After a lot of digging and listening to hundreds of youtube videos, this is what I came up with:
- As far as the genre is concerned, there really doesn't appear to be an encompassing label for what they play other than keywords -
- The magical tone here is that of
power tube distortion. The harshness, fizz and noise I was referring to comes from
- The beginners with the expensive gear and 100W heads sounding nothing like the gods is in big part due to
preamp gain at 10/10 and
master volume at 1/10. The settings to get the tone from a modern amp, are in the
preamp gain at 2/10 and
master volume at 10/10 ballpark area.
The key components of the liquid lead tone would be:
- Power tube distortion
- Feedback and speaker distortion (e.g. volume)
- Delay (or better yet dual-delays at 375ms and 500ms or similar) for sustain
- Subtle Reverb to make up for a stage/hall, etc
noise reduction system, pedal or rack unit is also often necessary.
Power tube distortion basically smoothen and even out the harshness, fuzziness of
preamp distortion. The cabinet and the speaker also plays a big role in that.
A low volume setup for getting as close as possible to this sound would involve either one of:
- A high quality attenuator + EQ to tweak the frequencies
- A loadbox + cabinet simulator with IRs + powered studio monitors
- A loadbox + a amplifier to reamp + guitar cab + some EQ
- A roomy Isolation box + preferably multi mics to remove harshness of SM57 + PA system
From what I can tell the type of tubes doesn't matter as much as simply getting power tube distortion in the first place. I prefer EL34s - tubes in Joe Satriani signature marshall head and tubes used in Bogner XTC - the Steve Vai amp on Tender Surrender track.
I hope this helps out someone. There's a lot of mis-information on this subject. I'll confirm this as an answer once I have confirmed that this works well in practice.