Ride The Lightning Tone

What’s left to say about this thrash metal classic? The band brought a level of perfection to heavy metal production unheard of in the genre up until this point. Tight, click-track accuracy, layers upon layers of guitars, warehouse ambience, and allegedly sped up tapes caused riffs to hit listener’s ears at blinding speeds. If you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.

While it’s been reported that the band auditioned every Marshall in Denmark to find the right amp to record with1, we think the core of the sound actually came from their introduction to Mesa/Boogie, namely the Mark IIC+. While we’re sure there’s more than one way to get here, when you plug in, it’s unmistakable. The top end sizzle, mid-scooped metal mania hits you square in the face.

And the story is the stuff of legends, with James’ prized modified Marshall getting stolen shortly before recording was scheduled to start, it was the perfect time to look for a new amplifier. Mesa/Boogie was just up the road so-to-speak and this would begin an unspoken sonic partnership that would last the band for years.

And while we’re here, we thought we’d shed some light on one of the most difficult riffs known to thrash metal fans. The intro from “Fight Fire with Fire!” While the basic riff is well known (Riff A), online guitar personality Ben Eller shed some light on the other half of the riff (Riff C) back in 20172. However this still left the transition between these two riffs open to interpretation. Being good citizens, we felt we needed to make an attempt to clarify the riff that bridges riffs A and C, let’s call it Riff B. It embodies one of the defining characteristics of a great Metallica song–the use of odd meter changes to create phrases that catch you off guard. Likely done by feel to avoid a more prog-rock style composition, the band showed a healthy disregard for meter, opting to construct passages beat-by-beat in order to get from one place to the next.

Take a look and listen, once you get up to speed you’ll be able to go toe-to-toe with one of the fiercest thrash riffs around. Make sure to note the small bends that occur in measures 10 and 11, they’re critical to accurate articulation of the pull-offs and was likely the result of speed and finger-pressure while playing.


Taking full advantage of the VG802C Amplifier 5-Band EQ, we’re employing the classic “V” setting. Despite later accounts showing the Treble Shift engaged3, based on our testing we think this wasn’t the setup for this particular album. We’ve also added the OD101 Overdrive which was definitely used in some form. Potentially to thicken up rhythm parts with lots of A-string palm muting, most definitely on solos, either way be sure to experiment with the gain ratio between the amp and overdrive, you’re bound to stumble onto something brilliant. You can’t miss with this gear!

  • OD101 Overdrive
  • VG802C Amplifier
  • VG 4X12B 260W ’82 Cabinet

1 Taylor, Matt. Metallica: Back To The Front. Insight Editions, 2016.

2 Ben Eller. (2017, July 13). That riff from Fight Fire With Fire by Metallica you could never figure out! Retrieved from https://youtu.be/5jIcZcIwJzo

3 Rasmussen, Flemming. Metallica Notes. http://www.fwrproduction.com/FWR_Produktion/Notes_1.html. Accessed 20 February 2021.

Tuning a Plexi

There is something magical, maybe even mysterious, about an old Plexi. Based on historical records, we know that there were several revisions, that part tolerances varied over the years, and that build quality could be hit or miss. But one thing is for certain, if you find a winning combination of all of these elements, you know it. The sound registers as “the” sound you have been looking for.

Or maybe not. As we drift further and further away from the period known as Classic Rock it’s getting more and more difficult to find information about recording techniques, gear, and performances captured on seminal records of that period. Enter AmpStamp, our attempt at cataloging the most desirable gear, with the ability to recreate the most coveted tones in guitar history.

Let’s take a look at the VG402C Amplifier paired with the VG 4x12B 100W ’78 Cabinet. This setup covers both ’68 and ’69 era Specs with a slightly newer cabinet. We’re using the EQ110 Ten Band Equalizer to tighten the sound of the guitar coming into the amplifier.

With the EQ110 Ten Band Equalizer we’re cutting low-mids to tighten the bass and boosting highs to improve clarity. It’s a common shape that can even help clean tones cut through in a mix.

’68 Spec

We think you’re going to instantly hear the low end punch and mid-growl that epitomizes classic rock guitar tone. And at a low gain setting! Remember, this was in the pre- to early-days of master volume amplifiers, players were getting their sound more from power amp distortion. Studio engineers kept asking the musicians to turn it down! And that’s what makes this Spec a classic: the ability to pack a punch at a lower volume. Enjoy!

’69 Spec

Voiced brighter than previous revisions, this Spec shines when pushed to the max. You can really hear the tubes screaming! No boost needed. We’ve added a switch so you can dial it back if needed, but we don’t recommend it. Let it rip!

Signal Chain
  • EQ110 Ten Band Equalizer
  •  VG402C Amplifier, daisy-chain channels I and II
  • VG 4x12B 100W ’78 Cabinet


Sweet Leaf Tone

Who would have thought that what started out as an above average blues band would become the prototype for heavy metal as we know it. From the opening sounds of a rainstorm to a bell that’s tolled for a thousand lives to the perfect use of the Devil’s Interval, Black Sabbath had, perhaps inadvertently, created something coherent and unique that immediately registered and resonated with listeners upon first exposure. If you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.

So rare is that occurrence that when critics started complaining but fans started following, the band knew to continue in the direction they had started. And we are all glad they did. As album after album of instant classics continued to fill the shelves, many guitar players started to wonder how Tony Iommi was getting such a heavy sound. And so our journey begins…

What we do know is that Iommi had a modified Rangemaster, one of the first treble boosters.1 Based on dropping the needle and some experimentation, it’s unlikely that Iommi got that kind of distortion from an amplifier and a treble booster. Our latest theory is that his Rangemaster was modified to include a fuzz unit. Most likely a two or three transistor model since the Rangemaster itself was a single transistor circuit.

What we have here is the classic VG402B Amplifier with the VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet and the EQ100 Treble Boost followed by the FZ101B Fuzz. This deep and heavy tone is amazing and we think you’re going to instantly hear those Black Sabbath classics when playing. Paired with an SG, you can’t get any closer. Enjoy!


Crank it up, this tone is heavy. Designed to imitate modifications done to Tony Iommi’s treble booster, we think we’ve found something special. But you be the judge. Use the fuzz to capture the dark sounds of Master of Reality or disengage and crank the amp for something brighter, similar to their self-titled debut.

  •  VG402B Amplifier
  • EQ100 Treble Boost
  • FZ101B Fuzz
  • VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet

1 Iommi, Tony. Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press, 2011.

Nevermind Tone

Depending on your punk rock ethics, you may or may not have a lot to thank Mike Wallace for. Without question, his application of slick dance music production techniques to a new generation of punk willing to admit that they liked the Beatles helped define the sound of an era. Call it what you will, the music was infectious. Like songs you learned when you were a kid—they were easy to remember, enjoyable to sing along with, and aggressive and catchy as hell. If you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.

But Wallace was typically employed only as a mix engineer. He would get involved with projects after most of the material had already been recorded. In order to have such great material to work with, the raw energy in the studio still needed to be there. With Nirvana’s second album—their first on a major label—Wallace would create a blueprint for many bands to follow but first, the band needed to record an album. Enter Butch Vig. Having previously worked with Nirvana on some demos, he would become the vehicle through which the band would successfully get onto tape their pop infused ideas. Famously using John Lennon to coerce more takes, Vig knew exactly how to interact with underground artists.

Listening to the unmixed stems, it’s clear this album was meant to be raucous, heavy, and in your face. With AmpStamp, let’s take look at capturing that raw energy and giving it some slick studio production (or not, if you prefer). Here’s what we know:

  • Kurdt Cobain’s amp had broken at an earlier gig and the band used the money they had to purchase a Mesa Boogie Studio .22 preamp and a power amp
  • When the band checked in to Sound City studios, Kurt brought the Mesa Boogie with him. During recording he would also employ a Fender Bassman and some pedals but as Vig states, “Kurt Cobain, for the most part, used a Mesa Boogie amp”<sup>1</sup>
  • Based on live appearances, a modern Marshall 4×12 was used

Careful! This one is hot! You may want to engage the Squelch control (noise gate). Though we know Kurdt used a distortion pedal to switch between clean and distorted tones, we think you’ll hear similarities using the high gain channel on this amplifier, it definitely packs a punch better than any pedal. Change the Color to get different left and right channel takes, and voilà—never mind.

  • VG802C Amplifier, toggle between lead and clean + CH102 Chorus
  • CH102 Chorus
  • VG 4x12B 260W ’82 Cabinet

Though not a Bassman, we think you’ll agree this sound is instant Grunge. With a thick quality unlike any modern amp, this was the secret ingredient to some of the moodier tracks on Nevermind. The tone is much darker so we’ve adjusted the Color for more brightness, but let your ears adjust to it, it’ll sit perfectly in a final mix.

  • VG207A Amplifier
  • FZ104A Fuzz
  • VG 1x12C 15W ’68 Cabinet

1 Berkenstadt and Cross. Nirvana: Nevermind (Classic Rock Albums). New York, Schirmer Books, 1998.

AmpStamp 1.6 Presets

Welcome to AmpStamp 1.6! From blues revival to early thrash metal, there is a lot of ground to cover. Here are some new and revised presets, with better accuracy, and more control over your tone.


Entering the High-Gain era amps became tighter, with more distortion at lower volumes. This defined a new kind of crunch for the next generation of rock and heavy metal. That sound is on full display here with the VG408D Amplifier. Crank the Volume control for more chunk, using the (preamp) Gain control to dial in the right amount of crunch. The tone stack is subtle, but useable. Paired with the VG 4x12B 260W ’82 Cabinet, it won’t be long before you recognize this sound, get ready to shred.


This amplifier is so versatile, it’s hard to contain in just one preset so stay tuned for more info. From crunch to blistering leads, use the Deep option to fatten your tone and the Treble Shift option to tighten the bass. The 5-Band Graphic EQ speaks for itself… Also, dial back the Master 1 control to reduce flub in the bass and increase the Master control to compensate for the volume drop. This will allow a steeper “V” in the EQ section, creating a classic heavy metal tone made famous by bands like Metallica.


We just can’t seem to pull away from this preset. Perhaps the passage of time has made it harder to capture exactly what was going on with Hendrix’s signal chain at Woodstock, but with version V we think we’ve come one step closer. With this update, we have moved the FZ102 Fuzz after the PH100 Phaser. To our ears it’s become clear that the white knob Fuze Face that Hendrix used at Woodstock was most likely a boost. It just sounds right, and we think you’ll agree. But enough talking, let’s try it out!

Woman Tone

Let’s take another quick look at one of the ultimate classic guitar tones, a sound Eric Clapton once described as “Woman Tone.” We’ll spare you the history of the band, but if you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.

As part of their farewell concert, Clapton gave an interview where he described exactly how to get this sound. In his own words, either “by using the bass pickup, or the lead pickup but with all the bass off…on the tone control. Turn it down to one or ‘oh.'” If you’re lucky enough to have an SG, Epiphone or otherwise, that will help. But a Strat can certainly come close when using the same pickup strategy. The elements are simple enough, we’ve lined up the perfect combination of gear in AmpStamp. Take a listen!


For the rhythm tone, set the amp to direct output, bypassing the cabinet altogether. It’s likely this was done with the amp or a pedal, but you’ll instantly hear the clarity and top end that Clapton gets from his guitar. For the lead tone, use the neck pickup, or the bridge pickup with the tone down to zero, or to taste. You can’t miss this epic sound. Enjoy!

  • VG402B Amplifier set to use the Normal channel
  • VG 4x12A 100W ’67 Cabinet
  •  WH100 Wah
  •  AMB400 Plate Reverb

Watch and learn from the man himself…

AmpStamp 1.6 – The Gold Standard

Welcome to the eighties! With the release of AmpStamp 1.6, we are ushering in the era of high gain amps with some serious tone sculpting, effects loops, MIDI control …oh the technology! From blues revival to early thrash metal, there is a lot of ground to cover. Classics were becoming classics and modifying said gear was in vogue. Everyone was searching for something uniquely theirs, the ability to stand out from the pack. Now it’s your turn to relive some of the early tones from the most decadent of decades.


With support for MIDI Control, you can now take your tone live! Using basic MIDI messages, you can change presets, toggle switches, control knobs, and of course use the expression pedal, all from the perspective of the Floor Controller.

By using the Routing Editor to configure how each of the controls interacts with your effects, amp, cabinets, and ambience, there is a virtually limitless combination of control that you can program. Combined with hands-free access, it’s time to rock!


What is there to say about the amp that defined high gain for the ’80’s and continues to be sought after today? Well, here it is, the VG802C Amplifier. Those in the know might understand that this amplifier went through several revisions and was getting constantly tweaked until it finally arrived at its most coveted version. We’ve captured that here, as well as an optional flaw/feature with the original implementation of the FX Loop.

Which brings us to FX Loops! What would go on to define a modern feature set for an amplifier in the ’80’s definitely included an FX Loop. With all of the gain now happening in the preamp section, it made sense that things like echo should be after the distortion for a more realistic sound, similar to what studio engineers could provide during the recording process. Doing this also cleaned up effects like chorus and flangers too!

Speaking of modern feature sets, the VG408D Amplifier would define the next several decades of modernism in amplifier design. With channel switching, an FX Loop, and built-in Reverb, it was all there. This amp would gain some notoriety for including a diode limiting section, and also went through several revisions.

We’ve captured one of the earlier incarnations, and on playback we think that you’ll agree, this is a classic! Don’t miss out on the awesome clean channel too, there is a lot of tone to be had with this one.


Of course with each great amplifier must come a great cabinet. And we’ve got just the thing for the new high gain amps. The VG 4x12HBA 250W ’85 Cabinet and the VG 4x12B 260W ’82 Cabinet. We suggest mixing and matching to find your tone. These ’80s cabs also sound great with some earlier classic amps too, more to come on that soon!

Each cabinet features either two different speakers, or a blend of similar speakers in different positions. We think you’ll instantly fall in love with these cabinets.


Here we have the definitive overdrive, perfectly complementing a high gain amp, cleaning up some flub in the bass, and adding just a little nudge during a ripping solo. The OD101 Overdrive definitely delivers. We’re exited to explore the wonderful world of overdrives in parallel with our extensive collection of fuzzes.

And of course, the ’80s would not be complete without a chorus pedal. The CH102 Chorus may not have been the first but it certainly is one of the most distinctive. Add a subtle shimmering effect to clean tones, more width to distorted tones, or crank up the speed for some otherworldly sounds!

But don’t bother listening to us, just plug in and play…


As always, we think you’ll find that AmpStamp has endless variations of tone to satisfy guitarists in any genre of music. If you’re already a subscriber then thank you! If you haven’t subscribed yet, then hurry up! You’re missing out! Check out the Gear Shop and stay tuned for new products.


Killer Queen

Let’s take a quick look at one of the ultimate classic guitar tones, the one and only Brian May of Queen. We’ll spare you the history of the band, but if you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.

In a rare moment for this business, Brian actually cut a near 30 minute video back in 1983 detailing how he achieved his now legendary sound. If you have the time, we highly recommend watching it. Brian’s guitar is obviously a one-of-a-kind! But that’s OK. We’ve lined up a few of the required elements in AmpStamp. Here are a few key points that we gleaned from watching the master at work:

  • uses AC30’s without Top Boost, can achieve a similar tone by playing through the Normal channel
  • starts with a really woolly tone and refines it using a Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster
  • plays with a metal pick
  • adds a chorus pedal using two or more amplifiers for true stereo operation
  • also adds a delay pedal panning repeats to opposite amplifiers
Killer Queen

Disable the boost for mellow cleans, tap into solo mode for blistering leads, and enable echo to bring in other-worldly harmonies while soloing. This preset has you covered for all occasions. We’ve also added room ambience to capture the studio sound found on recordings of rock bands during the mid-’70’s. But enough talking for now, check out how it sounds!

  • VG302E Amplifier set to use the Normal channel
  • EQ100 Treble Boost
  • VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet for rhythm tones
  • VG 2x12C 30W ’67 Cabinet for lead tones

Tone Spotlight: The Hall of Fame

As we continue to make progress capturing unique and desirable tones throughout the recorded history of the guitar, let’s take stock for a moment. In the stompbox bible, Analog Man’s Guide to Vintage Effects, turn to chapter nine for a look at Analog Mike’s Hall of Fame. We thought we’d call out each effect here and provide a quick status on what’s available in AmpStamp. Though we’re nowhere near finished, we think we’ve covered quite a few classic stompboxes. If you’d like to help prioritize what we tackle next, let us know in the comments!


Artists: Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower, Harvey Mandel

Debut: 1968

History: Designed by Fumio Mieda, originally part of the Psychedelic Machine distributed by Honey in Japan and first sold as the Vibra-Chorus. Inspired by filtering effects heard from short wave radio interference.

AmpStamp: PH100 Phaser

Fuzz Face

Artists: Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughn

Debut: 1966

History: Physical enclosure designed by Ivor Arbiter, influenced by the base of a microphone stand. The circuit may have also been based on Ivor’s suggestion to use a Schmidt Trigger to increase distortion.

AmpStamp: FZ102 Fuzz

TS-808 Tube Screamer

Artists: Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kirk Hammett

Debut: 1979

History: Designed by S. Tamura for Maxon in Japan. This was an evolution of the Overdrive pedal intended to capture the dynamics of tube distortion.

Cry Baby

Artists: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and everyone else

Debut: 1968

History: Designed by Brad Plunkett with Del Casher, originally sold via partnership between Vox/JMI and Thomas Organ, debuting as the Clyde McCoy. Later renamed model V846 under Vox, and Cry Baby under Thomas Organ.

AmpStamp: WH100 Wah

Big Muff

Artists: Carlos Santana, Ernie Isley, David Gilmour, J. Mascis, Billy Corgan

Debut: 1970

History: Designed by Bob Meyer with Mike Matthews, based off of the Guild Foxey Lady. They iterated on the Axis Fuzz, then Muff Fuzz, finally landing on the four-transistor design with the Big Muff.

AmpStamp: FZ104A Fuzz

Phase 90 / Small Stone

Artists: Eddie Van Halen

Debut: 1974

History: The former was inspired by the Maestro Phase Shifter, the latter by the EMS Synthi Hi-Fli. Designed by Keith Barr and David Cockerell, respectively. Though each features a different topology, both effects sweep dual notches in the frequency spectrum creating their signature whooshing sound.

Mu-Tron III

Artists: Stevie Wonder, Bootsy Collins, Jerry Garcia, Flea

Debut: 1972

History: Designed by Mike Beigel originally for a synthesizer by Guild. When the deal fell through a new company and product was born.

Boss CE-1

Artists: Herbie Hancock, Andy Summers, John Frusciante

Debut: 1976

History: The first chorus effect in pedal form, and the first effect for Boss. Also incorporated into the JC-120 amplifier produced by Roland. This was the first effect to feature stereo outputs.

A/DA Flanger

Artists: ?

Debut: 1977

History: Designed by David Tarnowski, this is the flanger. With a wider range than its competitors, gating threshold, built-in compressor, and tuned feedback, it has a sound all to its own. Additionally, the effect featured an external control pedal that could be used to sweep the flanger.

Dallas Rangemaster

Artists: Eric Clapton, Tony Iommi, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher

Debut: 1965

History: A product of Dallas Music Ltd., production was short lived as the company eventually merged with Arbiter, forming Dallas-Arbiter of Fuzz Face fame.

AmpStamp: EQ100 Treble Boost

Ross Compressor

Artists: ?

Debut: 1977

History: Not just a clone of the MXR Dynacomp, this pedal was actually an improvement, maintaining the same qualities as the original script-logo MXR version while also providing a warmer sound and better stability.

Orange Squeezer

Artists: Jay Graydon, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Mark Knopfler

Debut: ?

History: Designed by Dan Armstrong, this effect came in a small box meant to be plugged directly into the guitar’s output jack. Despite its hard to use form factor this effect became a must-have for LA session musicians during the 70’s.

This is quite a list! But remember, as important as it is to have inspiring effects, you’ll also need an inspiring amp. Make sure to check out our Gear Shop to see everything that AmpStamp currently has to offer. And don’t forget to leave a comment if there’s something you’d like to see next!

AmpStamp 1.5 Presets

Welcome to AmpStamp 1.5! From proto punk and college rock, to rockabilly and psychedelia, we think you’re going to find endless inspiration from playing and tinkering. Here are some new and revised presets, with better accuracy, and more control over your tone.

Import All 4 New PresetsImport All 4 New Presets

Import All 2 Revised PresetsImport All 2 Revised Presets

Raw Power

Proto punks. The godfathers of punk. The Stooges. We stumbled upon James Williamson’s lacerating tone from Raw Power, and we think you’ll agree, this tone cuts like a knife. Harnessing the unique sound of mixing elements of Vox and Marshall gear, Williamson found the perfect match to Iggy’s intense delivery. The only requirement is that you play it loud.

Import Raw PowerImport Raw Power


By the time R.E.M. recorded their album Monster, they were looking for a new sound. Something harder, rockier, and faster paced. Guitarist Peter Buck found that in a small 2×12 combo known for its grit and particular voicing for guitar. Armed with only that amplifier, Buck would record instant classics, making use of the raw tone of the amplifier at full volume, as well as the novel vibrato channel.

Import MonsterImport Monster


Take a second to play this slapback tape delay and relive some of the finest moments recorded at Sun Studio. From Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis, to Johnny Cash, there’s a reason why musicians were clamoring for this new sound. Take what you can from it, and reinvent rock n’ roll once again.

Import SlapbackImport Slapback


While recording their album Disraeli Gears, Cream, and specifically Eric Clapton, would truly push what a guitar could do in pop music. Taking cues from seasoned blues players, Clapton effortlessly weaved inspired lead lines into simple song structures that served as platforms for improvisation during their live shows. But what was even more interesting was that sound he was putting to tape. A guitar had never quite sounded like that, and hasn’t since, until now.

Import SunshineImport Sunshine

Nellcôte II

Locked away from the rest of the world, living in hiding, living in excess. This was life for one of the most popular rock bands in history. Though the days may have blended into nights, interrupted by breakfast boats on the Italian Riviera, music happened. It needed to happen. It had to happen. And with a simple amplifier, a modest 2×12 combo, good times were rolling. Updated with speaker Color controls, for a darker, rounder tone, and Early Reflections to capture the sound of the studio.

Import Nellcôte IIImport Nellcôte II

Woodstock IV

Updated with a different amplifier and cabinet, and an improved, more accurate PH100 Phaser algorithm. As soon as you strike the first three notes of the Anthem, we think you’ll find that it can’t get any closer unless you happen to have the exact guitar that Hendrix used during performance. For the moment, this is one of rock’s all time greatest tones now available anywhere, anytime. Enjoy!

Import Woodstock IVImport Woodstock IV