If you’re curious about Megadeth amp settings and how you can imitate their sound with your axe and amp, this is the post for you!
Megadeth remains one of the most important metal bands of all time. Aside from Dave Mustaine’s leadership and awesome songwriting, we also have his tone.
When it comes to metal, this is one of the most important components of the genre. And Mustaine is one of the guys who set the standards there. Unsurprisingly, countless guitar players try to copy it. And that sound is what I’ll focus on in this article.
However, please remember that accomplishing this sound isn’t an easy task. Like almost all famous musicians, Mustaine and other guitarists in Megadeth used some high-end gear to make their sound. And you can try purchasing all the expensive gear and not even come close to imitating their sound. In short, it’s extremely difficult to get it exactly right.
Additionally, their tone has changed over the years. But, on the other hand, some traits remained the same. For instance, you could always notice the tightness in the tone whether that’s on their 1985 debut record, legendary “Rust in Peace,” or the controversial “Risk.”
Perfect Megadeth Amp Settings
What we want to focus on here are the amp settings. I’ll give a few directions from my own experiences.
Before We Get to the Amp…
What you also need to bear in mind is that the amp is just one of the components. Getting the right tone is more than just tweaking the knobs on your amp.
Firstly, I’d highly advise that you have a guitar with humbucker pickups. In particular, I prefer passive humbuckers with a hotter output. However, active ceramic humbucker pickups are also great. I just find passive ones easier to work with.
It would be very difficult to work with single-coil pickups. If you have no other choice other than single-coils, I suggest that you roll off the tone knob a bit. You can also add a dash of compression to fatten it up. An EQ pedal could also help. You could also cut the high-ends and boost mids and bass.
Some metal-oriented distortion pedals could also help. However, I’d advise not pushing them to ultra-high-gain settings. If you’re playing a tube-driven amp, then a smoother overdrive pedal like the classic Tube Screamer is a great choice.
I should also point out that hollow-body and semi-hollow-body guitars are not ideal for imitating Megadeth’s sound. It’s not impossible to use them, but you’ll have a very hard time making it all work.
Which Amps Work the Best for Megadeth Tone?
In my honest opinion, high-gain tube-driven amps are the best choice here. The idea is to have a high-gain tone that’s still tight. You don’t want it to sound fuzzy or too muffled in these settings.
For most of his career, Dave has used Marshall amps. And even when he had more elaborate rigs with separate preamp and power amp units, it always gravitated towards classic Marshall tones.
So anything that will add those punchy mids is ideal to get that classic British-oriented high-gain tone. Most Blackstar amps can also come in handy. Although traditionally American, Mesa Boogie amps also come in handy. I always prefer amps with EL34 or EL84 over those with 6L6 or 6V6 tubes.
A tube-driven Marshall is the safest bet here. The DSL series could be a great choice. If you’re playing at home or smaller gigs, even a 5-watt model like DSL5CR will be enough.
How to Set It Up?
Now we get to the main part, or how you should set things up. But here we come to the main issue. No two amp models are the same. I can give you general directions from my experiences. However, you’ll still have to rely on your ears a lot. Additionally, things get more complicated as Dave’s tone changed over the years.
As mentioned, Megadeth mostly plays with high-gain settings. If you’re using a tube amp, I’d suggest that you use your amp’s distortion channel instead of a pedal. You can also get things going on a clean or crunch channel with an overdrive pedal in front of it.
Now, when it comes to the EQ, it’s a bit hard to give an exact setting. It will depend on the amp that you’re using. However, I still have some basic guidelines.
First, I recommend a significant boost to high-ends. I estimate that it should be over 70 or 75%, but not at its absolute maximum. The mids, however, should be a bit lower. For Megadeth-like tone, I prefer them to be at around 50%. A slightly scooped tone works well, but mids shouldn’t be absent. You shouldn’t go below 25%.
In case your amp has a presence control, you should use it as well. In my experience, the presence control should be at a higher setting, even at its maximum. To those who don’t know, this parameter is about the power amp section. In practice, it gives a boost to higher mids. These will help you cut through the mix without making the tone too aggressive.
While we’re at it, some amps, preamps, or pedals have parametric or graphic EQs. This can be very useful. A parametric EQ allows you to further shape the mids. There’ll be one knob for the peak mid frequency and another one for its intensity. You could either cut the low mids or boost the higher mids.
Finally, you should also keep the bass around 50%. The bottom-ends should be more pronounced than mids but not as much as high-ends or higher mids.
At the same time, feel free to crank up the gain. I recommend pushing it to around 90 to 100% as long as it doesn’t sound too mushy.
You can hear this controlled but high-gain tone in “Tornado of Souls.” The riff with natural harmonics sounds good. The harmonic content doesn’t spill around and nothing sounds dissonant.
In short, you should aim for a tight high-gain tone, not a fuzzy one. This is much easier to do on amps like Marshall or Blackstar rather than, let’s say, Orange.
This is all harder to do on most solid-state amps. In such a setting, I advise that you dial down on the gain knob. Somewhere at around 75 or 80%.
What About Clean Tones?
For occasional clean parts, you’ll need a super-clean tone. In most cases, it shouldn’t be crunchy or break into distortion anywhere. Luckily, even tube amps have clean channels with a lot of headroom. So this shouldn’t be much of an issue unless you’re playing a vintage-oriented amp.
A Distortion Pedal Directly into a Power Amp?
Another thing that you could do is use a high-gain distortion pedal directly in the power amp section. For this, your amp needs to have an FX loop, or send and return jacks. You should plug it into the return jack instead of the main input. The approach will require some tweaking on the pedal. Additionally, you’d completely bypass the amp’s EQ and gain controls.
Sure, it’s an unconventional approach. Technically, you get a hybrid amp. Your distortion pedal serves as a solid-state preamp while you keep a power amp’s tube response. However, this can make for some pretty awesome results. And, in my opinion, it creates some pretty awesome Megadeth tones.
Megadeth Amp Settings: Opinions Differ
Just like with everything guitar-related, opinions are different. This is why I should point out that some guitar-playing Megadeth fans will disagree with this guide.
For a different perspective, check out the guide below.
Megadeth Amp Settings: Conclusion
I hope this guide has given you some ideas for Megadeth amp settings you can use to imitate their sound.
And if you have questions about this or another guitar topic, let me know in the comments below!
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