Amp Settings for Metal

Amp Settings For Metal: Complete Guide

Many guitar players crave the perfect metal guitar sound. With today’s huge world of guitar equipment, we have the possibility of shaping the guitar tone in almost every way we want. Most of the guitar tones start with the correct amplifier settings. 

Getting the right metal tone may be tricky and daunting for some players, especially beginner guitarists. Dialing a perfect tone, whether it’s a metal tone or any else is a great journey to take on. Every player will at some point in his career have the desire to create his own tone, essentially that is what the electric guitar is about.

Through this article, we will explore how to create a metal tone with an amplifier as well as the amp settings of some of the most famous metal songs. 

Short Answer

The best results for the metal tone are achieved by turning up the bass and gain on your amp. This way you will get the beefy low end, high gain, and great sustaining sound. These are the start position of the amp knobs for metal tone:

  • Gain: 8-10
  • Bass: 7-9
  • Mids: 3-5
  • Treble: 5-7

Now, this does not necessarily mean that you are done with the dialing of the knobs. The tone is for every player different, especially if it’s a different guitar. This is just a usual starting point from which you will develop your sound. While creating your tone you will come across some common issues that are easily solvable.

Basic Controls

Ever since the amplifiers were introduced, all of them had the same set of controls. Every guitarist should learn these by heart and throughout his career will learn how to tweak them to achieve the perfect tone. To start, there are 5 basic controls that you will need to understand in order to create the perfect metal tone:

  • Gain
  • Bass
  • Mids
  • Treble
  • EQ
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The layout of these controls may be different with the different amp models. Some models have separate knobs for bass, mids, and treble control while on some models it may come as a single EQ control. We will go through each one of them and what exactly do they do for the tone.


The gain is one of the key components of every amplifier. Depending on the amp model, it may be also called drive or distortion, but in the end, it is all the same thing.

There are two types of amplifiers, solid-state and tube amp. Achieving the metal tone is rather easier on the solid-state amp. On the solid-state amp, all you need to do is to turn up the gain almost to the maximum. This will result in killer distortion sound without too much work.

On the other hand, things with tube amps tend to little more complex. With the tube amp, you will need to turn up the volume high enough so the sound starts to distort. This may be a problem for some amps so the best results usually come with using an additional distortion pedal.


As you may have assumed already, the major part behind the metal tone is in the bass frequencies. The bass frequencies are the to give your sound “meat” and make it massive. The usual starting point for the bass is to set it around 8 on the amp. Again, this all depends on the type of guitar you use. You will need to adjust the bass to your desire and needs.


The mids are the point where the metal guitarists have divided opinions. Some of the famous bands have amp settings set as “scooped”. This essentially means that the mids are much lower than the treble and bass settings.

The usual starting point is to set the mids to around 4-5. You can start from here and adjust the tone further according to your needs. If it sounds thin and does not have enough punch, try upping the mids settings.


This setting is there to add brightness and clarity to the mix. If your sound sounds muddy and unclear, upping the treble should solve the issue. A good starting point is to set them to around 7-8. This should give you enough clarity and keep you away from interfering with the vocals.

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In case your amp has a single EQ control, do not worry you are not doomed to fail. The best starting point for metal tone is to set the EQ control to 3-4. Setting it this way will give you enough meat and beefiness to the mix while not sounding muddy and unclear. Again, you may need to additionally tweak the setting so it fits your needs.

Common Problems And How To Fix Them

Every guitar is different. Sometimes even the same guitar in different hands is a completely different thing and has a different sound. Using the presets mentioned above does not necessarily mean that you will get the perfect tone.

You will probably come across some issues that will need your attention. Here is a list of some common problems and solutions to them.

Muddy and unclear tone

Most metal players use active pickups on their guitars. On passive pickups, you will most likely end up with a muddy sound. In order to fix this you can try one of the following solutions.

The first thing you should try is to decrease the gain. If that does not work, decreasing the bass setting is the next move. If all of that does not get you there, upping the treble setting should give you the right result.

It is important to adjust one setting at a time so you can find where exactly the problem hides. Doing them all at once can create even more problems for you.

Issues With Feedback

Turning up the gain all the way will result in feedback issues, especially if you are using passive pickups. The first thing you should try to do is to decrease the gain. If you still have problems with feedback, moving the guitar further away from the amp or using a noise gate pedal should solve the issue.

Weak Tone

Out of all the problems one guitarist can have, this is one of the most annoying and common ones. The best shot is to increase the bass. To further beef up your tone you can turn up the gain and the mids. If you still do not feel satisfied with your tone, you can try using a distortion pedal instead of the amplifier to distort the tone.

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Amp Settings for Popular Metal Songs

In case you are here to just find out what settings your favorite metal band uses, here are some of the more popular metal songs amp settings:

Enter Sandman – Metallica

  • Gain: 9
  • Bass: 9
  • Mids: 4
  • Treble: 9

Run to the Hills – Iron Maiden

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

Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne

  • Gain: 8
  • Bass: 9
  • Mids: 3
  • Treble: 4

Chop Suey – System of a Down

  • Gain: 8
  • Bass: 9
  • Mids: 3
  • Treble: 4

What Pickup Position to use?

In order to get the most out of your guitar, it is usually recommended to use the bridge pickup for metal tone. This way you will achieve the best definition without the tone sounding muddy and unclear. Another thing that is important is to turn the volume and tone knobs of your guitar to the maximum so the amplifier gets the full spectrum of frequencies.

Should I Use Effect Pedals?

The effect pedals are one of the key parts of a great metal tone. Although they are not necessarily needed to get the metal tone, they are of great help and will make your life easier.

These are some of the common pedals that metal guitarists use:

  • Distortion pedal – better quality gain and sustain
  • Compression pedal – smooths out the tone
  • Reverb – adds space and presence
  • Noise gate – usually solves the feedback issues


Creating your own tone should be the goal of every guitarist. Your tone is usually how people will recognize you and your playing. That is why most famous guitarists are easily recognizable when you hear the first couple of notes in the recording.

If you play guitar long enough, you will find yourself exploring the world of amplifiers and effects that will give you the inspiration to play and create music. Overall, it is a wonderful journey to take. 

 If you play guitar long enough, you will find yourself exploring the world of amplifiers and effects that will give you the inspiration to play and create music. Overall, it is a wonderful journey to take.

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