I’ve had a few questions come in regarding the guitar tones on my latest album Heavy Metal Workout. I wanted to break it down and go over the amp sim I used to record with as well as my amp’s EQ settings. This is a fairly simple setup, and may even be deemed as too simple to some.
* The recording software I’m using is PreSonus Studio One Pro
Positive Grid BIAS FX Metal Tone
First let me chat a little about the plugin I used for Heavy Metal Workout. It’s called BIAS FX by Positive Grid. Now, there’s a BIAS Amp as well but I have the FX. It’s the professional desktop version.
The BIAS FX has a decent amount of amps and effects you can use but it doesn’t seem overkill. This is one of the reasons I bought the BIAS FX plugin (and of course my decision was initially based on my experience after trying the demo version). I would rather have a small hand full of great sounding amp sims than hundreds of amps that I have to dig through to find a tone I like. That’s time consuming.
* Listen to Heavy Metal Workout here:
BIAS FX 92 Treadplate
In my opinion, the 92 Treadplate is the best sounding amp sim of the BIAS FX high gain amps. It gives you plenty of gain, yet it’s a clean gain if that makes sense. I’m not talking about watered down, but rather it has a ton of clarity. I’ve heard many high gain amp sims that lack clarity.
I used the cabinet that’s already paired with this amp. It’s called 4 x 12 Treadplate. I toyed around with different cabinets and there are a few that sound decent with this amp (especially the 4 x 12 Orange cabinet). But in the end I chose the Treadplate amp and Treadplate cab combination for all of my guitar tracks for this album.
Treaplate Amp EQ Settings
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of my Heavy Metal Workout tone! Before I jump into my EQ settings, I want to mention the guitar I used. It’s my Ibanez RG1570. If I’m not mistaken, this is a late 80’s model and it has the Ibanez V7 and V8 pickups. I sort of have a love-hate relationship with these pickups. They’re not as hot as I would like for metal but I do like the tone. I bought this from a close friend many years ago and I like how this guitar plays (thanks Tom, I’ll always keep this axe in the family).
My BIAS FX Treadplate EQ settings are extremely simple. To me, if it’s a high end amp, you really don’t need to tweak too much to get a good metal tone. Obviously if you’re going for a very particular or abstract sound, this doesn’t apply. But for raw metal (yet, again with clarity), there shouldn’t be a ton of EQ tweaking required.
- Gain – I keep my gain between 6-7. I don’t want too much because overkill on gain tends to create a muddy tone.
- Bass – I have the same feelings with bass that I do with gain. Too much can muddy up the overall sound. You have to give room for the bass guitar and kick drum to shine, and let those carry the bottom end. In this case, my gain is a little over 5. Often times I’ll back the bass off below 5. Remember, a tone that sounds good in the bedroom may not necessarily sit well in the mix.
- Mids – I typically set my mids between 4 and 6 (in this case, closer to 6). Too much of a cut tends to drown out the overall tone and if it’s set too high, you start to get away from the metal tone and more into a rock sound.
- Treble – I have my treble not quite at 7. It’s enough to make the tone stand out and sit well with the mix. You don’t want to overkill on treble because you’ll get that bright, teney tone.
- Presence – For this amp (and for the tone I was going for), my presence is a little above 3. My presence setting is determined by the amp I’m using. Some sound better with a higher presence setting. For the 92 Treadplate, and considering the other factors (cabinet, mic, guitar) a lower presence level sounded better in the mix.
- Volume – My volume typically stays straight up and down (at 5). I may bring it up a bit for leads. You have to watch your interface levels for clipping.
Effects and Metal Tones
I’m not a fan of using many effects for my metal rhythm guitar tones. I think that using too many variables can easily make your tone muddy or just overall crappy. My theory, again, if it’s a high quality amp (or amp sim) and it’s built for metal, you really don’t need much extra.
The only effect I use here is the BIAS FX Screamer sim. And this is really just to tighten up the tone a bit. Positive Grid did a nice job at mimicking the Mesa Dual Rectifier with the 92 Treadplate (in which you would want some sort of light overdrive in front of the amp, like a real Tube Screamer). I believe my Screamer sim settings are fairly generic. Little to no gain, level at about 7, and the tone is set down the middle, give or take.
Heavy Metal Workout Album Tone
My goal with the Heavy Metal Workout album was to get a classic metal tone with a modern twist. What I mean by modern twist is a cleaner high gain tone. Or I should say one with more clarity. I like to hear the notes. And if your tone is muddy, it’s hard to distinguish those notes and what’s being played.
This is a problem with some of the older metal music (and some new as well). Perhaps it’s just the overall recording quality, lack of tools and such. But I tend to think that if more attention was paid to the guitar tones and EQ settings, it could have been a cleaner mix. Of course that’s just my 2 cents (I’ll probably catch some flack for saying that).
On the flip side, the problem I hear with some of the newer, more modern metal is the tones are too polished. It almost sounds robotic, and I think I mentioned that in my last video and blog on recording and panning metal rhythm tracks.
My ultimate goal was to get somewhere in between. I wanted that classic feel with a lot of djent with clarity. I also didn’t want the tone, or the overall mix, to be too polished to where it sounded processed. I had already run the risk of this by using EZdrummer software and loops for my drum tracks (I hope to find a real drummer for my next album).
Well, that’s my metal tone for my Heavy Metal Workout album. In fact, I’m using this same tone for an album I’m currently writing. The only difference is I’m using my ESP M-1000 Deluxe guitar. Actually, not to make things complicated, but I’m working on two projects simultaneously. I’ll keep you updated on both of those.
Keep it Metal,
* Listen to Heavy Metal Workout here: