Guitar Snobbery

A few weeks ago, I was setting up my gear for a gig at a big wedding reception. After soundcheck, I was sitting down nursing a beverage, when one of the waiters working that evening comes up and says hello.

Waiter: “Hey, you’re the guitar player, right? So, how do you like your power supply?”

Me: “What??? My what?”

Waiter: “Your pedal power supply?”

I have a nice Les Paul, a pretty cool Fender amp, and some pedals that are not typical and ubiquitous, and this guy is asking me about my power supply?

Me: “Uh, I don’t know. It gives my pedals power, so I guess it works. What?”

Then he goes into this thing about how he’s a guitar player too, and he only uses batteries for his pedals. He says that other power sources degrade his tone, and was wondering if I ever have noticed the difference.

Trying hard not to roll my eyes, I said politely, “yes, I’ve heard some say that before that there’s a bit of a difference for some pedals, but for me, the convenience of a power supply far outweigh the nominal improvement in tone that some people seem to notice when using batteries”.

Now, I have heard people claim this before in forums and blogs. And it might be true. But, I bet if these self-proclaimed tone experts were put through a blind test, they couldn’t tell the difference between battery power and a good power supply. Isn’t power just power, assuming the power supply is of good quality and there’s no electrical interference?

So, I thought about this short conversation a bit after and wasn’t sure what to think of it. My guess is the guy was trying to sound smart, and maybe he is and could be a great player and a guitar tone expert. But, common sense told me he was full of shit and just trying to impress me with something he read somewhere. Well, I wasn’t impressed.

The ultimate tone is the elusive quest of most of us guitar players. But, in my opinion the majority of the tone comes from the player, a good guitar, a good amp, and maybe some good pedals. Secondary are the other parts of the puzzle: picks, cable quality, cable length, number of pedals, etc. Yes these secondary items can negatively affect tone, but assuming cables are ok, their lengths are not too crazy, and you’re not running 50 pedals through your chain, your tone should be ok.

I think if this guy looked into it a bit, he would see that most professional musicians, some considered purveyors of godly tone, aren’t that snobby. And, some of the best pedals seen on boards of the biggest concert stages and best studios don’t even have a battery option.




    1. I have heard this and don’t doubt that it’s true. I believe that Eric Johnson is one who swears by batteries and from what I remember, his dunlop fuzz face is only powered by batteries. I get that. But at the same time, to most ears, there’s probably not a huge difference. And, as I mentioned in my post, the convenience of powered pedals for me far outweighs any subtle sonic improvements, especially in a live setting with a full band. Plus, I don’t believe most guitar players can tell the difference. I’ve a/b-ed it with a few pedals and couldn’t tell much of a difference. But, maybe some pedals are more sensitive and respond differently based on the power source.

      1. Fuzz face are kind of the exception because if you use dying cell, it change the way the circuit react.

  1. When I hear those kind of things, I just say “perhaps, but does it make any difference in the mix?”, this one is a killer 😉

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