15 Guitarists That Use Axe FX (+ Why The Switched)

By Richard •  Updated: 03/09/22 •  4 min read

Axe FX is used by all kinds of guitarists, from The Edge to John Mayer. But what metals bands use Axe FX? Here are some of the best guitarists that switched over to Fractal Audio’s Axe FX…


Axe FX – for purists – is considered the forbidden fruit. But plenty of bands, including Metallica, have now switched over to Fractal Audio’s Axe FX. Why is it considered bad? The short reason is that purists believe that metal music should be played through proper amps – not digital processors.

This is a valid point too; there is a difference in sound and tone between Axe FX going direct into a PA system versus a wall of tube amps that are captured using microphones (i.e. how it used to be done). But we now live in 2022, things have moved on, and systems like Axe FX allow touring bands to turn out the same tone night after a night with no unexpected headaches.

You see, with things like guitar rigs – amp head, cabinets and pedals – you’re dealing with a lot of mechanical stuff, even more so with tube amps, and these mechanical parts can and do break. If you’re touring, this can present massive problems. They can also be affected by the weather too. Again, not good for touring bands.

15 Guitarists That Use Axe FX
A Nameless Ghoul From The Band Ghost

The biggest enemy a touring band has on the road, aside from catching a cold, drinking too much, and sheer boredom is unreliable equipment. Busted amps can stop shows, or delay them. And if you’re someone like Metallica, with millions invested in each show, you cannot afford to have or use unreliable gear.

With something Axe FX, the guitar tech or guitarist knows the EXACT tone they will get, regardless of where they are or what climate they’re playing in. Digital guitar processors are more reliable which is why more and more big-name, touring bands like Metallica have switched over to using them.

Plenty of hobbyist players use Axe FX too. I’m more of a Line 6 kinda guy, though, as that’s more my speed with respect to price. But if you’re interested to know which of your favourite metal guitarists use Axe FX, read on – I guarantee some of them will really surprise you…

15 Guitarists That Use Axe FX

  1. Steve Vai
  2. John Petrucci
  3. Misha Mansoor
  4. James Hetfield
  5. Tosin Abasi
  6. Devin Townsend
  7. Jason Richardson
  8. Stephen Carpenter
  9. Meshuggah
  10. Mikael Åkerfeldt
  11. Ghost
  12. Robert Fripp
  13. Guthrie Grant
  14. PLINI
  15. Paul Waggoner

As you can see, that’s a pretty diverse list. You have everybody from the grandmaster of fret-wanking himself, Steve Vai, to newer artists like Tosin Abasi and Misha Mansoor, as well the old guard like James Hetfield of Metallica and the guys from Meshuggah.

Most of the guys listed above have been using Fractal Audio’s gear for years. Steph from the Deftones and the guys from Meshuggah even released their own sets of presets for Axe FX II and Axe FX III, so you can get their exact sound in your bedroom or wherever you play the guitar.

Speaking of Poppa Het, here’s what the man himself had to say about how Metallica uses Axe FX in the studio and on the road.

We’re really pleased with Fractal. It’s amazing. For my rig, we went into the studio and put some sounds into it—a combination of my Mesa/Boogie amps mixed in with a little bit of my Diezel sound. The clean sounds are from the Roland JC-120. On stage, Mesa 2:Ninety power amps drive my cabinets, but those cabs aren’t miked at all. They’re only there for my monitoring, for getting feedback, and for just feeling it. The Fractal is going direct to the board.

James Hetfield

That’s right, purists. One of the titans of the metal world has turned to the dark side and now uses preset sounds while playing live. I’ve seen Metallica pre-Axe FX and post-Axe FX and I literally could not tell the difference. They sounded amazing both ways. But this is Metallica; they probably have a guitar tech JUST for working on these tones and getting them ready for the road.

But it does go to show that, while some people still turn their noses up at guitar processors, most of the world has now moved on. Even Metallica, one of the oldest and hardest working bands on the planet. And if it’s good enough for Papa Het, it should damnwell be good enough for you too. And if you don’t have Poppa Het’s money, most don’t, I’d go with a Line 6 Helix instead – they’re properly impressive guitar processors.

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Richard

Richard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.

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