I don't want to be a Golden Ager. I don't want to complain about when guitar tones used to sound good and how no one knows how to set their amps anymore. Maybe when I'm bitter and senile, but I'm not going to complain about it now just like I'm not going to complain about the books or movies you enjoy, because I know it's totally subjective and my tastes are no better than yours, but I will say I missed the bus when common metal guitar tone started changing in what I guess were the mid '00s to early '10s, and apparently I am just now noticing. Here's where I'm coming from: I'm 33. Most of my favorite guitar tones are from the '90s. I like a thrashy tone with a good deal of high end cut and not so much midrange that it 'blunts' the sound (yeah, I know mids cut better in a mix). I love all those JMP-1 metal tones so many people recorded with in the '90s. I have a Mark V and I run it in Mark IV mode/variac/pentode with a classic V on the EQ, often sharpened further with a FullDrive 2. I find the cherished IIC+ just too fat, not enough high end. I love prog metal, death metal, thrash. Some of my favorite tones of all time are Stephan Lill from Vanden Plas' first several albums (JMP-1), Eugene Simone on Eldritch's Headquake, and Jim Matheos' tone from most Fates Warning albums (Mark IV) and all his live performances (Sansamp+Dual Rec usually). These are diverse examples (though all passive pickups), but they all do it for me. FWIW my favorite pickup at the moment is probably the Evo2 (not a big Vai fan but love all his pickups save the original Evolution), though I'm also really enjoying the EMG 57-7 which tells me it's mostly a matter of amp settings, because the vast majority of EMG 57(-7) demos make my ears bleed. I've been looking at pickup comparison videos on YouTube lately, and I'm floored by how different the amp settings in all these videos are from mine. I know these are good pickups and any number of them would work for me, but I find the amp settings so off-putting that it's difficult to judge one against the other. Then I come across a recent Phil Collen video for Jackson (the guy has barely changed since I was born), and while he has the gain set too high, I'm thinking 'wow, this is a great metal tone,' and I'm not even much of a Def Leppard fan. I felt old. I can basically track the tonal change through John Petrucci's pickups over the years. I loved the Steve's Special tone from the '90s and the JMP-1 and Dual Rec tones from Images and Words and Awake, but then it just got fatter and less aggressive from there to the point where I find Dream Theater's most recent DVDs difficult to listen to with what I can only describe as a farty rhythm tone. Breaking the Fourth Wall sounds like bingo night at a church. I know he likes a lot of the newer generation of prog metal, and because I don't, his gradual tonal transformation has sort of served as my window into that and what a lot of players are into now... Anyone else feel a little bit tonally alienated these days? I mean, what next, are my beloved Soloist-style guitars all going to look like old man guitars 20 years from now?