Top 17 Loudest Guitarists of All Time

As voted by UG community.

Ultimate Guitar

This week's traditional Wednesday Question saw the esteemed members of UG community discussing the matter of loudest guitar players who ever walked the planet.

We received a solid chunk of votes and 280 comments, all of which were summed up into a Top 17 rundown.

We removed the fictional characters (Nigel Tufnel, Marty McFly) and Lemmy the bassist from the list, you can check out the final list below.

17. Dave Davies

Back in the early '60s, Dave Davies of The Kinks brought guitar distortion and power chords to the forefront of rock music, making him the loudest of all the loud boys at the time.

Of course, "You Really Got Me" was the lead hit for the lads back then.

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16. Kaoru and Die from Dir en Grey

Notoriously loud, Kaoru and Die from Japanese metal act Dir en grey are up next.

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15. Gary Moore

Ginger Baker once complained that Gary Moore was "playing so loud that he blew his ears"...

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14. Jimi Hendrix

Up next, the one and only Jimi Hendrix...

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13. Dick Dale

Here's a cool story from UG user cooper9934: "Leo Fender gave the Fender Stratocaster along with a Fender Amp to Dale and told him to beat it to death and tell him what he thought of it. Dale took the guitar and started to beat it to death, and he blew up Leo Fender's amp and blew out the speaker. Dale proceeded to blow up 49 amps and speakers; they would actually catch on fire. Leo would say, 'Dick, why do you have to play so loud?' Dale would explain that he wanted to create the sound of Gene Krupa the famous jazz drummer that created the sounds of the native dancers in the jungles along with the roar of mother nature's creature's and the roar of the ocean.

"Leo Fender kept giving Dale amps and Dale kept blowing them up! Till one night Leo and his right hand man Freddy T. went down to the Rendezvous Ballroom on the Balboa Peninsula in Balboa, California and stood in the middle of 4,000 screaming dancing Dick Dale fans and said to Freddy, 'I now know what Dick Dale is trying to tell me. Back to the drawing board.' A special 85 watt output transformer was made that peaked 100 watts when dale would pump up the volume of his amp, this transformer would create the sounds along with Dale's style of playing, the kind of sounds that Dale dreamed of. BUT! they now needed a speaker that would handle the power and not burn up from the volume that would come from Dale's guitar.

"Leo, Freddy and Dale went to the James B. Lansing speaker company, and they explained that they wanted a 15-inch speaker built to their specifications. That speaker would soon be known as the 15'' JBL-D130 speaker. It made the complete package for Dale to play through and was named the Single Showman Amp. When Dale plugged his Fender Stratocaster guitar into the new Showman Amp and speaker cabinet, Dale became the first creature on earth to jump from the volume scale of a modest quiet guitar player on a scale of 4 to blasting up through the volume scale to TEN! That is when Dale became the 'Father of Heavy Metal' as quoted from Guitar Player Magazine. Dale broke through the electronic barrier limitations of that era!

"Dale still wanted to go further, and as the crowds increased, Dale's volume increased, but he still wanted a bigger punch with thickness in the sound so that it would pulsate into the audience and leave them breathless. The JBL-D130 was doing its job until Dale froze it in the frame that held the speaker, the speaker cone would twist from the heavy playing from Dale and it would soon twist and stop to fluctuate back n forth.

Leo, Freddy and Dale went back to the JBL speaker company and told them to rubberize the front ridge of the speaker allowing it to push forward and backward from the signal of Dale's guitar without cocking and twisting. The new updated version was called the JBL D-130F; the F stood for Fender.

Leo, Freddy and Dale designed a speaker cabinet and in which they installed 2 -15''-JBL-D130F's. This caused Leo Fender to have to create a new and more powerful output transformer, they would call it the Dick Dale Transformer and it was made by the Triad Company.

"This became the 100 watt output transformer that would actually peak 180 watts. Nothing like this had ever been done before in the world of guitars and amplifiers. This became known as the Dual-Showman Piggy Back Amp. This is why Dick Dale is called the Father of all the power Players in the world!"

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12. Manowar


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11. Ted Nugent

Loudmouth AND a loud guitarist, what a guy!

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10. J Mascis

Mr. J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr., an important figure in development of grunge style, is up next at No. 10. Sub Pop Records vice president Megan Jasper had this to say about the lad: "J had some anger, like any punk rock kid. Usually, though, when a young person is angry, they tend to be really loud. And J wasn't. He was only loud when he played music"

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9. Stephen O'Malley/Greg Anderson

Team Sunn O))) is up next. As Bedside Shred noted, "You literally can't see a Sunn O))) show without earplugs lest you risk permanent hearing damage."

Brandon1993 added: "'White1' is considered one of the loudest albums of all time. Also they will implode your eardrums if you see them live."

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8. Billy Corgan

Like I Is explained: "Billy Corgan's sound during the Siamese Dream/Mellon Collie shows were hands down the loudest tones I've ever heard.

"Although I feel like the results may skew in favor of guitarists who tune two octaves down and just make a wall of sound, Corgan's searing tone was both furious and melodic. Really something to behold."

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7. Jimmy Page

As one of the individuals who shaped the history of rock, Mr. Jimmy Page was one loud axe wielder...

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6. Michael Gira

Cranking it up way up high, Michael Gira of Swans pushed the loudness factor to the extreme, especially back in the day. Real182 explained: "Swans gigs back in the 80's and 90's were known as loudest at the time. They still actually are pretty deafening even now."

Some fun facts from jonathan.keeler: "People throw up at Swans shows and I read that someone's water broke at a Swans show because of the vibrations."

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5. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie sure played it loud...

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4. Eddie Van Halen

To achieve the "Brown Sound," everything needs to go to 11 apparently...

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3. Kevin Shields/Bilinda Butcher

My Bloody Valentine can be very, very loud. The boys have this thing they do during shows called "noise holocaust" where they crank up guitar noise and feedback for about half an hour, occasionally reaching 130 dB. Kevin once noted: "It was so loud it was like sensory deprivation. We just liked the fact that we could see a change in the audience at a certain point."

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2. Ritchie Blackmore

Silver medal this week goes to Mr. Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple. The guys were very loud and very top-notch back in the day, with Ritchie cutting right through the mix with his Fender Strat. Christopwhalen noted: "I got to experience it first hand when Deep Purple reunited in 1985 (Perfect Strangers tour). I could hardly hear anything for several days after. If I could do it all over again, I would definitely have worn ear plugs."

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1. Pete Townshend

The Who's May 31, 1976 show in London was confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records as the loudest show of all time, with 126 dB measured 32 meters (105 feet) from the stage. Additionally, loud music is believed to be one of the key contributing factors to Pete Townshend deafness. So on the throne of UG this week, the man who rocked so hard he went deaf! That Moon explosion also played an important role, though...

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123 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Still would've liked to have seen Lemmy. He played his bass as if it were a guitar and he was notorious for being loud as fuck.
    No shit, or at least Phil Campbell. Everything Louder than Everything Else.
    I miss Matt Pike on this list
    TheMysticBard · May 14, 2016 12:20 PM
    Smokey McPot
    Smokey McPot · May 15, 2016 01:03 PM
    Brandon1993 · May 15, 2016 04:51 PM
    Not a bad list overall, but how could you people possibly forget about Leigh Stephens of Blue Cheer?
    Velcro Man
    because who the fuck listened to blue cheer?
    I fucking listen to Blue Cheer. All the time. If you're not listening to Blue Cheer, you're missing out on some seriously good Rock and Roll.
    People that claim to be the original cool before it was cool stoner rockers, listen to blue cheer.
    Nigel's amp went up to 11 and he didn't even make the list. Do these guys' go up to 12?
    I had never watched that Siamese Dream Live DVD until just now...that was sick!
    Yeah I'd never call myself a SP fan at all but, it was a great time in the early 90's when grunge (god I hate that word) was hitting and there was so much good, new music about. Siamese Dream is a classic.
    Seems silly to have people vote on something that you can measure, in this case in decibels. Manowar holds the Guinness World Record I believe, or at least did at some point.
    The Who has held it. AC/DC has held it. Manowar had held it for a long time. I think KISS currently holds the record since 2008 or so.
    Manowar has held the record on 3 different occasions. they set the record in 1984. Broke their own record in 1994 then got it again in 2008. BUT Kiss currently hold the record as of 2009.
    I guess. What was the measurements for loudness. Cuz. I only see two that talk about decibels, Townsend and My Bloody Valentine guys. I'm pretty positive Metallica plays louder than Dick Dale ever did.
    Gut feelings. That's what the measurements are based on. Dick Dale deserves his spot, though. Plenty of bands are louder than Metallica, too. Kiss holds the record now, as far as I know.
    It's a silly Wednesday Question really. I mean, it all depends on who's doing the desk as far as a large concert goes. I've seen dozens and dozens of live shows over the years and easily the loudest band (yeah I know it's not loudest guitarist) for me was Velvet Revolver which is a surprise.
    you're right, my dad said he saw metallica on the damaged justice tour in 88, and his ears were ringing for 2 weeks apparently lol
    I feel like there's a bunch of stoner metal and noise rock bands missing from this.
    Josh Homme - Kyuss, QOTSA, and like 5000 other bands Dango - Truckfighters Scott Hill - Fu Manchu Pete O'Malley - Orange Goblin Jus Oborn - Electric Wizard Pete Vicar - Reverend Bizarre Igor Sidorenko - Stoned Jesus Mike Scheidt - YOB Dennis Plekham & Nick Dellacroce - Bongripper Wata - Boris Matt Pike - Sleep Jon Davis - Conan Any one of those could have been on this list if they were nominated or at least nominated earlier on enough so more people would have seen the nominations. I couldn't hear for like a day after I saw Bongipper. And even then I barely had my hearing back. Was so bad I needed to have people shout so I could kind of hear them.
    Oh yeah Yob; definitely should have made it. Can't believe Sleep and Electric Wizard aren't here either; seems like the classic rock fans got a little too much input.
    Seen YOB. Very fucking loud. High on Fire wasn't as loud as YOB but I think that was because of the venue. HOF was still loud though.Orange Goblin actually was very tame in comparison to the previous ones I mentioned. Kyuss was also not that loud and neither was QOTSA. Just my opinion though
    Well I listed Josh because he said Stoner Metal. And you KINDA can't talk about that genre without at least bringing up Kyuss.
    So true man. His tone is amazing live though. Seen QOTSA 3 times now and seriously every show is just absolutely mind blowing. Really though their sound guy Hutch is the reason they are good live though. All those little nuances you hear on their albums when you are listening with headphones are brought up live and it's insane. So bloody good
    Flying Afros
    Yeah, YOB is probably the loudest band I've ever seen. Next would either be Karma to Burn or Sleep, followed by Bongripper. High on Fire have been pretty loud every time I see them, but the 12 amps Matt has onstage with Sleep definitely pushes them over the edge.
    Ginger Baker once complained that Gary Moore was "playing so loud that he blew his ears" Coming from someone like Ginger makes this funnier because: 1. He plays pretty damn loud/fast himself 2. He was probably exaggerating since he was more than likely pissed off
    I've been to well over a hundred concerts of various genres. But without a doubt, the loudest band I ever saw live, by far and away, was the Ramones. They were so fucking loud that the air in the room literally compressed. It was actually difficult to breathe because of the volume. It was insane. I have never before or since seen anything like that. I've seen a lot of Rock and Metal bands. Motorhead, Kiss, The Who, Slayer among others. None of them came close to the insanity of the Ramones.
    Where do we make suggestions for Wednesday questions? There's no proper area to submit it with the other submission options. I think we should make it interesting and do a list of best songs in the Top 40 from the past decade or two. On top of the fact that it should be different and challenging, it could also be a good way to counter the notion that popular music isn't as good as it used to be.
    Go to go with Yngwie. When he starts turning up his Marshalls to get the effects he wants out of his guitar it becomes brutal. I don't know how any of those guys can hear at all. Saw the last night of the Generation Axe tour and earplugs and headset still didn't help. If I stayed my ears would have been bleeding and he did more showing off than actual playing. My ears are way too sensitive these days for that.
    Have to agree with this one. Saw the Toronto stop for Generation Axe... I counted 25 heads. Confirmed that all of them were operational and boy did it ever sound like it. I had a really bad ringing in my ears for about a week after that. Totally worth it, him and Tosin were by far my favourites - but that's merely my opinion. Really funny to see Tosin's minimal rig sitting next to an absolute wall of amplifiers though... His pseudonym is Lars Y Loudamp after all...
    MBV are factually the loudest, but you know, whatever.
    I would say that MBV, Sunn and Swans are the only bands on this list where the loudness isn't a gimmick but an inherit part of their music. You can play rock or even metal in normal volumes but you can't play shoegaze and especially drone any other way than painfully loud.
    Where's Dimebag Darrell?
    In the ground
    that could have either got you the medal or the poop, good job on getting the medal
    Thanx, I'll take good care of this medal. To be honest, I expected the poop with such a silly joke about Holy Dimebag. The man who buried David Gilmour in UG showdown, and I'll never ever forgive this
    This got me on the floor with laughter. Nothing like a bit of unexpected, cruel humor on the Internet.
    Second Rate
    What shade of pretentious does one have to be in order for Sunn and Swans to be enjoyable?
    Pretentious is the most overused descriptor in music when it comes to "I don't like this thing"
    Bedside Shred
    Also - swans are fucking amazing, you've probably only heard their super avant garde shit if you ripping on them like that check out the newest album masterful orchestrations
    All a matter of personal preference. Don't see me shitting all over your taste in music.
    It's always people like you who believe that there's some grand scheme behind liking music like that. What you don't consider is that - and that might come as a surprise, so you might want to sit down - we just like how the music sounds.
    Rex Inclitus
    No Fast Eddie Clark and all the other guitarists of Motorhead? When Eddie played at the Music Hall here in Toronto they caused structural damage to the building and plaster was falling from the ceiling. I agree Tony Iommi should be here as well. Ross the Boss of Manowar could have been higher at least in the top 5.
    Wednesday Questions are getting pretty bad. Shit-can the questions and get Van Hammersmith back. Far superior Wednesday entertainment.
    Very surprised the list is missing Billy Gibbons. ZZ Top is one of the loudest bands I've ever seen live (With the Who and Cream being 2 of the others, along with Robin Trower in a somewhat small club) His guitar rings out over such a pulsating rhythm section.
    Angus Young?
    Seriously though, he should be here. One of my music professors briefly worked for AC/DC on tour running their mixing board. The first rehearsal he worked on, he got the sound just right. Then the tour manager stormed over, screamed at him, and cranked the master fader all the way up. The tour manager said people don't come see AC/DC for good sound, they come to have their heads blown off.
    For me it was Them Crooked Vultures. Grohl and JPJ were insanely loud! Ive been to nearly 100 shows and its the only one where I had sweat hit my ear and checked to be sure it wasn't blood... when I was walking out my equilibrium was fucked. Really wish I had earplugs for that one.
    The video of Gary Moore with Jack Bruce and Gary Husband in the studio was fuckin AWESOME, man!