I asked myself this question this morning while having my morning cup. I was ruminating on various ways to make my signal chain a cleaner. It’s pretty clean as it is, and I pride myself on having little to no electronic noise when my rig is at rest. But I still want it dead quiet. I don’t know if it’s entirely possible, but I knew there were things that I could do. So I started coming up with a punch list of things including getting high-quality cables with good shielding; replacing any non-true-bypass pedals on my board that often cause noise; things like that.
Then I stopped and asked myself, “Where am I at with my tone? Am I reasonably satisfied with it? Is there any specific thing that really needs addressing?” And the answer to those questions was no. I looked at my list and decided they were nice-to-have’s but not really addressing and particular problem or “hole” in my tone. Truth be told, as of late, I’ve been using pedals A LOT less as of late. While I may kick in an overdrive pedal occasionally, and usually have my reverb on, I’ve been doing without pedals. In fact, for the past couple of gigs I’ve played, I haven’t used pedals at all, except for a tuner!
I guess this is the dark side of being a gear slut; it’s really a borderline addiction; an urge akin to an itch you can’t scratch, a unicorn that can’t be caught. Like the cursed pirates in the Pirates of the Carribean, the desire for gear is a lust that is never slaked, or at least easily slaked. At times it gets to the point of not even having a reason for getting the gear – I just have to have it!
I was actually surprised by my moment of lucidity, and actually relieved that I pulled myself back from the brink of investing yet another few hundred dollars into gear. I also realized that as far as my rig is concerned, I’ve sort of reached a point where the law of diminishing returns is starting to kick in. Yeah, it would be nice to have high-end, expensive cables (I still may do that just for my pedal board), but at this point, it doesn’t really buy me much – even my pedal cables. And while I believe I would get an improvement in my tone, I think the improvement would be more subtle than anything else.
So here’s some food for thought: The next time you want to buy some gear, ask yourself if you’re already satisfied with your tone. Be honest. You may be surprised to find that you are.