How to get Metallica’s Sounds with Your Gear

After The Ultimate Fan Guide to Metallica Amp Settings, we decided to take it a step further and show how the average musician can get that trademark Metallica sound with gear you may already own, or is available at a price you don’t need to be a rock star to afford.

1. EVOLUTION OF THE 'METALLICA'S TONE'

At this point, Metallica’s career has spanned over 35 years, a significant accomplishment for any band, but for them it’s so much more special because throughout that span they’ve never allowed their sound to go stale, and they continue to evolve musically. That does pose a challenge to us, however, in choosing a rig that faithfully captures all of Metallica’s signature sounds. To crack this nut, it makes sense to take three identifiable periods in the evolution of their career and try to match the gear to get tones that faithfully emulate all periods.

kirk-and-james-metallica-live

via MusicClipse.com

The first period is what we’ll call the Cliff Burton period which runs from 1980-1987. Metallica’s tone at that time was very bottom heavy, with scooped – almost zero – mids, perfect for the speed/thrash metal that characterized Metallica’s early sound. We’re talking Jump in the Fire, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, etc.

The second period is, for lack of a better term, the Jason Newsted era, extending from 1988-2005. This was a long and prolific era for the band – if not without controversy. It was during this period that the band, still recovering from the tragic death of bassist Cliff Burton, resolved to experiment more and move into more a progressive musical direction while not completely abandoning the thrash sound that they had helped popularize. Equipment and amp settings were not set in stone, and varied depending on the feel of a particular album or song. Some of the songs that are best representative of this period are: One, The Unforgiven, Hero of the Day and I Disappear.

The final period, the Contemporary period, covers the departure of Newsted and hiring of Robert Trujillo 2006-present. These years represent a real maturation in the sound of Metallica, a real willingness to take creative risks and an evolution in the way they think about gear, moving towards a more basic and stripped down setup, a trend that seems to becoming more prevalent amongst metal musicians. Representative of this evolution are numbers like: The Day That Never Comes, The Unforgiven III, When a Blind Man Cries and Remember Tomorrow.

2. THE BUDGET RANGE

As with the decision to break the Metallica tone into three distinct periods, we decided to set some parameters around price. It’s obvious not everyone can run out and buy the same equipment as Metallica has, so the reasoning is that by breaking it down by price points we should be able to come up with rigs for everyone from the novice who’s just getting started to the touring group interested in putting together a Metallica tribute act.

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    The first rig is the Bargain Rig. For the beginner just starting out or the budget conscious consumer who is limited to less than $600, we can put together a very nice rig that will allow you to be a garage or basement James Hetfield or Kirk Hammett. All of the equipment is high quality and you aren’t likely to be disappointed with any of the choices even if you decide to move in another direction musically.
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    For those willing to spend a little more, $600-$1000 for an Intermediate Rig can get you even closer to that goal of replicating Metallica’s monster tone. A good tube amp and guitar, along with a few pedals and of course your own talent, can get you pretty close to James’ or Kirk’s signature sound.
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    For over $1000, the sky is truly the limit, but we’ll keep it realistic. The total cost of a rack of equipment and a half dozen axes obviously could run into the tens of thousands of dollars, but we’ll keep it down to just one guitar for James’ sound and one for Kirk’s, a tube amp for each and a few pedals for an overall cost of no more than $2500. We’ll call that our Tribute Rig.

3. KEY CONSIDERATION

The main consideration in replicating Metallica’s tone is coming up with the right guitar and amp combo since that forms the basis of the tone.

It would be nice for the guitars to look similar to what James and Kirk use, but that is not our main focus. Of more importance is finding guitars with pickups – preferably active pickups – that have a high-output to give the sound the “oomph” needed for that heavy sound the band is famous for. Let's see some outstanding pickups for metal..

It’s also important for Kirk’s rig to include a guitar with a tremolo bridge system since many songs incorporate tremolo. Amplifiers should either be tube amps or solid state modeling amps that can emulate a Marshall (British) and/or Mesa Boogie amp/cabinet sound.

3.1. ROCKING THE BARGAIN RIG!

metallica-super-bowl-weekend-2016-billboard

via BillBoard.com

Nothing wrong with starting small and for under $600, you can get a few very nice rigs that fit the bill. It should be noted that both James and Kirk have played guitars with active pickups since at least 1987, but guitars with active electronics are inherently more expensive than those with passive pickups. A good compromise is choosing guitars with high-output passive pickups like the pickups found on the guitars profiled below.

1. JAMES' RIG

LTD EC1000
Sale
ESP LTD EC100AT Electric Guitar (Amazon Exclusive)
23 Reviews
ESP LTD EC100AT Electric Guitar (Amazon Exclusive)
  • The EC-100AT BLK has a Basswood Body with a Maple Neck and a Rosewood Fingerboard.
  • It has a Bolt-On Neck with 24 Extra Jumbo Frets and a Thin-U Neck Contour
  • It has a 24.75" Scale and a TOM Bridge & Tailpiece
  • The pickups are Passive ESP Designed LH-150(b)/LH-150(n)
  • The controls are Vol/Vol/Tone with a 3-way toggle switch

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:23 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

This Les Paul style guitar is similar to James Hetfield’s ESP Eclipse guitars in appearance and sounds surprisingly good for the price. The two LH-150 pickups are very responsive and excellent for both clean and distorted metal sounds. You would be hard pressed to come up with a better choice in terms of both sound and appearance for under $300.

Here is a demo of the EC100AT in action. Note: the narration of the video is in Russian, however, the video is an excellent demonstration of the capabilities of the guitar in both clean and overdriven modes.

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ESP LTD EC100AT Electric Guitar (Amazon Exclusive)
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3 Reviews
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Rosewood
Rosewood
Bridge System
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Pickup
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Jackson High Output Humbucking
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Maple
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Mahogany
Number of Frets
24
22
22
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ESP LTD EC100AT
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ESP LTD EC100AT Electric Guitar (Amazon Exclusive)
Price
$246.71
Reviews
23 Reviews
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Bridge System
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Pickup
ESP LH-150
Neck Material
Maple
Number of Frets
24
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Jackson JS22 Single Cut
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Jackson JS22 JS Series Monarkh - Satin Black
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from $179.99
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3 Reviews
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Number of Frets
22
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Epiphone Les Paul Special II
Preview
Epiphone Les Paul Special II Electric Guitar (Ebony)
Price
from $199.00
Reviews
593 Reviews
Rating
Body
Mahogany
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Bridge System
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Pickup
700T/650R Pickup
Neck Material
Mahogany
Number of Frets
22

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:23 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

BLACKSTAR IDCORE20
Blackstar IDCORE20 Guitar Combo Amplifier, 20W
108 Reviews
Blackstar IDCORE20 Guitar Combo Amplifier, 20W
  • 2x10W programmable combo
  • Super Wide Stereo - 12 Stereo Effects
  • Voice - select from 6 classic channels

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:13 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

The Blackstar line of amplifiers has been getting rave reviews from just about everyone who’s tried them.
This is a 20 watt modeling amplifier, so it comes with its own effects, saving you money. It comes with 6 channels with optional footswitch, allowing you to switch from clean to crunch – although for most Metallica tunes you’ll want to stick to the Bright Clean and OD1 (overdrive) or OD2 emulation settings. The 20 watts of power gives you enough oomph to be heard over the drums and bass.

Let's check out a demo of Blackstar IDCORE20 here:

OTHER COOL OPTIONS

Product Name
BlackStar IDCORE20
Peavey Vypyr VIP1
VOX VT20X
Preview
Blackstar IDCORE20 Guitar Combo Amplifier, 20W
Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 - 20 Watt Modeling Instrument Amplifier
VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier
Price
from $159.42
from $149.99
$179.99
Rating
Reviews
108 Reviews
329 Reviews
87 Reviews
Power
20 Watts
20 Watts
20 Watts
Amp model
6 Channels
36 Amp Models
11 Amp Models
Built-in Effects
12 Stereo Effects
25 Effects
13 Effects
Features
Footswitch
USB port
Mp3/Line in
EML Out/Headphone
USB Port
AUX in
Phones Out
Channels for Acoustic/Bass
Built-in Tuner
AUX in
Headphones out
USB port
Optional Footswitch
Product Name
BlackStar IDCORE20
Preview
Blackstar IDCORE20 Guitar Combo Amplifier, 20W
Price
from $159.42
Rating
Reviews
108 Reviews
Power
20 Watts
Amp model
6 Channels
Built-in Effects
12 Stereo Effects
Features
Footswitch
USB port
Mp3/Line in
EML Out/Headphone
Product Name
Peavey Vypyr VIP1
Preview
Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 - 20 Watt Modeling Instrument Amplifier
Price
from $149.99
Rating
Reviews
329 Reviews
Power
20 Watts
Amp model
36 Amp Models
Built-in Effects
25 Effects
Features
USB Port
AUX in
Phones Out
Channels for Acoustic/Bass
Product Name
VOX VT20X
Preview
VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier
Price
$179.99
Rating
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87 Reviews
Power
20 Watts
Amp model
11 Amp Models
Built-in Effects
13 Effects
Features
Built-in Tuner
AUX in
Headphones out
USB port
Optional Footswitch

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:13 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

2. KIRK'S RIG

DEAN VENDETTA XMT

Dean Vendetta XMT Electric Guitar with Tremolo - Metallic Black
32 Reviews
Dean Vendetta XMT Electric Guitar with Tremolo - Metallic Black
  • Paulownia body with metallic black finish and bolt-on construction
  • 25.5-inch scale, 24-fret maple neck with rosewood fingerboard and dot inlays
  • Dual Dean humbuckers with volume and tone controls, three-way toggle
  • Dean vintage tremolo bridge
  • Dean diecast tuning machines

Last update: 2019-10-15 at 07:31 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

Reminiscent of Kirk Hammett’s MM-270 “Zorlac” and KH-202 guitar, minus the active pickups and skull fretboard inlays, the Vendetta XMT is a great guitar for someone on a budget.

An interesting aspect of the Vendetta is that the body is made of Paulownia, a tree native to East Asia and similar in weight and durability to poplar, meaning that it is lightweight and well-balanced.

It also features a Dean Fender-style tremolo bridge meaning you can replicate all of Kirk’s dive-bombing riffs.
Here is a demo of the Vendetta MXT showing how well it can do Metallica riffs. Note: the Vendetta model shown in this video is the exact same model as the XMT without the tremolo.

OTHER CHOICES

Product Name
Dean Vendetta XMT
Jackson JS22
Jackson JS11
Preview
Dean Vendetta XMT Electric Guitar with Tremolo - Metallic Black
Jackson JS22 Dinky - Satin Black
Jackson JS11 Dinky - Black
Price
from $277.44
from $198.99
$149.99
Reviews
32 Reviews
28 Reviews
14 Reviews
Rating
Body
Paulownia
Basswood
Poplar
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Rosewood
Rosewood
Neck Material
Maple
Maple
Maple
Bridge System
Dean Vintage Tremolo Bridge
2-Point Fulcrum Tremolo
2-Point Fulcrum Tremolo
Pickup
Dean Humbuckers
Jackson High Output Humbuckers
Jackson High Output Humbuckers
Numbers of Fret
24
24
22
Product Name
Dean Vendetta XMT
Preview
Dean Vendetta XMT Electric Guitar with Tremolo - Metallic Black
Price
from $277.44
Reviews
32 Reviews
Rating
Body
Paulownia
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Neck Material
Maple
Bridge System
Dean Vintage Tremolo Bridge
Pickup
Dean Humbuckers
Numbers of Fret
24
Product Name
Jackson JS22
Preview
Jackson JS22 Dinky - Satin Black
Price
from $198.99
Reviews
28 Reviews
Rating
Body
Basswood
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Neck Material
Maple
Bridge System
2-Point Fulcrum Tremolo
Pickup
Jackson High Output Humbuckers
Numbers of Fret
24
Product Name
Jackson JS11
Preview
Jackson JS11 Dinky - Black
Price
$149.99
Reviews
14 Reviews
Rating
Body
Poplar
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Neck Material
Maple
Bridge System
2-Point Fulcrum Tremolo
Pickup
Jackson High Output Humbuckers
Numbers of Fret
22

Last update: 2019-10-15 at 07:31 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

VOX VT20X

VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier
87 Reviews
VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier
  • 20 Watts; 1 x 8" Speaker
  • Valvetronix preamp uses a vacuum tube multi-stage amplification circuit
  • 11 realistic amp models; 13 high quality on-board effects; 33 preset programs
  • Built-in tuner, AUX in jack, Headphones out, and USB connectivity; Optional VFS2 & VFS5 footswitches
  • VET (Virtual Elements Technology) delivers stunning sound quality

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:13 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

The VT20 made our list of top modeling amplifiers, and is a great choice as a low-cost, high-quality amp. This little amp models 11 different amplifiers including the Marshall and Mesa amps (Brit 800 and Brit or MKII settings) that both James and Kirk used up until recently. It features a footswitch and 13 onboard effects. This is the perfect amp to go with this setup.

Here is a great demo of the Vox VT20 and VT40 amps showing their metal prowess.

OTHER CHOICES

Product Name
VOX VT20X
BlackStar IDCORE20
Behringer V-Tone GM108
Preview
VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier
Blackstar IDCORE20 Guitar Combo Amplifier, 20W
Behringer V-Tone Gm108 True Analog Modeling 15-Watt Guitar Amp With 8" Speaker
Price
$179.99
from $159.42
$97.77
Rating
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87 Reviews
108 Reviews
53 Reviews
Power
20 Watts
20 Watts
15 Watts
Amp Types
Solid State
Solid State
Solid State
Amp Model
11 Amp Models
6 Amp Models
3 Classic Guitar Amps
3 Speaker Simulations
3 Gain modes
Built-in Effects
13 Effects
12 Stereo Effects
No Effect
Connection
AUX in
Headphone
Footswitch
USB port
MP3/Line In
Headphone/Line Out
Footswitch
USB port
Headphone
CD Input
Product Name
VOX VT20X
Preview
VOX Valvetronix VT20X Modeling Amplifier
Price
$179.99
Rating
Reviews
87 Reviews
Power
20 Watts
Amp Types
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Amp Model
11 Amp Models
Built-in Effects
13 Effects
Connection
AUX in
Headphone
Footswitch
USB port
Product Name
BlackStar IDCORE20
Preview
Blackstar IDCORE20 Guitar Combo Amplifier, 20W
Price
from $159.42
Rating
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108 Reviews
Power
20 Watts
Amp Types
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Amp Model
6 Amp Models
Built-in Effects
12 Stereo Effects
Connection
MP3/Line In
Headphone/Line Out
Footswitch
USB port
Product Name
Behringer V-Tone GM108
Preview
Behringer V-Tone Gm108 True Analog Modeling 15-Watt Guitar Amp With 8" Speaker
Price
$97.77
Rating
Reviews
53 Reviews
Power
15 Watts
Amp Types
Solid State
Amp Model
3 Classic Guitar Amps
3 Speaker Simulations
3 Gain modes
Built-in Effects
No Effect
Connection
Headphone
CD Input

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:13 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

VOX V-845

VOX V845 Classic Wah Wah Guitar Effects Pedal
126 Reviews
VOX V845 Classic Wah Wah Guitar Effects Pedal
  • Vox's V845 Wah Wah Pedal preserves the spirit and tone of the early VOX wah-wah pedals"a sound still sought after by today's players
  • Designed to withstand the rigors of life on the road, the V845 features a solid yet lightweight die-cast aluminum housing, as found on authentic VOX wah pedals from the 1960s
  • The Vox V845 Classic Wah Wah Guitar Effects Pedal is based on the specifications of the original pedal developed by VOX in the '60s
  • The V845 Wah-Wah offers guitarists the same legendary Wah-Wah tone in a new sturdy but very affordable design
  • The fitted AC power connector saves on batteries and the outer case is coated with tough all-black finish making the VOX Classic Wah-Wah a perfect choice for your pedal board

Last update: 2019-10-15 at 07:49 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

Naturally you’ll need a wah pedal and the V-845 is a great choice. It’s one of the lower priced name brand pedals on the market and features smooth, clean swells. It’s also known for great durability so isn’t prone to damage if it gets kicked around some.

Watch a great cover of Metallica’s Enter Sandman and see the V845 in action below.

3.2. GETTING DOWN WITH THE INTERMEDIATE RIG **

metallica-intermediate-rig

via RollingStone.com

With a little more flexibility in price, we can start looking at guitars that offer active pickups that more accurately replicate the Metallica sound. We can also afford to upgrade the amps from the 20 watt range into ones that will carry a little more punch.

1. JAMES' RIG

SCHESTER DAMIEN ELITE

Schecter Damien Elite Solo Electric Guitar - Crimson Red
1 Reviews
Schecter Damien Elite Solo Electric Guitar - Crimson Red
  • Quilted Maple Top
  • Maple Neck
  • EMG Active 81/85 Pickups
  • TOM Bridge w/String Thru
  • Limited Lifetime Guarantee

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 14:37 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

If you are willing to overlook the fact that this doesn’t look quite like anything James plays on stage, you really can’t do any better than the Damien Elite.

This guitar is perfect for metal, featuring EMG 81/85 active pickups and the same TOM bridge that James uses on his custom built ESP guitars today. Not only is it a great guitar, but for under $430, it leaves a little more wiggle room for a nice amp and effects.
This video shows the Damien Elite Solo being put through its paces as a heavy metal machine.

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Tune-O-Matic
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Bridge: EMG 81
Neck: EMG 85
Dean DMT Design
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Numbers of Fret
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Product Name
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Numbers of Fret
24
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Bridge System
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Numbers of Fret
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Price
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Body Material
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Neck Material
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Bridge System
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Numbers of Fret
24

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 14:37 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

BOSS KATANA 100W

Boss Katana 100W 1x12 Combo Amplifier for Electric Guitars
29 Reviews
Boss Katana 100W 1x12 Combo Amplifier for Electric Guitars
  • Stage-ready 100-watt combo amp with a custom 12-inch speaker
  • Five unique amp characters: Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown (derived from the Waza amp), and Acoustic (for acoustic-electric guitars)
  • Choose from a huge selection of customizable effects and effect routing configurations with the BOSS Tone Studio editor software
  • Dedicated gain, EQ, presence, and effects controls for adjusting sounds quickly
  • Tone Setting memories for storing and recalling all amp and effect settings

Last update: 2018-05-08 at 10:43 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

OK, so I could have gone with a tube amp here like the Bugera V-22, but the BOSS Katana modeling amp just blows them all out of the water. It is a solid state amp, but the sound is just amazing and the reviews are outstanding.

With a heart-pounding 100 watts, this amp has more than enough power to cut through anything. If you crank it, it will definitely annoy the neighbors.

It has a total of 5 amp emulations and 58 – yes you read that right – total effects. The clean and lead amp type settings are best for Metallica’s tone, and with the built in effects, there is no Metallica tone you can’t capture. All this for $350.
Let's see what kind of metal amp the Boss Katana 100 can be on the video below

OTHER CHOICES

Product Name
BOSS Katana 100W
Marshall MG50CFX
Marshall Code 50
Preview
Boss Katana 100W 1x12 Combo Amplifier for Electric Guitars
Marshall MG50CFX MG Series 50-Watt Guitar Combo Amp
Marshall Code 50-50-watt 1x12" Digital Combo Amp
Price
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422 Reviews
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Amp Type
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Solid State
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Power
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50 Watts
50 Watts
Amp Model
5 Amp Models
4 Channels
14 Preamp Models
Built-in Effects
Fx Loop
Connection
AUX in
Line Out
Headphone/REC out
Foot Control
USB port
MP3 Line in
Line Out
Foot Controller
USB port
Headphone
Footswitch
MP3 Line in
Product Name
BOSS Katana 100W
Preview
Boss Katana 100W 1x12 Combo Amplifier for Electric Guitars
Price
$349.99
Rating
Reviews
29 Reviews
Amp Type
Solid State Modeling
Power
100 Watts
Amp Model
5 Amp Models
Built-in Effects
Fx Loop
Connection
AUX in
Line Out
Headphone/REC out
Foot Control
USB port
Product Name
Marshall MG50CFX
Preview
Marshall MG50CFX MG Series 50-Watt Guitar Combo Amp
Price
from $428.00
Rating
Reviews
422 Reviews
Amp Type
Solid State
Power
50 Watts
Amp Model
4 Channels
Built-in Effects
Fx Loop
Connection
MP3 Line in
Line Out
Foot Controller
Product Name
Marshall Code 50
Preview
Marshall Code 50-50-watt 1x12" Digital Combo Amp
Price
from $299.99
Rating
Reviews
49 Reviews
Amp Type
Solid State Modeling
Power
50 Watts
Amp Model
14 Preamp Models
Built-in Effects
Fx Loop
Connection
USB port
Headphone
Footswitch
MP3 Line in

Last update: 2018-05-08 at 10:43 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

JRAD ARCHER OVERDRIVE

Sale
J. Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series Archer Overdrive and Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
78 Reviews
J. Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series Archer Overdrive and Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
  • A recreation of an iconic circuit matching all of the wonderful qualities of the original
  • A great clean boost that goes all the way to a chimey classic organic gain
  • Can be used as just a clean boost by turning the gain all the way down
  • Introduce gain to attenuate the clean signal until you find the magical blend in between
  • Can be powered by a 9V battery; battery is NOT included

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:33 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

If you are a guitarist and a big Metallica fan, you’ll know that one James’ go-to effects is the KLON Centaur overdrive pedal. In fact, so important has this device pedal been in his sound that he still uses this pedal today despite having a massive rack of high-end electronic technology at his fingertips.

Original KLONs are extremely rare and expensive, some of them being sold at $2500 or more. As a result several manufacturers have tried, with varying degrees of success, to reproduce the classic Centaur tone.

According to music magazine The Deli, the Archer is one of the few recreations that includes the Centaur’s “secret sauce” the same NOS germanium diodes used on the original.

SIMILAR OPTIONS

Product Name
JRAD Archer
Arc Effects: KLONE V2
EH - Soul Food
Preview
J. Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series Archer Overdrive and Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
Arc Effects Klone V2 Overdrive Pedal Black with Black Knobs
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion/Fuzz/Overdrive Pedal
Price
from $79.00
$199.99
$105.00
Rating
-
Reviews
78 Reviews
-
196 Reviews
Knobs
Output, Gain, Treble
Volume, Tone, Gain
Volume, Treble, Drive
Product Name
JRAD Archer
Preview
J. Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series Archer Overdrive and Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
Price
from $79.00
Rating
Reviews
78 Reviews
Knobs
Output, Gain, Treble
Product Name
Arc Effects: KLONE V2
Preview
Arc Effects Klone V2 Overdrive Pedal Black with Black Knobs
Price
$199.99
Rating
-
Reviews
-
Knobs
Volume, Tone, Gain
Product Name
EH - Soul Food
Preview
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion/Fuzz/Overdrive Pedal
Price
$105.00
Rating
Reviews
196 Reviews
Knobs
Volume, Treble, Drive

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:33 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

2. KIRK'S RIG

ESP LTD KH202

Sale
ESP LTD KH-202 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
23 Reviews
ESP LTD KH-202 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
  • Offers guitar players an affordable way to get Kirk Hammett's vibe
  • Has a basswood body with a maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard
  • Comes equipped with a Floyd Rose Special bridge and locking nut
  • Offers a fast, extra thin U-shaped maple bolt-on neck, 24 extra jumbo frets and Kirk's skull-and-bones inlays
  • Driven by ESP-designed LH-301 pickups

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:03 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

This is THE Kirk Hammett guitar. It has the LH-301 active pickups and electronics, it has the Floyd Rose tremolo, it has the rosewood fretboard and solid basswood body, it even has the skull and crossbones position markers. Not much more that you can say about it other than this guitar is a metal machine.

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ESP LTD KH-202 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
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from $479.00
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24
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ESP LTD KH-202
Preview
ESP LTD KH-202 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
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from $460.00
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23 Reviews
Body Material
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24
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ESP LTD Alexi-200
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ESP LTD Alexi 200 Black Alexi Laiho Electric Guitar
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from $649.00
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24

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:03 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

RANDALL KH75

Randall Kirk Hammett Signature RX Series Heads/Combos, KH75
3 Reviews
Randall Kirk Hammett Signature RX Series Heads/Combos, KH75
  • Kirk Hammett signature
  • 2-Channels
  • Boost option
  • Spring reverb
  • Footswitch included

Last update: 2019-10-15 at 07:49 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

OK, this one was pretty much a no-brainer. How much more Kirk Hammett can you get than one of his signature Randall amps? This amp is the real deal.

Granted, it is a solid state amp, but it does have good tube emulation technology, two channels, and believe it or not, spring reverb. For those unfamiliar with spring reverb, also known as a reverb tank, is old school technology where the amplifier signal is split into two paths, one path going directly to the speaker and another routed through a series of springs, which delays the signal. The resulting sound is a mixture of the two with a longer decay time. This results in a more “organic” reverb than digitally created reverb.

This amp also has plenty of power. With 75 watts you won’t struggle to be heard.

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Solid State Modeling
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75 Watts
100 Watts
150 Watts
Built-in Effects
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Connection
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USB port
MP3/Line in
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3 Reviews
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Power
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Marshall Code100C 100-Watt 2x12 Inches Digital Combo Amp
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33 Reviews
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Randall RG1503-212
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Randall RG Series RG1503-212 Guitar Amplifier Combo
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Power
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Connection
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Last update: 2019-10-15 at 07:49 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

VOX V-845

VOX V845 Classic Wah Wah Guitar Effects Pedal
126 Reviews
VOX V845 Classic Wah Wah Guitar Effects Pedal
  • Vox's V845 Wah Wah Pedal preserves the spirit and tone of the early VOX wah-wah pedals"a sound still sought after by today's players
  • Designed to withstand the rigors of life on the road, the V845 features a solid yet lightweight die-cast aluminum housing, as found on authentic VOX wah pedals from the 1960s
  • The Vox V845 Classic Wah Wah Guitar Effects Pedal is based on the specifications of the original pedal developed by VOX in the '60s
  • The V845 Wah-Wah offers guitarists the same legendary Wah-Wah tone in a new sturdy but very affordable design
  • The fitted AC power connector saves on batteries and the outer case is coated with tough all-black finish making the VOX Classic Wah-Wah a perfect choice for your pedal board

Last update: 2019-10-15 at 07:49 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

Kirk’s rig is pretty spare, but of course we need to look at getting a wah pedal. For this, we’ll go back to the V-845. It sounds great, it’s reliable and the price is very reasonable.


3.3. OWN THE STAGE WITH THE TRIBUTE RIG!

metallica-tribute-rig

via RollingStone.com

For over $1000 you really could do anything you want, but we need to keep in mind that our readers are not rock stars – at least not yet. Given that our dreams are usually a lot bigger than our bank accounts, we’ll keep the price below $2500. This still gives us a lot of flexibility in what we can do in terms of guitars, amps and effects.

1. JAMES' RIG

EPIPHONE "1984" EXPLORER 

Sale
Epiphone '1984' EXPLORER EX  Electric Guitar with EMG-81/85 Pickups, Alpine White
3 Reviews
Epiphone "1984" EXPLORER EX Electric Guitar with EMG-81/85 Pickups, Alpine White
  • Sleek Update of a Classic Design
  • High Output AMG Pickups
  • Black Hardware
  • Single Volume, Single Tone Control
  • EMG 81/85 Pickup Combo

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:33 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

Now we’re talkin’. For the ultimate James Hetfield rig, this is the guitar for you. It has the classic Explorer body shape, EMG 81/85 active pickups and an awesome metal tone. With a mahogany neck and mahogany body, this instrument is rock solid.
Here is the 1984 Explorer EX in action covering Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

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Ebony
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Tune-O-Matic
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Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:33 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

B-52 ATX-100

B-52 ATX-100 100W Tube Guitar Amp Head Black
2 Reviews
B-52 ATX-100 100W Tube Guitar Amp Head Black
  • All-tube signal path
  • Overdrive channel: gain 1 and gain 2 each with independent master volumes, 3-band EQ, assignable mid-cut control
  • Clean channel: master volume, 3-band EQ and bright switch
  • Global controls: volume, low-res (resonance) and reverb
  • Effects loop (footswitchable)

Last update: 2019-10-15 at 07:31 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

Here we were looking for a good tube amp that would accurately replicate the best of the Mesa Boogie Triple rectifier, Diezel VH-4 and Marshall JCM 800 amps. Plus, we wanted to do all that at a price that won’t bust the budget.

After doing some research, we came up with the B-52 ATX 100. This all-tube three channel 100 watt head carries the same compliment of 6L6 power tubes and 12AX7 preamp tubes that drive the other three amps. The clean channel is crystal clear while the overdrive channel features two gain stages so you can get that chunky crunch necessary for that thrash metal sound.

OTHER CHOICES

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Last update: 2019-10-15 at 07:31 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

MARSHALL MX412B

Marshall MX Series MX412B 4 x 12 Inches 240 Watt Guitar Amplifier Speaker Cabinet
2 Reviews
Marshall MX Series MX412B 4 x 12 Inches 240 Watt Guitar Amplifier Speaker Cabinet
  • 240 watts
  • Celestine Speakers
  • 16 ohm cabinet
  • Straight bottom cabinet

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 14:56 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

Of course, you’ll need a cabinet for the head and you can’t beat a classic 4x12 Marshall cabinet. This cabinet is loaded with “silver back” Celestion G12E-60 speakers. The MX412 is both classic and timeless.

SIMILAR OPTIONS

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Marshall MX412B
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Marshall MX Series MX412B 4 x 12 Inches 240 Watt Guitar Amplifier Speaker Cabinet
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400 Watts
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Speaker Configuration
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Weight
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Preview
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Price
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240 Watts
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Impedance
16 ohm
Dimension
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Weight
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JCA48S 4x12
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400 Watts
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Impedance
16 ohm
Dimension
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Weight
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Laney GS412IA
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Price
Price not available
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-
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Speaker Configuration
4x12 Celestion 70 Eighty
Impedance
16 ohm
Dimension
18 x 34 x 31 in.
Weight
83 lbs

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 14:56 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

TC ELECTRONIX NOVA SYSTEM

TC Electronic Nova System Floor Based Analog Overdrive/Distortion with G-System Effects and Dynamics...
43 Reviews
TC Electronic Nova System Floor Based Analog Overdrive/Distortion with G-System Effects and Dynamics...
  • Ndt (Nova drive technology): all-analog programmable overdrive and distortion circuit under preset and expression control
  • 30 factory and 60 User presets
  • Two footswitch layouts: preset and pedal
  • Hi-z and balanced input + balanced stereo outputs
  • 6 built-in effect blocks taken straight from g-system: compression, EQ + noise Gate, modulation, pitch, delay, and reverb

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:33 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

The Nova System is a floor-based analog overdrive/distortion with a G-System multi-effects processor. This device has most of the same features of G-Major 2 rack mount processor used by James in an onstage pedal board to give you total control over your effects and sound. It has 30 factory and 60 user presets and 6 Built-in effect blocks taken straight from G-Major.

2. KIRK'S RIG

ESP LTD KH602

ESP LTD KH-602 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar with Case, Black
11 Reviews
ESP LTD KH-602 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar with Case, Black
  • Offers nearly everything of its higher-end cousin, the ESP KH-2, at a price that more musicians can afford
  • Features neck-thru-body construction, a comfortable alder body, and a 3 pc. extra-thin U-shaped maple neck
  • The pau ferro fingerboard features 24 extra-jumbo frets and Kirk Hammett's skull-and-bones inlays
  • Components include a Floyd Rose bridge and a set of EMG Kirk Hammett Bone Breaker Signature pickups
  • A powerful guitar designed for professional recording and performance, perfect for any serious player of intense music

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 12:55 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

The KH602 is the same instrument Kirk Hammett uses onstage. The EMG 81 and EMG 60 active pickups, Floyd Rose tremolo system, reverse headstock and skull and crossbones inlays. Alder body and slim taper neck. 24 fret 25.5” scale length with rosewood fingerboard.

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Preview
ESP LTD KH-WZ Signature Series Kirk Hammett White Zombie Electric Guitar with Case
Price
from $1,149.00
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Last update: 2019-10-14 at 12:55 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

RANDALL KH120 RHS

Sale
Randall KH120RHS Kirk Hammett Series 120-Watt Half Stack Guitar Amp
5 Reviews
Randall KH120RHS Kirk Hammett Series 120-Watt Half Stack Guitar Amp
  • KH120RHS INCLUDES KH120RH & KH412
  • Preamp channels 2 channel/3 mode 1: Hammett clean mode 2: vintage/Hammett overdrive Mode 3: Modern Hammett overdrive EQ controls bass middle Treble contour master controls volume
  • Power amp solid state power output 120 Watts
  • Features spring reverb Series EFX loop tape/CD input footswitch included
  • KH412 speakers 4 x 12" Celestin rocket 50's power handling 200 watts RMS

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:33 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

The 2 channel/3 mode amp faithfully replicates the 80s/90s vintage overdrive, modern overdrive and clean mode to cover all of Kirk’s tones over the years. Has spring reverb and solid state power amp for durability and reliability. 120 watt output to handle everything from small clubs to stadiums.

You can see a full demo of the KH120RHS’ capabilities here

OTHER CHOICES

Product Name
Randall KH120RHS
Marshall MG100HCFX
Preview
Randall KH120RHS Kirk Hammett Series 120-Watt Half Stack Guitar Amp
Marshall MG4 Carbon Series MG100HCFX Guitar Amplifier Head Bundle with Marshall MG4 Carbon Series...
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$849.99
from $428.00
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100 Watts
Head Type
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2 channels w/ 3 modes
4 Channels
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Speaker Power
200 Watts
120 Watts
Speaker Configuration
4 x 12 Celestion Rocket 50
4x12 Celestion Marshall Custom
Product Name
Randall KH120RHS
Preview
Randall KH120RHS Kirk Hammett Series 120-Watt Half Stack Guitar Amp
Price
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Rating
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5 Reviews
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Product Name
Marshall MG100HCFX
Preview
Marshall MG4 Carbon Series MG100HCFX Guitar Amplifier Head Bundle with Marshall MG4 Carbon Series...
Price
from $428.00
Rating
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422 Reviews
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100 Watts
Head Type
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Head Channel
4 Channels
Fx Loop
Speaker Power
120 Watts
Speaker Configuration
4x12 Celestion Marshall Custom

Last update: 2019-10-14 at 13:33 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

LINE 6 POD HD500X 

Line 6 POD HD500X Guitar Floor Multi-Effects Pedal
98 Reviews
Line 6 POD HD500X Guitar Floor Multi-Effects Pedal
  • World-class collection of HD amps and effects
  • More power and flexibility for total creativity
  • Professional-grade, backlit footswitches for easy operation
  • The command center for your guitar rig
  • Now includes the HD Fully Loaded Amp Bundle - a $99 Value

Last update: 2019-10-15 at 07:34 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

This is where it all happens, the command center for the entire rig. Of course, Kirk’s touring setup has a variety of rack effects and switching, but with the budget in mind, the POD HD500X multi-effects processor is just the ticket, particularly since Kirk already uses Line 6 delay and modulation in his tour rig.

The POD HD500X offers over 100 different effects, allowing you to play up to eight of them at any one time. It has an integrated wah pedal allowing you to select from nine different types of wah. This device has it all.

4. HOW TO GET METALLICA's SOUND WITH YOUR GEARS

Kirk's Rig

via TheGearPage.net

Now that you have the gear, you’ll need to dial in the tone to get the sound you want. This is where we come back to the evolution of the Metallica tone that we discussed earlier.

For the Bargain Rig and Intermediate Rig, you may have to work a little harder to get the tone dialed in because we don’t have as much gear to play with. The effects included in the modeling amps will help greatly with that.

For James’ sound, you will definitely want to include some overdrive/distortion for the rhythm parts (you’ll need to dial that back when you want a clean tone). You’ll also want to include some Phaser and Chorus, but not too much. You’ll have to play with it to get it where you want it because every amp is different. I would say no more than about the 9 o’clock position on the knob. 

For Kirk’s tone, you’ll probably want to add some overdrive/distortion for the chunkier overdrive channel while the clean channel will need to have some delay, ring modulation, octaver and some phaser for that soaring lead sound.

With the Tribute rig, you have a lot more flexibility because of the multi-effects processor and the presets it offers. You can play with it while you’re off the road and set the effects exactly where you want them to recall later. It definitely pays if you can fit that into your budget.

TURN YOUR AMP KNOBS

1. THE CLIFF BURTON PERIOD

The Cliff Burton period was characterized by straightforward thrash and took advantage of the heavy Marshall amp sound. The midrange frequencies were very scooped (i.e., practically absent).

For James’ heavy rhythm sound the gain was set high at around 7-9. The bass was set somewhere in the middle between 4 and 7 and the treble maxed out at 9-10. The mid-range was almost completely non-existent with the amp set at 0-1.
For Kirk’s clean lead sound, the gain was set lower somewhere between 5-7. The bass and treble were also set from 5-7 and the mids were a little higher at 1-3.

2. THE JASON NEWSTED ERA

The Jason Newsted era featured some more experimental music. Tunes like The Struggle Within from the Black album had an almost 80s glam metal vibe to it that suggested the band was willing to play with amp settings and even let a little mid-range into the picture. 

For James a typical amp setting for this period would be to take a little lighter touch with the gain and have that set at only 6-7. The treble would be set anywhere between 4-7 depending upon the song, but not the maxed out treble that we saw during the Cliff Burton period. The mids were a little still set in the 0-1 range.

Kirk also tended to back off on the gain, leaving that set at around 2. Bass and treble would have been set in the 4-5 range. The midrange had a wider range for Kirk at this time, depending upon the song, setting it anywhere from 0-4.

3. THE CONTEMPORARY PERIOD

During the Contemporary period, again we see them playing around with the amp settings some. A lot of this had to do with the choice to use the first the Mesa Triaxis, and later, the Fractal AxeFX preamps where amp settings could be pre-programmed in and recalled for individual songs. This made it easier to play with the tones without having to worry about re-dialing in the tone for every song.

A good rule of thumb for James’ amp settings for this period are to set everything, gain, treble, bass and midrange all at the 5-6 range.
Kirk’s clean settings were almost identical with all controls set at the 5-6 range except the gain, which, as usual for a clean tone would need to be turned down to a 2-3.

ADD SOME EFFECTS

1. JAMES' EFFECTS

Metallica has always been notable in that they never have used many effects. In fact, early in their career, James only used boost devices such as the Ibanez Tube Screamer and ProCo Rat distortion.

Even at their sound evolved, there were only a few other effects added to the basic signal chain, such as the MXR Phase, Digitech Wammy and Dunlop wah pedal. Once James acquired the G-Major system with multiple onboard effects, it rendered most other effects redundant.

One pedal James has refused to part with, even with the G-Major, is the Klon Centaur overdrive. With the modeling amps we presented, you should likewise be able to replicate the signal chain of both early and more contemporary Metallica sounds.

Similarly, in the Tribute rig, the Nova System will fill in quite adequately for the G-Major system, particularly since the technology is nearly identical.

2. KIRK'S EFFECTS

Early on Kirk’s use of effects was even more sparing than James’. The one effect that he has used consistently throughout his career is the wah pedal, and he has used several different makes and models.

Kirk-Hammett-Effects

via LoudWire.com

Kirk also uses the G-Major 2 system for multi-effects processing. At the present time, he also uses Line 6 delay and ring modulator, as well as MXR Flanger and Octaver. As with the James’ equipment the amps we use for the Bargain Rig and Intermediate Rig are modeling amps that include the necessary effects to replicate his effects chain.

With the Tribute Rig, the Line 6 POD HD500X contains the delay, modulation, flanger and octave effects all in one package, as well as an integrated foot pedal for the wah effect.

AND IT'S YOUR TURN NOW

Of course, the real trick to truly getting James’ and Kirk’s sound is practice. The best gear in the world is no substitute for that; but hopefully you found this guide informative and entertaining, and at least a good starting point for you to get Metallica’s sound with your own gear. We’d like to hear if you have your own current gears. Please give them in the comment section below. 

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