes, each of them. I keep my O/D and Fuzz pedals before each though, so the wah and Vibe and affect and fatten the fuzz tones. I keep my chorus and echo in the effects loop both because I like the way the affect all that comes before it, but also because they are both picky vintage pieces and work better with the line-level signal.

The more distortion the effect runs through afterwards, the more the effect is lost in the finished tone.

NB: An effects loop is completely different to a loop pedal which is designed to record short samples as you play and then play those back for you to play over. More loop pedal information is available here.

What's the difference between set, through, and bolt-on necks?

I have heard some rumblings that bolt-on necks give a more open sound, but i don't know if i would agree with that entirely. if a bolt-on neck is bolted as tight as possible, you're not going to lose any sustain compared to a set-in neck or a neck-through design. bolt-on necks obviously have the advantage of being replaceable and easier to work on for fret jobs or refinishing, but i DO think they have their own tone, with perhaps a bit more overtone content than set-neck designs.

Set-neck designs are great in the fact that they transfer sustain well and have a lot of fundamental content--however, they also are harder to make correctly, and if the neck is set at the wrong angle, it's going to be like "polishing turd" when doing the setup because the luthier will have to compensate by milling some frets lower than others to compensate. also, the intonation may be altered and affected adversely as a result.

Neck-through designs are very solid and have the benefit of lacking the clumsy block that sometimes results from the other designs, but if a guitar has a maple neck (and most do), the tone of the guitar can be very bright, since the pickups reside right on a block of hard rock maple. the other disadvantage of neck-through designs is that once you damage the neck, it's very expensive to fix the guitar.

In any event, the bottom line is that it shouldn't matter how the neck is joined to the body--if it's done correctly, you're going to have a killer guitar.

What's the difference between maple, rosewood, and ebony fingerboards?

The following are GENERAL tonal characteristics of maple, rosewood, and ebony fingerboards: Maple--this is a bright, tight-sounding wood with a defined bottom end, a tighter midrange, and a crisp, detailed top end. maple requires a finish, so a lot of guys tend to think the fingerboard feels a bit "sticky." however, the use of satin finishes as of late has been a big step towards improving the feel of a maple board. maple is often favored by cats who want a bit more top end or definition in their tone or for brightening up a warmer-sounding guitar.

Rosewood--this is the most popular fingerboard wood and has a warm, rich tone with less top end than maple. rosewood doesn't require a finish, and lots of players like the feel of it because of its slightly oily nature. rosewood fingerboards are often favored by players who want to warm up a guitar further or for attenuating the highs on a particularly bright guitar.

Ebony--this is the hardest and densest of the three woods and has a tight, crisp tone which is even brighter than maple. ebony doesn't require a finish and has a very tight grain-because of this, people often refer to ebony as "fast playing" or "slick." it's easily distinguishable from dyed rosewood by its closed grain pattern as opposed to rosewood's open grain pattern. ebony fingerboards are often favored by players who want a very glassy and crystalline top end or a lot more definition and tightness in their low end. for this reason, it's often preferred by bass makers.

What's the theory behind the humbucker?

To get a hum-cancelling effect the coils has to be wound in opposite directions, otherwise you'd end up with a pickup that's only two single-coils in one. however, the coils may be wired in either series or parallel, with the hum-cancelling effect preserved, but wiring two coils in parallel results in a very weak signal, compared to that of two coils wired in series.

Check out a new and an old strat for a good example of the necessity of opposite magnet directions for a hum-cancelling effect. on an old strat, all the pickups are wired the same, and position 2 and 4 has just as much hum as any other position, but on a newer strat the middle pickup is wired the opposite way, thus implying a hum-cancelling effect to positions 2 and 4...

What causes frets to buzz?

when frets start buzzing without any apparent reason, what has happened is often that the neck has straightened from a sudden change in temperature and/or moisture. wood is a "living" material that reacts to certain changes.

If this is the case, the truss rod should be adjusted (probably not only the truss rod but the whole guitar as well) if the change in conditions is permanent. if this is not the case (i.e. you forgot your guitar in the basement for a week and when you found it again and you played it, it buzzed), just leave the guitar for a few hours where you normally keep it, and it will probably go back to normal.

Also, the truss rod should be adjusted whenever you change string brands/gauges. adjusting (I say "adjusting", NOT "turn-clockwise-and-see-what-happens") the truss rod will not hurt your guitar in any way, so there is no reason not to do it occasionally anyway. If you stick with the same strings (brand AND gauge) you should adjust your guitar (including the truss rod...) at least two or three times a year. You can never have a too well-adjusted guitar.

What does it mean when my hands start to hurt?

Pain is your body's way of telling you you're doing something wrong. Read this article on the Musicians Health page

More on Guitarist's Health issues

What are some good pickups?

Each brand has its own vibe. if you're after a vintage-style tone, duncans are definitely superior, IMHO. duncan makes a killer PAF-style pickup in the '59 model, and they produce THE BEST vintage-PAF replica in the antiquity. if you want something along the lines of the PAF but want more beef, more brightness, etc., duncan also offers the seth lover, pearly gates, alnico II pro, and duncan custom, and JB models. that's not to say that duncan is limited to PAF-style pickups, though-their duncan distortion, screamin' demon, invader, and full shred models are definitely geared more towards the guitarist who wants a heavier, more aggressive tone.

Dimarzio is definitely geared towards the rock player who wants a modern, aggressive tone, and that's really apparent in their endorsers-steve vai, joe satriani, shawn lane, etc. their X2N, megadrive, evolution, and tone zone pickups all grok a modern, aggressive tone. dimarzio DOES offer a PAF-style pickup in their PAF, but to my ears this pickup doesn't grok the PAF tone as well as the duncan '59 does.

Given that you want to play alternative music a la soundgarden, pearl jam, metallica, and better than ezra, i would still tend to suggest duncans. most of your tone is going to result from your amp and not your pickups, and you really don't need to have a hot-rodded pickup in order to get an aggressive tone, so long as you have a pretty aggressive amp. if you want something with a bit more output and a punchier tone, i would consider the duncan custom. les pauls have a naturally punchy tone, and i've found that they don't react well with super-high-output pickups. the duncan custom would be a good choice for getting a bigger, punchier tone out of your guitar.

For the neck position, i would consider the duncan '59 neck model or the alnico II pro neck model. the alnico II pro is a bit sweeter on the top end and midrange than the '59, so that would be a good choice if that's what you're after.

What's a Hot Plate?

The Hot plate is placed inline between your amp's speaker output jack and the speakers you're using. You select what amount of your amp's power you actually want to reach the speakers. What the hotplate does is redirects the "too much" part of your signal to heating coils which dissapate that power into heat. Electronically speaking, your amp thinks it's making your speakers roar, but instead of all that power making sound energy, a part of that power is making heat energy.

Why is this different than a master volume? A master volume on most amps only allows you to crank the preamp tubes into natural distortion and then reduce the amount of the signal that ever reaches the poweramp tubes. Poweramp tubes also have a pleasing sonic signature when overdriven. By using a master vol, you never send your poweramp tubes into overdrive and you miss that portion of your amp's character entirely at "practical" volumes.

What is a capo?

A capo is a mechanical device that places a barre across the strings which as the effect of shortening the guitar's scale and thus raising its pitch. Huh? Basically we're talking about a clamp that puts a barre across the strings and makes the guitar's scale shorter. The effect is that you can play your familiar open chords (i.e., the basic "C", "D", "G", etc. chords you learned as a beginner) but now they're higher in pitch so you're playing in a different key. For example, putting a capo on the 2nd fret raises all open chords a whole tone. The result is that an open "G" now sounds like (and actually is) an "A" chord. A "D" becomes an "E." What this allows you to do is play in different keys and with different voicings using familiar chord shapes. Cool stuff....

What to look for when buying an amp

First, obviously, check the speaker. Give the cone a gentle poke to make sure it's firm and not deteriorating. Turn the amp on and check to make sure there's no orange plate glow on the power tubes (blue glow is OK). Don't confuse this with the normal orange glow of the tube's heater filament. Orange glow indicates that the tubes are dangerously underbiased--this isn't necessarily a failure, but would have to be addressed right away, as it might burn a tube or transformer quickly. Pull all the tubes and look at the tube sockets to see if any of them look cracked or burned. You probably won't be able to do this, but it won't hurt to ask the seller if he'll pull the chassis and let you have a look around inside. The most obvious thing to check for is burned or cracked resistors. Again, this wouldn't necessarily indicate a problem with the amp, but rather that the components are simply worn out.

Check the electrolytic capacitors for "bubbles" or residue on the ends of the cans--they'll need to be replaced, if so. It's an accepted fact that electrolytics "die" after years of use and must be replaced. Ask if the amp's been played regularly, or stored away--ironically, amps that are played regularly often sound better than those that have been mothballed, because electrolytic caps need regular "exercise" to keep from drying out. Of course, the big test is in the sound! When you plug in and turn on, be sure to give enough time for the amp to warm up (I'd try to play it for at least a half-hour or so). A 60-cycle hum indicates bad filter capacitors, which will need to be replaced. Listen carefully for crackles and drop-outs which might indicate bad internal components--often these don't become apparent until the amp is really warmed up.

Research. Research. Research. When buying guitar amps, use online stores such as this, Wikis, and information site to help you make an informed purchase.

Marshall tube amp descriptions

Superleads (Marshall Mk II, heads only):

1959 (100W) and 1987 (50W) are the two different "superlead" models. They were introduced in 1965 and are still being made as ’69 reissues. Originally made with KT66 power tubes (1965) but soon they were replaced by EL34s (1966). The superleads are easy to recognize with their four input-/no master volume-design. The amps feature two channels (two inputs for each, the inputs are wired so that they can be used to connect both channels, thus giving you two different sounds in one, and the level of each controllable with a volume), bright and normal, individual volumes for each channel and a standard 4-band EQ. The sound is very "rock", and very wanted. With the lack of a master volume, the amps rely on power tube distortion. This phenomenon comes with a price, and the price is volume. And when I say volume, I mean volume. A cranked 100 W amp is VERY LOUD, therefore power attenuators are often used to reduce the level from stupidly loud to extremely loud.

An original 1965-68 "plexi" (the term "plexi" is used due to the fact that the amps had gold-painted plexiglas panels during that era) head might not be very easy to find, and if you find one don’t expect it to be cheap, but superleads were made both as JMPs (in the 70ies), JCM800s (in the 80ties) and reissues (today) and you should be able to find one used.

More detailed Plexi information:
Years are 1965 to 1969, later in Europe. Three phases within the Plexi era: (dates are approximate)
(mid65-66) - block-lettered Marshall logo, JTM45/Mk II front panel legend, aluminum chassis, KT66/640vA, 3" power transformer, 2" output transformer, no external filter caps.
(67-mid68) - gold script Marshall logo, reverse JTM front panel legend, steel chassis, EL34/460vA, 2" or 3" power transformer, 1.75" output transformer, one external filter cap.
(mid 68-mid 69) - gold script Marshall logo, JMP front panel legend, steel chassis, EL34/500vA, 2" power transformer, 1.75" output transformer, six external filter caps.

JMP series (heads and 2x12" combos):

In 1976 Marshall introduced the master volume amps (2203 (100W) and 2204 (50W)). With the master volume, the amps no longer had to be cranked to distort. However, no tube amp will sound good at low volumes and these ones are certainly no exceptions. The amps feature two inputs (high/low), preamp- and master volume controls plus the standard Marshall 4-band EQ (treble, middle, bass, presence).
The superleads (1959 and 1987) were also made in the JMP series. Identical to the originals except for the cabinet. All four models (2203, 2204, 1959 and 1987) were also made as 2x12" combos (2103, 2104, 2159 and 2187). The sound is still classic rock and with a humbucker-equipped guitar and one of these, you’ll have no problem grinding like Malcolm.

JCM 800 master volumes:

The JCM 800 master volume heads also have the model numbers 2203 and 2204 but are not identical to the JMPs. These amps have more gain than the JMPs and this is partially due to a solid state clipping-circuit that was added for this sole purpose. Some tube-fanatics consider this to be a work of Satan and refuse to play JCM 800s. Being a work of Satan or not, the Mk II master volumes still provide a sound that lots of people love. The sound is quite dark and barky with an accentuated upper midrange, so if you are looking for the scooped-mid Metallica sound, look elsewhere or buy an EQ and a distortion pedal. These are no-nonsense machines for more classic rock sounds. They can indeed be criticized for having basically just one sound, but what a sound! Lots of people consider that sound to be THE sound...

JCM 800 superleads:

Basically identical to the original superleads but fitted in the modern bold cabinets.

JCM 800 split channels:

Being the first Marshall with channel switching capabilities, the split channel amps (heads: 2205 (50W) and 2210 (100W)) became very popular for their versatility. The clean channel is by no means clean in the real essence of the word, but to the early 80ies Marshall stooges it was something completely new. The overdrive channel sounds a lot like the master volumes’ and is clearly where these amps excel. Also fitted with a reverb (not indiviual for each channel) and an FX loop, the split channels were Marshall’s first hi-tech amps. The split channels are a little harder to find used than the master volumes, but you should be able to find one. It sounds quite like its brother, the master volume, but with some (limited) channel switching capabilities.

General JCM 800 info:

Introduced in 1981 (split channel amps in 1982) and discontinued in 1989. Superleads available as heads only, 50W split channel and master volume amps available as heads, 1x12" and 2x12" combos, while 100W split channel and master volume amps were available as heads and 1x12" combos. Pre-1984 JCM 800s for the American market were shipped with 6550 power tubes and sounds a lot different from the EL34-equipped "standard" ones. Converting an originally 6550-equipped amp to accept EL34s is a minor mod and should cost you more than $50. The 2203 was reissued in 1995 as a special limited edition amp in red tolex, with matching 4x12" cabs.

25/50 silver jubilee series:

Also a split channel amp, introduced in 1987 to celebrate 25 years of Marshall amps and Jim Marshall’s 50 years in the music business. The front panel layout is simpler than the JCM 800 split channels’ with only one gain knob, one "lead master" and one "output master". The gain and the "output master" knobs are push-pull and activates "rhythm clip" and lead channel respectively. The amps were made in silver/gray tolex and also feature a half/full power switch (pentode/triode) and an FX loop but no reverb. Generally considered to be one of the best sounding (Yes, I know that "best" is a relative term...) Marshalls ever, it is a little brighter sounding than the "ooouumphy" JCM 800s but yet not as bright as a JCM 900. These amps will give you a sound that will suit most anywhere in the rock spectrum of music, from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to Metallica or even Meshuggah (just buy an EQ...) The jubilee amps have recently become something of a collectible and finding one could require some serious research. The 2555 was reissued in 1996 as the JCM Slash signature amp, with vintage 30s-equipped 4x12" cabs.

JCM 900 master volumes:

The JCM 900 master volume was designed to give the late 80ies metal bands what they wanted the most, MORE GAIN. And more gain they got. However, the sound of the 900s is not as ballsy as the 800s’. To get the extra gain, the diode clipping-circuit was modified which in turn gave not only more gain but also a somewhat buzzier and brighter distortion.
But the players loved it anyway, and lots of people still do. By backing the gain of you decrease the amount solid state-clipped signal (the clipping circuit is fed with less signal the lower the gain is set) and you can get some killer more vintage "true tubeish" tones out of these amps too. The tones produced by these amps will first and foremost suit modern thrash metal, hardcore or punk players that don’t need a clean sound. In 1994 the Mk III was replaced by the Mk IIII, also known as the SLX. These amps feature an extra ECC83 (12AX7) preamp tube and even more gain than the original JCM 900 master volumes.

JCM900 dual reverbs:

Featuring a clean channel with some real headroom, sounding a lot less "Marshall" than previous "clean" Marshall-made channels. The overdrive channel is less buzzy than the JCM 900 master volume and does not have as much gain. Front panel functions include individual gain controls for each channel, a shared 4-band EQ, and individual reverb and master volume controls.
Without knowing it, Marshall made (in 1990, when Poison and Warrant were still the big thing) an amp that suited the next generation of "alternative" bands. When the gain is set low on the overdrive channel it will sound somewhat "retro" and turning it up a bit (not past 2:00 with humbuckers, preferably in neck position) results in a chunky ballsy tone that screams "Tool" or "Soundgarden". Scooping out the mids and turning everything else up will give you an "almost-SLX" sound, that can be used for more "metal" applications.

General JCM 900 info:

The Jcm 900s were originally equipped with EL34 power tubes, but from 1994 an onwards they came with 5881 power tubes due to the fact that, at that time, EL34s were becoming hard to find. The die-hard Marshall stooges consider this heresy, while others (including me) think that putting 5881s into the 900s were a not-so-bad move since 5881s made the 900s sound less brittle and a little more ballsy. Anyway, it’s no big deal modding a 5881-equipped amp to accept EL34 tubes.
The master volumes came as 50W heads and 1x12" and 2x12" combos and 100W heads and 1x12" combos. The dual reverbs came (heads still come...) as heads, 1x12" and 2x12" combos in both 100W and 50W models. No SLX combos were ever made.

Anniversary series:

The most versatile Marshall to date. 3 completely individual channels, clean, crunch and lead. Clean is clean, jazzy clean or country clean or pop clean, you decide. Crunch features three gain modes (A, B and C), A gives you classic superlead crunch, B takes you into 2203 territory and C gives you the SLX scream, and a little more. The lead channel continues where the crunch channel stops. Insane amounts of gain, I haven’t heard more gain coming from an amp, with a possible exception for the JCM 2000. Whatever your preferences might be, the anniversary series amps has got the sound for you. The design is also very hi-tech. Channel switching is MIDI-controllable, the FX loop has got individual levels for each channel and is switchable from serial to parallel, the power amp features two different damping modes (low and high) and an "auto" option that automatically assigns the "right" mode for each channel, a recording compensated balanced XLR output, a low/high switch for pickup compensation and a "low volume compensation" that fattens the tone up a bit at low volumes. Do you need to hear more?
The anniversary series amps were introduced in 1992 and the first year the amps were made in blue tolex. A special (brass-plated chassis, gold logotype) limited edition series amps were also made in 1992. The series were continued unmodified, but in black tolex, until late 1994 when the lead channel was redesigned and the amps renamed with an "LM" after the model number. The LM amps are all fitted with 5881 power tubes as opposed to the EL34s that the original anniversarys came with.

Proper care of tube amps

Tube amps are generally going to be just as reliable as their solid-state counterparts if you just observe a few things about them:

1. Take a little extra care in transporting them. While you can generally bang around and lightly toss solid-state amps into trunks, back seats of cars, truck beds, etc., with tube amps you have to be a little more careful. What i generally do when transporting tube amps is set aside a special place in the car so that the amp isn't going to be jostled around with hard shocks when i make abrupt movements with the car or hit bumps. Generally this means the back seat or the trunk with some towels or clothing around the amp. When you get to the gig, just make sure that you take special care not to bump the amp into other things, or to just drop the amp on the floor, if you're in the habit of doing that.

2. Make sure that there is proper ventilation for the tubes. Tube amps run hot--especially if they are wired in class A--and they need proper ventilation. Generally this just means that you shouldn't put your polish cloth or set lists over the ventilation holes, and you shouldn't set the amp right against a wall so that there is no air to get to the vents. Some players even keep a fan on the amp, though i don't think this is necessary.

3. Change the power tubes regularly. "Regularly" means a lot of things to a lot of different people. GENERALLY SPEAKING, six months to a year is fine for most power tubes if you're gigging regularly (say, once a week or once every other week) and rehearsing regularly--and this means at typical club volumes. If all you do is play the amp at home at bedroom levels, the tubes can last two years or more. If your amp is bias-adjustable, then you need to make sure that the bias is set when you change power tubes. If your amp is fixed-bias, it's generally a good idea to stick with the same power tubes that came with your amp.

4. Make sure that a speaker is ALWAYS plugged into the amp. Tube amps need to see speakers plugged in at all times, so you cannot run a tube head or tube combo without the speaker plugged in! This is a big mistake and can cost you $200-300 if your amp blows a transformer. Even after you replace the tranny, the amp often sounds different--some describe the amp as being "neutered" after replacing a blown transformer.

5. Make sure that the speakers are plugged in at the proper impedance--or at the very least, a mismatch in the "safe" direction. The best scenario is to match the impedance of the speaker or cabinet with the amp--if your speaker cabinet is 8 ohms, your amp should be set for 8 ohms for best results. If you plug this same 8-ohm cabinet into the 4-ohm setting on your amp, that will also be safe, but you will generally lose about half of your power as a result of the mismatch. If you take this same 8-ohm cabinet and opt for the 16-ohm setting on your amp, you're going to likely blow the head up as it tries to produce twice as much power. again, this can result in a blown transformer and the same neutered tone if you have to replace it.

6. Use the standby switch when powering up and powering down. The standby switch allows the amp to sort of "warm up" and allows the tubes to settle into a sort of equilibrium state before it gets slammed with high voltage. If you generally let the amp warm up or down in standby for about 30 to 60 seconds when powering up or down, you'll find that the tubes last longer.

That's about it, really...taking care of a tube amp is really not as difficult as one might make it out to be. With a little care and some maintenance, the amp is going to sound fantastic for a lifetime!

What's the difference between Gibson & Epiphone?

  1. Epiphones are made overseas - e.g. in Korea where labor costs are cheaper.

  2. Some Epiphones are made by OEMs - "Original Equipment Manufacturers". OEMs make products for another company. Samick is a big OEM for epiphone, it makes a lot of epiphone guitars to epihone's specs. Epiphone rebrands them as epiphone guitars. Other examples of this are Yamaha's Taiwanese acoustic factory and the guitars that it makes for Fender.

  3. Epiphones generally have a lower-grade wood than their Gibson counterparts. That can mean anything from the wood being less resonant to looking more cosmetically inferior. The wood used in Epiphones is generally not the same quality as that used in the U.S.-made Gibsons.

  4. Epiphones generally use thinner veneer tops for cosmetics. The Epiphone Les Pauls use a thin veneer of maple for their figured maple tops instead of a thicker slab that's used on the Gibsons.

Does this mean that epiphone makes a lousy guitar? Absolutely not - it's excellent value for what you pay. As far as which is one is "better"... well, that's a decision only YOU can make!

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