We’ve seen two versions of Linkin Park’s guitar playing.
The first was Hybrid Theory and Meteora, both of which were heavy hitting metal albums with little room for a Fender Stratocaster.
Everything after that reminds me more of a weird U2 or something else entirely.
These amp settings are meant to reflect the Hybrid Theory and Meteora style of guitar brought to us by Brad Delson during those early Linkin Park years.
Songs like “With You”, “Don’t Stay” and “Papercut” are our target sound, with a thick, low end guitar tone producing smooth and heavy power chords.
Most of these early Linkin Park riffs came at the hands of Delson, the band’s primary guitarist, before Mike Shinoda started shouldering more of the guitar load. To get a feel for the gear and technical approach used in those albums, we’ll reference guitar.com’s diagram of Delson’s guitar rig.
Gear Most Responsibility for Brad Delson's Linkin Park Tone (amps and guitars)
The bulk of Delson’s distortion comes directly from the Marshall and Mesa Boogie amplifiers, which means most of us will have to do some improvising when it comes to getting our own version of the heavy Linkin Park distortion.
Per the Guitar.com diagram, you can see how Delson had his amps, cabs and pedals linked up.
Delson runs both the Marshall and Mesa amps side by side, while keeping a second one of each as a backup.
An EBTech eight-channel hum eliminator serves as Delson’s effects loop, running everything through channel selectors.
While most of us don’t have this caliber of gear to work with, there are some takeaways we can make note of to try and come up with a list of best-practices for mimicking Delson’s tone.
- Use an effects loop if possible.
- Aim for using an amplifier that has its own gain source (Mesa, Marshall, etc.).
- Use compression and noise gates where possible.
Aside from just dialing in the “right” EQ, you can setup your rig with these qualities that aren’t terribly expensive, making it easier to achieve Delson’s modern tone.
Here’s how I had everything setup with my own rig:
I used a Boss noise gate, an MXR compressor and the Boss Mega Distortion pedal (though I used my amp’s distortion for the most part) in an effects loop going through my SKB pedalboard which also has some noise reduction built in.
Once you have a similar working setup, kick on the noise gate and compressor before you start experimenting with your amp’s EQ.
Setting a Delson-Friendly EQ
Regardless of what amp you use you’re always going to have to adjust a three-band EQ. Dial in these settings as a starting point:
Gain: 10 / Bass: 7 / Mids: 4 / Treble: 7
We’ve set mids back, treble up and bass to around 2 o’clock on our amp.
I found that the extra bass helped to smooth out the distorted tone and give it a more modern feel.
Depending on your amp, you might have to play around with the treble setting, possibly cutting it back if the tone feels too high-pitched or piercing.
The gain and EQ are the same, except we’ve cut the treble back to lower the intensity of the output and smooth things out.
Here are our numbers:
Gain: 10 / Bass: 7 / Mids: 4 / Treble: 4
If you’re using your amplifier’s onboard distortion (like I did with my Line 6 Spider), start with the gain all the way up. This should give you a heavily-saturated, modern overdrive.
The same would go for most Marshall and Mesa Boogie amplifiers.
If the distortion from your amp sounds weak and not heavy enough, you might have to use a pedal as your distortion source.
What if I have to use the distortion pedal?
Most distortion pedals come with their own EQ.
You’ll at least have the following controls:
On the MD-2 I had the following knobs to work with:
- Level (volume)
- Gain Boost
The “Bottom” knob on the MD-2 is particularly helpful for modern tones because it lets you dial in the low-hanging thud that you here in Delson’s palm mutes.
For example, listen to the intro progression for “With You:”
It’s a punishing riff if you can get the tone right.
The song is played on a 7-String guitar in standard tuning (low string is open B), which also helps with achieving so much low-end.
Here’s the tab with a 6-string baritone guitar tuning, if you want to take a shot at the riff:
With thicker distortion, the low B notes fill out the progression nicely while the harmonic at the third fret rings with plenty of sustain.
Here are the rest of the settings I used with the MD-2:
Level: 5 / Tone: 4 / Bottom: 8 / Distortion: 8 / Gain Boost: 6
If you don’t have the MD-2 you can usually transplant these settings rather easily, as most distortion pedals are setup with similar controls.
Finishing up our Brad Delson Amp Settings
I don’t want to say that gear doesn’t matter, because it certainly does.
Delson has a lot of money and power behind his rig, which is a major part of why he’s able to sound the way he does.
However, we can still identify EQs and best practices to get the same “flavor” that Delson is tapping into. He’s a nu-metal guy, which means his settings will be part of a much broader tonal spectrum.
We can then use his approach to get ourselves onto that spectrum as well.
Questions or comments?
Have questions about the Brad Delson amp settings we’ve listed here?
Get in touch via the comments section below and give your two cents.
Written by Bobby on Amps and Settings
Hello greetings from Argentina, I would like to know the configuration for the song no more sorrow of this great band LINKIN PARK thanks
Uriel – check Ultimate Guitar for tabs. I’d start here: https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/linkin-park/no-more-sorrow-tabs-1149938
Lukas B says
Hey, i got a prs se 245 and a boss gt1 multi fx recently, and i want to sound like linkin park, can you help me out with this too?
Hey Lukas – I assume you’re talking about the early Linkin Park guitar tone? Do you have high-gain setting on the GT1? What kind of amp are you using?”
Lukas B says
Hey thanks for the fast answer!
Yeah i love all Linkin Park songs, but if we wanna stick to one its the early.
I do have an high gain setting yep, and with the boss app i can modify any effect and the sound.(treble/gain/mids/bass)
Unfortunately i dont use a amp, i use the GT-1 as an audiointerface or headphone/speakers connected
Thanks, Lukas – I would start with the highest gain settings you can. You’ll need some low-end in there as well to get that thick, kind of chunking sound. That tone also had a long sustain trail. Hope this is helpful. I don’t know a ton about the GT-1 so I’m a bit limited.
You bet. Let me know how it goes.
Ken Barton says
Which amp were you using and do you think I could get the same sound without using a compressor pedal? I’m looking for a good amp to use (live band performance) to achieve this sound but cannot spend more than 1,000 dollars. Any advice?
Bobby Kittleberger says
Back then I was using a Line 6 Spider IV on the “Insane” distortion model. That one had a built-in compressor so I didn’t have to use a pedal. It wasn’t the greatest amp, but did let me try a lot of different sounds.
Do you have a speaker cab (you only need an amp head), or would you need to buy a combo amp?
Ken Barton says
So I actually don’t have an amp head OR a speaker cabinet but have recently been looking into purchasing the Peavey 6505 MH with a small 1×12 or 2×12 cabinet. As for pedals, I have a Boss NS-2 as well as an MXR GT-OD but no compressor pedal.
I’m looking to get as close as possible to Linkin Park’s tone (without busting the bank) as I am soon to be touring with an LP tribute band. I grew up playing drums so the guitar world is still new to me. Should I be worried this much about the right equipment? I keep thinking maybe I won’t have the right sound without a Mesa/Boogie and a PRS and it’s driving me crazy.
Bobby Kittleberger says
So, I have a PRS, but no Mesa (unfortunately).
And from personal experience, I honestly think that the Blackstar amps would be your best bet. I can’t really speak much for Peavey because I’ve never used them.
If you’ve got $1k to spend, I’d go with something like the HT Venue: https://amzn.to/2JvzUzK
That amp would do the job for you.
Also, I assume you’re talking about early hard rock Linkin Park? Not the modernized whiny bull crap Linkin Park that made Chester give up?
My advice would be to use amp sims if you’re not looking to break the bank and get as close as possible to his hybrid theory and meteora guitar tone. STL amp hub and tone hub are great places to start. ownhammer cabinet impulse responses paired with those amp sims seem to yield great results. On meteora, they used synths that played along side the rhythm guitar tracks which is why the guitar tone has such a larger than life sound on meteora. See my video below where I dive into the guitar tone off of meteora and how the synths play a huge role in the overall sound.