The 1990s were one of the most important turning points for rock and metal music. It was a time where new movements and rock subgenres began to flourish. Although the focus shifted from those lightning-speed fast guitar solos typical of glam (or “hair”) metal music, the guitar itself wasn’t neglected. In fact, a more down-to-earth approach was taken with grunge and “alternative” rock and metal movements. Of course, we saw the emergence of plenty of new bands, many of which made permanent marks in the history of music, and you can’t talk about 90s rock without mentioning TOOL.
Led by guitarist Adam Jones. TOOL is known for their psychedelic metal vibe. However, just bear in mind that a lot of stuff about Tool, and thus Adam Jones, is shrouded in mystery. This also goes for Adam’s gear, with some of his claims during interviews being purposefully thrown out there to mess with the fans. Classic Tool, isn’t it?
What Guitar Does Adam Jones Play?
Adam Jones plays a 1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom in Silverburst finish as his main guitar. He also has many other guitars, including several Gibson Les Paul Custom guitars, and a plethora of amps and gear in his collection, but Jones has become notorious for his Silverburst Les Paul Customs which Gibson Custom Shop produced a signature model replica of his ’79 Silverburst which was released for sale in October of 2020. See the in-depth overview of all his gear below.
1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom Silverburst
Years used: Not certain, most likely from the late 1980s to now
Every famous guitar player has that one instrument that did most of the magic in their career. In the case of Tool’s Adam Jones, we have his magnificent 1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar, done in the now well-known silverburst finish.
But what’s really interesting is that, generally, these mid to late 1970s Gibson guitars aren’t as popular compared to other years. At that time, Gibson was busy with all the lawsuits and other issues, and many claim that the quality of most of the company’s guitars built during that era has suffered significantly. Be that as it may, it seems that this particular Les Paul still works like a charm in Adam Jones’ hands.
Of course, there are many in-depth stories about these silverburst Les Pauls online, some even claiming that the wood used for these instruments was of inferior quality compared to some other models from the era. These silverburst Les Paul Custom guitars were made for a relatively brief period, making them an interesting collectible item. In an interview conducted back in 1994, Adam revealed that he had five of these at the moment.
On the other hand, not much is known about this guitar, or guitars, that he’s so fond of. And it’s somewhat part of the whole mystique surrounding Tool. It’s not certain when he actually got the ’79 silverburst and which exact pickup models he has in it.
Other than that, this ’79 model comes with some of the classic Les Paul Custom features. Aside from being a really heavy guitar, both in terms of tone and actual weight, it comes with a classic LP pickguard, binding on the neck, binding on the body, pearl inlays, as well as the easily recognizable split diamond logo on the headstock. However, his “main” one is known for the circular mirror attached to the front side of the headstock.
Due to the specific paint used for these guitar models, their appearance changes over the years. Not to get too geeky about the whole molecular structure, the paint gets a somewhat brown-ish and green-ish coloration to it, as you can notice with Adam’s guitars.
Gibson Les Paul Custom Silverburst Duplicates
Years used: Depending on the guitar, Adam has many of them
While we’re at it, Adam Jones has a lot of silverburst copies that he collected over the years one way or another. The instrument eventually even got its special “reincarnation” as an official signature model, made by Gibson. These are Les Paul Custom guitars and there are two models. Of course, as you’d already assumed, both are extremely expensive. But the more expensive one comes with the special mirror on the headstock, as well as Adam’s actual signature on it. Both of these models have the “antiqued” silverburst finishes, which is typical of these guitars, as we already explained above.
Gibson Les Paul Custom Natural Finish
Finish: Yellow / Natural
Years used: Not certain, most likely since the 2010s to now
Going deeper into Adam Jones’ Gibson Les Paul collection, there’s another particular Custom model in the guitarist’s arsenal. It features a yellow-looking finish and we can also notice a quilted maple top. The guitar was seen on some of the fan-filmed live footage that’s been circulating online. In particular, this Les Paul Custom was used for “Parabol” and “Parabola” songs, which require a rather unusual tuning that goes B, E, D, G, B, E, which is completely different compared to drop D that Jones uses most of the time with Tool. And, once again, there’s no other definitive information about the instrument.
In the video below, Adam plays his Silverburst for the first song “The Grudge” before he pulls out his Natural finish Les Paul for the second song “Parabola” around 8 minutes and 30 seconds into the video.
Black Gibson Les Paul Custom
Years used: Late 1980s or the early 1990s
Although a Gibson Les Paul Custom model, this guitar with a black finish and standard Custom model details like binding and inlays are only seen in some photos. It’s a pretty rare find and nothing other than its basic features is known. We can assume that it served as a spare instrument for his beloved ’79 Gibson Les Paul Silverburst Custom.
Finish: Cherry Red
Years used: Not certain, most likely since the early 2010s to now
Once again, it’s pretty unusual to imagine Adam Jones holding anything else other than Gibson Les Paul, preferably a prestigious Custom model. However, there is one guitar that he was seen in public and it’s Gibson’s legendary double-neck model, the EDS-1275.
Plenty of other guitar legends have also used the instrument, including Jimmy Page, John McLaughlin, Ace Frehley, Slash, Don Felder, and even Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, who is Adam Jones’s friend from the old days. As for Adam, it’s known that he used it for live performances when Tool covered “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin. Well, what else would you expect if he’s playing a song originally performed by Jimmy Page, right?
Other than its finish, not much is known about this particular guitar, whether it’s a newer or an older one. We can assume that he prefers older stuff, but this is, at the end of the day, just mere speculation. This is one of my favorite Adam Jones guitars of all time.
Gibson SG (Exact Model and Specs Unknown)
Finish: Not known
Years used: Not known, presumably throughout most of Tool’s career
As we’ve already mentioned, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding Tool and Adam Jones’ gear. Not much is known about the exact guitars that he uses in the studio and there haven’t really been that many photos or videos of him holding anything else other than Gibson Les Pauls.
He did, however, confirm that there’s a certain Gibson SG in his collection that he has used for studio work. But other than that, he hasn’t revealed much about the instrument. We don’t know when he got it, we don’t know what the finish is, and we most certainly don’t know when and where he used the guitar.
Table Showing the Guitars Adam Jones Used at Each Point in His Career
|Gibson||1979 Les Paul Custom||Silverburst||1980s-Present|
|Gibson||Les Paul Custom||Silverburst||1980s-Present|
|Gibson||Les Paul Custom||Natural||2010s-Present|
|Gibson||Les Paul Custom||Black||Late 1980s-Early 1990s|
|Gibson||SG||Not Known||Not Known|
Amps and Speaker Cabinets
Years used: Since the mid-1990s to now
Aside from Gibson Les Paul Custom guitars, Adam Jones’s signature piece of gear is Diezel’s VH4 amp head. Featuring 100 watts of output power, these have been in production since the early 1990s, and it is believed that Adam had them since the mid part of the decade.
This is basically the main “secret” behind Adam’s guitar tone. Diezel’s VH4 head comes with four individual channels and he owns quite a few of these, both the “blueface” and “silverface” models, although he prefers the “blueface” version more. But essentially, they come with the same basic essential features. They’re fitted with the seven standard 12AX7 preamp tubes, as well as four JJ KT77 tubes in the power amp section. Each of the channels not only features an individual 3-band EQ, volume, and gain controls but also its effects loop, giving an abundance of possibilities. There are also additional “bright” switches on the first two channels.
But having four channels gives one guitar player so many ways to shape their tones, especially with so much variety in gain. Additionally, these days, Diezel’s VH4 amps also come with an option to save presets and call them up via a MIDI switcher. What’s more, the front panel also features a “thru” input, meaning that you can put multiple heads in your signal chain.
1976 Marshall Super Bass
Years used: Not certain, probably since the 1990s to now
According to some sources, which are most likely true, Adam Jones also has an old Marshall Super Bass amp from 1976. These are highly valued among collectors, and it’s mostly due to their unique tone with a lot of rich and tight bottom-ends. The story goes that this is another one of Adam’s favorites, which he usually combines with the Diezel VH4, both for studio and live performances. It features three standard ECC83 or 12AX7 preamp tubes, as well as four EL34 power tubes, which is typical of the old school “British” amps that bring those mid-heavy tones.
Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier
Years used: Mid-1990s to 2010s
Another amp model that was a part of Adam’s rig was Mesa Boogie’s Dual Rectifier head. In fact, some Tool fans are fonder of this particular amp, which he combined with Marshal Super Bass and his Diezel. Although this comes down to personal preferences, it’s somewhat understandable due to the Diezel amps having a harsher high-end, which is sometimes compared to that of solid-state amps.
Dual Rectifier is a 3-channel amp with some very detailed tone-shaping controls for each channel. These controls allow guitar players to add a “tighter” or “looser” tone, which is especially interesting in high-gain settings.
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Years used: From the 1990s to now (on and off)
Bogner Überschall is one of the most prestigious “boutique”-style amps that you can find on the market. While it’s not certain when and where exactly Adam Jones used it, it’s been confirmed that the amp found its way on 2019’s long-awaited “Fear Inoculum.”
This 120-watt amp head comes with six 12AX7 preamp tubes, as well as four EL34 power tubes, which gives it a somewhat mid-heavy and tight tone. It features two channels, although the controls are not as detailed compared to some other of Adam’s preferred amplifiers.
Rivera K120TRE Knucklehead Tre
Years used: Since the 1990s to now (on and off)
Another great amp model that occasionally found its way into Adam Jones’ setup is Rivera’s K120TRE, also known as the Knucklehead Tre. Although not as famous and common as Marshall or even Diezel amps, the Knucklehead is a very potent 120-watt amp head that allows for a lot of tone-shaping options. Especially interesting are its push-and-pull control knobs, as well as an additional control that lets you further shape the bottom-ends in the tone. It’s a very powerful amp with four EL34 tubes in the power section.
Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus
Years used: Since the mid-1990s to now (on and off)
Just like many other guitar heroes, Adam too has used Roland’s legendary Jazz Chorus solid-state amp, the JC-120 model. This one is most commonly used for clean tones, as is the case with Adam as well. Its tone is fairly bright and clean and it’s also a great “platform” for pedals and effects. Of course, Jazz Chorus amps are famous for their special chorus and vibrato circuitry. This amp also found its way on the “10,000 Days” album.
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Sunn Beta Lead
Years used: Not certain, most likely since the mid-1990s to the early 2000s
While it’s not certain when it actually became a part of his rig, Tool axeman used Sunn’s Beta Lead, most likely on the “Lateralus” album. Interestingly enough, this is actually a solid-state amplifier, although it’s known for its very powerful tone. This same model was also used by Melvins’ Buzz Osborne.
Roland Cube 15
Years used: 2000s to now
In order to fully implement his recognizable talk box effect, he uses a small Roland Cube 15 amplifier. It’s a bit of an unusual choice since it’s a pretty basic and cheap solid-state amp, but it gets the job done for this particular purpose.
Mesa Boogie Rectifier Standard 4×12-Inch Cabinet
Years used: Since the 1990s to now
One of the most common speaker cabinets that Adam has used over the years is Mesa Boogie’s Rectifier Standard, bearing four 12-inch speakers in it. It’s pretty much a “standard” for his live setup.
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Mesa Boogie 2×15-Inch Bass Cabinet
Years used: Not certain, seen using it in the 2010s
While the exact model and years of use have not been determined, his live setup also included Mesa Boogie’s bass cabinet, featuring two 15-inch speakers. Knowing that Adam is the sole guitar player in the band and that he likes to have this powerful bottom-end-heavy tone, it’s not a surprise to see him using this one.
Pedals and Other Adam Jones Gear
Dunlop Heil HT1 Talk Box
Years used: Since the 2000s to now
One of the most important moments in Tool’s history is the use of the talkbox effect for the song “Jambi” off of the “10,000 Days” record. For this purpose, Adam prefers Dunlop’s Heil HT-1. At this point, this is a “classic” piece. For those who don’t know, the pedal comes with a rubber tube, with one end placed in a guitar player’s mouth. This way, the circuitry “picks up” the movement of their mouth and adds it to the guitar tone, making an effect that completely resembles a human voice. Interestingly enough, compared to other “conventional” pedals, the effect goes between an amp and a cabinet.
Abominable Electronics Hellmouth
Years used: Not certain, most likely since the 2010s to now
It’s not exactly a pedal that he uses that often, but he does have a Hellmouth distortion pedal. Made by a smaller company Abominable Electronics, it gives some interesting and unusual ways for tone-shaping, including a treble-cut switch that makes the tone super-bassy. Additionally, there’s even an option to add more gain to it, which results in a slightly fuzzy and pretty heavy tone. What’s also really interesting is that the pedal comes with the clean blend control, which gives a completely new way for tone shaping compared to most of the regular distortion pedals.
Gamechanger Audio Plasma
Years used: The late 2010s to now
One of the newer pedals that Adam got into is Gamechanger Audio’s Plasma. And this is a smaller and relatively new company, so his tech Joe Barresi got in touch with them for a potential new pedal for the Tool guitarist.
Compared to conventional pedals that use transistors, diodes, and sometimes tubes to create distortion, the signal in Gamechanger Audio’s Plasma is actually converted into continuous high-voltage discharges that go through a xenon-filled tube. And you can actually see the current going through the tube, after which is once again turned back into an analog signal. This principle allows for a pretty unique tone, even giving some dynamic response to it. There’s even a voltage control that can help you completely change your tone in many different ways.
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Boss BF-2 Flanger
Years used: Most of his career
Going into other effects, Adam Jones also uses the classic Boss BF-2 Flanger pedal. This is an older model, which was produced from 1980 and up to 2001. Over the years, Adam used it for his live tones and possibly some studio work with Tool as well.
Boss BF-3 Flanger
Years used: Seen using in the late 2010s and early 2010s
Another flanger that he uses is the continuation of this older model, the BF-3 by Boss. The pedal offers pretty much similar controls to what we can see on the BF-2 model, although it comes with two additional modes of operation, “ultra” and “gate/pan.”
Boss CE-5 Chorus
Years used: Early 2010s to now
Another continuation of the old pedals, Boss’ CE-5 is one of the best chorus pedals on the market today. Adam has it in his inventory for live shows, which offers some pretty detailed controls, considering its very compact size.
Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
Years used: Not certain, most likely throughout his entire career
When it comes to delays, he prefers Boss’ classic DD-3. This pedal is pretty much the same deal as the previous version, the DD-2, only with a new designated name. The DD-2 was actually the first-ever digital delay device in the size of a stompbox. Just a classic piece.
Boss GE-7 Equalizer
Years used: Late 2010s to now
For his more recent tours, Adam went with another Boss classic, their stompbox equalizer. The GE-7 comes with seven adjustable frequency ranges, offering a 15 dB cut and a 15 dB boost for each of them. Additionally, the pedal even comes with a simple level knob, meaning that you can also use it as a simple booster. It found its place in Adam’s signal chain right after the release of Tool’s “Fear Inoculum.”
DOD FX40B Equalizer
Years used: Until the late 2010s
But prior to getting Boss’ GE-7 in his signal chain, Tool guitarist preferred to use the good old DOD FX40B equalizer. This is a relatively old device, and just like most DOD devices, it was somewhat popular among the guitarists of Adam’s generation. Once again, we have an EQ with 7 frequency bands, as well as a level slider. However, this particular pedal model gives a boost and cut of up to 18 dB.
MXR M292 Carbon Copy Deluxe Delay
Years used: Late 2010s to now
Another interesting addition to Adam’s pedalboard after the release of “Fear Inoculum” is MXR’s M292, which is a more advanced version of the classic Carbon Copy analog delay. Also referred to as the Carbon Copy Deluxe Delay, the M292 comes with more delay time, up to 1.2 seconds, as well as an additional tap footswitch for custom delay times. There’s also the classic modulation effect button and an additional “bright” switch for achieving that “snappy” tone.
MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compressor
Years used: Not certain, most likely since the 2010s now
As far as compression goes, he prefers MXR’s M102 Dyna Comp pedal. Although this is a pretty straightforward pedal with only two knobs for level and “sensitivity,” it helps him bring a bit more sustain to his tone. And MXR M102 is a pretty useful one, especially because it’s pretty compact.
MXR M133 Micro Amp
Years used: Not certain, most likely since the 2010s to now
Another MXR device in his collection, the M133 Micro Amp s a pretty interesting one. Although it mostly serves as a standard clean, the pedal comes with a different twist. It’s designed in such a way as to push the signal without adding dynamic response to it. You just get a volume boost and that’s it!
MXR CSP233 Micro Amp Plus
Years used: Not certain, most likely since the late 2010s to now
Another MXR pedal that Adam was seen using is the CSP233 Micro Amp Plus, which is an improved version of the standard M133. Compared to this basic version, the Micro Amp Plus brings an interesting twist with a 2-band EQ, or bass and treble knobs. Other than that, it’s just a simple clean boost with the same principle of not bringing more dynamic responsiveness into the equation.
It’s not certain whether it saw any action for live shows, but Adam used it for one of his Instagram live sessions some years ago.
Boss PSM-5 Power Supply and Master Switch
Years used: 2010s
Another interesting Boss device in his collection is the PSM-5, which serves as a power supply and a master switch, seeing some action on Tool tours. This is basically the first Boss power supply device in the form of a compact pedal. Made from 1983, the sales stopped sometime in the late 1990s after it was replaced by the LS-2 Line Selector. It’s a weird and “unconventional” one, but Adam found a good use for it.
Dunlop Cry Baby BB-535 Wah
Years used: 2010s
As for wah pedals, many have thought that Adam uses Dunlop’s 535Q Cry Baby. However, it’s actually a BB-535 model. It’s a somewhat unusual one, serving as a “multi-wah” pedal with some additional features. But other than that, it’s pretty much similar to the 535Q model, both with its tone and functionality.
Gig-Fx Chopper CH-1
Years used: 2000s
One pretty unusual pedal that passed through his collection is the Gig-Fx Chopper CH-1. It’s basically a multi-effects device with a foot-controlled rocking part, just like the one on wahs, volume, and expression pedals, although it tweaks different parameters. It comes with tremolo, chopper, auto-pan, Leslie, and delay emulation effects.
Peterson VS-S StroboStomp Tuner
Years used: 2010s
As for tuners, Adam has also used Peterson’s VS-S StroboStomp. This is a classic digital replica of those old-school strobe tuners which were really precise. While you can’t really get that same level of precision on digital devices, it’s still much better than your average digital tuner pedal. Other than that, it’s a relatively bulky one for a compact pedal format and it even comes with a true bypass mode.
Goodrich 120 Volume Pedal
Years used: 2010s to now
And looking into volume pedals, he started using the Goodrich 120 model in the 2010s. And just like any other volume pedal, it’s a pretty simple one, although we’d point out its durability and overall build qualities.
Roland PK-5 Dynamic MIDI Pedal
Years used: 2010s to now
For some of the advanced MIDI switching and other dynamic controls, Adam has Roland’s advanced PK-5. This basically serves as a control unit for different modules and not guitar effects and amplifiers. It’s similar to what Rush’s Geddy Lee does. PK-5 comes with 13 note pedals, each with 13 levels of dynamic velocity.
Roland VK-8M Organ Sound Module
Years used: 2010s to now
But in combination with the PK-5, Adam also uses Roland’s VK-8M, which is an organ module. It comes with some pretty detailed tone-shaping controls, allowing you to create different analog-like vintage organ tones. Additionally, it also comes with 36 user presets.
Although their earliest material somewhat resembled grunge, over the years, they further explored their progressive rock and progressive metal sides. And although all of the four members – Adam Jones, Danny Carey, Maynard James Keenan, and Justin Chancellor (who replaced the original bassist Paul D’Amour) – are creative geniuses who complement each other, we’d like to focus more on Adam. In particular, we’d like to see what’s the secret behind his powerful and unique guitar tone.
Jones’s main occupation involved film work and animation, music still remained his passion. In particular, he has become known for his outstanding riff ideas, as well as a great guitar tone that also involved a lot of unusual effects. He’s not the virtuoso kind of player, yet he had a lot of things to offer over the years, even making a great impact on the instrument itself.
When it comes to his tone, you could always hear a lot of heaviness in there. However, it wasn’t due to a high-gain setting, but rather a unique approach that made his guitar stand out, especially with all the mids in there. And although it changed, you could always notice that it’s Adam Jones playing the guitar. Combining this kind of tone with his on-and-off use of palm muting, as well as other techniques, he created a sonic landscape of his own.
And it goes without saying that many have tried to replicate this kind of “in-your-face” tone, although it’s always been quite a difficult task. But in this guide, we will be taking a deeper dive into Adam Jones’ gear over the years in order to find out the secret behind his tone. Although it would most likely cost a real fortune to truly replicate Adam’s tone, this guide can get you inspired and give some basic info on how to do it.
My name is Chris and I’ve had a passion for music and guitars for as long as I can remember. I started this website with some of my friends who are musicians, music teachers, gear heads, and music enthusiasts so we could provide high quality music related content as well as some of the most accurate and in-depth gear review and demo information on the internet.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 (over 15 years now) and am an avid collector of all thing’s guitar. Amps, Pedals, Guitars, Bass, Drums, Microphones, Studio, and recording gear, I love it all.
I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. My background is in Electrical Engineering earning a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University and with my engineering experience I’ve developed as a designer of guitar amplifiers and effects. A true passion of mine, I’ve designed, built, and repaired a wide range of guitar amps and electronics. Here at the Guitar Lobby, our aim is to share our passion for Music and gear with the rest of the music community.