Tool has a very faithful fan base and I count myself to them. As a hobby guitarist, I’m constantly looking to get as close to Adam Jones’ tone as possible. There are many resources on how to sound like Adam Jones and this article aims to fill a tiny gap. We know what gear Adam uses and has been using basically since the early 90s. However, a full blown Marshall/Diezel three-amp-setup with 4×12 and 4×15 cabs is rare, expensive, heavy and huge, so we’re always looking for alternatives. In this article I will focus on the pedal-only solution using the Strymon Iridium.
Resources on AJ Tones
As mentioned earlier, there already are plenty of articles and videos on how to sound like AJ.
- Jack from Basement GAS has a youtube-channel with plenty of information on how to sound like AJ. He even has an actual Diezel VH2 (small brother of the VH4) and was able to reproduce a three-amp-setup.
- Gregory from Axe of Creation has a youtube-channel with lessons for almost all Tool songs. He also has some sound like videos.
- The guys from Andertons (UK) have two videos on how to sound like AJ. One video by busting the bank and one without busting the bank.
- I wrote about AJ tones I got out of the Line6 HX Stomp.
Strymon Iridium and IRs
AJ uses one Marshall 4×12, one MESA 4×15 and one MESA 4×12 cab. The 4×12 MESA cab has Celestion V30s in it. I had a brief correspondence with the guy behind Ownhammer and he recommended his TRAD V30 MB-1 impulse response. I had great results with that IR.
On the Iridium itself, I’m obviously using the “Punch” amp model, which simulates a Marshall Plexi.
I’m trying to get AJ sounds with two guitars:
- 2014 Gibson Les Paul LPJ with a Seymour Duncan SH-4 in the bridge position and 10-56 gauge strings
- 2018 Fender MiM Roadworn Telecaster with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails Mini-Humbucker in the bridge position and 10-46 gauge strings
“What? With a Tele???” I hear you scream. Yep, and it works like a charm, trust me. That SD Hot-Rails Mini-Humbucker will shave your face.
Diezel VH4(-2) Pedal
Long story short: Here are the settings I used for both the Diezel VH4-2 and the Iridium.
First of all, I’ve tried the VH4-2 before in conjunction with my Blackstar HT-5 mkII Head. It sounded absolutely stunning either into the front of the amp (out to clean amp) or directly into the power amp (out to power amp section) with the clean channel on the amp. Channel one of the pedals simulates channel three of the actual VH4 amp.
In conjunction with the Iridium, things weren’t working as smoothly as I’d hoped. I had a really nasty, annoying, fizzly top-end, which presented itself almost like a Fuzz, making the gain structure almost unbearable.
I turned down the presence on the VH4, but it wasn’t enough, the fizzle was still there. So I played around with the treble settings on both pedals, turning down treble on either one of the pedals completely. I ended up getting the best results with the treble on the Iridium turned all the way down, see the photos above.
Additionally, gain from the Iridium didn’t pair well with gain from the VH4, so I ended up turning the drive all the way down on the Iridium, while having the level all the way up.
The basic three-band-EQ on the VH4 is straight forward and as expected: Mids all the way up, treble to ear and quite a lot of bass. I set up both presence and deep (i.e. the power amp section of the Diezel) while chugging some low palm-muted notes. There’s quite a lot of thump in the lows, especially while turning up the deep-dial. But there comes a point, where the sound starts to get a weird echo. Just before that is my sweet spot.
REVV G3 Pedal
Before I got my hands on the VH4 pedal, this was my preferred and affordable solution for AJ sounds. Also – spoiler alert – it will stay that way.
The G3 pedal claims to recreate the sound of the purple/third channel of REVV’s Generator. Like the Diezel VH4(-2), it can be used as a preamp as well. Sound-wise, it delivers a really creamy and mid-focussed high gain sound, perfectly suited for an AJ tone in my humble opinion.
As you can see, I maxed out the gain-pot. However, there’s plenty of more gain available with the additional aggression mode selector. The red and blue aggression modes deliver more gain, but also a different gain structure, which I didn’t like as much. Whenever I need that little more, I add my RYRA Klone or an OG Tube Screamer both after as a boost or before for more gain/saturation.
On the Iridium, I have the EQ maxed and the drive at 12 o’clock, using the same IR (MESA, see above).
Even though the Diezel VH4(-2) pedal would be the most obvious and authentic choice, given that AJ uses the Diezel VH4 amp, I will continue using the REVV G3. With a clean tube amp, the Diezel pedal sounds better. But with the Strymon Iridium, the REVV G3 delivers more creaminess and chewiness – I know, all those weird words, but still, I bet you know what I mean. One could say the G3 is more compatible with the Iridium than the VH4 is. I’ll keep the Diezel pedal anyway and use it in conjunction with clean tube amps.