In an attempt to put an end to the endless debate about “Tone” (which is really senseless since it’s a matter of individual perspective based on abstract experience) within absolute logic by means of deductive reasoning. Interestingly I find that those who are stubborn enough to express their absolute opinion on the matter are always resorting to very trivial arguments to the point that they fail to realize that guitars regardless of make, cost, and other bells and whistles are still just guitars. The guitar is both science and art but its main purpose is predominantly for art. If you take away the science part it becomes purely mystical and subjective, on the other hand if you take away the art part of it the debate about “Guitar Tone” becomes meaningless or pointless for it serves no real purpose if isolated from the context of art. If the goal is objectively looking for the greatest factor contributing to one’s tone or where it truly exist here is my deductive view.
What about specific gear combinations defining tone? Okay let’s talk about the Edge a little bit. What If he didn't have his hands on a memory man? Or say the delay effect was never invented? How would he become famous and associated with his legendary sound then? Did the memory man define his sound? Of course not right? Because if that was the case, then we are giving credit to the tools used rather than the artist who used them. The delay pedal was invented for the player the player was not born to be a user of the Memory Man. No one really thought about the dotted 8 note repeats while playing 16 notes more than the Edge at that time. And there were many other echo devices out there that could do the same trick it so happens that the Memory Man is what he had. What if he never had the Vox AC30 or the Gibson Explorer? Fast forward a little bit… He had this black strat, a Marshal, and TC electronics delay unit. It’s a different set of combinations but still sounds like him right? Oh yeah he had racks and racks of FX devices and have like 20 to 30 guitars in one show rarely (and at times not even) repeating the same combination yet we all agree that it still sounds like him. So what can we eliminate here? Is it the gear combination that create his tone or is it he who create the tone(s) using the gear combination(s)? Of course it is he who creates the tone. Figuratively speaking the tone is in his bones (in his mind) and not in the gear, the gear were merely tools. Tools are only as good as the one who is using them.
We can only come to the conclusion via deductive reasoning that tone is in the mind, body, and soul of a player it is he who create tone(s) by using and combining different set of tools with different make and cost for different artistic reasons. The tools themselves are just tools, inanimate objects with no life and purpose other than what the player gives them. Tone is in your bones, you are the tone. No matter how hard you try or what you use you are going to sound like you if you have it in you. If you can’t hear the tone in your mind you will never get it in any piece or combinations of gear. Just like everything that is created or invented it can never exist in its material form if it did not exist in someone’s imagination first. Whatever gear combination you have you will use it and tweak it according to what you hear in your mind. In the complete absence of tools, one will definitely find a way to create such tools needed to produce for the expression of art. Or use whatever is available. History has proven that. A guitar or gear combination regardless of make and cost can produce good and pleasant tones in the hands of a player who can use it effectively and it can work the other way around it can sound horrible in the hands of an incompetent player. The question of artistic beauty is totally subjective consequently the tools regardless of make and cost are again dependent on such given factors based on that subjective experience (Marketing and Cultural influences included). On a final note, Tone is in your bones… the rest are merely augmentations and various expressions of that tone which is you or a representation of something that exist within you.