Metallica Tech Explains Why Band Swapped Amps for Modellers: ‘It’s Cheaper, More Reliable, and All the Rigs Now Sound Exactly the Same’ tt

“And I gotta actually give James Hetfield a lot of credit because it was a big deal to give up your typical analog amps.”

Metallica Tech Explains Why Band Swapped Amps for Modellers: 'It's Cheaper, More Reliable, and All the Rigs Now Sound Exactly the Same'


Metallica guitar tech Chad Zaemisch recalled how the thrash giants’ famous show in Antarctica prompted them to switch to a digital rig, and explained its benefits when compared to the band’s traditional, analog setup.James Hetfield & Co. have been going digital for a while now, and they seem to be very pleased with the choice. “James and I instantly realized that this was what we were looking for this whole time”, Kirk Hammett said recently, noting how the reliability of digital gear, compared to the delicacy of analog cabinets, was a welcome change.

Similarly, the band’s guitar tech Chad Zaemisch tells RJM Music Technology Inc in a new interview how his role became a much more active one after the transition, since he was primarily tasked with maintaining the rigs beforehand. Explaining how the band’s 2013 “Freeze ‘Em All” gig in Antarctica made Metallica adopt digital rigs, he said (transcription via Killer Guitar Rigs):

“Matt Picone [of Fractal Audio] came out and helped us to transition into this stuff because we actually had to go play a show in Antarctica. That’s why we couldn’t bring any amps, all the people at the show that we brought with us on the ship wore headphones, there was an environmental issue too, where you can’t disturb the wildlife.”

He added:

“And I gotta actually give James a lot of credit because it was a big deal to give up your typical analog amps. We got an old-school band, and it’s all about the loud amps, and James was really like, ‘Do we continue to use these?'”

The benefits of digital gear

Explaining why he immediately fell behind the decision, Chad said:

“All this stuff is cheaper to ship around, it’s more reliable, and all the rigs now sound exactly the same, rather than analog amps being finicky. It made a lot of sense. I was all for it because anytime I can plug my computer into my equipment and manipulate it.

“I’m all for it because it was starting to get boring, just taking strings off, putting strings on for bands, and plugging a couple of things in it. You gotta be really creative when doing that. So, once we got into that, then yeah, we started from scratch and built up presets.

“Then you move to the next better thing that comes out, improvements and things. So yeah, we’re all pretty well, we help each other, but we do it ourselves just to get good sounds.

“And it was actually nice because, for me, I went from inheriting what the guitar rig was sounding like and just maintaining it to now being responsible for what it sounds like, having more invested in it.”

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The rising popularity of modellers

As for whether Metallica’s new rig actually sounds better to what they used in the past, he said:

“Is it better? When it sounds good, and people will tell you it sounds good, it’s because of the work you did directly. So yeah, we do it all. And then if there’s a problem, we can help each other. If there’s something new that has to happen, we know exactly where to go in, and fix it, or change it, or how to create the new stuff.”

Asked whether bands out there use modelers more than traditional amps nowadays, he said:

“A lot more modelers. It’s still probably, maybe, 60/40 with 60% being modelers. It’s just so much more economical for the bands. And like I said, repeatability. If you have analog amps, if you have one that overheats, does whatever, you go to the backup and it sounds different.

“It’s just the way it is, the way it’s always been, and the way it’s always going to be. So, especially with the advent of everybody wearing in-ears, now that you have the sound right here in your head and if it’s different than what you’re used to, it’s like, ‘Whoa, what happened?’ It’s really difficult to get around that.”

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