Black Sabbath Amp Settings And Tony Iommi’s Sound

The pioneers of heavy sound, Black Sabbath, created some iconic music that would later form many other genres and styles. With a unique arrangement of talented people in the band, they became a group that many guitarists want to emulate.

But what does it take to sound like them, and what do you need to know?

In this guide, we will explore their equipment and popular Black Sabbath amp settings to try and get Tony Iommi’s guitar tone.

Black Sabbath Amp Settings

What Is The Black Sabbath Sound?

The Black Sabbath sound is very identifiable and has been copied by many bands over the years. It features a lot of low-end frequencies and distortion to create a “heavy” sound.

This was achieved by using lower string gauges, down-tuned guitars, and high gain amplifiers.

All of these factors combined made for a sound that would lay the foundation for what we now know as “heavy metal”.

Some great amp settings that can be used to emulate Tony’s sound would be:

  • Gain: 7
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 5
  • Bass: 6
  • Presence: 5

This will get you close, depending on what guitar and amplifier you are using together. Your middle setting will have the biggest influence on your tone, so adjust it to taste until you have the Black Sabbath sound.

Recreating Black Sabbath Amp Settings

Now that we know what the Black Sabbath sound is, let’s look at how to recreate it.

As mentioned earlier, you will need a high gain amplifier to get close to Tony Iommi’s tone. A great amp to use for this would be the Laney TI100, his signature model.

When you begin to dial in that Black Sabbath sound, there are a few things to consider.

  1. Does your amplifier have enough gain to saturate and distort? If not, then it will be hard to get that tone. Try using a boost pedal to drive your amplifier harder. This can help get it to sound more saturated.
  2. Does the guitar you are using have the right output? Single coil pickups will be hard-pressed to sound like Black Sabbath. You will need some humbuckers with decent output.

Once you have the right equipment, you just need to know how to set it correctly to get that tone. Let’s see how to do that.

Black Sabbath Amp Control Infographic

The Gain Control

This is going to be the most important part of your amp settings. You need to have enough gain to saturate your sound and create distorted tones.

Start by setting your gain at about 7. This will give you a good amount of distortion without being too over the top. If you find that it’s not enough, then you can increase it until you get the tone you want.

Just remember that the higher this setting, the more bass you will have as well. This is how high-gain amplifiers work, especially once you reach saturation. This could be good or bad depending on your amplifier.

Treble, Mid, and Bass

When getting started with your equalization settings, begin with them at the halfway point or 5. You want the most neutral sound when you start.

Then begin to adjust them to taste based on the tone you are going for.

  1. For the treble and bass, you will want them both at around 6. This will give you a good amount of low end without muddying up your sound. If you find that it’s too much, then you can always turn it down a bit.
  2. The mids are going to be the most important part here. You will want to start at around 5 and adjust from there. This is what will give you that Black Sabbath sound. If it’s too low, then your tone will be scooped. If it’s too high, then it will be shrill.

Find a happy medium, and you will be on your way to nailing that Tony Iommi sound.

The Presence Control

This is another important control when trying to get the Black Sabbath sound. The presence control helps add clarity to your tone and can help cut through the mix.

Not every amp has it, but if you do, then a good setting to start with would be around 5. This will give you a good amount of presence without making your tone too thin.

If you find that your sound is too muddy, then you can turn this up to help add some clarity. Just be careful not to make it too bright, or you will lose body and depth in your tone.

Looking for more settings, check out these maiden suggestions.

Popular Black Sabbath Songs and Their Amp Settings

Black Sabbath’s sound has changed a great deal over the years. While the early days were fairly heavy, today their tone is darker and more aggressive. This is largely due to new gear and different settings.

Let’s take a look at some popular Black Sabbath songs and try and recreate them with amp settings.

War Pigs

This is one of the most popular Black Sabbath songs and also one of the heaviest. If you want to recreate this tone, then you need to start with a high gain amplifier.

The Laney TI100 would be a great choice here, but any high gain head will do it well.

Start with settings in this configuration:

  • Gain: 8
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 6
  • Bass: 5
  • Presence: 5

If your amplifier is a bit more scooped sounding, you could also try setting your mids higher. But a scooped tone can work with the right guitar.

Need something heavier? Slipknot amp settings should do the trick!

Paranoid

This is another popular Black Sabbath song that is a bit lighter than War Pigs. The tone is still fairly heavy, but it’s not as over the top.

To obtain this tone, you could use any high gain amplifier. But if you want to get closer to the original sound, then try using a Marshall JCM800 with a boost or a Laney.

Set your amp like this:

  • Gain: 7
  • Treble: 5
  • Mids: 4
  • Bass: 6
  • Presence: 5

If you find that your sound is too dark, you can always add a bit more mids. But be careful not to add too much, otherwise it won’t sound right.

Iron Man

Iron Man is another Sabbath song that guitarists like to learn because it’s quite easy and sounds good. The tone is pretty easy to get, and most amplifiers will do it well enough.

For this one, I went with the Revv Generator 120 MK3 on the purple channel and pretty much nailed the tone.

Set your amp like this:

  • Gain: 7
  • Treble: 5
  • Mids: 6
  • Bass: 5
  • Presence: 6

Again, if your amplifier won’t quite get the gain sound you’re going for, you may want to consider a boost. This can be helpful to push the amp a bit more and get aggressive tones.

Tone Troubleshooting Tips

If you have tried a few of our settings but just can’t get it to sound the way you need, try some of these additional tips.

  • Using the right guitar is very important to the Black Sabbath tone. You need one with humbucker pickups with a decent output level. Iommi uses a Gibson SG, so if you want to get close, a guitar like this is important.
  • Higher gain levels are not always necessary. If your amp is quite aggressive, you may need to turn the gain down if it’s very muddy and feedback is becoming an issue.
  • If your tone is too thin, try turning down your treble control a bit. Also, try and make use of your guitar’s tone control. This can warm up a harsh sound when things are a bit too bright.
  • Effects can also change the dynamics of your tone in a large way. Adding reverb or chorus can add depth and warmth. This can also be a great way to color your tone and get the sounds that you want.
  • Not every amp can get the high gain sounds that Black Sabbath tones need. If you are having issues, try a good distortion pedal. There are plenty of aggressive-sounding stompboxes that can get this tone easily.

Check out our guide on metal amp settings for more!

Conclusion

These are just a few tips on how to get started with Black Sabbath amp settings. Once you have the basic sound, you can start to experiment and find your variations.

Don’t forget to try different effects as well, this can be a great way to add your vibe to these songs! There is no one perfect way to do it, so have fun and see what works for you!

FAQs

What amps does Black Sabbath use?

Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi used the Laney supergroup 100-watt amplifier from the very early days until the late 1980s. Today you will find him using his signature Laney amp, the TI100.

What guitar does Tony Iommi use?

Tony Iommi primarily uses Gibson SG guitars. He has used other guitars in the past, but the SG is his main instrument. He has a signature model that is based on an SG with Epiphone guitars.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear.I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!

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