Metallica Amp Settings and Gear Guide 2022

Metallica’s crushing guitar tone has been incredibly influential to players for decades. The band is known for their heavy sound, and they’ve used a range of amps and settings to achieve it.

You will need an amp that is designed to produce a high gain tone like Metallica. Then, by setting the gain relatively high to around 8, treble and bass to 6, and mids to 3, you should have a good starting point.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some popular Metallica amp settings and explore how you can recreate them yourself to get their unique sound.

What is Metallica’s Sound?

Metallica is known for their heavy and aggressive guitar tone. The band’s sound has evolved over the years, but they’ve always been associated with a powerful high-gain tone.

One of the things that makes Metallica’s guitar tone so unique is their use of high gain amps. They are designed to produce a lot of distortion.

If you want to recreate Metallica’s sound, you’ll need an amp that can produce a high gain tone. You will also need guitars suitable for the role, as they play a big part as well.

Some general settings to sound like Metallica’s would be:

  • Gain: 8
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 3
  • Bass: 6
  • Presence: 6
  • Depth: 6

Your amplifier will need to be able to pull off a saturated high-gain sound for these settings to work. If it does not have presence or depth controls, you can ignore them. Volume can be set to taste.

Metallica Amp Setting Infographic

Ride The lightning Amp Settings

During the ride the lightning album era, the band was using modified Marshall JCM 800 amps and guitars with humbucker pickups. These settings can be recreated with most high gain amps today.

The aim is for a bright but scooped heavy sound with chunky, tight lows. These settings will be more or less in the ballpark:

  • Gain: 7
  • Treble: 8
  • Mids: 3
  • Bass: 6

If you have a JCM 800 amp that is stock, a boost pedal will be necessary to nail this guitar tone. James Hetfield was known to use a tube screamer to get there with a stock unit.

If you are using an amp with a thicker sound, you may want to turn down the bass a bit if it is too muddy. If you have a presence control, it should be set to 6 as well. Should that be too fizzy, turn it down.

Learn how to improve your metal amp settings, click here!

Master of Puppets Amp Settings

For the master of puppets album, Metallica was using Mesa Boogie Mark IIC+ amps. They are still popular with guitarists to this day and can be easily emulated with a modern high gain amp.

The settings for this tone would be:

  • Gain: 7
  • Treble: 7
  • Mids: 3
  • Bass: 6

For the lead parts, the treble can be increased to 8-9 to cut through the mix. If you are using a dual rectifier or an amp like it, the bass might need to be turned down slightly. In this case, the mids might need to also be turned up.

Some amps have a bright switch that can be engaged to get a closer emulation of the master of puppets’ tone. If your amp has this, set it to on.

Click to learn how to play Master of Puppets Chords.

And Justice For All Amp Settings

For the and justice for all album, Metallica was using Mesa Boogie amps. The settings were different between songs, and some also had clean parts. There was more mid-range in some songs than before.

A general amp setting for this album would be:

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

If you are using an amp that is brighter, lower the treble slightly as well as the mids. Mesa Boogie amps have a larger bass response and sound rounder than others. You will also want to make sure your guitar is using humbucker pickups made for more aggressive tones.

Learn more about the different types of guitar pickups here!

Metallica One Amp Settings

A lot is going on in this song between the two guitar players. The clean and distorted parts are dialed in, much different from just going for a scooped tone. Here are some settings that can get you started.

Clean settings:

  • Gain: 3
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 5
  • Bass: 7

With a lower gain setting, the bass will also be thinner, so a higher adjustment will fill it out. This might work great for your particular amp as the tone needs to be bright.

If not, you will want to experiment with the mid-setting and maybe try your neck pickup for a thicker sound. You will also want to use reverb with a medium decay on the clean part.

For heavy Settings, this is a good place to start:

  • Gain: 8
  • Treble: 7
  • Mids: 4
  • Bass: 8

It is best to use guitars with humbuckers in both the neck and bridge positions.

Black Album Amp Settings

For the black album, Metallica was still using Mesa Boogie amplifiers, the Mark IIC+ and IV in particular. For this album, there were many amps used to record it. Many layers of guitar tracks were done to give it a monstrous tone.

Enter Sandman Settings

The clean parts on enter sandman are more of a jazzy, chorus tone. The Roland JC120 was used for some clean parts on this album, enter sandman being one of them.

Most amps can obtain this clean sound with some simple settings:

  • Gain: 3
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 5
  • Bass: 5

The addition of chorus effects will make it seem full and so as long as the sound is bright and mid-focused, it will be great.

The distorted parts are a mix of different amps, however, the Mesa Boogie Mark IIC+ was the core sound.

To get close to this distortion sound, these settings are a good place to start:

  • Gain: 8
  • Treble: 7
  • Mids: 4
  • Bass: 6

If you have presence and depth controls, set them at 6 and tweak them to taste from there.

Nothing Else Matters Amp Settings

This song has a very clean, chiming tone for some parts. For this sound, the following settings will work:

  • Gain: 3
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 5
  • Bass: 6
  • Reverb: 4

The gain should be low and the treble high for this sound. You might also want to try your neck pickup for a warmer tone.

For the heavier parts, try these settings:

  • Gain: 8
  • Treble: 7
  • Mids: 4
  • Bass: 6
  • Reverb: 4

Use your bridge pickup for these parts and keep any presence controls at 6-7. The depth control, if equipped, can remain at 5. Tweak it to taste from here, as your equipment can have a different sound depending on the design.

For Nothing Else Matters chords, click here!

Metallica Load Album Amp Settings

Both load and reload albums were made using the same type of tones, except this time around they were heavily scooped. Both the clean and distorted sounds had an old-school lack of mid-range tone.

To get a good starting point on the clean tones, use these settings:

  • Gain: 2
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 2
  • Bass: 6

For the high gain distortion sounds, these settings will work for most amps:

  • Gain: 8
  • Treble: 7
  • Mids: 3
  • Bass: 5
  • Presence: 6
  • Depth: 5

You can also try using an EQ pedal in the effects loop of your amp to offer more tone-shaping control. This is a good way to try and emulate the sliders on a Mesa Boogie Mark IIC+ which will get you even closer.

St. Anger Album Amp Settings

Metallica changed yet again with the production of the St. Anger album. Kirk Hammett changed up his amp to a Fender Twin Reverb, while James kept his rig intact.

The mid-range was returned to their sound as they tried something a bit different. They also began to use different guitars, which also changed the sound.

Clean sounds from St. Anger can be started with:

  • Gain: 2
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 5
  • Bass: 6

Fender amps will do great when it comes to capturing these clean tones.

All distortion sounds can start with these presets:

  • Gain: 6-7
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 5
  • Bass: 5
Marshall amplifier

Death Magnetic Album Amp Settings

The Death Magnetic album was produced with a mix of old and new equipment. James began using Diezel amps along with his Mesa’s. While Kirk started using Randall amps.

They also went back to their roots of low mid scooped tones on this album. Most high gain amps can get these settings quite easily.

Clean sound amp settings:

  • Gain: 2
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 2
  • Bass: 6

Distortion sound settings:

  • Gain: 6
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 2
  • Bass: 7

The presence should be set to 6 if you have this control on your amp. Depth control should be set to 5. If your amp is somewhat bass-heavy, lower the depth.

Check out our guide to Iron Maiden settings as well!

Additional Amp Setting Tweaking Suggestions

While the settings we suggested in this guide are generally focused around more modern, thick-sounding amps, there are things to keep in mind if yours is different.

Thin Sounding Tone

If your sound is too thin, try these tips:

  • Use the neck pickup to thicken your tone
  • Increase bass and lower treble
  • Increase the gain
  • Try a different guitar
  • Make sure to use humbucker pickups
  • Try and EQ pedal in the effects loop
  • Use a boost pedal in front of the amp for more bass

Bass-heavy Muddy Tone

If, on the other hand, your sound is too bass-heavy:

  • Use the bridge pickup as it is brighter
  • Increase treble and lower bass
  • Decrease the gain
  • Try a different amp
  • Use a different guitar
  • Boosts are great for fixing muddy bass sounds
Metallica Amp Settings

Conclusion

Getting the Metallica tone is quite easy when you have the right equipment. If you are having a hard time making your rig sound right, try a distortion pedal instead. This might be another great way to get a different, distorted sound.

Even Metallica uses them occasionally, as they can be a great utility pedal to get you certain sounds.

FAQs

How do you get Metallica tone?

To get Metallica’s tone, you need the right equipment. An amp and guitar that are made to sound aggressive and scooped are the first places to start. Then, you can apply the right settings to make it sound close.

Once you have this down, you can try different string gauges and distortion pedals to add that extra impact.

What guitar amps does Metallica use?

James Hetfield uses Diezel VH-4 and Mesa Boogie amplifiers. Kirk Hammett uses Randall and Mesa Boogie Amplifiers, but also really likes the Fender Twin Reverb.

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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!