Guitar Amp Settings For Metal: Best Modern Examples

Getting a great metal tone is of huge importance when you are a high-gain player. Guitarists go to great lengths in search of the perfect metal tone, and there are a lot of options to consider. One of the more important factors in finding this tone is your guitar amplifier settings.

In this article, we will explore different settings you can use to get a perfect metal tone. We will also look at tips you can use to fix your sound. We will also explore some gear and how to use it. In the end, you will be on your way to a more aggressive, thick sound!

What is Metal Tone?

There are many metal sounds today that consist of heavily distorted guitars. Sometimes they are scooped by lowering the mid-range, like Metallica songs. Sometimes they are mid-heavy, bright, and thick.

There are many metal tones, and so it all depends on which sound you like best. When it comes to metal sounds, you want as much gain as needed with the perfect equalization.

This means that you may need a saturated, high-gain sound, but not always. You’ll also want to have the bass, midrange, and treble frequencies adjusted to your liking.

For example, you may want a punchy bass with the treble turned down a bit. A tone that is heavier and chunkier with added mid-range to cut through the mix. Experiment with the different settings we look at in this guide until you find what sounds best to you.

What Each Amp Setting Does For Metal

There are 5 main controls that you will find on your amplifier that you need for a great metal tone:

  • Gain
  • Treble
  • Mid-range
  • Bass
  • Volume

Each of these controls is critical to the tone that you might be seeking when it comes to metal music. But do you know how each one affects your sound?

Metal Amp Settings Infographic

Gain

While a lot of people believe that metal music just means you crank the gain, this isn’t always true. Yes, metal does need a higher gain setting. But sometimes players keep it lower and don’t want as much saturation.

Higher gain settings also mean more bass content, as they affect each other. Sometimes this can be too muddy sounding, and so the right gain setting is crucial. If you find you have a muddy or boomy sound, your gain might be too high.

Some amplifiers just have too much bass. No matter how you dial it in, it’s overbearing. In this case, you may need a boost pedal to tighten it up. We’ll look at that more in this article.

It’s also worth mentioning that on some amps, this control is sometimes also called drive. Set it to get the preferred distortion for your sound. But don’t over do it.

Treble

Most metal players will go for a brighter sound. The bite in a high gain tone can be found in the treble frequencies. But if the sound you are going for is darker, then this control may need to be lowered.

The treble should be set to be cutting, but not shrill or thin. Adjusting this control is important depending on the type of metal you play. Darker, thicker tones will need a lower setting. While more modern, searing sounds need a higher level.

Mid-range

A lot of metal tones have a scooped mid-range. This can be done by either lowering the mid-frequency or turning it right off. This will depend on the amp and what sound you are going for.

Some guitarists like a mid-present sound that cuts through a mix and is used more in some Nu-metal tones. This is an important control that can add to a throaty tone.

Mids are the primary guitar frequency. So it’s one of the more important controls on your amplifier. More modern metal tones rely on higher settings. Old-school Metallica, however, keeps the mid-range low!

Bass

Bass can be a tough control to use in some forms of metal. If you are looking for a tight but full sound, sometimes the amplifier has to be just right. Not all amps can provide a tight, full bass response.

Some of them are far too bass-heavy and just don’t do some metal sounds well. But there are some amps, like the Revv Generator, that have a punchy tight bass, great for many metal types.

Gain also affects the bass, which can make a saturated metal tone hard to dial in. The higher the gain, the more pronounced the bass frequencies. But sometimes it can be removed with the bass control.

When you adjust your gain, you will also need to set a new bass level. This is one thing to keep in mind with gain-level changes.

Volume

The volume control can add to a heavily saturated metal sound. If you have a tube amplifier, turning up the volume can begin to distort the power section. When this happens, it adds another layer of distortion.

Do you run your amplifier loud? Then you may need to back off the gain to keep your saturated sound under control. If you feel like you can use a little more push, turn it up. Once you drive the power tubes hard, you can get more aggressiveness!

Presence

Another control that will need to be set to taste is your presence. Not all amplifiers will have this control, but it can be helpful if your sound becomes too fizzy.

It can also be a great control when you’re lacking brightness. Almost like there is a blanket over your speakers. This can really enhance your tone. Just use it in conjunction with your treble control. You don’t want a tone that is piercing or harsh.

Check out our guide on amp settings for a more detailed look.

guitar amp settings for metal

General Settings For Metal

There are a lot of amps that can do metal when set a certain way. But there are many types of metal that each need different settings.

Scooped Tones

When looking for a scooped metal sound, try setting your amp up as follows:

  • Gain: 7-8
  • Treble: 7
  • Mids: 3
  • Bass: 5

These settings will keep the mid-range low, but boost the other frequencies. This will ensure a saturated and punchy tone with a good top-end bite. If you have depth and presence controls, they can be set at 5 to start, then adjust to taste.

These are great settings for heavy, thrash and even speed metal. But it also depends on your guitar tuning. If you are using a drop B tuning, then you will need to adjust slightly.

Melodic Metal

A melodic metal tone is much different, as you want more mids and less gain. This needs to be fairly tight and full, and not muddy. Some good settings to get started would be:

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

Again, resonance and presence can be set flat. Then just adjust to taste based on your guitar and speaker choice. These are also great settings for Nu metal. I have experimented with power metal as well and had good results.

Popular Metal Amps and Settings

These are the more common amplifiers used for metal, but they need to be set correctly to sound good. We have provided some of the best places to start with these amps and different metal settings.

Dual Rectifier Metal Settings

The Mesa Dual rectifier is a commonly used amplifier for metal. It’s also a tricky amp to dial in as the bass can be quite loose, and it can get fizzy if not set right.

When using the Mesa for any type of metal, the settings will need to be different depending on what you are going for.

Are you going for a scooped metal sound? Then use the second channel in modern mode, and the settings should be as follows:

  • Gain: 8
  • Treble: 5-6
  • Mid: 3-4
  • Bass: 6
  • Volume: 4
  • Presence: 6

The Dual rectifier is scooped by design as it is, so this tone will be right where you need it. Slight tweaks might be needed depending on the guitar you are using.

More Mid-Range

For a thicker metal sound with very present mid-range and good cut, use these settings:

  • Gain: 5-6
  • Treble: 5
  • Mid: 6
  • Bass: 4
  • Volume: 4
  • Presence: 5

Use channel 3 set to modern mode and then adjust to taste with the guitar you are using. Bridge pickups will be best for this sound.

Peavey 6505 Metal Settings

The Peavey 6505 is another great amp for many metal types. It’s also popular and can do most things very well and is somewhat easy to dial in. It can get very bright and honky, so use care with treble and mid-settings.

For a scooped metal sound on the 6505 lead channel:

  • Pre Gain: 3
  • Post Gain: 4
  • Treble: 6
  • Mid: 2-3
  • Bass: 6
  • Resonance: 5.5
  • Presence: 5

The thing about the 6505 is that when everything is set to about 6, the amp sounds pretty good. Which makes this a pretty good setting for any other metal types.

Modern Tones

For a great modern metal sound, however, I preferred these settings on the Rhythm channel:

  • Pre Gain: 6
  • Post Gain: 3
  • Treble: 6
  • Mid: 5
  • Bass: 6
  • Resonance: 6
  • Presence: 8

Again, this depends on the guitar being used, but also the speakers. I found this amp worked well with V30s as my preferred speaker type.

Peavey Vypyr Vip 3 Metal Settings

The VIP 3 also has some great digital 6505 tones and for a budget amp, it’s pretty good for modeling. My favorite settings were:

  • Pre Gain: 5
  • Post Gain: 8
  • Treble: 7
  • Mid: 5
  • Bass: 5

So if you own this amp, this is a great place to start for some metal tones.

Revv Generator Metal Settings

The Revv Generator is a killer amp and can get some very saturated metal tones easily! My settings for a scooped sound were found on channel 4 with the blue aggression level.

  • Gain: 7
  • Treble: 6
  • Mid: 3
  • Bass: 6
  • Depth: 6
  • Presence: 5

You will need to keep the bright, cut and fat switches off for these settings.

Modern Tones

For a nu-metal tone, I used channel 3 in blue aggression mode, as it has a great mid-character. Again, for these settings, keep the bright boost off, the cut on, and the fat switch off.

  • Gain: 5
  • Treble: 6
  • Mid: 6
  • Bass: 5
  • Depth: 5
  • Presence: 6

Metal Setting Tips

Have you been trying to work with your gear, but just can’t dial it to your liking? Then there are a few things you can do to improve your sound.

Muddy Tones

If your metal sounds are too muddy, you can try the following tips:

  • Try rolling off your bass knob or using an EQ pedal in the FX loop.
  • If you’re using dark pickups, they may be contributing to the muddy tone. Switching to brighter pickups can help.
  • If you are using the neck pickup, try the bridge, as it’s less thick sounding.
  • Add more treble and mids to your tone. Treble can help to cut through the mud and make your tone clear while remaining full thanks to the mid-range.
  • If you have your gain setting unnecessarily high, the bass will also be increased as a result. Try lowering your gain and adjusting the EQ.
  • Try a boost pedal in front of the amp. This way you can eliminate some bass from the source.

Thin Tones

When you’re looking for a full sound but find your tone to be too thin, there are a few things that you can try:

  • Rolling off your treble knob can help to beef up your sound.
  • Adding more bass can help thicken up a tone and make it fuller.
  • With more gain, you’ll get more distortion but also a thicker tone.
  • Sometimes changing amps can help to improve the character of your tone.
  • If you’re using a speaker that doesn’t have a lot of bass response, it may be contributing to your thin tone. Try changing to a speaker with more low-end.
  • If you’re scooping your mids too much, they may be contributing to the thin sound of your tone. Try boosting your mids a bit to see if that helps.
  • Try a different guitar. Most have drastically different tones, and not all will work for you. For example, a Stratocaster will not give you a thick metal tone with single-coil pickups.

These are just a few tips to help you improve your heavy metal tones and songs. Every amp and guitar is different, so you may have to experiment with a few to find what works best for you. You can also try adding effects, this can also change your sound.

Conclusion

Achieving the perfect metal tone can be a challenge! But with a little experimentation, you should be able to find what you’re looking for, even if it is old school.

Be sure to have the right equipment as well, not all guitars and amps can produce a metal tone. Find out what others are using and get yourself the gear that works for the music style.

FAQs

How can I make my guitar amp sound more metal?

If you are having trouble getting a metal tone from your amp, be sure to find out if it’s capable of doing so. Not all amps can produce a thick, saturated metal sound.

If you do have a metal amp, then you can work on setting your gain higher. Then adjust your EQ until you get the sound you are looking for.

How should I set my amp for metal?

Generally, having a higher gain setting, and your EQ adjusted relatively flat, is a good place to start. Then you can experiment with a lower mid-range setting with higher treble and bass. This will in most cases get you a heavy metal tone.

Some amps will need to have the gain knob cranked right up. This is fine to do and worth experimenting with if you are struggling to get the right sound.

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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!