I'm talking about a tone that is clearly saturated, yet without sounding dirty. Imagine a 'creamy' sound, but make it more 'liquid' (!!!) [ref: https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/1847/popular-names-for-particular-guitar-tones ]

I'll give some specific examples:

  • Journey - I'll Be Alright Without You (solo - 3'7"):

  • Flavio Venturini - Espanhola (Live) (solo - 3'13"):

  • Johnny DeMarco - Roland JC-120 Demo (5'20"):

Like I said, it seems to me like a just slightly broken up cleanish tone with some reverb. I'm not sure about EQ settings, exact gain/drive settings or other effects/guitar specifics though.

Edit: I'd like to clarify that I meant "edgy" as in "incisive", "the opposite of blunt", not as in "similar to U2's guitarist 'The Edge'".

5 Answers 5


One thing you might be hearing, and liking, is a different type of tube distortion. Tube amps have two stages, pre-amp, and power-amp. Both stages can distort, but they have very different characteristics.

Pre-amp distortion is what we normally associate with a "fuzz" or rock sound. It's usually very distinctive and obvious. It doesn't have to be extreme, but it still isn't the same sound that you'll get from the other stage.

Power-amp distortion seldom sounds like a "fuzz" or distortion box, and is more often associated with blues guitar. Its effect on the guitar's sound adds compression and fattens the sound. It's a hard effect to get on a lot of amps, because they have to be very loud to get it; The power-amp section has to be pushed hard to start saturating the tubes enough to get the tone, though some of the new 1 watt and 5 watt tube amps can do it at reasonable volumes.

Egnater amps have a wattage setting that controls the voltage going to the tubes. By reducing it the amp's output drops. It doesn't change the volume or tone though, instead it changes the point that the output tubes begin to distort, letting you get power-amp distortion at a lot lower volume. I have their Rebel 30, and that ability was one of the main reasons I bought it - at just a little over conversation level you can hear the power tubes starting to distort. It's a very clean sound with natural compression - a singing tone. Other amps can do it too, especially those 1 and 5 watt tube amps. Class A amps can get a fatter sound along the same lines because of how they use the tubes.

In addition, there might be a bit of reverb on the guitars in the first two mentioned videos. It's not necessary to use a lot with output-tube distortion but it softens up the sound and adds a touch of that singing sound. Listen to older Santana solos, especially when he's got a singing sustained tone and you'll often hear his reverb smoothing it out.

The third video doesn't sound the same to me, but then again, it's a jazz-chorus amp, which is solid-state. It's voiced to be a mellow, super clean amp with a solid-state distortion, but can't do the output stage distortion because it doesn't have tubes - and you don't want to hear how power transistors sound when they overdrive.

  • The variety of tones produced with pre-amps is so dizzying that the generalizations in this answer simply do not hold up.
    – Kaz
    May 21, 2013 at 1:10
  • Why don't you add an answer explaining to the OP how the tones in the videos were created, and what defines "glassy" in them? We'd enjoy learning how it all works. May 21, 2013 at 4:24

If you want the edge, you're gonna need three things:

  1. A vintage stratocaster pickup switch at position 2, 4, or 1.
  2. A vintage Vox AC-30 set to "on the verge of breakup" tone
  3. Lots of money for expensive delay toys and mad rhythmic skills.

In a nutshell, that's his tone. To get the "on the verge of breakup" sound you need to turn the gain of your amplifier down until just before you hear the tubes begin to break up. You want the amp to respond dynamically with more gain as you increase the strength of your pick attack--which is easily achieved because that's what tube amplifiers do best. That "verge of breakup sound" is the same tone you hear on "Where the Streets have no Name" along with virtually all blues guitarists and lots of jazz guys too. I can hear a similar flavor on all of the artists you linked us to, but I believe that all three of them are heavily compressed to get a smoother sound (less of a traditional blues breakup and more of a modern jazz smoothness). So if you really like those sounds, your tone lies somewhere at the intersection of blues breakup and a creamy, smoother jazz tone. For that, you'll need the amp just before breakup, a Stratocaster (again position 1, 2, 4), potentially a boost for more gain on solos, and probably a compressor although you could get away without one.

You mentioned EQ, and I'm going to inject some quick relevant observations I have had regarding EQ pedals. Equalization will allow you to tweak your sound at a very granular level depending on the EQ you get--but I have never really found a glaring need to use one. Normally EQ and compression are a post production thing and I have never needed one on my board unless I'm going for something very specific--instead I fiddle with my amplifiers EQ and my overdrives to make the tone more towards what I'm going for. Your mileage may vary here though because every amplifier and overdrive is different.

There may or may not be any reverb effect on each of those tones you linked us too. The edge definitely uses reverb, but some guys just go with the natural acoustics of the room they recorded in. The same usually applies to live performances unless you are going for a medium to heavily ambient, or a surf sound. Reverb is one of those effects that can easily get lost in the mix if you have a lot going on. It's definitely useful for getting you more towards the sound you are looking for though--but you may find that you don't need it as you experiment.

I should stress again that all of these tones are particularly achieved with a Stratocaster. I have never been able to properly replicate (nor have I heard anyone else properly replicate) the "Streets" tone with anything but a Stratocaster, regardless of coil splitting, series/parallel, and you name it modifications. There are some all-digital guitars out there that will almost fool a discerning ear but the still don't sound exact--yet :).

Edit: Totally missed that the OP wants an "edgy" tone and not "The Edge's" tone, so frame my answer in that.

  • Herdim Picks played backwards are also important. The rasp of the pick on the strings is a considerable part of the "bite" in his clean tone. See this reference. That whole site is dedicated to studying The Edge's sound.
    – Ian C.
    Mar 27, 2011 at 19:07
  • 1
    Although, note that the OP didn't ask for "The Edge"'s tone -- and none of the clips he provided as reference are of U2 or The Edge. :)
    – Ian C.
    Mar 27, 2011 at 19:09
  • Completely misread that. I took "edgy" for The Edge. My bad!
    – Jduv
    Mar 27, 2011 at 19:58
  • That makes two of us who can't read!
    – Ian C.
    Mar 27, 2011 at 20:21
  • Sorry for misleading you on that! Edited the question to avoid further confusion... great answer though, at the end of the day the study of his tone actually has some degree of relevance to the original question =D Mar 28, 2011 at 13:01

A quick note on reverb. A little reverb gives you the feel of the sound bouncing off the walls, which is great and wonderful. A little atmosphere is wonderful. Danny Gatton said you don't need reverb if you can get enough volume.

But, really, it's not really a big big thing unless you're doing Surf. It's the big thing for playing Dick Dale.

The Edge is not about reverb. (Yeah, yeah. "Edgy", not "The Edge". I read the OP's question. I get it.) The Edge is about delay. And not just delay -- check out This Might Get Loud -- but the stuff he build his reputation on is delay.

There is reverb on the Journey track, but that is likely studio reverb getting the recording sounding right, not amp reverb or stomp box.

  • "Danny Gatton said you don't need reverb if you can get enough volume" Love it.
    – Jduv
    Mar 28, 2011 at 12:29

What I hear in the Journey song is a guitar with the MID low or off, and the Bass and treble cranked. His amp is fairly clean, and the breakup is probably from humbucker style pickups. My guess is he is using neck + bridge (assuming a gibson 2-pickup guitar with the switch in the blend position). He is using reverb or possibly chorus, and he is picking hard so you get a sort of slap-bass effect


Attach a treble bleed wiring on your volume pot, it will open up your tone and give you an edgy liquid tone. For a 500k volume pot you can try a value of 0.002uf capacitor in paralel with 100k (1/4watt) for an Andy Timmons glassy n liquid tone

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