Zakk Wylde Gibson ZV

Zakk Wylde’s guitar rig

Zakk Wylde, founder of heavy metal juggernauts Black Label Society and on again/off again guitarist with Ozzy Osbourne, is a metal icon. For much of his career he's been known for shredding on his trademark bulls eye Les Paul Custom through a couple of pedals in to a wall of Marshall amps. The launch of his own company, Wylde Audio, in 2015 and the split from Gibson and Marshall have signaled probably the biggest changes to Wylde's tool kit since he first launched his career with Ozzy Osbourne in the 1980's.

Custom Zakk Wylde "The Rebel 2012 Gibson Les Paul Custom Classic *Unique*

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Wylde's early Ozzy Osbourne era guitar rig

While he began his career with Ozzy Osbourne playing his famous Bulls Eye Les Paul Custom with EMG pickups he didn't begin with a Marshall back line. Not many people realise that, before he moved to the Gibson/Marshall combo he became renowned for, Zakk Wylde recorded his first album with Ozzy Osbourne, 'No Rest for the Wicked' using a bunch of rack gear. This consisted primarily of a Metaltronix GP-1000 all-tube rack preamp, as well as an Aphex Aural Exciter in to a Metaltronix SP-1000 power amp, as seen below.

Zakk Wylde late 1980s

In an interview with Premier Guitar, creator of the GP-1000 preamp shed some light on Zakk Wylde's early rack setup and the inclusion of the Aphex Aural Exciter:

"We only suggested that and used them for one artist: Zakk Wylde. In both his studio and live rigs, we used the Aphex units between the preamps and the power amps. He didn’t want anyone to know, so we blacked out the fronts of the Aphex units in his rigs so you couldn’t see them in his racks. The Aphexes added this huge bottom end that you can hear on No Rest for the Wicked."

By the time it came to recording the Ozzy Osbourne album 'No More Tears' Wylde had dumped the rack mount gear - it's said the rack had created some issues on tour - for the Marshall JCM800 heads he'd become known for. Zakk Wylde's 'No More Tears' rig is metal meat and potatoes. Les Paul Customs (with an EMG81 in the bridge and EMG85 in the neck) in to a Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Wah to Dunlop Rotovibe Pedal to BOSS SD-1 Super Overdrive to BOSS CH-1 Super Chorus with the signal split from the Super Chorus in to dual JCM800 100 Watt Marshall heads. This rig would form the basis of his signature tone for years to come.

Zakk Wylde early Black Label Society era pedal board

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive Distortion Pedal

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Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society rig

For many years the core components of his rig remained largely unchanged - guitar to wah to rotovibe to overdrive to chorus/phaser to amp. However with new endoresments the makes and models started to change over time. For example, when he joined the Dunlop roster, Wylde switched out his BOSS gear to accommodate his new signature series, the Jimi Hendrix Wah made way for the Zakk Wylde Signature Cry Baby Wah ZW-45 ('It's like the classic Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Wah on steroids' he said).

Dunlop Zakk Wylde Wah Guitar Effect Pedal

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The BOSS SD-1 was replaced by the Dunlop ZW44 Berzerker Overdrive, the BOSS CH-1 Super Chorus with the ZW38 Black Label Chorus and the Wylde Phase ZW90. Prior to the development of his signature series chorus and phase pedals he was using the MXR EVH Phase 90 and MXR M-134 Stereo Chorus as profiled in a Guitar World column in late 2006. As with the BOSS CH-1 his MXR Black Label Chorus splits his signal, sending it to the High Gain input of each of his amps (see image below).

Zakk Wylde Pedal Board 2007

His fleet of Gibson Les Paul Customs were mainstays for a majority of this period.

Zakk Wylde's Les Pauls

Onstage Wylde would also play a bulls eye Gibson Flying V and a GMW RR-V - the Polka dot V - often mistake for a flying V.

Zakk Wylde Polka Dot V

Toward the end of his association with Gibson, he could also be seen playing another custom model the Gibson Custom Zakk Wylde ZV, a Frankenstien style creation, half Gibson SG, and half Flying V.

Zakk Wylde Gibson ZV

He also plays a Dean Dime series Razorback with the custom bulls eye graphic when playing 'In This River' live, his tribute to Dimebag, as seen below.

Zakk Wylde Dean Razorback

For the majority of his career Wylde has played through Marshall JCM800 100 watt heads, as well as his Marshall JCM800 2203ZW Zakk Wylde Signature head. The key difference between a stock JCM800 and those used by Wylde is in the type of power tubes used. Wylde uses 6550 power tubes in his heads rather than the standard EL34's.

Zakk Wylde back line

Marshall JCM800 2203 Vintage Series 100 watt Guitar Amp

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The Wylde Audio era

In 2015 Zakk Wylde announced that he was parting ways with Gibson, Marshall and Dunlop to launch his own company, Wylde Audio. This has obviously marked a significant change to his recording and live rigs. As you'd expect, as Wylde Audio release their collection of guitars, amps and effects, Wylde is swapping out elements of his old rig as they do. In a 2016 interview with Premier Guitar, Wylde was reported to be using a number of Wylde Audio products (see list below).

What guitars is Zakk Wylde using?

  • Wylde Audio Odin
  • Wylde Audio Warhammer
  • Wylde Audio Viking V
  • Wylde Audio prototype acoustic
  • Loucin Buzzsaw acoustic

What amplifiers is Zakk Wylde using?

  • Wylde Audio Master 100 (100-watt head)
  • Wylde Audio cab with Electro-Voice Black Label Signature 300-watt speakers

What effects is Zakk Wylde using?

  • MXR ZW44 Zakk Wylde Signature Berzerker Overdrive
  • Dunlop ZW45 Zakk Wylde Signature Cry Baby Wah Wah
  • Dunlop ZW357 Zakk Wylde Signature Rotovibe Chorus/Vibrato
  • MXR ZW38 Zakk Wylde Signature Black Label Chorus
  • MXR Uni-Vibe
  • MXR Carbon Copy delay
  • Wylde Audio phaser prototype

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Keeping things old school, Wylde still uses 9V batteries in all of his pedals.

Strings and Picks

  • Wylde Audio electric (.010–.046 and .010–.052)
  • Wylde Audio XL Extra Light acoustic (.012–.054)
  • Dunlop Ultex Sharp 1 mm picks
  • Monster cables

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