Even though heavy metal guitarists may beg to differ but are tweed electric guitar amplifiers the ideal electric guitar amplifiers when it comes to tone?
By: Ringo Bones
A full Marshall stack may be visually impressive to look at from the perspective of kids of all ages but seasoned electric guitar players more often than not that when it comes to “purity of tone” – at least from an electric guitar player’s perspective – tweed amps, or combo amps from the 1950s is where its at. But do seasoned electric guitar players know something that the rest of us don’t?
Since they hit the market during the 1950s, tweed electric guitar amps – especially ones manufactured by Fender – had been sought after even before Ronald Reagan became president. They had been traditionally used by Blues and Country musicians and before the advent of those Marshall heads and stacks, also by rock n’ roll guitarists as well. Acoustically, tweed amps have a sharp treble roll off above 5,000 Hz and a bass roll off between 60Hz to 100Hz depending on the diameter of the loudspeaker used. The nickname tweed originally refers to the lacquered beige light brown fabric covering these combo style amplifiers but there are younger guitar players out there who think that tweed is short for traditional.
Even though the timbral roar of Marshall heads and stacks was the dominant electric guitar tone of 1980s era MTV, some iconic MTV music videos had tweed electric guitar tones during the main guitar solo. An excellent example of which is the main guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen on Michael Jackson’s Beat It. And believe it or not, most stadium rock / metal guitarist of the 1980s and present want their stadium filling Marshall stacks to have a timbre of a mid 1950s Fender tweed combo amp which is easier said than done form a technical perspective. At least it keeps us vacuum tube electronic technicians gainfully employed since the late 1980s.