Dire Straits, one of the rare bands who had such a reach around the world without conforming to outside pressures or temporary trends. Their repertoire is full of hits that even those who don’t necessarily listen to rock know. No matter what some people say, Mark Knopfler is definitely the brain of the whole operation. His guitar skills, creativity, and voice, are all on a level of their own. Aside from having some of the best songs in the history of rock music, this band also has a pretty refined sound.
Again, that is in good part thanks to Knopfler. Because of that, we are going to take a closer look at Mark Knopfler’s guitar rig today and see what his regular setup consists of. As you are about to find out, with Knopfler it’s mostly about simplicity. Even so, he has managed to dial in some of the most legendary guitar tones known to man.
Mark Knopfler’s Favorite Guitars
They say that one’s first guitar is always going to take a very special place on the rack, no matter how crappy it is or how many expensive guitars you get afterward. That is exactly how Knopfler views his first electric guitar. The model in question is 1962 Hofner Super Solid V2.
He received this one from his father as a gift, and it was pretty cheap even then. Even though he has reached global fame, Knopfler still has this guitar and is probably keeping it in a secure place. Doubtful he will play it on stage ever again.
Before he became a Schecter guy, Mark was riding the Gibson and Fender train for a while. He owns a 1959 Gibson LP Doublecut – a somewhat rare model that he sharpened his teeth on in terms of sound. Afterward, he got a hold of a ’61 Red Stratocaster, which would define the start of his affinity toward Strat style guitars in general. Currently, this specific guitar is probably sitting somewhere next to that Hofner since it’s pretty special to Mark.
Check out this video where YouTuber Dusty Strings lays into the ’59 Gibson Les Paul Special.
A 1980 Schecter Stratocaster in red was his next memorable guitar. For all the fans of Dire Straits, this is the guitar they probably imagine Mark playing when they think of the most memorable performances. He got it in the early ’80s, and played it all throughout ’90.
The guitar came with a maple neck and Schecter pups which were later replaced with a set of Seymour Duncans. After using Schecters for a long portion of his career, Knopfler later switched to a mix of Pensa-Suhr, Gibson Les Pauls and Fender Strats. However, none of these guitars were as notable as the ones we mentioned above.
Mark Knopfler Preferred Amps
Mark’s choice of amps is a pretty interesting one. If you’ve listened to more than one album of Dire Straits, you probably have a clear enough picture when it comes to his tone. Interestingly, he used a number of different amps to get all that tone. Fender Vibrolux comes to mind as the first important amp. It was used for their first album, while it came to foreground the most on Sultans of Swing.
Next amplifier that is worth talking about is the Mesa Boogie Mark II. This one was Mark’s choice for Brothers in Arms along with the Marshall JTM45. Speaking of which, that JTM45 is responsible for the crisp tone we heard on Money For Nothing. When it comes to his main rig in recent years, Soldano SLO100 comes up every time. It appears that Knopfler settled down on this model and decided to use it as his foundation.
Here’s a quick demo of the Mesa Boogie Mark II by YouTuber ewanjohncovers.
Mark Knopfler Effects Pedals
If you know Mark, you probably know that he is not a big fan of effects pedals. In fact, he prefers to let this guy backstage take care of the effects almost completely. With that said, there are some pedals he has used, which have left a mark on both his tone and understanding of guitar effects in general.
Morley volume pedal was definitely a big part of Mark’s main rig back in the day. He used it for his live performances, and it gave him the edge he needed when racked effects just couldn’t cut it. These days he hasn’t included this Morley into his setup too many times, but it’s suspected he is still using it for studio work.
Dunlop Cry Baby Wah is another pedal that comes to mind. However, Knopfler didn’t really use it as most other guitar players would. Instead, he fixed the wah in a certain position and played it that way. Lately, Crowther Audio Hotcake seems to be his dirt of choice. The pedal is a booster/overdrive combo box and a pretty conservative one at that. With that said, Knopfler was seen playing through it on recent tours.
Check out this video by YouTuber Prymaxe playing the Crowther Audio Hotcake Distortion Pedal.
One of the more interesting things that are worth mentioning is Knopfler’s affinity towards D’Addario strings. Most of his guitars are stringed with one of their models, or another. He has chosen D’Addario quite some time ago, and he still prefers them over most other brands on the market. Just how much of an impact this decision had on his tone is hard to determine, but we believe it definitely played a part.
If you were to ask us what single trait makes Knopfler a great artist, we’d say it is his approach to music in general. Mark’s a simple man when it comes to sound. Give him a good amp, a good guitar and just watch him completely align everything toward a pretty awesome tone. Sure, there’s a decent number of effects in Dire Straits songs, but those are either added by technicians during recording or in the post-production process. Knopfler himself rarely deals with that, and that is the way he always was.
Most of his tone’s character comes from his own ability to make the guitar sing. Mark’s technique and subtle details are the core of Dire Straits’ music. Those who strive to do more with less are definitely going to appreciate his style.