Jason Newsted Bass Rig – Know Your Bass Player

Welcome back to our fourth episode of Know Your Bass Player and today we’re talking the Jason Newsted Bass Rig Rundown formerly of Metallica. Jason contributed to the core years of Metallica after much growing pain. When he eventually was given creative space and created such fan favourites such as “My Friend of Misery, “King Nothing” and “Wherever I May Roam” to name a few.


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Metallica audition (1986)

Jason joined Metallica in the midst of the Damage Inc. tour after the unexpected death of Cliff Burton. On his audition with Metallica he used;

  • Warmorth DIY bass (Precision Jazz)
  • BC Rich Eagle deluxe (as a back up.)

Damage Inc. tour (1986-1987)

His first show with Metaliica was on 8th of November 1986 where he played;

  • ESP surveyor (no longer in production)

Which is ESP’s take on a Fender Precision Jazz. Surveyors these days are sold under the more affordable option of LTD Surveyors*.

Garage Days Re-Revisited EP

The same Surveyor bass is again seen on the album cover of Garage Days Re-Revisited EP which was recored in anticipation of the Monsters of Rock festival in August 1987.

At the Monsters of Rock festival (1987) Jason was seen with a new bass

  • ESP 5 Horizon (in red with a JJ pickup configuration)

James and Kirk were endorsed by ESP and the offer presumably was extended to Jason too, hence the use of the Horizon.

ESP now do an affordable modern version of this bass named the LTD B-205*

…And Justice For all recording (1988)

The following year in 1988 recording for And justice for all began. Recording engineer Flemming Rasmussen commented in an issue of Sound on Sound that Jason used a 5 string Wal bass on the album.

  • 5 string Wal mk2

Seen in the video “One”

Damaged Justice tour

Following live festivals such as Monsters of Rock 1988, Jason was seen using a combination of 4 and 5 string Wals and the ESP 5 string Horizon. These basses remained in his rig until August 1989, where on the “Binge and Purge” DVD Seattle show he was using Alembic basses.

Jason Newsted and Alembic basses

The Jason Newsted Bass Rig had a big history with Alembic basses and gave way to a lot of experimenting. He had basses made to address many issues he was experiencing whilst playing.

According to Alembic he had at least 13 basses constructed with custom options. Ranging from different wood types, electronics or changing the contour of the body.

He used the following models to experiment with.

  • Persuader (similar to Cliff Burton’s)
  • Spoiler
  • Elan 5 string with Jazz Precision Jazz configuration
  • Europa 4, 5 and 6 string versions

These Alembic basses were played live between 1989 and 1992 spanning the length of the Black Albums’ – Wherever we roam tour.

Jasons’ admiration of these basses was love at first sight sating that

“I always thought [the Alembics] were incredible. As soon as I could afford one, I tried it–and that was it.”

As well as describing the benefit of the basses to him

“I pick the wood and everything. I also design the pickup configuration.
Alembic has built my last 10 basses from my specs.
Even if I go for an already existing shape, I’ll modify the body contour so my arm comes down comfortably for picking. … Different little things like that. “

Jason Newsted – Guitar World 1991

Black Album (1990)

In October 1990 the band started work on the Black Album. Contrary to the previous tour, Jason primary used a 1981 Spector NS-2 to record with.

  • Spector NS-2

There is documentation of Jason also using

As well as up to 25 different basses in all, Including 6, 10 and 12 string bass which were used for specific parts.


Wherever we roam tour (1991-1995)

Back on the road, he continued using the Alembics already mentioned and a few Spector basses, most notably rare Stuart Spector Designed basses that introduced a signature JN model

  • Custom Stuart Spector JN model (SSD JN4 and JN5)  4 and 5 string
  • Spector NS-2

These basses featured black oil finish, piezo pickup option, fiber optic side markers and carved body contours.

Recording of Load and Reload

Recording of Load and Reload begun in 96 and 97 respectively and in an interview with Bass Player Magazine 1996. Jason again stated he used the NS-2 and a few other instruments to record.

  • Spector NS-2
  • 1958 Fender Precision

Poor Touring Me Tour

This tour showed Jason back on stage with the new addition of Sadowsky basses. Jason begun a very lucrative relationship with Roger Sadowsky in which he made at least 20 custom basses. Many of which are seen in the 1997 live show Cunning Stunts.

  • 24-fret 5-string (fitted with EMG pickups #1)
  • 24-fret 5-string (fitted with EMG pickups #2)
  • 24-fret 5-String with Sadowsky Jazz pickups
  • 59′ Burst 4-string
  • 59′ Burst 4-string Vintage Jazz
  • All Black 4-string Vintage Jazz
  • All Black 5-string Vintage Jazz
  • Black/White 4-String Vintage Jazz
  • Black/White 5-String Vintage Jazz #1
  • Black/White 5-String Vintage Jazz #2
  • Cherry Red 4-string Vintage Jazz
  • Cherryburst 4-string
  • Cherryburst 5-string Vintage Jazz
  • Lake Placid Blue 4-String Vintage Jazz #1
  • Lake Placid Blue 4-String Vintage Jazz #2
  • Lake Placid Blue 5-String Vintage Jazz
  • Natural Ash 4-String Standard Jazz
  • Sea Foam Green 4-String Vintage Jazz
  • Sonic Blue 4-String Vintage Jazz
  • Sonic Blue 5-String Vintage Jazz

The Sadowsky basses boil down to either a 4 or 5 string PJ or JJ pickup configuration.

Jason has stated in interviews that he liked these basses because they are a “Turbo Fender” and the tone sounds just like his 1958 Precision bass but with a little more juice.

Garage Inc and S&M (1998-1999)

The Sadowsky basses were used to record Garage Inc. In 1998  and played on the Symphony and Metallica show in 1999.

Jason Newsted and amplifiers

Jason Newsted bass rig consisted of Ampeg heads and cabinets throughout Metallica.

Damage Inc. tour until the Black album amplifiers (1986-1990)

  • Original 1974 Ampeg SVT  head (300 watts)

This was plugged into a 1×15 Ampeg speaker* and 4×12 Mesa Boogie cabinet.

The modern Ampeg SVT head is now named the Ampeg VR*

Bass amplifiers and recording Metallica the Black Album (1990-1991)

Jason used a mixture of 3 or 4 amplifiers and bass pickups for the Black Album

  • An 18″ SWR (for the low end)
  • Marshall guitar cabinet (for mid/high)
  • Trace Elliot (for mid/high)
  • Ampeg SVT (for the main sound)

Post Black album (1991+)

Stored offstage in his two racks, he had


Rack 1 (Left)

  • Furman Power conditioner
  • Ampeg branded input switch selector
  • Crown Power amp
  • Ampeg SVT II  (x3)

SVT II’s (2) are no longer manufactured, the Ampeg SVT 3* took its place.

Rack 2 (Right)

These go on to power two Ampeg SVT 8×10 cabinets*.

Amplifiers and recording

Jason’s recording setup has had some subtle changes over the years including the use of a few other Ampeg head models.
Such as

Can you describe that recording domain?

We used three rooms to record the bass for Load. … the “crunch” room–had an old Gibson Skylark guitar amp, a 9-volt Marshall practice amp, and a MESA/Boogie 1×15 combo.

The “meat” room … had two old Ampeg SVT cabinets with no horns, a ’74 SVT head, and three MESA/Boogie 15s with SWR heads.

The low-end room–which I shared with James’s “Tent of Doom”–had two MESA/Boogie 15s and a Fender folded-horn 1×18 cabinet that goes with the 400 PS Bass head.

A solid-state Marshall 7400 head ran the cabs in the low room. I also used an Evil Twin tube DI to go into the board. All of that was blended together for most of the songs, and I stepped on different pedals.

Jason Newsted – Bass Player Magazine 1996

Jason Newsted’s effects

Cliff fans may be interested in the Cliff Burton Morley Fuzz Box* 

When recording the Load/Reload albums he used;

Jason Newsted and strings

Jason’s strings have always been made by LaBella and he used Hard Rockin’ Steels commonly known as Stainless Steel Round Wound. Designed to be very flexible string and higher tension than others.

Jason Newsted and pickups

Jason swapped the pickups in his original basses the Warmoth and the BC Rich with an EMG pickup set. Citing EMG as a standard, fundamental for a metal sound.

EMG P/J Active pickups*

Jason also changed the stock pickups in some of his Sadowsky basses to the same EMG configuration.

More from Know Your Bass Player

I’ll see you on the next Know Your Bass Player where we conclude our first series.
After that we open the floor to viewer suggestions. So get yours in now as we already have a few submitted.

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