What about tubes? Some claim a 12ax7 sounds as any other 12ax7 but try to convince the audiophile who has just spent a king’s ransom on a vintage Telefunken 12ax7. A few years ago I built a 5E3 clone amp from a kit. 5E3 was the famous Fender “Tweed Deluxe”. Think gritty Neil Young. The amp worked like a charm right off my bench with JJ tubes in it. Within two weeks I had purchased and installed some vintage RCA blackplate 6v6’s and some Raytheon 12ax7’s. Clearly, the blaring, vintage power tube distortion was much “creamier” and the harmonics “sweeter” than before.
Although I have several guitars and amps, I only use one pedal board. I have a variety of pedals I move on and off of the board depending on my mood. Right now, the board is like so: Lava cable into Lehle Sunday Driver, to the loop switch with matching $40, 8" patch cord, out of the switch into another $100 cable and to the amp. On the loop I have a tuner, a Blackstone Appliance and a Mooger Fooger MF101. All are powered by a Pedal Power supply. I keep the effects on the loop so the signal path to the amp is going only through the Lehle preamp, unless the loop is engaged. True bypass, hot, high-end signal. Must make for a premium tone. Right?
After reading an article about Jerry’s gear I searched Thomas Vinci Handmade Strings. Right there on the Internet were “Jerry’s Favorite Strings”! And I only had to order three sets! And what about speakers, upgraded pots, premium capacitors, cloth covered wire and the like? Do any of these embellishments make for better, more refined sound?
Yes! They all do. In the end, all of the links in the signal chain contribute to the final sound. I think a hot rod sports car makes a good comparison. An after market carburetor on its own would make little difference to the performance of the car. However, add high end exhaust, turbo charger, hopped up suspension and other aftermarket upgrades and potentially you can end up with a custom, high performance sports car.
I see my guitar rig in the same way. Put together a bunch of high end parts, keep tweaking how the parts interact with the whole and eventually you get something really good. At least to me.