In this post, I’m going to show you how to dial in a usable metal guitar tone, using almost any amp sim.
The two challenges us guitar players have regarding amp simulator are:
- There’s a constant flow of new amp sims (and enhanced versions), and we always feel like we have to have the latest and greatest.
- Many guitarists simply have a tough time dialing in a good metal tone with amp sims, or at least one that sounds good in the full mix.
The problem with all of this is it holds us back from the important stuff like writing new music, recording, and practicing. Instead, we end up in that endless search for tone and trying to make sure we have the right amp sim.
So I’m going to give you some basic tips and settings to help ease your frustration with amp sims.
Now, these aren’t going to be the perfect metal tone settings. But I’m fairly certain that if you use this guide as a starting point, you won’t spend near as much time trying to get a good tone.
And you’ll also find that it almost doesn’t matter what amp sim you’re using (you’ll read more about the amp sims I used for this tone test towards the end of this post!).
Let’s get started…
Metal Tone Test Using 3 Different Amp Sims
You can watch the video version of this post below on the Metal Mastermind YouTube channel (and make sure you’re subscribed to our channel!!).
In the video, I’m testing three completely different amp simulators. The goal was to see (or hear!) if there were any major differences in the tones using the same amp and EQ settings.
**I encourage you to continue reading this post as there are more details below. I’ll also talk more about the specific amp sims later.
Start with these Amp Sim Gain and EQ Settings
Alright, I’m going to get right to the point. Here are the basic settings to start with below. I’ll go into more depth with each recommended setting as well.
- Gain: Too many guitarists want to crank up their gain. Sure, this sounds great in your studio when you’re jamming, but it doesn’t work in the full mix because it will muddy up your mix.
- Bass: Another issue many guitarists have is boosting their bass. Like gain, boosted bass sounds great in your bedroom, but in the full mix, you don’t want to compete with the bass guitar and kick drum. You need to leave room for those instruments to carry the bottom end, not your guitar tone.
- Mids: If you’re going for that classic thrash metal tone, you’re naturally going to cut your mids. If you’re playing more modern metal styles, you may boost the mids. The key is don’t start with any crazy cuts or boosts. Start somewhere in the middle.
- Treble: In most cases, you’re going to want to boost the treble as this will help your tone cut through the mix. If your treble is too low, your tone will have that boomy sound and get lost in the mix.
- Presence: Like mids, it’s best to start somewhere in the middle. Some amp sims (and real amps) sound better with the presence cut a little while others need a slight boost.
The key here is don’t start out with any extreme settings. You want to get as close to the true sound of the amp sim as you can. And the way you do that is by starting with modest gain and EQ settings.
You have to remember that whenever you make drastic changes to any EQ setting, you’re impacting multiple frequencies. And it becomes really difficult to find that balance.
**These amp sim settings are just starting points for you. I’m not saying they’re the best metal tone settings. It’s just a guide so that you won’t have to tweak as much to dial in a tone you like.
What About the Cab and Mic Sims?
There are two things I recommend with cabinets and mics:
- Start with the defaut cab for your amp sim
- Use the Shure SM57 mic sim
Most every amp suite is going to come with their version of the SM57. Just like miking a real amp, you really can’t go wrong with the SM57.
Again, you can change the cab and mics later. This is just your starting point. Get the gain and EQ right first, then move on to cabs and mics.
3 Amp Sims Tested
Let’s talk more about the amp sims that were tested. All three are from different VST plugin manufacturers.
Here are the three types of amp sims I used:
- Premium updated amp sim
- Free amp sim
- Outdated version amp sim
Here are some details about the testing that was done:
- The gain and EQ settings were the same on all three amp sims
- These were all high gain amp models and similar in nature
- No effects were used (including no stomp overdrive pedals)
- No post-processing was used
- The test performed in the video you saw earlier consisted of both standalone and full mix tones for each amp sim for a true comparison
Now, let’s get into some of the details of each amp sim used…
Positive Grid BIAS Amp 2: 5153 MK II
At the time this tone test was performed, this is latest version of Positive Grid’s premium suite of amps, BIAS Amp 2. As you would expect, it comes equipped with matching cabinets and an array of mic simulators.
The amp I chose was my personal favorite from BIAS Amp 2, the 5153 MK II, which is based on the 2002 Peavey 5150 (MKII).
*You can see the full amp model list on Positive Grid’s website here: BIAS Amp Model List
To be fair, there are several other great amp sims out there so I don’t want to sound ‘biased’ (ugh…that was a horrible pun, wasn’t it?). And I realize that ‘great tone’ is subjective. But this amp does provide you with an amazing tone, especially when paired with the Celestion speakers that come with the elite version of BIAS Amp 2.
That said, I felt like this was the perfect amp to used in this metal tone test. But now the question becomes – is it really that much different from the other amp sims we’re about to talk about below?
ML Sound Lab: Amped Roots 5034
In trying to stay as close as possible to the BIAS Amp 2 sim used in the test, I wanted to find another amp sim that modeling the same style of a high gain amp. But I wanted to use a free amp sim.
That’s when I came across Amped Roots 5034. This amp sim is actually from a pretty famous YouTuber, Ryan ‘Fluff’ Bruce (the Riffs, Beards, and Gear YouTube channel). He collaborated with ML Sound Lab to created the Amped Roots 5034.
*You can download this amp sim here: ML Sound Labs Amped Roots
Clearly this amp sim is either modeled after the Peavey 5150 or possibly the EVH 5153 amp. Either way, it’s a high gain monster built for metal.
The free version of Amped Roots 5034 is that it’s somewhat watered down as you’re stuck with one cabinet and mic. But that made it perfect for this test! With fewer options, it was all up to the amp and EQ to do its job.
**Below is a video on the Metal Mastermind YouTube channel featuring the Amped ROots 5034:
Amplitube 3: Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier
The third and final amp sim is from a reputable VST plugin manufacturer, Amplitube. The caveat here is this is not the latest version – it’s Amplitube 3 (at the time of this test, Amplitube 4 was the latest version).
There are two reasons I choose the outdated version of Amplitube, though I guess technically it’s not outdated, it’s just not the latest version:
- I wanted to prove that you don’t always need the latest and greatest to create good metal tones
- I personally just haven’t upgraded because I’ve already spent too much money on amp sims as it is!
Amplitube does have an amp sim modeled after the Peavey 5150 amp. But I chose to use their licensed Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier sim. This made the metal tone test a little more interesting.
*You can read more about the Amplitube Mesa Boogie products here: Amplitube Mesa
I used the Mesa cabinet that comes paired with the amp sim by default. And as usual, I used the Shure SM57 mic sim for the test.
Is there a Best Metal Amp Sim?
Although there were some differences in the tones and sounds, there were no clear ‘night and day’ differences. In other words, one amp sim didn’t blow the others out of the water.
Again, ‘good tone’ is very subjective among guitar players. What sounds awesome to one may not be anything special to another.
But the thing we can all learn from this metal tone test is that you can dial in a decent and usable tone with almost any amp sim.
So what are the lessons learned here?
- Don’t go chasing the latest and greatest thing
- Start out with the basic amp and EQ settings I gave you in this post
- Learn how to dial in the best possible tone with what you currently have before moving on to something else (if you can’t master what you have, you will more than likely be disappointed when you buy something else)
I hope you got something out of this post! And I really hope that you try these settings next time you’re in your studio dialing in metal tones.