Mac DeMarco Amp Settings & Guitar Gear for His Signature Tone!

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Mac DeMarco is what we would call a guitar anti-hero. He doesn’t play by the rules; he emerged into the music mainstream with his own manual and has created a path and a name for himself with it.

But how can you capture the hypnotic, slightly detuned, beautiful tone of his songs?

Well, I’m about to dissect his tone to the very core going from guitar models and strings to amp settings and pedals.

Are you ready to sound like Mac? Well, read on then, because it’s show time!

What Guitar Does Mac DeMarco Use?

The first thing to say about Mac DeMarco is that he is a lo-fi lover. Yes, right from the early days, he was rocking a Teisco guitar; an old artifact that gave him more trouble than joy. Nowadays, though, Teiscos are hard to find anywhere and have been long discontinued.

That being said, during his album Salad Days tour, he started playing single-coil Fender guitars. He could be spotted with a Dakota Red ‘60s Mustang, a ‘70s Fender Stratocaster, a Fender Telecaster, an HSS Squier Stratocaster (of which the band received 11 as an endorser deal with Fender), and a Danelectro 59 DC.

My advice in this terrain is that to obtain the dirty, lo-fi sound Mac is known for, you can aim for the Fender version of the Stratocaster, HSS Stratocaster, Mustang, and Telecaster. If your budget isn’t as big, you can also get the same guitars in their Squier version.

What Amps Does Mac DeMarco Use?

Mac DeMarco matches Fender with Fender to have that ultra-clean but kind of broken guitar tone. Yes, he can be spotted on stage plugging the guitars above (and his favorite keyboards) into several very different amps.

Plus, he pulls off an amazing trick to make a tiny amp roar like a lion.

To begin with, one of his Fender amplifiers is a Reissue Fender Twin Reverb; a classic and a 2×12 valve-driven beast. On the other hand, he also plays a very small 10-watt Fender Vibro Champ.

What he does with the Vibro Champ, though, is to use a microphone to capture its sound and plug that microphone into the huge 200-watt Roland KC550, a massive 1×15 super-clean keyboard amp. That way, he can get the sweet, mildly overdriven tone from the valves of the small amp at stage volume.

Finally, and from the same company, Mac utilizes the most revered solid-state clean guitar amp of all time, the Roland Jazz Chorus JC-120.

Although these are amplifiers with quite a hefty price tag and that move a lot of air, you can get smaller versions for smaller venues for a fraction of the price. For example, replacing the Fender Twin with a Champion 100, the Vibro Champ with a Blues Jr., the Roland KC550 with a KC220, and the JC-120 with a JC-22.

What Pedals Does Mac DeMarco Use?

Mac DeMarco’s effects pedals are very limited. Yes, he only uses effects to add a layer of psychedelic nuances to his music. He does this with a modulation effect, in his case a chorus, for which he uses the road-tested and road-worthy Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble.

Also, his pedalboard includes an MXR Micro Amp with which he pushes the amps naturally into overdrive when needed.

Another paramount effect to sound like Mac is reverb, of which he uses plenty. His favorite is the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb. He can also be seen using dual MXR Carbon Copy pedals.

Finally, he can be seen using a Boss VB-2 Vibrato pedal, a JHS Colour Box (for overdriven tones), and the most important pedal in history, a Boss TU-2 chromatic tuner pedal.

As you can see, Mac’s guitar tone is simple and built using very common pedals. You can see the man himself explaining his tone and pedalboard in this cool Reverb video.

Dialing-in Mac Demarco Guitar Tone

To dial-in Mac DeMarco’s tone, you have to first use the neck position pickup on your guitar but pick close to the bridge.

Amp-wise, the secret to dialing in Mac’s sound is to emphasize the treble side of the guitar. For this, you need to set the highs high (above 6) and the bass low (around 3-4). Finally, the mids should be pushing up at 6-7.

Set your amp as follows for these songs:

Freaking Out the Neighborhood

  • Volume – 6 or 7
  • Bass – Below 4
  • Mid – 6
  • Treble – 7 or 8
  • MXR MicroAmp ON
  • JHS Color Box ON
  • EHX Holy Grail ON


  • Volume – 4 or 5
  • Bass – Below 4
  • Mid – 8
  • Treble – 8
  • MXR MicroAmp OFF
  • JHS Color Box OFF
  • EHX Holy Grail ON

This Old Dog

  • Volume – 5
  • Bass – 4
  • Mid – 6
  • Treble – 8
  • MXR MicroAmp OFF
  • JHS Color Box OFF
  • Boss CE-5 ON
  • EHX Holy Grail ON

The Bottom End

Following the beaten path to obtain a trademark sound is not a road every player wants to take. Mac DeMarco is an example of how you can take the DIY attitude all the way to the top of the charts.

In other words, Mac’s teaching for fellow musicians of the world is to be creative with whatever you have around and don’t be afraid of being original.

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

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