Skip to main content

When I saw the table of contents (quite amazing and reproduced below) to The Guitar Amplifier Player's Guide: An instruction & reference manual for musicians, I thought to myself: Well, damn! We don't have to write any more Amp/Cab/Speaker content for the DRG Knowledge base.  That is because Dave Zimmerman has literally covered everything the guitarist needs to know about amps, cabs, and speakers in this book.  It's even organized similarly to our Knowledge Base.

Unfortunately, our Knowledge Base (written by players) cannot possibly compete with technical content written by a true amp knowledge expert; and frankly, we aren't going to try to compete. Instead, we will point you to this book.

If you're an electric guitarist, you should own this book.  It contains EVERYTHING you NEED to know about amps, cabs, speakers, tubes and tone. 

The point to re-emphasize is that target audience for this book is guitarists. For example, there are certainly some technical bits in here about ohms, amps, volts, etc. (and if you don't need 'em, don't read 'em) but if you're interested in that stuff, this never feels like a text book written for engineers or amp techs. This is need-to-know info, presented for guitarists at a level that makes it easy to understand. It's like having these topics explained to you by a very knowledgeable amp tech who knows how to convey complicated material in an easy-to-understand way.

Each topic is relatively short, contained, easy to find, read, and comprehend. It is a magnificent reference source when you want to look up something, and a good cover-to-cover read as well.

A book like this is LONG overdue. It is what I had envisioned for the DRG Knowledge Base. I wish I'd written it!

Extremely highly recommended. Hat's off to Dave Zimmerman. Great work!

Get it here.

Also check out Dave Zimmerman's amp/gear site.

Table of Contents


  • How to Use This Book

Part One - Good Stuff

Chapter One - A Good Amp

  • Choosing an Amp
  • All the Wrong Reasons

Chapter Two - Good Tone

  • Try Recording Yourself
  • Playing Alone vs. Playing with a Band
    • Midrange Boost
  • Good Clean Tones
    • Clean and Clipping
      • Modern Fat Clean Tones -- Experiment One
      • Vintage Fat Clean -- Experiment Two
      • Clean and Distorted -- Experiment Three
  • Good Dirty Tones
  • A Word About Hum
    • Power Supply Hum
    • Heater Supply Hum
    • Other Forms of Internal Hum
    • High Gain Hiss

Chapter Three - Benchmark Amps

  • Older Fender Tweeds
  • Later Fender Tweeds
  • Blackface Fender
  • Non-Master Volume 100 and 50 Watt Marshalls
    • Late 60s to early 70s
  • Heads and Cabs
  • Vox AC30
  • Dumble and Early Mesa/Boogie
  • Trainwreck
  • Master Volume Marshall
  • High Gain Multi-Channel Amps
  • Digital or Modeling Amplifiers and Computer Programs

Chapter Four - Great Recommendations

  • Peavey Classic 30 and Classic 50
  • Peavey Transistor Amps
  • Fender Reissue Tweed and Blackface Amps
  • Marshall 50 Watt Small Box Non-Master Volume Head
  • Marshall JCM800
  • Vox AC30
  • Two Rock
  • Tone King
  • Matchless
  • Trainwreck
  • Speaking of Decent Folks

Part Two - Tweaking Your Tone

Chapter Five -- Dowsing for Tone

  • Cultivating Your Style
  • Changing Speakers and Cabinets
    • Replacing a Speaker
  • Connecting Speakers -- Series and Parallel
    • Power Delivered to Individual Speakers in a Multi-Speaker Cabinet
    • Lowering Volume with Half Power and Mismatching Impedances
    • Removing Tubes and Ohms
  • Changing Power Tubes
    • Removing Power Tubes
      • The Base Clamp Retainer
      • The Spring Retainer
    • The EL84 Retainer
    • Installing New Power Tubes
      • Octal Power Tubes
      • Nine Pin Tubes
    • Biasing the New Power Tubes
      • Cathode Bias
      • External Bias
      • Internal Bias
    • Changing Rectifier Tubes
  • Changing Preamp Tubes
  • Replacing Cords and Cables
  • Adding a Sag Modification
    • Tube Rectifier
    • Magic Resistor
  • Changing the Output Transformer
  • Adding Your Tech's Favorite Mod
  • Rebuild Your Amp

Chapter Six - Cultivating Your Style

  • Playing a Non-Master Volume Amp
  • Jumping Channels in Vintage or Reissue Amps
  • Playing a Master Volume Amp

Chapter Seven - Speakers

  • Frequency Response
  • Efficiency
  • Power Handling Capability
  • Anatomy of a Guitar Speaker
    • Magnet Material
    • NIBs
  • Speaker Cone Material
    • Wood Fiber
    • Aluminum Cones
    • Hemp Cones
  • Speaker Diameter
    • Eight Inchers
    • Ten Inchers
    • Twelve Inchers
    • Fifteen Inchers
  • Speaker Manufacturers
    • Celestion
      • G12H30
      • Greenback
      • The Blue
      • The Vintage 30
    • Jensen
    • Eminence
  • Ohms
    • Resistance and Impedance
    • Ohms, Practically Speaking
      • Impedance and Power Delivered by an Amp
      • Transistor Amps & Ohms
      • Tube Amps & Ohms

Chapter Eight - Cabinets

  • Open vs. Closed-Back Cabinets
  • Getting the Most Bass from Your Cab
  • Speaker Cloth
Chapter Nine - Power Tubes
  • Octal Power Tubes
  • EL84s
  • Power Tube Life
  • Tube Manufacturers
    • JJ-Electronic
    • Svetlana
    • New Sensor
  • Tube Rectifiers

Chapter Ten - Preamp Tubes

  • NOS Preamp Tubes

Chapter Eleven - Chords and Cables

  • Guitar Cable
    • Capacitors and Capacitance
    • Harmonic Content of a Sound Wave
    • Time Domain of a Sound Wave
    • Electronic Buffer
  • Speaker Cables
    • Ribbon Speaker Cable
  • Power Cable
  • One Last Tip

Chapter Twelve - A Word about Volume

  • Why Higher Volume Sounds Better
    • Amp Response At Higher Volumes
    • Human Ear Response to Higher Volume
  • Wattage Knobs
  • Dummy Loads (aka Attenuators)
  • Master Volumes
  • Variable Transformers (aka Variacs)
  • The Sag Circuit

Part Three - The Basics

Chapter Thirteen - Amplifier Basics

  • The Preamp
    • Gain Control
    • EQ/Tone Controls
    • Effects Control
    • Reverb
    • Tremolo/Vibrato
    • Effects Loops
  • The Power Amp
    • The Phase Inverter
    • Presence Control
    • Transformers
    • Choke or Inductor
      • Inductor Saturation
      • Magnetic Noise
      • Toroidal Inductors
  • Transformer Basics
    • The Output Transformer
  • Speakers and the Power Amplifier
  • Line Out

Chapter Fourteen - Distortion Basics

  • Gain
  • Distortion
    • Clipping Hard and Soft
  • Harmonics
    • Harmonics and Clipping
  • Sub-Harmonics
  • That Ringing Fuzz Sound
    • Attenuators and Dummy Loads
  • Opportunities for Distortion
  • Overdrive and Boost/Distortion and Fuzz
    • Overdrive and Boost
    • Distortion and Fuzz
      • Distortion Pedals
      • Fuzz Pedals
  • Preamp vs. Power Amp Distortion
    • Preamp Distortion
    • Power Amp Distortion
    • Power Supply Sag
  • Speaker Distortion

Chapter Fifteen - Tube Basics

  • Tube Strengths
  • Transistor Strengths
  • How Tubes Work
    • Grid Voltage
    • Diodes
    • Rectifier Tubes
    • Triodes
    • Tetrodes
    • Pentodes
    • Kinkless Tetrodes
  • What's in a Name?

Chapter Sixteen - Safety Basics

  • A Word About Attenuators
  • Speakers, Loads and Speaker Cable

Chapter Seventeen - Grounding Basics

  • The Death Switch
  • The Ground Wire

Part Four - Appendices

Appendix A - Speaker Ohms Charts

  • 30 Watt Amplifier, Two Series Speakers
  • 30 Watt Amplifier, Two Parallel Speakers
  • 50 Watt Amplifier, Two Series Speakers
  • 50 Watt Amplifier, Two Parallel Speakers
  • 100 Watt Amplifier, Two Parallel Speakers

Appendix B - Power Tubal Tones

  • Tube Tone Characteristics
  • Tube Substitution Chart

Appendix C - Preamp Tube Tones

Appendix D - Amplifier Block Diagrams

Part Five - Glossaries, Checklists and Index

Glossary A - Technical
Glossary B - Tonal
Checklists A - Choosing an Amp
Checklist B - Safety Guidelines