GE & Jay Complain About Innovation and Bad Gear Reviews

by | Dec 23, 2015 | Daft Paragon Chats, Guitar Store Gospel, Passion & Self Hate

Everyone is away from the office so distraction levels are running high. Time for another email exchange that is waaaay too long.

Jay: I was thinking of what amazing things we can expect from all our favorite guitar companies in 2016. Here’s the list I’ve got so far.

Gibson: Selling the same guitars as 2015 but with all new model names
Ibanez: 3 new colors, 15% price increase
Dean: Slutty models holding guitars!
Fender: 25% price increase
G&L: Copying Fender while crapping on them, again
Washburn: Still a company!
Ernie Ball/Music Man: Sterling Ball will personally punch you in the nuts for buying a guitar

It sucks being so cynical, but is there anything guitar worth looking forward to?

GE: Carvin is changing its name. There’s that.

Uhmmmmmmmm, I think the interesting stuff with guitars may be happening in the amp and effects space with lunchbox amps and boutique effects and modelling stuff. The electric guitar, however, I think is just a mature product.

Jay: Meh, I am tired of it to the point that it’s hard to even pretend to be outraged when another year goes by without any real changes/improvements.

Sure, 95% of guitars could probably never change and sales would stay pretty steady. But it would be nice to see at least something change now and again. You can buy the top of the line strat or les paul, and you still get the same nickel/silver frets that are imperfectly leveled/dressed. You still largely get a plastic nut that you’ll be lucky if it can accommodate the string gauge that the guitar ships with. And on and on.

I guess what I’m still very surprised by is that there hasn’t been more innovation in the beginner markets. Like, there are some weird looking midi guitars that theoretically could be used for learning via computer (and I know there’s at least one that is meant for that). But as far as I know, they are midi-only and very single purpose. And weird looking (e.g. Jamstik). Like, you’d think someone would make a somewhat traditional electric that has midi out and maybe even touch responsive fretboard for learning. Could tell you if you have the right note and even if fingering was correct. Stuff like that doesn’t really seem hard to make, but I guess nobody believes there would be a market for it.

GE: Well, you’re right. Like Fretlight’s been around for, what, 20 years but no one has introduced any competition to them and they still cost way more than the average person who would need a Fretlight guitar would pay.

Honestly, the closest thing to what you’re looking for is Rocksmith, which has its own problems (you best be familiar with setting intonation and an absolute crazy person about it.)

Jeff Kiesel seems to be trying to see how ugly he can make a headstock before people stop buying his guitars. Truly he is the Nissan of small batch guitar making.

But there’s nothing really interesting going on. I kinda want a Jem Jr. So that I can scratch “own a Jem” of 14 year old George’s bucket list without spending a grand. Michael Kelly has an 8 string tele that tickles a few of my weird guitar buttons, and it’s even reasonably priced. But, right now at this point, 99% of my music gear lust is on amps and effects, which has never happened before.

Jay: Yeah, I think I’m still more interested in amps/effects, but at the same time I really don’t want to deal with them. My pedalboard is fun, and there are a few things I’ll probably add to it over time (looper, maybe a 2nd delay?) but it’s to the point where the next logical additions for both what kind of music I like to play and what items would represent a noticeable difference from what I already have, is going to be overly complex. Like, a Strymon Timeline or any of those super stomp boxes with a ton of delays in one, would be a big upgrade and allow for all kinds of sounds I can’t make today… but fuck that. That puts me squarely back into the world of spending all my time tweaking settings and no time playing guitar.

GE: (back on track) Dean has given the ML a middle pick up, a 5 way switch and a strat style output on the upper horn. Who says there’s no innovation.

Jay: Whoa whoa whoa, slow down. Three pickups instead of two?!? I take back everything I said.

GE: Did you not see the five way switch and the moved output jack?


Jay: My mistake.

Anyway, enough of that. Did you see my corny list of year-end complaints? What about the gear review bit? We’ve talked about it over and over, but it still seems to be a problem.

GE: You know, there really isn’t a Dan Neil of guitar criticism. I mean, there are plenty of guys working in that space, but it almost seems like grunt work. It doesn’t seem like anyone finds reviewing guitars an art in it’s own right.

I think that part of that is tastes. There’s a video where the Guitar Player editors check out the Ola Englund signature Solar V. This guy is in The Haunted, he was in Cannibal Corpse. His signature amp is called the “Satan.” It’s not hard to figure out what this guitar is built for.

Five minutes of lightly overdriven blues rock.

The video was five minutes of lightly overdriven blues rock.

Then there’s the innovation issue. How hard is it to describe a Strat, then note that roughly 60% all guitars stick to that same, basic formula with little variation. Sticking to automotive journalism for a minute, a Porsche 911 GT3 is inherently a much different beast than an F-150. I would argue that there’s a bigger difference between a 911 Carrera and a 911 GT3 than there is between an Eric Clapton Strat and a Buddy Guy Strat.

To get a decent review of guitars you need someone who is a reasonable technician, adept in multiple genres, pretty familiar with the workings of guitar and a good writer.

Jay: But all that said, why?

I like the car review example. Because even though Toyota would like to convince you there are a lot of differences between it and even a Ford Escape – they still are far more similar than different. Because probably 50% of auto sales are for commuting purposes (to/from work, hauling families). 49% are for commercial purposes (construction trucks, delivery vehicles, etc) and the remaining 1% or less are purely recreational (e.g. a 911 GT3).

And with cars, it’s the outliers that really grab our curiosity.

With guitars, I guess because most of the famous guitarists play instruments that are essentially Strats, we don’t care about the outliers as much? You’d think people would obsess over the less conventional instruments used by someone like Pat Metheny or Allan Holdsworth, right? I know some guitarists do, but it’s not like every time those guys start using a new oddball instrument there are lots of cover stories on the guitar mags about it the same way there is with a new Lambo or whatever.

I get a lot of the differences in comparing the two. I get that exotic cars are as much art and marvels of engineering as they are purposeful vehicles… but still. It’s just weird how we drool over the 1% in automobiles but gravitate toward the 99% with guitars.

GE: Part of it is aspirational. Part of the reason the Countach gave me a tween boner was that it was a thing that rich people had that I would never see and the specs were ludicrous and hard to pin down. “The American one goes 180, but the European model will do 220, easy.”

Even now, I see Lambos all the time. I have an irrational hatred of all Volkswagens. I know they aren’t great cars, but part of me goes, “I wish I had enough money to own one.”

Because that’s the other part. Cars are almost all practical, that 1% that you’re talking about, that’s for people who can afford fun. Guitars are all fun. You’re a professional musician? Your job description includes the word “play.”

Also, guitarists are, by training I think, conservative. Your last amp purchase, was it a Kempler? Your last guitar, was it an eight string, headless Moderne with a trem? No. You went pretty conservative on both counts.

How many guitarists have you heard say that all they need is a Les Paul and a Marshall? Lots.

So, given a fundamentally conservative audience and little differentiation (Guthrie Govan’s $5,000 signature Charvel does not look much different than my $300 Korean Squire or my $300 Korean Fender) it’s kind of a wonder there isn’t less innovation.

Jay: Now we’re talking… So to take that several steps further, basically all music is conventional. Anyone in western culture (and much of the rest of the world) is essentially born predisposed to liking the same types of music that have existed for centuries (stuff built out of 7 note scales, a lot of the same rhythmic structure, etc). So even people that do “weird music” by common standards are still largely working within the same rulebook we’ve had going back to like 1100 AD. And because of that, you really don’t even need weird equipment to make weird music.

Thus, the goal should be more about making the most perfect Les Paul or Strat possible, not about breaking the norms, as there is little need to do so.

That probably puts guitars in a more similar realm as violins or other classical instruments. Which still annoys me. If you’re looking at violin reviews, even as an outsider, you can pretty clearly tell which instruments are closer to perfection. There is an ideal that’s largely agreed upon and wherever various instruments fall short (as they certainly all do fall short in some ways), it’s pointed out. That creates all sorts of other affordability problems, where basically anything under $8,000 is pretty much a beginner instrument, but at least there’s criteria for judging one instrument vs another.

Granted, there’s extremely limited variation in styles of playing a violin. The most common style departure has you calling the thing a fiddle. But outside of needs for say, 5 strings, if you buy a close-to-perfect violin it should suit you for the majority of your work in a symphony. (hopefully I didn’t sound like an idiot with that statement, but I’m fairly sure that’s true).

Yet we refuse to establish that model of perfection for guitar. Yes, varying styles influence it, but that can be an excuse more than anything. Like, there’s very little justification for using true single coil pickups. Yes, they sound different, but they have so many design flaws. Things like stacked single coils can get virtually the same sound but with eliminating most of the flaws. There’s little reason to use some of the weird bridge or nut materials out there other than cost savings, yet marketing has convinced a lot of players that there are some tradeoffs to really consider with like a brass vs nickel/steel bridge saddle. Really it’s more a matter of most companies want to save money and they’ve convinced us that the flaws are instead characteristics. That it’s not a matter of just building a better instrument, it’s a matter of saying “hey, this really shitty tune-o-matic bridge sounds a little different than the alternatives, so it’s worth considering as the bridge on my primary instrument!”.

Maybe I’m over-simplifying this, but I don’t really think I am in most cases. That funny blog post about defending the strat ( and all the metal or country or jazz players that use it rings true. The actual features of the guitar can largely be overlooked as influencing style of play. Really there should be a gold-standard or at least damn close to it.

GE: That one’s easy. How many guitars a year do you think are sold to people who want to be rock stars, or wanted to be rock stars and bought into the whole rebellious, no rules thing?

That attitude is antithetical to the thing that you are suggestion. It’s all about feel, man! I can read music, but only when playing piano, we’ve come up with at least three different notational schemes to lift the burden of reading sheet music from the guitarists’ feeble shoulders, so I’ve never needed to develop my sight reading chops.

That’s the pool that you’re pulling your guitar critics from. You probably have luthiers out there with micrometers and scales trying to create perfection, but all of there work gets filtered thru, “Mmmm, Grod think neck too fat!”

Jay: That makes me not want to play guitar anymore.

GE: Sorry.
But you know it’s true.

Thinking about your objective gold standard idea some more.  The problem besides, “Grok hate Floyd Rose!!!!” is how?

Let’s take the Jem, because that’s an easy one.  What’s the gold standard of the Jem?  It’s Evo.  It’s the favorite example of the guy who’s signature guitar it is.  That’s problematic, of course, because Evo, really, is just a body that Steve Vai has developed a sentimental attachment to.  Every. Single. Other. Part of that guitar has been replaced dozens of times at this point.

So how do you build against that?  You can objectively measure a production Jem against Evo, but Evo is a moving target. Even if every Jem started out built from the latest digital scan of that guitar every batch would be different.

It may be easier for say, a Squire Strat, but it’s still kind of a nightmare.

Jay: Well I think you’re taking it in more directions than I would. For me a gold standard would be one single electric guitar. One guitar that is best for playability, sound, tuning, flexibility and whatever other broad strokes you want to paint. From there, you’d have to do a bunch of plus/minus decisions. Like, this perfect guitar wouldn’t have a floating tremolo, because for the 99%, a floating trem has more negatives than positives due to all limitations around alternate tunings, intonation going wonky every time you press down a string or bend, poorer sustain, etc. Maybe it has a more balanced body style, not the same single/double cutaway design that every guitar has. It would likely have some sort of humbucking pickup in order to give the most flexibility in sounds. Would probably have a compound radius or something similar. And on and on.

Even though things like tremolos are very much a “personal choice” matter, you can still pretty easily determine that there is one way that offers the most benefit for most guitarists. Then as we’re reviewing guitars, the context becomes a lot clearer. Like, “this new Ibanez is okay, but it has a floating trem, so make sure you want to deal with that.” That’s maybe implied for a lot of guitarists, but sure is hell isn’t for anyone newer to playing, which is who 60% or more of the guitar market is aimed at.

GE: The issue there is the guitar is too broad an instrument. Going back to your violin example, if you downtune a violin it’s a viola. That’s not the same instrument. My Tele is now in C standard, but it’s still a guitar.

So any attempt to create the gold standard of guitar necessarily starts with a bunch of compromises.

The gold standard of guitars would probably be tuned at standard, concert pitch and tuning. Which, is a standard that disregards a large chunk of the playing public (if I remember correctly, even symphonies don’t actually tune to A440, but a few cents off that).

A fixed bridge has better resonance and sustain than a trem, except for those guys who will swear up and down that the huge chunk of metal that is a Floyd Rose has awesome sustain properties. You can test this objectively, but either way are you going to prioritize that over ease of use (fixed bridge) or flexibility of performance (trem).

I play heavy metal through high gain amplifiers, this is a situation that a hollowbody jazz guitar is particularly poorly suited for, but the gold standard guitar should have the flexibility to cover that ground and make George Benson happy.

I feel like the guitar you’re dreaming of already exists and is a Strandberg. But I feel like “a” gold standard for guitar is a list of compromises that results in a guitar that a bunch of people will like playing just fine, but a bunch of other people will loathe. On some level the Les Paul has been that guitar for the better part of a century.

I think it’s probably easier to come up with a gold standard for a specific guitar genre (if that’s even the right phrase, use case? Segment? Model line?) than the guitar as a whole.

Jay: Ahhhh fine, you’re right. And I know I’m trying to be overly idealistic, but it’s hard to really articulate what’s really annoying me. What I’m trying to get at (at least what I think I am getting at) goes back to what I tried saying a couple ramblings ago. My big problem with guitars and how we critique guitars is so many features exist solely to work around paying licensing fees or to be cheaper (mostly the latter) yet we perceive them as alternatives. Sure, they are that, but they’re mostly knock-offs and cost savings. There’s seemingly endless trem systems that exist only to avoid paying licensing fees to FR. A few folks like Ibanez have taken that further and tried to improve on the original, and credit to them for it! But far too often we don’t call these lame sidesteps what they are.

Example, you’ll look at some Gibson/Eiphone and in the specs they say “Kluson Tuning Machines” or just “3×3 tuning machines” or whatever. Fine. But in reviews, the reviewer will simply copy/paste that from the specs. But Kluson largely (I’d say exclusively, but I don’t know them well enough) makes absolute garbage tuners. If I bought a LP that had them, I’d be swapping them out for a set of Schallers or something else better on day one. That’s not preference. Having a guitar that doesn’t stay in tune is not a desired feature for any style of play. Yet that’s how we talk about it.

Obviously a big part of this is manufacturers just trying to sell the most profitable product they can plus all the problems we talked about with reviews. I know at least a part of this is somewhat large sub-culture of guitarists who expect to mod everything they buy. Like it makes people uncomfortable if they buy a guitar where they don’t have to mess with the neck or swap the bridge or pickups or whatever. So it’s almost like part of the industries is just living with the assumption that you’ll spend potentially $3-5k on a guitar that will still have some garbage parts on it. That’s nuts. Some of the user-gen/forum reviews will call that shit out, but it’s pretty rare as a whole.

And I guess that’s what I’d like as at least a starting point. Let’s at least agree that when there are things done to guitars that are shitty, that don’t actually benefit people but just save a buck, let’s call it out. Yeah there will be disagreement along the way (some people liked the Ibanez Lo Pro trem, some think the Fender “vintage style” bridges are good, etc), but maaaaybe it will add some pressure on some manufacturers to care more about the parts they use.

GE: This will require some for real objectivity that is often lost in guitar circles. One of my all time favorite Jemsite memories was a kid from Sweden, I believe, who declared that all Ibanez guitars should have Wizard or Jem profile necks and that they should do away with “shitnecks” (his made up word, not mine) like the Wizard II which everyone hates.

The gotcha is, of course, that the Wizard II is the original Jem profile neck. Kid thought the Wizard II was crap almost solely because it was found on a less expensive guitar.

Which is all to say that there are cost cutting measures which clearly, objectively, hurt the operation of the guitar. Yet, I’ve never met a single person who doesn’t loathe the sound of the stock DiMarzios in the RG7620 which is one of the “upgrades” over the 7420. The two guitars are built in the same factory by the same people. You pay more on for the 7620’s. DiMarzio branded pickups – which sound worse – and the Ibanez designed Edge trem -which performs about the same.

It’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma this.

Jay: Yeah, but… eh… I don’t know where else to go on that one. haha… it’s impossible.

GE: Not really. It just requires an honesty and thoroughness that I’m not sure exists in the almost dead magazine industry. But you look at the biggest review channels on YouTube and a lot of them are stores. Lee Anderton straight up said in one of their demo videos that he was afraid to do ratings because at the end of the day his actual job is to sell gear.

Jay: And more and more, it’s the Anderton’s of the world doing demos, at least the ones people actually watch. The top demo channels are all either connected to stores or manufacturers. I guess that’s just how advertising has gone, but it’s weird in an industry like this that there aren’t really big and respected independent voices.

GE: The problem goes back to advertising. Keith Merrow was a pretty big gear reviewer. Then he got a job at Seymour Duncan. Then he got a signature Chapman guitar and before that even came out he got a signature Schecter. It just feels like once a YouTube channel gets big enough endorsement deals start happening quick, fast and in a hurry.

Jay: And, I guess, because of all the different factions of styles… No one person or group could be big enough to be bigger than advertisers? Like, you’d never have a Jeremy Clarkson and gang of guys who could trash the latest Nissan, but still be sponsored by Nissan. Maybe if you somehow had a Gang of Four (capitalized for cool 80/90s band reference) where one guy played blues, another metal, another country and another something more complex/experimental, maybe if they all weighed in on gear it would be relevant to a wide enough audience that if they did amazingly useful and entertaining work, they could be big enough to get serious ad money without being owned by the ads. Maybe. Someone should start that!

GE: The new issue of Guitar World has two guitar reviews, one for a new Taylor, one for a relatively new guitar packed with some kinda interesting features.

I kinda spaced out on the Taylor review because I’m not really an acoustic player. But the Jane review I was kind of interested in. It was half the length of the Taylor review and, literally more than ¾ of the column inches were spent recycling the spec sheet with information available in the “cheat sheet” section of the review.

So, out of four columns of text, only half of one column was spent on actually reviewing the guitar.

That’s terrible.

Jay: I found that review and was very surprised. Reading it, I was sure it was another case of the classic lazy blogger tactic of just summarizing a press release. Like, there’s no sign anywhere in the writing that they have ever seen the guitar, touched it, played it, etc. But then, boom, video at the bottom. It’s almost like they don’t even care about the written part (or it’s strictly for seo) because they assume everyone just wants the video. But if that’s the case, why print a magazine?

Distraction moment, but those Relish guitars in question are interesting. They at least meet the desirable criteria of doing something different. Though their website is frustrating, as they do nothing to explain why the matte white model costs $1,155 more than the walnut model. Must be expensive paint? Also, you’d think when buying a $5kish guitar that you’d get more information on the pickup choices than “this set is bluesy”. But most importantly, I assume since these are all kind of custom orders and are expensive to build and seemingly only sold direct from the manufacturer, that they are building to order. But I got all the way to the “enter your credit card” screen in checkout with no information about when my guitar would actually ship. Heck, there’s nothing to confirm that these are even in production currently, there could be a kickstarter out there I don’t know about. Anyway.

Back to the topic at hand. The little review in question says this Jane guitar “provides a satisfying rainbow of tones”. But in the video, all I hear is bluesy wankery and then some random open chords on clean. So… it can provide a satisfying rainbow of blues rock tones? Especially if you’re Guitar World and you presumably have some money and a production team for videos and whatnot, why not either A) get a demo guy that plays multiple styles well or B) get 3 or 4 people in a room together that play different styles and pass the guitar/amp/pedal/whatever around to each of them?

The Top Gear model still seems best. I mean, if you don’t actually watch Top Gear and realize most of it is screwing around and spending ungodly sums of money because “fuck you” and “gorgeous scenery”. But the raw concept of having a few different personalities weighing in on the review process. Sure there are plenty of times only one of them does anything, and that’s probably fine if it’s the 2016 Fender American Standard Strat which is exactly the same as the last 20 years that guitar has been made. But if it’s something odd or new like this aluminum+wood guitar or when an acoustic builder like Taylor or Collings start making electrics, or when Fractal releases a new DSP that will give you tone so good it makes women’s clothes fall off, or… well I am rambling, but you get the idea.

It’s just a blown opportunity I guess, or maybe they are half-assing it because the people who read Guitar World aren’t going to buy a $5k guitar. Either way, hammers home the complaint we’ve been going on and on about.

GE: Here’s the problem with Guitar World’s videos. Paul Riano is a very good player, who can fake multiple styles. However, I’m guessing that corporate has told him not to use any copywritten music. In the couple three years I’ve watched their videos, Paul has played a recognizable song once.

Every time there is a new review Paul has to come up with something. You can literally watch the quality of the music decrease if you watch all of the reviews chronologically. However, even at the beginning it was pretty clear that Paul isn’t, say, an extreme metal guy so you gave him an eight string and it all kinda fell apart.

At the minimum they need writers for the music for these videos, expecting one guy to cover all that ground is kind of crazy..

Jay: Yeah, I’ve seen that with a few reviewers over the years. And I don’t blame the guy, it’s gotta be exhausting. Even if you went like, Andy from ProGuitarShop style and just played covers for all your reviews, it still would get old at the rate they are pumping these videos out. Probably another reason to have a committee of people reviewing so maybe Paul is a part of every 3rd or 4th video, not all of them.

And some blame goes to all of us players as well. Most guitarists get suckered into the idea that “this guitar sounds great played by Pete Thorn in his professional studio with an amazing collection of amps/mics and ton of editing work so that means I should buy it!” Of course, no. Not at all. But if someone comes on a video and was like “here’s this guitar, here’s some closeups of it, I’m going to talk about how features work and discuss the factory setup and yadda yadda” everyone would scream in the comments like “SHUT UP AND PLAY!” So, that’s always a problem that destroys any potential for productive reviews.

GE: Anderton’s did a video once showing their guitar demo rig. It was insane with a Marshall and a Fender played simultaneously and mixed so that you got dirt from one and articulation from the other. Then each amp was close mic’d room mic’d and camera mic’d and all of these signals was professionally mixed.

“Check out Rob Chapman’s review to see how this guitar *REALLY* sounds.” Said several internet commenters because people are idiots.

Jay: And if you try to accurately simulate how the gear will actually be used/heard by the vast majority of players (lower volumes in a bedroom), you will be crucified. Hahaha… yay internet.

GE: Yup.

99% of people are not going to play higher than “2” except for people with 35 watt solid state combos, who will complain the most.

That being said, it seems weird that cameras can get better reviews than guitars. Check out DigiralRev and The Camera Store TV on the YouTubes. Both manage. To give good reviews in the Top Gear/Fifth Gear style even while only having one or two people on camera.

Jay: I watched a CameraStoreTV review of a Sony A7S II (btw – droool). I see what you mean. And I never would’ve expected to see camera reviews like this, but in hindsight it makes total sense. Yeah, there’s talking into the camera (and of course, the camera they are talking into is the one they’re reviewing) and there’s discussion of specs and whatnot, but that’s mostly secondary. They went to an art gallery, to film a band playing live, etc. Stuff you’d actually use the camera for and that shows off what it can do. I guess the equivalent in guitar land might be playing live and/or recording a song in the studio. The live concert bit could be entertaining, but for most cases I guess you’re likely to not experience a full range of what the gear can do. So same problem as the blues wanker in a bedroom, but more visually appealing maybe.

Hmmm…. gears are turning, but so far not spinning anything out. There’s got to be a more appealing way to review this stuff, right? Otherwise, maybe it should be more like a lot of tech reviews (e.g. when Andy Ihnatko spooges over the new Apple thing) where it’s largely written with photo/video as supportive things. That might be the best delivery method, if only guitarists knew how to read. 😛

GE: I think the showing a guitar being played live thing is only important as a backdrop for, “this is how the guitar holds up in a live setting” which is different than what your typical bedroom wanker is going to be looking for.

Someone like Jared Dines will record a song with a guitar and do some spec talk, but it’s very much so a demo, not a review. He doesn’t tell you his opinion on it. What Gear Gods do is closer, but Trey only plays metal and really only reviews stuff in that context and only in studio.

There’s gotta be more to it.

Jay: I went scanning the Gear Gods reviews just for reference. Tried to find something inherently boring (as it’s almost too easy for a review of a 3 channel amp or massive DSP pedalboard to hold your attention). Found a video of some reference monitors, and I think the product was way too boring there. Then found them reviewing some mid boost pedal.

At least in the case of this review, they pushed a lot of the demo stuff up front, which should keep the “shut up and play” crowd happy. Then a lot of talking about what the knobs do, specs, etc. One random thing I liked is during that he went on a bit about how metal players may play with way too much bass and think it sounds cool, but it’s really awful in a mix. That’s probably helpful for a lot of players to throw in those kinds of opinions.

My big complaint is the same as a ton of these things, the audio track. It’s maybe an SM57 hugging the speaker, damn near sounds like it’s direct with a cab simulator. There’s zero room in the mix. Obviously that will be a problem for most people doing these since even pros often do their videos at home, and it’s clearly a massive catch 22, but it just means the gear will sound so much more different in your hands. Some of the bigger name stores, like the Reverb/CME folks seem to favor condenser mics in a lot of videos, which I like. It presents a host of other issues, but at least offers a sound that you can place in the room a bit more and usually feels more similar to what you’ll hear coming out of your amp at least in terms of the dynamics of the whole thing.

GE: I blame Dimebag. For all of the technique that Dime had, the biggest impact he had on metal was guys absolutely crushing every bit of reverb to be found. All of it. Between that and the rise of modelling where everyone gets the sound they want, but don’t take into account that they’re hearing it in a room.

The default metal tone in 2015 is dryer than burned toast.

Jay: That’s a reasonable excuse I guess. What’s kinda hilarious about it is that tone is so much worse through headphones. And like, everyone under 30 I know listens to music through headphones like 99.99998% of the time. I’m not even sure if college kids own speakers anymore?

GE: It seems to either go full on one way or the other. Like kids are trying to buy McIntosh amps or their vinyl collections or they only listen to Spotify.

Either way just a hair of reverb on everything so it sounds like it exists in the real world goes a long way.

Jay: Agree on both counts.

Another note on the Gear Gods video, they have about a 3.5 second bumper. Everyone should follow them. It’s nuts how many channels go on with stupid music and bouncing logos for 10+ seconds on every video. So, good for them.

And looking through this, it appears we’ve yet again rambled back and forth for days on end about the topic of gear reviews/demos without really coming close to solving the problem. Maybe I should take this as a sign and instead of guitar, blog about flatware or candies or hot sauce…

GE: The flatware blog would be….horrendous.