Malcolm Young's Guitars and GearPublished : - Author : Dan Kopilovic
Discover the Complete Gear Setup of AC/DC’s Iconic Guitarist
Malcolm Young was a guitar virtuoso whose unique sound was an essential part of AC/DC’s success. With his powerful riffs and steady rhythm, Malcolm created a distinct style that helped define the band’s signature sound. But achieving this sound wasn’t just about Malcolm’s skill and talent – it also required the right equipment.
Mal‘s rig was relatively simple, and he mostly relied on one single guitar: The Beast – a 1963 Gretsch Jet Firebird. This guitar was originally red and with two Filter’Trons. Over the years, he modified it numerous times, went through thousands of gigs, and finally in 2017 – Gretsch built a signature model based on that guitar.
But, in this article, we’re also going to take a deep dive into Malcolm Young’s less-known guitars and gear. We’ll explore every guitar, amp, and piece of gear he used, and we’ll discuss how he used each piece to achieve his unique sound. Whether you’re a diehard AC/DC fan or a guitar player looking to recreate Malcolm’s iconic tone, this guide has everything you need to know.
Big thanks to Tom M.M. for all the help with compiling the info.
List of Guitars, Amps, Effects, and Accessories used by Malcolm Young
Malcolm Young's Electric Guitars
1963 Gretsch Jet Firebird “The Beast”See images & more 1973
Malcolm got this 1963 Gretsch G6131 Jet Firebird from his older brother, George Young, and Harry Vanda, both of whom were at that time members of the band the Easybeats. Also, as an interesting factoid – the “Guitar George” and “Harry” who are mentioned by Mark Knopfler in the song “Sultans of Swing” are actually George Young and Harry Vanda.
At that time, when Malcolm got the guitar, it was already moded with a third pickup, a Gibson Humbucker, sitting in between two stock Filter’Tron pickups (US-Patent-Number 2892371). This, of course, means that the body needed to be carved out in order to fit the new pickup.
1973 Gibson LS-6See images & more 1975
This guitar was used by Malcolm in the early years of AC/DC, circa 1975. It had originally two pickups and a classic “Les Paul” body shape.
Later on, in 1976, the guitar’s body was modified, so it ended up looking more like the Gretsch Jet, with a horn on each side. In addition to this, the neck humbucker was removed.
Mal bought the guitar from Harry Landis on Park St, Sydney in early 1975. It is not his original AC/DC guitar, that was always the Gretsch Jet Firebird. The L6-S was purchased because his Gretsch had one of its many headstock breaks and was in the repair shop.
Mal needed a guitar, so he bought the Gibson. It was the guitar he was using when I joined in March 1975 until the Gretsch was fixed, then it became a spare. The guitar was customized to the double cut in May/June 1976 in London by Martin Birch in Kentish Town. I went with him to drop it off.
Mark Evans – AC/DC’S LOST RARE GIBSON L-6S FOUND?]
JayDee Jet "White Arrow"See images & more 1977
This guitar was made by Jaydee sometime around 1977 as a backup for Malcolm’s number-one Gretsh Firebird.
The guitar is essentially a replica of that guitar with the exact same setup and the same electronics. It originally had a stop-tail bridge, and two Filter’Tron pickups, and it was used as such extensively by Malcolm during the Powerage and Highway to Hell tours.
From that point, it’s not exactly clear what happened to this guitar. Malcolm was seen playing a different Jaydee in the 80s, and what’s even more confusing, Jaydee apparently made a total of three guitars for him. According to Jaydee, one was a double-pickup model with a custom headstock, and the two were a single-pickup model.
The problem with that is that this guitar does not fit in the description of any of those. Based on the information from Jaydee’s website, the first two-pickup model is accounted for, and as said, it had a uniquely shaped headstock. So, it couldn’t be this guitar. The other two both had no pockets for the neck pickups, so again, this cannot be one of those two.
Fender TelecasterSee images & more 1977
Malcolm was seen playing a blonde Fender Telecaster guitar briefly during AC/DC 1977 tour. The Telecaster was likely carried as a backup guitar and was probably disregarded after the tour since it obviously didn’t sound anywhere close to a Gretsch.
1959 Gretsch G6137 White FalconSee images & more 1979
Malcolm used that guitar during the Back in Black and For Those About to Rock, We Salute You tours, so circa 1980 to 1982. He also occasionally used the guitar outside those tours, for example during the Black Ice tour.
Allegedly, the guitar suffered some damage, so Malcolm took it to someone to fix it. Unfortunately, the repairs apparently caused the guitar to lose its distinctive sound, so he got rid of it and sold it at an auction. It’s important to note that this information is second-hand, and we couldn’t find any quotes directly from Malcolm on this.
In any case, the guitar ended up at the Hard Rock Museum, and it can be seen in a feature video they published in 2012.
JayDee Jet CustomSee images & more 1980
Malcolm owned two Jaydee guitars that were custom-made for him as backups for his main guitar, the 1963 Gretsch Jet. The guitars were delivered to Malcolm probably sometime in the early 80s, and he was seen using them occasionally here and there, but not to the extent that he used his “White Arrow” JayDee.
Gretsch 6121 Chet AtkinsSee images & more 1990
Malcolm played a Gretsch 6121 Chet Atkins solid body guitar in a video for the song “Are You Ready”, filmed probably sometime in 1990 or 1992.
Based on the looks, the guitar was mostly stock, except that Malcolm removed the pickguard, which is something he did on pretty much every single Gretsch that he played.
Gretsch 7594 White Falcon JrSee images & more 2000
Malcolm used this Gretsch Gretsch 7594 White Falcon Jr guitar occasionally in 2000 and 2001. Apparently, he got the guitar from an old lady who used to play on it, and it was pretty worn, especially around the neck.
At first the guitar, the guitar was kept in its original condition, but at some point in 2001, Malcolm decided to repaint it black. He continued using the guitar as such until the end of the 2001 tour.
Duesenberg Starplayer TV (Gold Leaf)See images & more 2003
Malcolm was seen playing a gold-colored Duesenberg Straplayer guitar when he and Angus joined the Rolling Stones on stage in 2003, to play “Rock Me, Baby”.
Based on the looks, the guitar is likely a custom model, since it has a gold leaf finish, similar to the one that Duesenberg used on their 25th Anniversary Starplayer TV model. That model was released in 2020, so this must have been a custom guitar, perhaps even made for someone in the Rolling Stones, and Malcolm only borrowed it for that one ocassion.
Malcolm Young's Amps
1971 Marshall Super Bass 100See images & more 1974
Malcolm’s main guitar amp is a 100W Marshall Super Bass from 1971.
Malcolm’s number one: 1971 metal-front Marshall Super Bass. It has a mod on it — it has an extra tube on it for slaving it out in the studio.
He apparently also owned Super Bass models from various years, including one from 1976, and one from 1991, according to Marshall’s website.
Wizard AmpsSee images & more 1995
These amps were used by both Malcolm and Angus starting from around the mid to late 90s. The amps were made by Rick St. Pierre, who at the time was AC/DC’s amp tech.
Based on the photos, Malcolm used the Wizard Modern Classic (or some version of it, see photo below), but also an earlier pre-production model which was labeled as “Ard”.
1960s Marshall JTM 45/100See images & more 1996
Malcolm reportedly switched to a 1960s Marshall JTM 45 100 Watt amp on the Ballbreaker album in 1996, but this is only according to the popular online theory. So, if you happen to come across any interviews where Malcolm mentioned using this amp, please be sure to leave a comment below.
Malcolm Young's Strings
Gibson 900M L-5 (12-56) StringsSee images & more 1976
Apparently, Malcolm used a pretty heavy set of Gibson guitar strings, where four of the six strings were wound. The strings measured .012. .016. .025.(wound) .034. .044 and .056
The exact set that he used is unfortunately no longer available, but if you’re lucky, you can find them on Reverb.
Malcolm Young's Accessories
Fender Extra Heavy Guitar PickSee images & more 1974
Malcolm’s choice of guitar pick was the Fender Extra Heavy pick. It’s definitely possible that at some point in his career, he used a different model, and did not stick to Fenders exclusively, but they were likely always around the same thickness.
The Fender Extra Heavy pick is 1.3mm or .050″, and they are usually celluloid, although nowadays you can find them in all sorts of materials and colors.
This gear list is a result of years of research and constant updates. It's a hobby project with the goal to eventually have the most complete and thorough gear list on the web - but that is only achievable with your help!
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