Can we make a Doom Metal rig for $1500 or less? Today we take on the challenge and see what we come up with for this extremely heavy task!
Building A Doom Metal Rig Under $1500?
The last time we tackled “Gigging On a Budget” we took a look at your typical, versatile “Rock” rig. The term “Rock” is pretty broad, and we had multiple choices for gear in that section. That’s because you can do a lot with different types of amps and guitars. But now we are getting very specific.
Every genre has a “sound” that defines it. Doom Metal definitely has a style, and a very distinct sound. Getting that sound is half about your technique and playing style, but the other half is about the guitar gear that you choose to use.
So what makes up the modern Doom Metal rig? Well we can take a look at some popular bands and figure out what they use. Bands like Pallbearer or Type O Negative have used heavy distortion, low tunings, and fuzz on everything, while bands like Sleep, Intronaut, and Paradise Lost have a more focused approach.
We can also look back at the origins of Doom, with bands like Black Sabbath and Candlemass, as they are the ones that sculpted the genre. St Vitus and YOB have more dynamics, and incorporate other metal genres into their particular style of Doom. Even bands like Melvins have the influence of Doom Metal elements woven into their sound. There is no “right” way to build a Doom Metal rig.
So there are a lot of ways that we can approach a Doom Metal rig, but doing it on a $1500 budget is going to be difficult. That’s because a lot of Doom Metal artists use expensive vintage gear to get their sound. However, when they bought the gear, it wasn’t expensive at all! Rare boutique amps, trucker hats, beards, and $500 fuzz pedals are new trends.
But since Doom Metal has become more and more popular, most of the legendary amps and guitars that the founders of Doom used, have shot up in price. Doom Metal artists were actually thrifty back in the day, but the once obscure products and gear have now become mainstays in the guitar zeitgeist. Doom is a trend, and an expensive one.
So this will be quite the challenge to build a Doom Metal rig with such a slim budget, but I think we can pull it off! In case you’re new to the series, or it has been a while since you have checked out any of our “Gigging On A Budget” articles, we do have some serious parameters that we MUST stick to.
Gigging On A Budget: Parameters
- Each rig must be $1500 budget or LESS
- Each rig will be genre specific: Indie, Metal, Shoegaze, Doom, etc.
- A choice of two or three versatile guitars
- Different amp choices as much as possible: Solid state and Tube/Valve options
- Pedals or multi-effects units
- Cases/gig bags
- Accessories that you NEED for a show: Cables, power supply, etc.
- Advice on how to properly utilize all of the gear
- We can only pick products that we have experience with
So with all of that in mind, let’s check out the gear that we have chosen for the best Doom Metal rig for under $1500. This is always tough, but we have a lot of experience behind us, and I even played in a Doom-adjacent band once or twice. So let’s start with the hard part first…
Building A Doom Metal Rig: The Amp
When we were discussing guitar myths, one of the standout points was just how important your guitar amp is to your overall tone. You can plug a cheap guitar up to a great sounding amp and it will probably sound amazing! Unfortunately the opposite is also true, and even the nicest guitars in the world will sound cheap through a bad amplifier.
Building a great Doom Metal rig needs some high wattage. Unfortunately when it comes to our budget, it will be hard to find a tube amp that meets the criteria. We need some serious volume, and an amp that will be a good pedal platform.
Now it would be very easy to just say “Go out and buy a BOSS Katana MKII 100 watt and call it a day”. The Katana would definitely get the job done, and it fits the budget. But I want to also present another option, because we could use the Katana for literally EVERY genre when it comes to Gigging On A Budget.
I got to try out a pretty interesting amplifier recently made by Line 6. The Line 6 Catalyst is a pretty great amp for guitarists that want to use it as a pedal platform. It also has some pretty great sounds all on its own, like the clean and crunch tones. But I’m not talking about the 100 watt combo, oh no…I am talking about the 200 watt monster that runs stereo.
The Line 6 Catalyst 200 is a 2×12 combo that should be loud enough for just about any gigging situation, and volume is just as important as tone for a Doom Metal rig. You need to be LOUD, and I think that this might be the perfect amp for that.
Having a stereo FX loop is a big deal as well, since this means all of your delay/reverb effects can be ran in stereo through the 2×12 speakers. The open back cabinet design also allows you to turn up the bass and really get heavy. The Catalyst will definitely have no problem keeping up with the rest of the band.
You also have the option of using the Line 6 Custom Tone software to really dial in your base sound. The Catalyst uses some really great sounding amp models and they respond like a tube amp to your playing style and volume controls on your guitar. Its not a tube amp, but it can sound really damn close.
Our review goes into the tones of the Catalyst a little bit more, but the possibilities are endless. We need a solid “base tone” for the fuzz pedals that are going to be essential to the Doom Metal rig. I think the Catalyst is going to be the absolute best bet for an amp.
I tried pretty much every amp that we had at our affiliate store that was $500 or under. I honestly couldn’t find a better amp choice than the Line 6 Catalyst 200. There were other amps that fit the bill, but the tone was seriously lacking.
Again, the Katana could be a great choice as well, but I hate to use it again since we recommended it already. I really don’t want to reuse amps if I can avoid it. The Katana is always going to be the #1 budget option when you ask anyone from the Electrikjam team, since we all use one!
The Line 6 Catalyst has some advantages when it comes to a Doom Metal rig, though. The Catalyst has two channels that would be a perfect fuzz pedal platform. The Clean setting has a Fender Twin vibe to it, with a little more midrange. The Crunch channel also has a ton of midrange that will work well in conjunction with fuzz pedals.
Fuzz is very different from distortion or overdrive. Overdrive tones coming from an amp has a more traditional waveform, while fuzz turns your signal into a square wave pattern. What this means in layman’s terms is that fuzz hits different frequencies of your guitar’s signal than distortion/overdrive. This gives fuzz the unique sound that separates it from overdrive.
Your amp’s tone has a huge effect on how your fuzz pedals will react. The Line 6 Catalyst has the perfect Clean channel for fuzz. But you can also do a combo of the amp’s distortion and a fuzz pedal, which will give you a MASSIVE tone. Blending crunch tones with fuzz can give you incredible sounds like you hear on “Siamese Dream” by Smashing Pumpkins.
Usually, I would have another amp choice to choose from. But the closest thing I could find was the Katana. So that would be my second choice I suppose, but I highly recommend the Catalyst 200 2×12 for a Doom Metal rig on a budget. Right out of the box, it has two perfect channels to use, but you can also hook it up to the computer if you want.
- Six original amp designs, from pristine clean to modern high-gain
- Dedicated Boost and Reverb sections (6 reverb types), 18 Effects (3 types)
- Power attenuator (half power, 0.5 watts, Mute) for reduced volume
Total So Far: $500
Doom Metal Rig: The Guitar
The guitar that is most associated with any Doom Metal rig is the Gibson Les Paul. The Les Paul Custom has been used by all kinds of famous Doom guitarists. people like Matt Pike, Buzz Osbourne, Wata from Boris, and the list goes on on and on. It is an iconic guitar for the genre.
The other would be a Gibson SG, used by Tony Iommi, Pepper Keenan (Down/Corrosion Of Conformity) and so many others. The problem with both of these guitars is going to be the price. Even the “affordable” Gibson models are way past our $1500 budget.
But it should be pretty easy to find some great double humbucker guitars that fit the bill. These guitars have to be ready for the stage right out of the box, but still be in budget territory. I mean these have to be full of professional features but stay in our budget, this is why we LOVE Epiphone.
But while the Epiphone Les Paul will be our first choice, we also have two other guitars that we recently reviewed. Both of these guitars blew us completely away with the features and specs, but also the amazing tones that you can get out of them. The key is versatility, and the other two have a lot to offer guitarists building a budget Doom metal rig.
Our Picks Are:
So why did we pick these three guitars? Firstly, we have actually played all three of these guitars recently, so we are very familiar with them. Second, they all have versatile sounds either through boost circuits, or coil splits. This means you have regular humbucker sounds, along with single coil sounds. All three fit the bill!
All three are also the same price: $500!
The Epiphone Les Paul Traditional Pro is the top choice, because it is a beautiful Goldtop that screams vintage style. We also mentioned how popular Les Paul guitars are for Doom Metal rigs, and the Epiphone equivalent of the Gibson is a great choice. It has a treble bleed circuit, as well as coil taps for single coil tones.
The Les Paul treble bleed circuit allows you to use the volume knob to control your gain level on stage, without losing any high end. This can work great for dynamics within a song, and you can “clean up’ your tone without turning off the fuzz or distortion. The coil splits are not quite as good as a single coil pickup, but it has the sound of one, and it makes a total of 6 pickup positions to choose from.
The Schecter Omen Elite was just reviewed this week (review link above), and I liked it so much that I kept the demo model! This guitar also has coil split options, giving 5 different sounds to play around with. The Heretic Pickup set is MADE for fuzz and high gain tones. This guitar has great midrange response, and is perfect out of the box.
Schecter is known for quality at any price point, and things like a TUSQ nut will help tuning stability. Like the Les Paul, it also has a fixed bridge. The super-Strat shape is not really something that you usually see in Doom Metal rigs, so the Schecter is a bit of a wild card on this list. But the quality and features make it a no-brainer for a gigging guitar.
The Yamaha Revstar Element was also recently reviewed, and I couldn’t believe how well this guitar played for the price point. Aesthetics-wise, this guitar fits right in for a Doom Metal rig. It looks a little like a Gibson SG, but it also looks like the Ovation models that Josh Homme famously loves. The Yamaha Revstar looks pretty metal to me!
The Yamaha Revstar also has an interesting tone. The Alnico V humbuckers have amazing presence, and they are extremely transparent. The “Dry Switch” has been confused in some reviews, and it is NOT a coil tap. But it does change the sound, since it is basically a high pass filter. This boosts the bass frequencies and makes the pickups really “pop” without losing volume.
All three guitars are a great choice, and I feel like we needed to add more choices for a Doom Metal rig, since we only found one really decent amp. All three guitars will appeal to different types of guitarists. But all of them are stage-ready, and have some tonal secret weapons up their sleeves. Any of these guitars would be a great choice!
Total So Far: $1000
Doom Metal Rig: The Pedals
I think it is safe to say that we need a serious fuzz pedal, that will not only be versatile, but also have the classic Doom sound. There are a million fuzz pedals out there that will get the job done, but we need something really special. We need a pedal with some mojo, and we have $500 left in the budget to make this happen!
Fuzz is the core of any good Doom Metal rig, so we need this pedal to be the thing that shapes our entire sound. Some genres will use a fuzz pedal off and on, and even classic rock artists use them. But Doom Metal uses fuzz to the extreme, and it has to be defined. We already have a do-it-all amp, right?
That said, the Catalyst Amp has built in fuzz, but it just doesn’t get the job done. It also has delay and reverb built in. Now you can use the reverb to great effect for solos and psychedelic sounds. But I think we need a delay pedal instead of using the amp effects, so you have more control on stage.
The Catalyst delay is amazing, and it can be programmed to do just about anything. But to really take advantage of the Catalyst effects, you’ll need an additional footswitch. You’ll also have to dive into the amp software with your computer and program everything for the delay to work properly.
But the reason we chose the Catalyst, other than its amazing sound, is the fact that it has a stereo FX loop! This will be perfect for a delay pedal, and most modulation and reverb sounds better through the FX loop. For all of these reasons, we chose a separate delay pedal to use, and dial in tones.
The whole idea of this is to build a versatile Doom Metal rig, and while the amp has some great effects, you can’t control those effects on the fly as easy as using a dedicated pedal. I tested out about 10 different fuzz pedals without looking at the price tag first, just trying to get “the sound”. I did the same with delay pedals, and I found one of each that are KILLER.
For the Fuzz, I chose the DOD Carcosa, which was my favorite fuzz pedal last year. It remains my favorite, because you can get some amazing tones out of it. The Carcosa is so cool, because it works great with a clean tone, but also blends nicely with your amp’s overdrive. It has two different modes, meaning it has does two different square waves.
When I originally tested this out, I was impressed that the Carcosa could do some really wild sounds. It sounded much more traditional, like a Fuzz Face pedal when I was suing the clean channel. But when you blend the Carcosa with some warm overdrive, you get a wall of sound. Hit the switch, and you get an even nastier sound that is hard to even tame properly!
The DOD Carcosa can do the classic fuzz tones that any Doom Metal rig can probably do, but the phase switch and amount of fuzz you can dial in is really INSANE. You can make some outlandish sounds with the Carcosa. If you know the story behind the name, The Yellow King, or have seen True Detective Season 1, then you know how sinister this pedal is!
The Carl Martin Red Repeat is a great delay pedal, because of the amount of control you have over every parameter. You have a tap tempo switch for lining up the delay on the fly. But the depth controls lets you dial in how big the delay is, right at your feet. The built-in modulation adds a chorus-like effect on the fly as well.
The Red Repeat is supposed to mimic the older tape machine echo and delay pedals from the 60’s. It can do those sounds, along with a sweet slap-back delay that is classic. You can also make it sound super wide as well, and when you add modulation to those wider delays you gets “wows” and flutter sounds. It can be as basic or as intricate as you want!
Our runner up for fuzz, is the JHS 3 Series Fuzz. Not only is this a cheap option at $99, but it does the more “classic” sound that you would associate with a Doom Metal rig. Go with this one if you want that traditional sound, but it sounds a bit bland to me, next to the Carcosa.
That being said, the JHS may be basic, but that might be exactly what you are looking for! To me it sounds like the fuzz from the “Dope Smoker” album. This is a classic fuzz, and the fat switch just boosts the signal to sound more dense. So the choice is yours, but the Carcosa is my #1.
Total So Far: $1200-$1300
Doom Metal Rig: The Accessories
Safe to say, you need cables, a tuner, and other stuff to have a stage ready Doom Metal rig. Luckily, we have about 200 bucks leftover to buy all of the things we need. Now a lot of guitarists will tell you that expensive cables “sound” better, and that is a bit of a myth.
We went over accessories in full on our other Gigging On A Budget article, and the same rings true for the Doom Metal rig.
Expensive cables can help with some “high end roll off” when you are wiring up your rig. But the difference it makes is probably not noticeable to most people, and certainly not the audience. The legend of expensive cables may have some truth to it, but how much cable do you need?
Sound will definitely degrade if you are using huge amounts of cable, but for our Doom Metal rig, we literally have a couple of pedals running straight to the amp. I can’t imagine you need more than a 10-20 ft. of cable! Unless you plan on plying Madison Square Garden for your first gigs, cheaper cables will be just fine.
Most of the store brand, or generic cables and other accessories will work just fine. I do always say “back up your backup”. By this I mean you should have a backup cable or two that you take to every gig with you. I like to buy a cheap duffle bag to carry all of my backup stuff. But trust me, the regular brand stuff is just as good as the Monster brand for most guitarists.
Doom Metal Rig: You’re All Set!
As usual, the gear that we picked out are just suggestions. The whole point of this article series is to show you that you don’t always need expensive stuff to get the job done. You can just as easy find budget gear that will not only get you started, but also grow with you as a guitarist.
I have seen guitarists over the years have some really nice rigs, and then they plug up and sound terrible. You can have thousands and thousands worth of guitar gear, and it won’t make you sound good. That part is up to you, in the end. No amount of expensive gear will make you a better guitarist.
I enjoy having nice gear, but it’s all worthless if I don’t know how to make it sing. Expensive gear can enhance what you already have as far as technique and style go. But you still have to practice, and develop that style. The most expensive Doom Metal rig in the world won’t make you play well.
Which genre will we tackle next?
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