Digital modellers like the Neural DSP Quad Cortex offer the kind of power and sounds you would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get the same degree of tones options they can provide you.
All of those choices can make you feel like you’re drowning in tonal possibilities. This article will give you some helpful tips to get a solid starting point for a modern metal tone.
Use a noise gate
It depends on the type of sound you are going for, but in most instances, a gate is needed to clean up the hi-gain sound, which can get noisy. We are partial to the default setting on the Adaptive Gate (under the utility section), which works well for most use cases.
For genres such as djent, where you want a more “gated” sound, taking this to 60-70% is a good idea.
The noise gate should always be the first effect in your chain, going before anything else.
Use an overdrive pedal
The modern metal staple uses an overdrive pedal such as a Tubescreamer to EQ your sound and drives your amp head a little harder without turning up the gain or volume. The Tubescreamer into a hi-gain amplifier is a tried and tested trick that has been a staple in metal for years.
The basic settings for a Tubescreamer (known as a Green 808 on the Quad Cortex) are turning the drive down to zero, leaving the tone at five, and turning the level up. You can take the same approach and use other overdrive pedals as well.
The overdrive pedal should be the first pedal after your noise gate because we use it as both a boost and pre-EQ. So far, the order should be “Adaptive Gate > Overdrive”.
Don’t dime your amp
Without a doubt, the most common mistake many make with trying to achieve metal tones is diming their amp settings. When I say dime, I mean turning the gain and volume up to 10. Unless you’re a master at EQ, the result will not sound as good as you think.
A lot of the full and chunky tone you hear in a modern metal mix isn’t just guitar, and the chunkiness comes from the underlying bass and multiple tracked guitars (usually quad tracked). It is these layers that give the modern metal genre its brutal sound.
In fact, if you were to get your hands on some recorded guitar tracks isolated from the main mix, you will notice they might sound quite thin. Putting bass beneath a hi-gain guitar can really make it pop and sound more full. This is a mistake many will make when trying to replicate famous tones, especially metal.
A good starting point for gain is choosing an amp like the CA Duo Ch3 Modern or D-Cell H4 Ch3, setting the gain to 3.5 and setting the master volume to 3. You can use pedals like an overdrive or fuzz to get the sound to be more “full”. The Quad Cortex even allows for you to do stereo panned amps.
Low-High Cut EQ
EQ’ing is a learned skill, one many are not experts in. However, one of the easiest and most efficient ways to clean up your sound is to throw a Low-High Cut EQ at the end of your preset (after the speaker cabinet).
The default settings alone can go a long way to cleaning up your amp sound and taking away some of the mud and hiss associated with low and high frequencies.
Reference other presets
The Quad Cortex has some high quality presets you can learn from. One of my personal favourites on Cortex Cloud is the Omega Granophyre preset that Mike Stringer of Spiritbox shared, which you can find here.
This incredible preset uses a capture that Mike took of a real Granophyre amp and despite the fact the preset may look simple, it’s one of the cleanest sounding thanks to the precise post amp EQ.