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Eddie Van Halen's Brown Sound

Much like Clapton's Women Tone many people strive for EVH's Brown Sound. If you listen to the complete catalog of Van Halen records you will notice a change in Eddie's sound from the first Van Halen disc to the new tunes on Best of Both Worlds greatest hits record.


The easiest way to achieve EVH's later sound (5150 and later) is to use a Peavey 5150 amp or the later model 5150 II. Different amp settings are available at the EVH Guitar Registry. A key component in Ed's use of these amps is the Rockman SmartGate in the effects loop to quiet the amp.

Brown Sound - Early Years

This is sound many people are trying to achieve, that great Van Halen, Van Halen II and Fair Warning tones that produced Ed's signature Brown Sound. There are two distinct areas of focus necessary to achieve the Brown Sound: guitar and amp/effects.

EVH Guitar effect on Brown Sound

Today it is relatively easy to get a guitar suited for Ed's Brown Sound. The EBMM EVH/Axis line, the Peavey Wolfgang and the latest Charvel EVH models are/were official EVH signature models with specific pickups and neck contours to Ed's specifications.

However in the days previous to teaming up with guitar manufacturers Ed created the now famous FrankenStrat. These guitars are Strat shaped bodies with a Gibson PAF humbucker screwed directly into the body near the bridge. The Gibson PAF typically came from a early 60's 335.

Amp Setup for Brown Sound

The amp used for the early Van Halen records is a 100 Watt Marshal Super Lead otherwise known as a Plexi. Amps were mainly stock and may or may not have used a Variac to control the voltage. The effects rig is also quite simple and included the following:

  • MXR Phase 90
  • MXR Flanger
  • 6 band EQ - set for mid-range boost (frown curve)
  • 2 tape echo units
  • Here is a break down on how to get your own Brown Sound.

    EQ with frown curve --> Slow phaser mixed 50% with dry signal --> Preamp distortion --> amp eq with slight smile curve, or flat --> Power-tube saturation --> Dummy load --> Speaker

    The dummy load is there as power tube saturation is key to achieving Ed's Brown Sound or any other great distortion sound you hear on record.

    Please leave feedback on this article here. Also, we have built a database for you to share your pre distortion EQ settings or check out others EQ settings. Click on the Tone Settings menu selection.

    Items mentioned in article. Musicians Friend now has the new 6505's which are a relabled 5150.

    Peavey 6505 Plus 120W Guitar Amp Head
    Peavey 6505 Plus 120W Guitar Amp Head
    Peavey 6505 120W Guitar Amp Head
    Peavey 6505 120W Guitar Amp Head
    Peavey 6505 4x12 300W Guitar Cabinet Straight
    Peavey 6505 4x12 300W Guitar Cabinet Straight
    Peavey 6505 212 Combo 2x12 Guitar Amp
    Peavey 6505 212 Combo 2x12 Guitar Amp

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