Cliff Burton’s Effects Pedals – Metallica – “Know Your Bass Player” (2/2)

Cliff Burton’s effects pedals

Finishing our two part series we look at Cliff Burtons Effects Pedals. Covering his time in E-Z, Agents of Misfortune,Trauma and finally Metallica. We look at the Morley pedals, BOSS stomps, Ibanez racks and of course finishing up with Cliffs String Gauge.


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First attempt at a Fuzzy Wah

During his time in “EZ Street” and “Trauma” Cliff started with an envelope filter and simple fuzz.

Morley Pedals and Cliff’s legacy

Upon joining Metallica, Cliff started using an original Telray Morley Power Fuzz Wah from the 70’s with an all chrome chassis. Cliffs use of this pedal made him and Morley iconic and legendary

  • Original Telray Morley Power Wah Fuzz (PWF)

This was replaced with another Morley pedal after “Kill’em All” in 1984.

  • Morley Power Wah Boost (PWB)

Cliff states in the Met Fan Club handwritten note from 1983 he uses a Power Fuzz Wah (PFW) and pictures from this time support this. Later on in shows, the colour of the pedal has changed from a chrome chassis to a silvery grey pedal which is the Power Wah Boost (PWB).

Cliff Burton Tribute Fuzz Wah

For fans looking to get Cliff’s sound you will be please to know a tribute pedal was made by Morley and released in 2015 and then an all chrome version followed in 2016.
This pedal is not a reissue but instead improves upon the wah, slimming the body profile and providing a battery compartment, being more in tune with today’s musicians.

If you already have a Wah pedal but just need a Fuzz tone, Morley also make a Cliff Burton Fuzz box which will fit any pedal board in its convenient size.

The rest of the Cliff Burton’s pedal board

Photographs from the “Kill’em All” period show Cliff using a Boss CS2 Sustainer alongside the PWF.

In the 1984 radio interview with Ken Kitt of WCSB, when asked what pedals he uses. Cliff responded with

  • MXR 143 limiter (No longer produced)
  • Boss Delay* (Possibly a BOSS-DM2/DM3*)
  • Chorus pedal (Unnamed in the interview likely a BOSS CE-3*)
  • Washburn A-AD9 Delay (Seen in Kill’em All tour photos)

Fuzz and Distortion upgrades

Once in Metallica the Electroharmonix gear was replaced with the PFW/PWB and an Ibanez Tube Screamer 9* some folks disagree, stating he used an original Ibanez TS808*.

However, looking at the body profile of the pedal, the foot switch is of a similar size to the TS9. This and the TS9 was released between 1982 and 1985, therefore It isn’t too much of a stretch to believe Cliff bought this when it originally came out.

Cliffs effects used on Master Of Puppets

Flemming Rasmussen (Producer) states in “Justice for All: The Truth about Metallica”* (page 146) that he used an AMS Harmoniser (Possibly a DMX 15-80S) during the recording sessions for Orion and likely Damage Inc.

For the live shows and used almost as early as the “Ride The Lightning Tour” onwards, Cliff was in possession of an Ibanez rack mounted effects unit

  • Ibanez HD1500

This unit was mostly used for improvisation during solos, particularly the harmonising effects which were activated by a foot pedal.

It’s also been heard in bootlegs, specifically on For Whom The Bell Tolls using the pitch shifter effect to get some absolutely crazy sounds. One version you should go take a look at is Metallica at the Lyceum in London dated December 1984 (@ 10.46).

Cliffs rumored pedals

During the research of this video, the following have been mentioned however no clear evidence directly supports the following. I wanted to include this just in case someone can provide proof for the future.

  • Morley ABY Switcher
  • Morley Compressor
  • PC40 footstwitch with the Ibanez HD1500

What strings did Cliff Burton use?

A couple of sources have stated Cliff using light gauge Rotosound strings (35, 55, 70, 90). Which are extremely easy to bend and explains why he has such a flexible sound. One of the channel viewers kindly shared a photo of Cliffs strings, confirming it to be a light gauge.

Attention to every detail was made for the Cliff Burton Aria Tribute bass. As a result, listed in the specifications is the string gauge 30-90 (30-85 are no longer produced). Furthermore as this is an uncommon gauge these days, this looks to be a deliberate choice.

More from Know Your Bass Player

Cliff Burton is only the beginning for this season. There have been dozens of requests of which I intend to fulfill all of them … Or as many as I can at least. Make yourself heard and tell me who you want to see on the channel, remember to subscribe and Tweet me on Twitter.

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