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.