New Members! Heavy Metal Amp Guide
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Thread: New Members! Heavy Metal Amp Guide

  1. #1

    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: San Jose, CA
    ME: Rich Mahogany
    MA: Godin A6 Ultra
    Rig: Mesa/Fractal

    iTrader: 16 (100%)

    New Members! Heavy Metal Amp Guide

    It seems as though we have a lot of new members who are asking the same question, "I'm new to expensive amplifiers, and I want something that will sound great!" Well, I've found that more often than not, each member will give his own take on what he feels is the best amp out there, either based on the information you give, or lack thereof, and it tends to be the same good advice. So, why not have it in one place?

    I want to have everyone post up their own short Heavy Metal Amp Buyer's Guide. Just a few quick words on what you've used in the past, how you arrived at the gear you're currently using, where you want to go, and why you've taken the path you have.

    Whether you want a classic metal sound, something darker, or something tighter, we've got a lot of pooled experience to set you on the right path.

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  3. #2

    Join Date: May 2010
    Location: Picksburgh, PA
    ME: Authentic Les Paul
    MA: Les Paul

    iTrader: 11 (100%)

    This thread will be true.

    I started off with a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, and quickly learned that it couldn't make me sound like James Hetfield - too "hairy", no "grunt" or really thick saturation. As I was 16, that's all I wanted. Natural impulse: add a Boss Metal Zone and suck the mids.

    Tones easily dialed: Vintage clean tones, SRV, Pantera (with MT-2)
    Time satisfied with this rig: 6 years.

    I sold that amp and bought a Peavey XXX 2x12 combo. Everything I'd read about it said that it was a relatively versatile amp with tons of gain and a unique character. Definitely correct. I eventually became dissatisfied with it because while I could dial in most varieties of brutality, it became clear that if the gain wasn't at least halfway up (thick crunch/singing blues distortion level) it sounded thin and weak, so I couldn't do more classic tones. I suffered through a Pink Floyd tribute gig by throwing a bunch of pedals at the clean front end of the XXX to re-create the various fuzz, overdrive and clean boost sounds used throughout their career, but since the clean channel is more pushed and modern and dark, it wouldn't react like a vintage amp would have and it required a lot of compromising to get good tones. It made me GAS for my old Fender! And it made me move to a new rig.

    Tones easily dialed: Arch Enemy (or any 5150/6505-type Peavey amp), 80's shred, Metallica (not authentic, but a good imitation)

    Time satisfied with this rig: 4 years.

    So I researched a lot and tried to find something that would be able to fill in that low-gain gap while retaining requisite levels of kick-ass... and stumbled on the Mesa/Boogie Mark IV. I bought a combo as I'd read so much good about the EVM-12L speaker and found a good deal on one.

    As it's based on a modified Fender Princeton, it can actually be tweaked to sound like anything from wicked smooth jazz and old school doo-wop to Lamb of God trademark ripping-your-earlobes thunder and Petrucci-smooth leads. It's really quite amazing, and as far as I am concerned the Mark series of amps is the final word in tube amp versatility. I find the sound to generally be very clear and hi-fi, and as such it exposes your technique. It won't sound like an Engl or an Uberschall - that thick, grindy low end is missing in lieu of a more bell-like bottom end attack -- again, think clarity. And as for pedals, it reacts with them better than the XXX ever did.

    The second mid-gain channel is ripped on for no reason. It's basically a Marshall, especially if you throw a pair of EL34s in the power section. No, it's not insane. It's a Marshall. Boost it, and it gets nuts like it should.

    Tones easily dialed: Any vintage clean tone, Authentic Metallica/Megadeth (whole career with proper tweaking), Alice in Chains, SRV, Gary Moore, Dream Theater, Lamb of God
    Time satisfied with this rig: 1 year.

    Now, in the search for simplicity, I've sold or am selling all of my effects and amplifiers for a rack-based Axe-Fx rig. I've been convinced through videos, sound clips, anecdotes, other forum members and artist endorsements that the unit will deliver all of the tones I've come to expect from my rig and tenfold more, in addition to simplifying my budding desire to start recording things. The jury hasn't even met to deliberate, as the receptionist just emailed me to tell me the box from Fractal has arrived.

    Note the exponential increase in my gear-whoring frequency. Kids, don't let this happen to you. Feel free to PM me with questions about any of this.

  4. #3

    Join Date: Dec 2008
    Location: Derby/Nottingham, UK
    ME: BC Rich Gunslingers
    Rig: Jet City JCA20H

    iTrader: 0

    Sure, I'll bite. I've been through a few expensive(ish) amps, and I've come to realise that despite being constantly told otherwise, tubes and me just don't seem to work out. Not going into much detail, but:

    Valveking 2x12. Got close enough to the whole 5150/XXX kinda sound for the money, but having two crap out on me in a month put me off, especially since one of the transformers LITERALLY fell clean off the chassis. Not good.

    Traded for...

    DSL 50/1960A

    Solid, mid-high gain sounds, good for most heavy metal but needed to be cranked LOUD to do it. Exactly the same as the TT50H that replaced it really...couldn't call many differences between them...which also went for...

    ENGL e520/e920 rack.

    Awesome old 90's? ENGL rack system, perfect for modern power metal ala Gamma Ray-Iced Earth. Traded out the preamp for a PODxt, and had literally my favourite sound I've ever had. Practicality got the better of me and I went over to a HD147 because I couldn't afford to retube the ENGL, plus I couldn't really crank it properly in many of the venues we played, the weight was excessive...little things that built up.

    Since the HD147 I've been sold on Line 6, went over to an XT Live floorboard but had some bad experience going direct with sound guys fucking up, so I bought a Randall V2 off a friend. Solid high gain amp, but always sounded kinda 2D and hollow to me. Sold it recently and went back to Line 6, XT Pro and a Marshall 8008. Finally happy. I'm not a big tweaker, and I only use a couple of effects, so having the ability to pick from a massive library of pre-made tones, that I can just tweak slightly, is a massive ^__^ for me. I don't see myself changing anything in the forseeable, for the first time I can remember.

    Again, feel free to PM me, especially if you want to hear the praises of the XT Pro sung. (I've also played around with the Digitech 2101, 2112, and Boss GX700, so I can compare between those a bit).

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  6. #4

    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: Front Royal, VA
    ME: Sterling JP70
    MA: Alvarez
    MB: Ibanez Cheapo 9000
    Rig: Boss Katana MK II

    iTrader: 5 (100%)

    My first nice or "pro" amplifier was a Mesa Dual Rectifier (two channel). It was a terrific amp for heavy sounds. If you are looking for skull-fucking-brutality, get one of these. They have a ridiculous amount of low-end, so you have to be careful to avoid "flub", and they can produce more gain than anyone really needs. I could get the Dual Rectifier to produce vintage tones, Tool-esque tones, and death metal tones. What this amp lacks is a good clean channel, and I personally found the effects loop to be a pain in the ass. I was unable to ever get a perfect clean tone from it. I got rid of this amp because of this, and the fact that it had to be ridiculously loud to reach it's full potential, and it wasn't blending well with my band at the time. noodles saw us play live once and told me that my amp rendered the bass player useless, and stomped all over the sound spectrum. This is cool....but the other instruments have to be able to breathe. By the way, I got the best tone by running this amp through a Vader 4x12.

    Who should buy it? The metal guy that barely uses a clean channel and wants a tone that rips the heads off of elephants.

    My next rig was an ADA MP-1 preamp running through a Mesa 50/50 poweramp driving a Marshall 1960A cab. This was a seriously cool rig. It just sounded like the 80s. Instantly I was in the hair-metal and thrash mode. The cleans are great. It can produce a bright and chimey sound, not lacking in low end, and if you turn up the gain a bit on the solid state clean channel it acts as a nice compressor. I could get nice high gain metal sounds from it that sounded a bit like a hot-rodded Marshall. Plenty of "grind" and "snarl". I actually still use the ADA MP-1 now, and I think I'll always keep it around, I love it that much. The Mesa 50/50 on the other hand...while it sounds terrific, mine is old and noisy. I've been able to get the tones I wanted from this setup, but if you want a more modern high-gain sound or that Swedish death-metal sound, look elsewhere.

    Who should buy it? Someone who wants a decent amount of versatility, and a bit more of a high-mid focused Marshall snarl.

    Because of the noise issues in that rig, and the complexity of my MIDI setup, I switched to an Axe-Fx through a Fryette 2/90/2. This was the end-all rig for me. No noise issues, a simple MIDI setup, and any tone I could have ever wanted. My tone with this rig had so much clarity and cut, and with a simple patch change I could go from luscious cleans to vintage honk, stoner-rock fuzz, or brutal metal sounds. The 2/90/2 does not color the preamp tone much, but it adds a lot of balls. Since I quit that band I gave the Axe-Fx to Ambrosious (former band-mate) here on the board to use in his studio. I still have the Fryette.

    Who should buy it? Honestly, any one who can afford it would probably find something to love about this rig. It's a best of both worlds setup with a ton of versatility and reliability.

    Currently, I'm not in a band so my rig is the ADA MP-1 through an ADA Microcab, sent to my computer for recording whenever I decide I have something worth recording. If I were to join a band again my rig would likely be the MP-1 through the 2/90/2 to the 1960A. I'd use my old T.C. Electronics G Sharp for effects.
    [Leon] 10:03 pm: She can poop on my chest anyday

  7. #5

    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: Austin, Texas
    ME: Agile Legacy 727
    Rig: read my signature

    iTrader: 0

    I like it.

    Line 6 Flextone II HD: I had a friend who worked at GC who showed me about this new Line 6 stuff that was coming in. He dialed in a nice metal sound, showed me the effects and I was hooked.

    Sounds achieved: Lots but it's a digital amp so it sounds kinda flat.

    Line 6 Spider II HD: Don't know what I was thinking.

    Sounds achieved: Ass.

    Bugera 6260: I was at a GC and decided to try the 6505 and I really liked it. I wanted to get a LordOVChaos OD but I never got around to it and had to sell my whole rig.

    Sounds achieved: Nice basic "metalcore/Gothenburg" sound.

    Line 6 POD X3 Pro: I'd always liked what the Line 6 stuff sounded like (for the most part) so the idea of running dual amps plus a good power amp under it sounded like the best idea for me. Tom let me borrow his X3 Live until I get my Pro and I've gotten some nice stuff out of it. I did pick up a Rocktron Velocity 250 as my poweramp and I'm really excited to put all of it together with a cabinet.

    Sounds achieved: Tons of sounds available.
    Vice President of the Reverse Headstock Lover's Club

    Agile Legacy 727>Line 6 XDS95>Line 6 Helix>Matrix GT1000FX>Line 6 Spidervalve 4x12

  8. #6

    Join Date: Sep 2010
    Location: Snohomish, WA
    ME: Fender NoCaster
    MA: Takamine N10
    Rig: Orange Rocker 30

    iTrader: 0

    Mesa Nomad 45 - Good all around amp. Needed to be retubed when I got it because it sounded like a sludgy mess. Night and day difference afterward. Boosted with a Digitech Bad Monkey for heavy sounds. For what it's worth the other guitarist in my band at the time dialed in his Soldano Avenger w/SLO tranny and exclaimed "name anyone within a hundred miles that has better tone" to which my bass player replied "Dylan." He nearly threw a fit and went back to tweaking away. Sold it because I got a stupid good deal on a...

    Peavey 5150 EVH - Damn good sounding amp. All JJ's for tubes with a Tung Sol in V1. The thing sounded monstrous. It could do great rock (VH obviously) and stellar metal tones. With my TS808 RI the thing was absurd, it somehow sounded even bigger and the tightness was fast approaching solid state rigidity. Had to sell it for the most obvious pitfall of being able to do one thing well at a time. At which point I moved on to a...

    Mesa Boogie DC5 - Nothing but good things to say about this amp. It's got two channels with the most logically laid out knob configuration I've ever seen and a 5 band graphic EQ to boot! Beautiful cleans with a distortion channel that can do just about anything you ask of it, and do it oh so well. I had the hardest time remembering why I got rid of this amp. I think it's because I wanted a combo. So I got...

    Mesa Nomad 45 - The combo! not much to say. I was going through a phase of exploring music and taking a break from metal. This amp was great because it did everything so well, it struggled for metal tones; weird considering the head I had did a pretty good job at them. Then one day I was working at Guitarget and a man brought in a amp to trade in...

    Mesa Mark IV - I tested the clean channel, then I tried R2 and eventually the lead. The smile on my face grew wider as I kept going until I just proclaimed out loud "I need this amp!" It was everything I'd been looking for. A gorgeous clean tone, a gritty or smooth mid gain channel depending on how you set it and a lead tone that was stupid tight at rhythm and like liquid butter when soloing.

    So that's where I'm at now. Those are the main ones that I've owned. I'll probably edit this later with other amps that were left at my house for prolonged periods of time. My house was the practice space so I was like "of course you can leave your Soldano here!"

  9. #7

    Join Date: Dec 2009
    Location: Albuquerque, NM
    ME: Sherman Poips
    MA: Martin DXK2
    MB: StringlessRusted Leonbass
    Rig: Mark-V 25 1x12

    iTrader: 10 (100%)

    I'll put some insight in.

    My first rig I got when I was young, simple crate 10W practice amp. A couple years after I got a BOSS MT-2 metal zone pedal, which was a fun novelty at the time. The issue with the MT-2 is that if you don't know what you are doing with the EQ, the tone you get will sound pretty fizzy. Anyhow, I was into punk at the time, so tone really didn't matter to me that much.

    Then junior year of college, a friend sold me a 1991 Marshall JCM 800 and a Carvin 4X12 cab with V30s in it. At this time, I was just starting to get into metal, with my main influences being Thrice's Artist in the Ambulance, and then later Atreyu's The Curse. I could get Thrice's tone pretty good, but for a true metal tone... not so much.

    This rig was pretty good, but the issue with Marshalls, especially the older ones, is that if you are going for a metal tone, they don't sound good AT ALL at low volumes. You have to buy a boost pedal, or as I did, use the BOSS MT-2 for the distortion. I quickly realized that this was an issue, because I didn't want the MT-2s fizzy tone for metal, and I needed it if I was going to go through the Marshall.

    So I was looking for an amp that had a great distortion, the kind that feels like it is moving your chest as you hold out a chord. I also wanted a good clean channel and a good amount of versatility. I didn't want anything quite as thin as the 5150, because while those are great rhythm amps, they felt a little to dry for leads.

    I tried a double and triple rectifier, but they all felt too muddy on the low end.

    This is when I found the ENGL powerball. I gotta say I love this amp. It gets you those Nevermore tones easily, and can go from a bell like bottom end to a thick, crunchy bottom end. Some people complain that it is too compressed, but I have found that if you keep the distortion at or under half way, you still get a brutal attack but you can hear chords very well and there is a good amount of dynamics. The lead II channel thickens the tone up quite a bit, and is awesome for solo tones.

    Then, it was time to tackle effects. It never made sense to me to go the pedal route, because you would need so many pedals. For example, if you wanted to have two different speeds of delay on in two different parts of a song, you have to buy two pedals. Also, the "tap dancing" idea of switching 2-3 effects AND my amp head was not an option, because the band I was in went very quickly from rhythm to lead work. I wanted a one button, switch all rig, which is very, very expensive if you want to work with pedals.

    That is why I went for a rack effects unit. I got the GMajor 2, and it does a majority of the stuff on it pretty well. It has compressors, delay, reverb, harmonizers, chorus, a noise gate, and much more. The thing I liked about it the most was it has stereo relay switches. That means you can program the switch open or closed in your patch, and it will do analog amp switching as well as effect switching, all via a MIDI controller. Gone are the days of hitting multiple pedals to go into a lead! Now I hit one pedal, and I go from Lead I on my amp (rhythm tone), to Lead II with delay, reverb, and chorus. That is a great luxury for fast metal performances!

    I am thinking about getting an Axe-fx, but I am really happy with my rig overall, so I am still undecided on that.

    Hope that helps!

  10. #8

    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: London ONT
    ME: 6's
    MB: Aerodyne
    Rig: AxeFX III

    iTrader: 1 (100%)

    I'm in!

    Traynor YCV80:

    This amp was not designed for metalheads, but it can pull of the less gained out sounds. Seperate EQ, global reverb and master, 2 tone shaping buttons per channel and an amazing clean. Openback 212 that was 6L6 powered and saw me through part of two bands (DeathCharge on Inreligio on Previous to this, I had a marshall MG250DFX which did higher gain stuff better, but sounded less organic. I also had an MT-2 at the time I had the marshall, but I sold it once I had the traynor set up right.

    guitar used: Hamer SFX2 (deathcharge), Gibson LP Studio
    Tones achieved: brighter thrash, hardcore, cleans

    Peavey JSX
    This amp covers a lot of bases. You can get good useable clean tones, a plethora of crunch and gain sounds on crunch channel, and super tight or super saturated tones on the ultra channel. The noise gate is useless though. This amp saw me through 5 years of playing and the tail end of Inreligio practices, as well as a cover band Up Hill Both Ways. I really liked this amp and a retube with KT77's from the stock EL34's was a nice change. I boosted this amp with a Chaos mod (Bodenhamer Electronics) TS7.

    Guitar used: Gibson LP studio, Hamer SFX 2, PRS scale singlecut w/ JB/59, Agile AL-3100
    Tones achieved: Warm clean, classic crunch, radio rock, satriani, Melodic death, tech ?.

    Mesa Dual Rectifier Roadster
    4 channels, 50W/100W, tube/diode rectifier and reverb per channel, footswitchable fx loop/solo/reverb/tuner mute.. what doesn't this amp do? Make you breakfast, that's what. Ch1: clean, fat, tweed. You can have your regular cleans, your fender cleans or big fat warm cleans; and you can push it into breakup if you turn up the gain, get your blues on. Ch2: clean, fat, British. I keep this channel on British mode for some more classic crunch, aiming to replicate the sound my TSovChaos makes into a clean channel. Ch3: raw, vintage, modern. Raw will give you rock sounds and some punk sounds, vintage will do anything involving gain, and modern will just pummel you. This channel is voiced a bit thicker then channel 4, so if you want more punch and less grunt, I highly suggest hanging out here. Great for rock/metal lead or rhythms. Ch4: where the metal and rock also resides! It's voiced a bit tighter and bassier than Ch3, use as necessary. It's capabilities are like ch3, just a different voicing. I boost with the TSovChaos except for Foxfight

    Note: the voicing differences come out more when the volume gets higher

    Guitar used: Agile Texan 7, AL-3100, Gibson LP Custom, PRS Tremonti/Custom 24 SE, Danelectro '59 RI
    Tones achieved: glassy clean, fat clean, vintage crunch, straight rock, metalcore, hardcore, technical metal, melodic meta, hard rock
    Needs Sleep

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