With a total of eight Grammy awards, four of the top 10 best selling metal albums of all time, and a member of the “Big Four”, which cumulatively established thrash metal as recognized genre, Metallica holds a special place in the history of heavy metal. From 1983 to the present day, Metallica has continued to turn out platinum albums with clock-like regularity.

Not surprisingly, guitarists from total novices to seasoned experts have tried, and often failed, to figure out exactly what it is about Metallica’s amp settings, amps and guitars that produces their unique tone. Though Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield have tweaked their setup throughout the years, there is still no mistaking that distinctive sound that makes them one of the greatest metal bands ever.

NEW UPDATE

Most Accurate / Expert Approved Interview

With Your Current Gears

SECTION 1: ANALYZING THE METALLICA'S SOUND

Whether your aim is to try to reproduce the sounds you hear on the albums or live shows in your own playing, or you just want to know because you’re into gear, hopefully this list will answer your questions.

The method that makes the most sense is to break the list up by periods in the band’s history where James’ and Kirk’s equipment has remained pretty consistent. Each section includes the albums and any remarkable live shows during that period, the guitars used most frequently, the amp setup each one used and the general amp settings for both James and Kirk.

To wrap up the list, I’ve included a list of the effects used by each guitarist, and where possible, the settings for those too. 

1. EARLY YEARS (1983 – 1985)

During this period, Kill ‘Em All (1983) and Ride the Lightning (1984) were released. Metallica also performed a tremendous live show in Toulouse, France on November 22, 1984 (one of the few recorded with late bassist Cliff Burton) that they offer a free download of on their website.

At this time, both James and Kirk were using Marshall rigs modified by Jose Arrendondo, a guy who’s modded amps for a number of guitar greats from Eddie Van Halen to Steve Vai. James mostly employed the JCM 800 while Kirk used a combination of the SLP (Kill ‘Em All), later switching to a JCM 800 (Ride the Lightning)

AMP SETTINGS

The settings are out-of-date, no available resources to verify the accuracy. 

It’s unclear what the amp settings were for Kill ‘Em All, but according to Danish engineer Flemming Rasmussen who was brought in for Ride the Lightning and kept meticulous notes, for the great majority of the songs, the settings for James were:

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 6
  • Middle: 1
  • Treble: 9~10

Kirk’s settings were the same except for backing the gain down to a 4 or 5 for a cleaner sound on the lead overdubs on Fade to Black and The Call Of Ktulu.

GUITARS

- James Hetfield

Electra Flying V

Electra Flying V

via AntonioGuitars.ro

Gibson Explorer “So What”

Gibson Explorer “So What”

via Pinterest.com

- Kirk Hammett

Gibson Kirk Hammett Flying V

Gibson-Kirk-Hammett-Flying-V

via Guitar-Planet.co.uk

Jackson Flying V “Randy Rhoads”

Jackson Flying V “Randy Rhoads”

via Ultimate-Guitar.com

2. MASTER OF PUPPETS (1986 – 1987)

This was the time span of Master of Puppets and a great deal of change was happening at this time. In addition to the loss of founding bassist Cliff Burton as a result of a tragic accident while the band was touring Europe, this was when both guitarists began their association with Mesa Boogie amps. While Kirk was still using Marshalls onstage (and Mesa Boogie in the studio), James was using a Mesa Boogie Mark IIC slaved into his old JCM 800 for both live and studio situations.

Messa-Boogie-Mark-IIC

Mesa-Boogie-Mark-IIC (via Ultimate-Guitar.com)

AMPS SETTINGS

The settings are out-of-date, no available resources to verify the accuracy. 

The pair began to experiment with different amp settings during this time period, but a good general setting for most songs would be:

  • Gain – 7
  • Bass - 6
  • Mid - 3
  • Treb - 7

Again, for clean leads, a little less gain would be appropriate. Also, it would be best to kick the treble up to 9 or 10 to replicated Kirk’s tone more precisely.

GUITARS

In addition to the guitars used on the first two albums, James added a Jackson King V to his collection, while Kirk continued to use the same guitars he used on the first two albums.

Jackson King V James Hetfield

Jackson King V via Ultimate-Guitar.com

3. ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (1988 - 1993)

This era marked a period of transition for Metallica and included the albums …And Justice for All and the Black album. Also included during this period were impressive live shows in Seattle (1989) and Moscow (1991).

This marks the first time that both James and Kirk fully transitioned to Mesa Boogie amplification, first using the Mark IIC and later switching to the Mark IV. Toward 1990, James did begin to experiment with the Roland JC120 for a clean sound.

One significant addition to James’ rig was the introduction of the ADA MP-1 preamp. The MP-1 was the preeminent metal preamp of the late 80s and early 90s because of its ability to provide a heavy overdriven/distorted sound without sounding muddled or muddy, and despite its vintage, is still in wide use by metal guitarists to this day.

Read more: How to choose the Right Guitar for Metalheads - The Definitive Guide

AMPS SETTINGS

The settings are out-of-date, no available resources to verify the accuracy. 

During the recording of both … And Justice and the Black album, James and Kirk used a number of different amp settings, which added a great deal of variety to the song, but made it tougher to nail down a specific set of amp settings that apply to an entire album.

For example, the heavily distorted rhythm section of the song One was recorded with significantly boosted bass and midrange, while the generally more melodic and radio friendly songs on the Black album tended to have the gain and bass dialed down somewhat. The best approximations of the clean and overdriven sounds are as follows:

Clean Sound:

  • Gain – 7
  • Bass – 3
  • Mid – 3

Overdriven sound:

  • Gain – 9
  • Bass – 8
  • Mid – 1
  • Treb – 6

GUITARS

- James Hetfield

Also new at this time was James’ ESP MX-220, his first Explorer style guitar from ESP. He still uses this guitar which is easily identified by its white color and bears the words “EET FUK” on the upper part of the lower bout.

ESP MX220 “Eet Fuk”

via GuitarsCollector.com

- Kirk Hammett

Kirk also obtained two Les Paul style guitars both of which he still uses, one a black Gibson Les Paul Custom fitted with EMG active pickups, the other a black ESP KH-3 Eclipse.

Kirk Hammett's Gibson Les Paul Custom

Gibson Les Paul Custom Kirk Hammett

via GuitarsCollector.com

ESP-Kirk-Hammett-Les-Paul-KH-3

ESP-Kirk-Hammett-Les-Paul-KH-3

via Rhapsody.fr

4. LOAD AND RELOAD (1994 - 1999)

This prolific era was marked by the release of two studio albums (Load and Reload), one live album (S&M), and an album of cover songs (Garage Inc.). Still using the Mesa Boogie Mark IV amps, the amp settings for the studio albums tended to be notable for the absence of midrange for both overdriven and clean sounds.

AMPS SETTINGS

Clean sound:

  • Gain – 2
  • Bass – 4
  • Mid – 2
  • Treble – 5

Overdriven sound:

  • Gain – 7
  • Bass - 4.5
  • Mid – 0
  • Treble - 6.5

GUITARS

Perhaps most notably during this period was the acquisition of several new guitars for both James and Kirk. New guitars in James’ collection included:

  • Ken Lawrence Explorer (recognizable by its unusual shark fin headstock)
  • ESP JH-1 (Flying V body style)
  • ESP JH-2 (Explorer body style)
  • ESP JH-3 (Les Paul body style)
  • ESP Eclipse CustomGibson SG
Ken Lawrence Explorer

Ken Lawrence Explorer (via Equipboard.com)

The was also the point at which Kirk started to collect his “horror movie” ESP KH-2 guitars painted with images from famous horror movies, starting with “The Mummy” and “Ouija”. He also acquired a KH-1 Explorer style guitar, and a truly unique and fascinating ESP Wavecaster guitar featuring a hollow plexiglass body filled with blue colored motor oil that oozed about like a lava lamp. He uses the guitar exclusively for the song Am I Evil.

ESP WaveCaster

ESP WaveCaster (via Equipboard.com)

5. ST. ANGER (2000 - 2005)

The period was somewhat slower paced encompasses the St. Anger album, and was more notable for changes in guitars than in amps but in one of the more interesting changes, Kirk began using a 1959 Fender Twin Reverb. This was an extremely unusual move considering that the Twin Reverb is more commonly associated with country and classic rock sounds; however, according to Justin Crew, Kirk’s guitar tech, it remains one of his favorite amps. The settings didn’t change much from the previous albums except for a more pronounced midrange tone.

AMPS SETTINGS

Clean sound:

  • Gain – 2
  • Bass – 5
  • Mid – 5
  • Treble – 6

Overdriven sound:

  • Gain – 5
  • Bass - 5
  • Mid – 4.5
  • Treble - 6

GUITARS

James added the following to his collection of axes:

  • Les Paul CustomLTD H-307 (7-string)
  • LTD Viper (baritone guitar)

Kirk added a couple of flying Vs, one with a Floyd Rose tremolo system and the other with just a single EMG active pickup.

6. DEATH MAGNETIC (2006 - 2011)

Featuring the albums Death Magnetic, Lulu and Beyond Magnetic, this time marked the most significant change in amps since the guitarists switched to Mesa Boogie in 1986. While James began to use a Diezel VH-4 head alongside his trusty Mesa Boogies, Kirk signed a deal with Randall to use their heads, cabinets and preamps alongside his Mesa Boogies.

AMP SETTINGS

For these albums James and Kirk seem to have gone back to their minimal use of mids with the mids set at about 2 for clean leads and 0 for the overdrive.

Clean sound:

  • Gain – 2
  • Bass – 5
  • Mid – 2
  • Treble – 6

Overdriven sound:

  • Gain – 5
  • Bass - 5
  • Mid – 0
  • Treble - 6

GUITARS

James picked up his ESP Truckster and Iron Cross guitars, both Les Paul body style guitars with active pickups.

Worth to Read: What makes a Great Metal Pickup ~ Best Pickups for Metal
ESP Iron Cross

via GuitarsCollector.com

Kirk added to his KH-2 “horror movie” guitars with “Frankenstein”, “Dracula” and “Bride of Frankenstein” paint jobs.

ESP KH2 M-II Dracula

via Metallica-Japan.com

7. HARDWIRED… to SELF-DESTRUCT (2011 – PRESENT)

Since 2011, Metallica has released the album Hardwired … to Self-Destruct and the feature concert film Through the Never. They also played the 2012 Orion Fest. Again, marking a sea-change in amplification choices, James has settled on a combination of Diezel and Mesa Boogie amps with a Mesa Boogie Triaxis preamp and Mesa Simul-class 2 stereo power amp

Kirk is currently using a Randall Meathead amp designed by famous amp designer Mike Fortin along with Randall cabinets.

AMP SETTINGS

Actual numbers are hard to come by, but the closest numbers I have seen are:

Clean Sound:

  • Gain - 5
  • Bass - 4
  • Mid - 7
  • Treble - 8

Overdriven Sound:

  • Gain - 5
  • Bass - 4
  • Mid - 7
  • Treble - 8

GUITARS

James’ new guitars include the LTD Vulture flying V style guitar and the instantly recognizable LTD Snakebyte which has become his main guitar for most songs.

ESP James Hetfield Snakebyte

via RareElectricguitar.com

Kirk has added a greenburst KH-2 and an LTD KH-2 with a “White Zombie” horror movie paint scheme.

ESP LTD Kirk Hammett Signature “White Zombie”

via Shop.Absolute-Guitars.co.uk

EFFECTS

James Hetfield

  • ProCo Rat distortion
  • Ibanez Tube Screamer
  • TC Electronics G-Major 2
  • MXR Phase 100
  • Digitech Whammy
  • Dunlop Cry Baby
  • Line 6 DM4
  • Klon Centaur
  • Boss NS-2 noise suppressor
  • Love Tone Brown Sauce

Kirk Hammett

  • Ibanez Tube Screamer
  • DigiTech Whammy
  • Dunlop Wah
  • Vox Wah
  • EMB Audio Remote Wah
  • Dunlop KH-95 Signature Wah
  • TC Electronic G-Major 2
  • Line 6 MM4 modulator
  • MXR EVH 117 flanger
  • MXR Octaver
  • Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor
  • Digitech Space Station Pedal

SECTION 2: GETTING THE SOUND WITH YOUR GEARS

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.

  • check
    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.
  • check
    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.
  • check
    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.


* 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 EC100AT

ESP LTD EC100AT Electric Guitar (Amazon Exclusive)
18 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: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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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BLACKSTAR IDCORE20

Blackstar IDCORE20 Guitar Combo Amplifier, 20W
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Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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:

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2. KIRK'S RIG

DEAN VENDETTA XMT

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Last update: 2018-01-22 at 03:43 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.

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VOX VT20X

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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.

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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
Price not available
Rating
Reviews
50 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: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

VOX V-845

Vox V845 Classic Wah Wah Pedal
103 Reviews
Vox V845 Classic Wah Wah 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: 2018-01-22 at 03:43 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.


**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: 2018-01-22 at 03:43 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.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Product Name
Schester Damien Elite
Dean Zero AODII
Dean V End Game
Preview
Schecter Damien Elite Solo Electric Guitar - Crimson Red
Dean ZERO AODII Dave Mustaine Electric Guitar - Angel of Death II
Dean V Dave Mustaine End Game Electric Guitar
Price
Price not available
$371.85
$575.00
Rating
Reviews
1 Reviews
26 Reviews
6 Reviews
Body Material
Quilted Maple
Mahogany
Mahogany
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Rosewood
Rosewood
Neck Material
Maple
Mahogany
Mahogany
Bridge System
Tune-O-Matic w/ String Thru Body
Tune-O-Matic
Tune-o-Matic
Pickups
Bridge: EMG 81
Neck: EMG 85
Dean DMT Design
DMT Design Active
Numbers of Fret
24
24
24
Product Name
Schester Damien Elite
Preview
Schecter Damien Elite Solo Electric Guitar - Crimson Red
Price
Price not available
Rating
Reviews
1 Reviews
Body Material
Quilted Maple
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Neck Material
Maple
Bridge System
Tune-O-Matic w/ String Thru Body
Pickups
Bridge: EMG 81
Neck: EMG 85
Numbers of Fret
24
Product Name
Dean Zero AODII
Preview
Dean ZERO AODII Dave Mustaine Electric Guitar - Angel of Death II
Price
$371.85
Rating
Reviews
26 Reviews
Body Material
Mahogany
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Neck Material
Mahogany
Bridge System
Tune-O-Matic
Pickups
Dean DMT Design
Numbers of Fret
24
Product Name
Dean V End Game
Preview
Dean V Dave Mustaine End Game Electric Guitar
Price
$575.00
Rating
Reviews
6 Reviews
Body Material
Mahogany
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Neck Material
Mahogany
Bridge System
Tune-o-Matic
Pickups
DMT Design Active
Numbers of Fret
24

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 03:43 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

BOSS KATANA 100W

Boss Katana 100W 1x12 Combo Amplifier for Electric Guitars
12 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 55 customizable effects with BOSS Tone Studio editor software
  • Built-in tilt stand for optimal monitoring and sound projection
  • Store 15 different effects on board, with three effects available simultaneously

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 03:43 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
$349.99
$399.99
$249.99
Rating
Reviews
12 Reviews
408 Reviews
28 Reviews
Amp Type
Solid State Modeling
Solid State
Solid State Modeling
Power
100 Watts
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
12 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
$399.99
Rating
Reviews
408 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
$249.99
Rating
Reviews
28 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: 2018-01-22 at 03:43 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

JRAD ARCHER OVERDRIVE

J Rockett Audio Designs Archer Tour Series Overdrive and Boost Pedal
44 Reviews
J Rockett Audio Designs Archer Tour Series Overdrive and Boost Pedal
  • Overdrive and Clean Boost all in one pedal
  • Robust design made for the touring musician
  • Features a solderless foot switch called the "Speed Switch System"
  • All I/O and DC jacks are top mounted allowing for shorter cable runs and better sound
  • Power: 9vdc, negative tip boss type adapter. Unplug input cable when not in use to save battery life.

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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 Archer Tour Series Overdrive and Boost Pedal
Arc Effects Klone V2 Overdrive Pedal Black with Black Knobs
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion/Fuzz/Overdrive Pedal
Price
$189.00
$199.99
$84.99
Rating
-
Reviews
44 Reviews
-
182 Reviews
Knobs
Output, Gain, Treble
Volume, Tone, Gain
Volume, Treble, Drive
Product Name
JRAD Archer
Preview
J Rockett Audio Designs Archer Tour Series Overdrive and Boost Pedal
Price
$189.00
Rating
Reviews
44 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
$84.99
Rating
Reviews
182 Reviews
Knobs
Volume, Treble, Drive

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

2. KIRK'S RIG

ESP LTD KH202

ESP LTD KH202 Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
21 Reviews
ESP LTD KH202 Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
  • The LTD Kirk Hammett Signature KH202BLK LH has a Basswood Body with a Maple Neck and a Rosewood Fingerboard
  • This guitar comes equipped with a Floyd Rose Special Bridge and Locking Nut
  • It has a Bolt-On neck Construction with a 25.5" Scale with 24 Extra Jumbo Frets and an Extra Thin-U Neck Contour
  • The Pickups are ESP Designed
  • The Controls are Vol/Vol/Tone with a 3 Way Switch.Nut Width:42mm

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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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21 Reviews
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Body Material
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Basswood
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Floyd Rose Special
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Pickups
ESP Designed LH-301N
ESP Designed LH-301B
Duncan Designed HB-105N
Duncan Designed HB-105B
ESP Designed LH-301B
Numbers of Fret
24
24
24
Product Name
ESP LTD KH-202
Preview
ESP LTD KH202 Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
Price
$479.00
Rating
Reviews
21 Reviews
Body Material
Basswood
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Neck Material
Maple
Bridge System
Floyd Rose Special
Pickups
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ESP Designed LH-301B
Numbers of Fret
24
Product Name
Schester DEMON-6
Preview
Schecter 3212 Demon-6 FR SBK Electric Guitars
Price
$479.00
Rating
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5 Reviews
Body Material
Basswood
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Neck Material
Maple
Bridge System
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Pickups
Duncan Designed HB-105N
Duncan Designed HB-105B
Numbers of Fret
24
Product Name
ESP LTD Alexi-200
Preview
ESP LTD Alexi 200 Black Alexi Laiho Electric Guitar
Price
$499.00
Rating
Reviews
3 Reviews
Body Material
Basswood
Fretboard Material
Rosewood
Neck Material
Maple
Bridge System
Floyd Rose Special
Pickups
ESP Designed LH-301B
Numbers of Fret
24

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

RANDALL KH75

Sale
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: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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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Preview
Randall Kirk Hammett Signature RX Series Heads/Combos, KH75
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Price
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Rating
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3 Reviews
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Solid State
Power
75 Watts
100 Watts
150 Watts
Built-in Effects
Fx Loop
Connection
Headphones
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MP3/Line in
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Product Name
Randall RG75
Preview
Randall Kirk Hammett Signature RX Series Heads/Combos, KH75
Price
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Amp Type
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Power
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Built-in Effects
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Connection
Headphones
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FootSwitch
Product Name
Marshall CODE100
Preview
Marshall CODE 100W 2x12 Guitar Combo Amp Black
Price
$399.99
Rating
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3 Reviews
Amp Type
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Power
100 Watts
Built-in Effects
Fx Loop
Connection
USB port
MP3/Line in
Headphone
Footswitch
Product Name
Randall RG1503-212
Preview
Randall RG Series RG1503-212 Guitar Amplifier Combo
Price
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Rating
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4 Reviews
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Power
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Built-in Effects
Fx Loop
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Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

VOX V-845

Vox V845 Classic Wah Wah Pedal
103 Reviews
Vox V845 Classic Wah Wah 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: 2018-01-22 at 03:43 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.


***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 

Epiphone '1984' EXPLORER EX  Electric Guitar with EMG-81/85 Pickups, Alpine White
12 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: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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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Preview
Epiphone "1984" EXPLORER EX  Electric Guitar with EMG-81/85 Pickups, Alpine White
ESP LTD EC Series EC-1000 Electric Guitar - Silver Sunburst
ESP LTD V Series V-300 Electric Guitar - Black
Price
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Neck Material
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Tune-O-Matic
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Bridge: EMG-81
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Preview
Epiphone "1984" EXPLORER EX  Electric Guitar with EMG-81/85 Pickups, Alpine White
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22 Reviews
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Fretboard Material
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Neck Material
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Bridge System
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Numbers of Fret
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ESP LTD V Series V-300 Electric Guitar - Black
Price
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Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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

Product Name
B-52 ATX-100
Egnater Tweaker 40
Peavey ValveKing II
Preview
B-52 ATX-100 100W Tube Guitar Amp Head Black
Egnater TWEAKER 40 Guitar Amplifier Head
Peavey 03608820 ValveKing II 100W Guitar Amplifier
Price
$571.00
$599.95
$583.94
Rating
Reviews
2 Reviews
9 Reviews
14 Reviews
Amp Type
Tube Guitar Amplifier Head
Tube Guitar Amplifier Head
Tube Guitar Amplifier Head
Power
100 Watts
40 Watts
100 Watts
Channel
Clean/ Gain 1/ Gain 2
Gain 1/ Gain 2
Clean/ Lead
Fx Loop
Product Name
B-52 ATX-100
Preview
B-52 ATX-100 100W Tube Guitar Amp Head Black
Price
$571.00
Rating
Reviews
2 Reviews
Amp Type
Tube Guitar Amplifier Head
Power
100 Watts
Channel
Clean/ Gain 1/ Gain 2
Fx Loop
Product Name
Egnater Tweaker 40
Preview
Egnater TWEAKER 40 Guitar Amplifier Head
Price
$599.95
Rating
Reviews
9 Reviews
Amp Type
Tube Guitar Amplifier Head
Power
40 Watts
Channel
Gain 1/ Gain 2
Fx Loop
Product Name
Peavey ValveKing II
Preview
Peavey 03608820 ValveKing II 100W Guitar Amplifier
Price
$583.94
Rating
Reviews
14 Reviews
Amp Type
Tube Guitar Amplifier Head
Power
100 Watts
Channel
Clean/ Lead
Fx Loop

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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

Product Name
Marshall MX412B
JCA48S 4x12
Laney GS412IA
Preview
Marshall MX Series MX412B 4 x 12 Inches 240 Watt Guitar Amplifier Speaker Cabinet
Jet City Amplification JCA48S 4x12-inch Guitar Speaker Cabinet
Laney GS412IA 4x12 Angled Guitar Cabinet
Price
$499.99
Price not available
Price not available
Rating
-
Reviews
2 Reviews
2 Reviews
-
Power
240 Watts
400 Watts
320 Watts
Speaker Configuration
4x12 Celestion G12E-60
4x12 Jet City Custom Eminence Drivers
4x12 Celestion 70 Eighty
Impedance
16 ohm
16 ohm
16 ohm
Dimension
31.1 x 15.2 x 31.8 in.
31 x 31.97 x 17 in.
18 x 34 x 31 in.
Weight
90.3 lbs
75 lbs
83 lbs
Product Name
Marshall MX412B
Preview
Marshall MX Series MX412B 4 x 12 Inches 240 Watt Guitar Amplifier Speaker Cabinet
Price
$499.99
Rating
Reviews
2 Reviews
Power
240 Watts
Speaker Configuration
4x12 Celestion G12E-60
Impedance
16 ohm
Dimension
31.1 x 15.2 x 31.8 in.
Weight
90.3 lbs
Product Name
JCA48S 4x12
Preview
Jet City Amplification JCA48S 4x12-inch Guitar Speaker Cabinet
Price
Price not available
Rating
Reviews
2 Reviews
Power
400 Watts
Speaker Configuration
4x12 Jet City Custom Eminence Drivers
Impedance
16 ohm
Dimension
31 x 31.97 x 17 in.
Weight
75 lbs
Product Name
Laney GS412IA
Preview
Laney GS412IA 4x12 Angled Guitar Cabinet
Price
Price not available
Rating
-
Reviews
-
Power
320 Watts
Speaker Configuration
4x12 Celestion 70 Eighty
Impedance
16 ohm
Dimension
18 x 34 x 31 in.
Weight
83 lbs

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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...
42 Reviews
TC Electronic Nova System Floor Based Analog Overdrive/Distortion with G-System Effects and Dynamics...
  • NDTTM (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: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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

Sale
ESP LTD KH602 Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
21 Reviews
ESP LTD KH602 Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
  • The LTD Kirk Hammett Signature KH602 BLK has an Alder Body with a Maple Neck and Rosewood Fingerboard w/Skull & Crossbones
  • This guitar comes equipped with a Floyd Rose Bridge & Locking Nut and LTD Tuners
  • It has a Neck-Thru Body with a 25.5" Scale, 24 Extra Jumbo Frets and an Exta Thin-U Neck Contour
  • The Pickups are active EMG 81(b) & EMG 60(n);Fingerboard Radius 350mm
  • The Controls are Vol/Vol/Tone with a Toggle Switch

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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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Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

RANDALL KH120 RHS

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Randall KH120RHS Kirk Hammett Series 120-Watt Half Stack Guitar Amp
4 Reviews
Randall KH120RHS Kirk Hammett Series 120-Watt Half Stack Guitar Amp
  • KH120RHS INCLUDES KH120RH & KH412
  • PREAMP CHANNELS 2 Channel/3 Mode 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" Celestion Rocket 50's POWER HANDLING 200 Watts RMS

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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

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Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 UTC / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Details

LINE 6 POD HD500X 

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Line 6 POD HD500X Guitar Floor Multi-Effects Pedal
87 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

Last update: 2018-01-22 at 04:22 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.

CONCLUSION

If getting that elusive Metallica sound is what you’re after, I hope you have found this list comprehensively enough.

I tried to include every album so your Seek and Destroy doesn’t sound too much like your Whiskey in the Jar. And if that’s not enough, Bobby Kittleberger, contributor at Guitar World magazine has produced this piece on getting Kirk’s guitar tone for yourself, including the amp settings he used based on your current gig.

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.