This is a very interesting video. It’s a walkthrough of the guitar rigs used by Metallica’s James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett.
Okay, here at the HomeToneBlog, we’re playing to an audience of one – not touring the world playing to arenas full of adoring fans hanging on every single note. There’s still a lot we can learn from seeing what the pros use – and why.
Two things in particular caught my eye in this video.
First off was that Metallica have gone entirely digital modelling for their live amps. The AxeFX has reached the point where it sounds good enough to replace tube amps – and whatever difference there is, it’s not big enough to be worth the challenges of using tube amps.
There’s a telling statement from James’ guitar tech partway through, where he discusses how using AxeFX means they have more time to spend on other aspects of the touring process, like guitar maintenance. Digital modelling promises to sound the same night after night. Tube amps don’t.
Kirk’s guitar tech also throws some light on that decision. He talks about how each tube amp has its own character, and what it can be like when you have to switch to a backup amp when the primary tube amp dies.
The second thing that stood out for me was how they’ve gone with analogue signal paths and switching. Mid-song, they don’t switch patches inside the AxeFX; they switch to a different AxeFX that has the next patch already loaded and ready to go. Why? Analogue just doesn’t have any added latency. Switching is instant.
Something to think about if you’re thinking of gigging with a digital amp yourself one day.