How to Sound Like System of a Down: Amp Settings Guide

System of a Down are one of the most popular metal bands in the industry and an inspiration for many aspiring guitarists. If you want to play their songs properly, you’ll need to dial in the right amp settings.

Just looking for amp presets? Scroll down to find a list of example amp settings for some of the most popular System of a Down songs.

Quick Guide to System of a Down Amp Settings

To sound like System of a Down, start with the following amp settings:

  • Gain: 8-10
  • Bass: 8-10
  • Mids: 3-4
  • Treble: 6-8

Before we really jump into the meat of the article, I want to stress that the settings above are only designed to be used as a starting point. Unless you have the exact same rig, it’s almost impossible to get the exact same tone. However, in this guide I aim to take you through the process of dialling in your settings to achieve the closest possible match.

The Basics

First things first, let’s address the basics. By this I mean the:

  • Gain control
  • EQ controls
  • Effects controls

This will help you to understand the System of a Down tone and give you a good basis for setting up your own amplifier.


It probably goes without saying but you’ll need to crank the gain for most songs. In some cases your amp might not actually produce enough distortion, or just sound muddy when you crank it so I recommend using a distortion pedal instead.

Using a distortion pedal through a clean amp is very useful because it allows you to transition from clean to distorted tones without touching your amp and the sound from a pedal is usually better than a solid state amp when trying to achieve this level of saturation.

EQ (Bass, Mids, Treble)

A common approach here is to scoop the mids, meaning the bass and treble settings are higher than the mids setting. This is quite a popular way to set up an amp for a lot of metal songs. I’d recommend starting with the bass on 9, the mids on 3 and the treble on 7 to start with.

Some amps have additional controls so make sure you also check out the brand-specific amp controls guide which is relevant to you, to get the most from your rig:


Here are some useful effects to sound more like System of a Down. You can either use the built-in effects your amp has, or use pedals.

  • Phaser: used in some songs e.g. Chop Suey and Lonely Day
  • Reverb: important for clean sections to prevent the tone from sounding dry
  • Delay: this can be used to add more depth to the tone

If you really want to improve your guitar playing then I recommend checking out Guitareo. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial here to get access to all the online lessons and start making real progress today

Amp Settings for Popular System of a Down Songs

Now let’s take a look at some presets. It’s important to note that these are not the exact settings used by the band and are just here to get you started. If you need to make adjustments, use the next section to help which will take you through some common problems and how to fix them.

Chop Suey! Amp Settings

  • Gain: 8
  • Bass: 9
  • Mids: 3
  • Treble: 7

Toxicity Amp Settings

  • Gain: 10
  • Bass: 10
  • Mids: 3
  • Treble: 6

Aerials Amp Settings

  • Gain: 10
  • Bass: 10
  • Mids: 3
  • Treble: 7

B.Y.O.B Amp Settings

  • Gain: 8
  • Bass: 8
  • Mids: 4
  • Treble: 8

Lonely Day Amp Settings

  • Gain: 8
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 7

I’ve also made an article with example amp settings for over 40 popular guitar songs here to help you sound more like your favourite players.

Common Issues

Is your tone still not sounding quite right? Don’t worry, this next section should fix it.

I’ve listed the most common problems you might be facing and how to adjust your amp to fix them. Work your way through the list of fixes one at a time, and listen to see if it makes an improvement rather than adjusting all the settings at once as this will make it hard to diagnose the problem.

Muddy Tone

  • Decrease the bass
  • Decrease the gain
  • Increase the treble

Check out my guide on how to fix a muddy amp for more causes and fixes.

Lack of Sustain

  • Increase the bass
  • Increase the mids
  • Use a compressor pedal
  • Increase the gain

Too Much Feedback

  • Move the guitar and amp as far away from each other as possible
  • Position the amp in front of the guitar rather than behind it
  • Decrease the gain
  • Use a noise-gate pedal to reduce feedback

Not Enough Gain (even when using maximum amp settings)

  • Ensure you are using the bridge pickup and have the guitar’s tone/ volume controls on maximum
  • Increase the mids
  • Increase the bass
  • Use a distortion/ overdrive/ boost pedal

Thin Tone (Lack of Punch)

  • Increase the mids
  • Increase the bass
  • Increase the gain

Frequently Asked Questions

What amps do System of a Down use?

Daron Malakian of System of a Down typical uses Marshall and Mesa Boogie amps.

What guitars do System of a Down use?

Daron Malakian of System of a Down plays a range of electric guitars including an Ibanez Iceman, Gibson SG and Les Paul.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:


Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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