by Jay Sandwich
When it comes to metal music, Dimebag Darrell was by far one of the most influential guitar players we had the privilege to see. His technique, tone, and charisma shaped a whole new genre that would grow to be a staple of today’s metal scene.
Here’s a video to remind everyone of the guitar-shredding greatness of Dimebag Darrell and of course Pantera.
Unfortunately, we lost him too soon. His death was a shock for everyone. Whether you were a fan of Pantera or not, losing Dimebag hit too close to home. But despite everything, Pantera’s music is still making its impact to this day, with Dime’s riffs and solos still being an essential part of every younger or older metalhead’s playlist.
But while we are familiar with this music and how great it was, a huge part of his legacy lies in his tone. There was no other player out there that sounded like him, which definitely makes him an individual who pushed the boundaries and revolutionized modern music. So there’s always been a lot of interest about what his preferences were when it comes to all the guitars and gear.
Dimebag was always looking to improve his tone. Whenever he reached a stable configuration, he tried to squeeze a little bit extra out of his gear. You would see him swap pickups on his guitars almost weekly, trying to find the best possible combination.
He knew exactly what he wanted, and was not afraid to experiment with gear in order to achieve that perfect tone. In this article, we are going to go through some of the equipment he used on regular basis, including guitars, amps, and different effects pedals.
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Compared to other guitar players of his caliber, Dimebag Darrell preferred to use a pretty simple setup. His choice of guitars and amps usually came down to one or two models which he stuck with during his entire career.
We know that some guitar players will use up to ten different guitar models from various brands, both bigger and lesser-known ones. However, this was not the case with Dime. His taste was very specific, and he never really compromised for anything.
When it comes to Dimebag’s guitars, there was only one specific type he was seen playing.
Ever since he was a kid, Dimebag Darrell was just obsessed with Dean guitars. Their shape, tone, and overall appeal were something he just couldn’t resist.
As luck would have it, Dimebag went from owning no Dean guitars to owning two. One was a Dean ML Standard, which was a gift he got from his father. And the other was a Dean ML he won at a contest. Both of these guitars arrived pretty much the same day.
Here is a picture of a Dean ML Standard. If you are a fan of Dimebag and have seen him on stage or on live footage, then it’s a guitar you’ll most likely recognize.
Ever since Dimebag was rocking a Dean ML, the only thing that he changed on those guitars were the pickups. As we have mentioned above, he was experimenting with various combinations of humbuckers while chasing the perfect tone for his taste.
His main setup came down to a Dean ML, the one he won from the contest, fitted with a Bill Lawrence XL500 at the bridge, and a Seymour Duncan í59 at the neck position. He used that guitar as his primary until the very end.
In general, the Dean ML guitars have always featured mahogany or maple bodies, mahogany necks, and either ebony or rosewood fretboards. These guitars became very well-known for their peculiar, yet very likeable, shape that’s sort of a crossbreed between classic Flying V and a classic Explorer.
But although he was a Dean guy at the core, Dimebag started working with Washburn once Dean closed shop, sometime in 1994.
Guitars Washburn produced for him were pretty much the exact copies of the Dean ML. There were several models in play, including Washburn Stealth, x33, and Culprit. One of the Washburn guitars he had was also the Hellflague, which he used a lot with his band Damageplan.
Here’s a quick pic of the Washburn Dime.
However, some years later, Dean finally got back in business. Of course, Dimebag went back to the old manufacturer and continued his cooperation with the brand.
One of the last models that came out of this joint effort was the Dean Razorback. Unfortunately, he only got to work with the prototype before his death. He never used it live, but the story goes that he approved the guitar shortly before he passed away.
As for this particular model, it’s based on the Dean ML shape Dimebag got used to. The only difference here is that it has some additional edges on it, making it look even weirder than the ML.
This design was done in collaboration with Dime and there were a few versions of it released later on, some of them even featuring 24 frets. They also came with a Floyd Rose tremolo and you can easily recognize one of these guitars for its razor inlay on the 12th fret.
Aside from these, there were some other electric guitars in his collection. He was also a proud owner of the Jackson Randy Rhoads models, most notably the RR5 and the RR3.
There were also some Fender Stratocasters and even Fender Telecasters in there, as well as a Super Strat type of instrument by Charvel, called San Dimas.
Dimebag’s policy on amps was very simple. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For the largest portion of his career, he was using one of three Randall amps. The most popular one out of the bunch was probably the Randall RG100H.
His love for Randall began with an old Century 200 amp. This is what he used during the days before he became famous. With that said, he never really got rid of that amp and continued to use it in his practice setup. Interestingly enough, all of these Randalls were solid-state amps.
He wasn’t really into tube amps. However, the only tube amp Dimebag was impressed with was the Krank Revolution.
He got in touch with Krank and he was soon equipped with a brand new Revolution model which he apparently fell in love with right from the very start.
Krank later went to create Dimebag signature model called the Krankenstein. With this in mind, it was only obvious that he also used the company’s cabinets, most notably a piece like Revolution 412 cabinet with four 12-inch speakers in it.
Here’s a video from when Dimebag was visiting Krank back in the day and having a good time making some noise and kickin’ it with the crew.
Going back to the Randall stuff, he was also pretty fond of the very powerful Randall Warhead. This two-channel amp has the power of an impressive 300 watts. Not unusual for a hard-hitting groove metal player like Dimebag Darrell was.
Here’s a quote from Dimebag from GuitarWorld in 1994 talking about Randall Amps to shed some light on what he was thinking when it came to his choice of amps: “Solid-state to me is more in your face, while tube sounds like it’s surrounding your body. I’m not going for a soft sound. I ain’t lookin’ for a warm sound. My sound is warm, but I don’t need tubes to do it. The Randall RG-100 is the best amp for what I do. Randall made a tube amp that they sent out to me. It sounded killer, but it wasn’t solid-state, so I’m going to stay with solid. To this day, when people find out that I use solid-state they’ll come up to me and go, “Are you sure? That sounds like tubes, dude.” The Randall has the warmth of tubes, but it has the chunk and the fuckin’ grind right in your face.”
Anyone who has ever listened to Pantera or any other project Dimebag was a part of, knows that he used a very limited selection of effects pedals. However, all of these pedals served their purpose and were crucial for his signature tone.
Of course, we also need to mention Dunlop‘s Cry Baby From Hell – a signature model wah pedal he worked on with Dunlop.
The pedal’s casing is the classic one we’ve seen on the Cry Baby models over the years. The addition here is the camo print that definitely makes it stand out in a pedalboard.
But, above all, the pedal’s circuitry is designed to accommodate to Dimebag’s desires, making its frequency sweep a bit different compared to the classic Cry Baby. Of course, he also used to have that one as well back in the day, the well-known 535-Q model.
Hereís Dimebag demoing the pedal. As you can see, he knows how to work that little thing.
Before he got into Dunlop’s wahs, Dimebag used to have an original Vox unit. Besides these, there was a number of various pedals which he occasionally included in his signal chain.
There have been a few pedals here and there in his rig over the years. Some of the most notable ones are the Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff, Boss CE-1 Chorus, and MXR 6 Band EQ.
He has also used an MXR Zakk Wylde signature overdrive. While it didn’t serve as his main dirt box, it was a simple but effective booster for his solos, but only during his time in Damageplan.
Either way, it is a pretty simple overdrive pedal with volume, tone, and gain controls, yet it adds a certain color to the tone that makes it really stand out and cut through the mix.
Boosting an already distorted tone with an overdrive pedal is something that’s been done by many players over the years. The Zakk Wylde signature MXR really does this job well and will most definitely help you in your search of Dime’s tone.
We should also not forget the very famous DigiTech Whammy pedal that he implemented here and there during Pantera’s career. The song “Good Friends And A Bottle Of Pills” comes as a great example of this.
Some of the most notable ones are the Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff, Boss CE1 Chorus, and MXR 6 Band EQ.
Just what kind of influence Dimebag had on metal music is evident from a whole variety of bands you can find on the scene today.
He shaped the minds of many aspiring guitar players, and he still does. However, that’s not the only impact he had on the music industry.
Dimebag Darrell is the reason why Dean came back after they went out of business. The founder of this company, Dean Zelinsky, saw that Dimebag was practically copying the Dean ML with Washburn, which prompted him to reconsider his decision about closing down Dean.
Recreating Dimebag’s tone is something many are trying to do these days. Fortunately for us, everything necessary to get that job done is readily available.
Dean ML is still being produced, along with pickups specifically designed to replicate the Bill Lawrence and Seymour Duncan combo he used on his Dean From Hell. There are countless versions of the Dime guitar, everything from cheaper entry models and all the way to the more expensive ones.
Talking about his legacy and gear, MXR paid a tribute to the famous Pantera and Damageplan guitarist by making their own pedal with Dimebag Darrell’s name on it.
Marked as DD11, it’s called Dime Distortion and does a pretty good job at replicating some of his signature tones.
In addition, the camo paint definitely is a nice finishing touch on it, going along with the signature Dunlop Cry Baby Dime wah.
As already mentioned, Dimebag’s setup was pretty simple and straightforward. The Dean guitars and Randall amps are definitely a good start if you want to get his sound.
Adding his signature wah, or any wah pedal that does a bit of a deeper sweep, will be a good addition for lead tones. Using an overdrive as a booster to highlight some lead parts or some riffs is also necessary, especially if you’re getting a sharper sounding overdrive like the MXR Zakk Wylde one.
Needless to say, Dimebag’s death was a tragedy that hit thousands of people all over the world. He left us too early, and we can only imagine what he would be creating if he was still around. With that said, his legacy is immortal.
Pantera’s discography is every bit as popular today as it was while he was still alive. It’s safe to say that Dimebag Darrell will be influencing young generations for years to come. We are yet to see how much his playing will make an impact to the generations of future musicians.
About Jay Sandwich
Jay is an ex-shred guitar player and current modular synth noodler from a small town somewhere. Quote: “I’m a salty old sandwich with a perspective as fresh as bread.” No bull.