The secrets behind Eddie Van Halen's live rig at Van Halen's final shows

Eddie Van Halen
(Image credit: Kevin Winter/BMA2015/Getty Images for dcp)

Rig tour: Eddie Van Halen

Van Halen's 2015 tour, which started on July 5 in Auburn, Washington, and ended October 4 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, has now gone down in history as Edward Van Halen’s final public performances with the band.

Ed and his EVH business partner Matt Bruck graciously invited Guitar World to Van Halen’s concert in upstate New York at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts – the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival – on September 6, 2015, to give readers an all-access look at the gear that Ed and his son, bassist Wolfgang Van Halen, used on the tour.

The resulting cover story, which appeared in Guitar World’s February 2016 issue, was not the usual “rig report” list of guitars, amps and effects, but rather an in-depth article that revealed much finer details, including Ed’s live setup signal path and exact settings for his amps and effects. 

GWM534 Eddie Van Halen Rig Tour

(Image credit: Matt Bruck)

The photos of Ed’s gear on the following pages were taken backstage before the September 6 show and were intended to accompany the article. Due to a lack of space and the decision to use performance photos of Ed and the band, most of these photos were cut from the final version that appeared in print.

Also, a few of the ones that did previously appear were too small to show helpful detail. In honor of Ed’s contributions to guitarists via his own EVH brand, we’ve decided to share these photos for public consumption.

In light of Ed’s passing, these photos are a bittersweet memento of the final sounds that the public heard from his guitar. In fact, the EVH Wolfgang USA with relic’d Ivory finish seen here was not only Ed’s main guitar throughout the entire 2015 tour, but it was also the very last guitar that he ever played on stage when he used it for the encore performance of Jump.

The final Db chord that Ed played on that guitar is still ringing out in the cosmos as well as the memories of Van Halen fans who witnessed what has now become a historic moment.

Eddie Van Halen

Van Halen plays his Ivory EVH Wolfgang USA during the band’s final tour in 2015. (Image credit: Mat Hayward/Getty Images)

Ed’s white Wolfgang is now also a symbol of the culmination of Ed’s achievements in guitar design, developed over more than five decades of experimentation, innovation and endless pursuit of the ultimate tone.

Similarly, the gear shown here – most of which he developed as well – represents his years of experience as well as his visions for the future. Ed may no longer be with us to personally participate in that future, but the guitars, amps and effects he designed as gifts for his fellow guitarists will allow his legacy to live on by inspiring players for many generations to come.

Rig tour: Eddie Van Halen – Guitars


Chip Ellis built this guitar and delivered it to Ed during rehearsals for the 2015 tour. “I wanted a white Wolfgang that was relic’d, so I asked Chip to build one for me,” Van Halen said. “He did a wonderful job. It sounded better than my trusty old Stealth Wolfgang, so it immediately became my main guitar.” 

Custom details (later available on the EVH Wolfgang USA Edward Van Halen Signature model) include the red kill switch for staccato effects and BI Tech HPU low-friction volume pot for smooth, noise-free volume swells.


This Stealth Black EVH Wolfgang USA was Ed’s main guitar on Van Halen’s 2012 tour, but it became a backup after he received the relic’d white Wolfgang USA about a month before the 2015 tour started.


The Matte Red finish on this EVH Wolfgang USA guitar was not offered on any production models, making this guitar one-of-a kind. It was tuned to standard tuning and was one of four options (along with the Circles, Star and Wolfgang WG Standard guitars) that Ed brought on the 2015 tour for playing I’ll Wait.


“Little Guitars” returned to Van Halen’s 2015 setlist, and Ed performed the song on this custom-made mini Wolfgang. Although his sunburst model has a Floyd Rose tremolo with D-Tuna, Ed removed the bar because he didn’t use tremolo on the song.


Featuring a gorgeous quilted maple top with amber finish, this custom Wolfgang mini guitar was a backup for the sunburst mini.


The EVH Stripe Series Circles model is a reproduction of a custom guitar Ed played briefly on Van Halen’s 1981 Fair Warning tour, immortalized in the Oakland performance video of Unchained. He later added layers of red, yellow and green paint to the original guitar, nicknaming the new makeover “Rasta.”


Ed’s friend Scott Smith made this custom replica of the “Rasta” guitar and gave it to Ed during the latter half of the 2015 tour. “Scott has made replicas of every guitar I’ve ever made,” Van Halen said in 2015. “I gave my original one to Dweezil Zappa about 20 years ago.”


Like the Stripe Series Circles, the EVH Stripe Series Star had a short-lived production run in the mid 2010s and is highly sought after today. It is a replica of a guitar that Ed built from Charvel parts in 1980 and used on Van Halen’s Invasion tour that year.


Proof that Ed stood behind every product his EVH brand produced, he played this Wolfgang WG Standard – the most inexpensive model offered by EVH – frequently during the 2015 tour. “I prefer the Standard over the Circles and Star guitars because it has a front pickup that I like to use for the solo in I’ll Wait. It’s the most economically priced EVH guitar, but it plays just as good as the Special or USA and sounds great.”

Rig tour: Eddie Van Halen – Amps

Main EVH 5150 III 100S

GWM534 Eddie Van Halen Rig Tour

Main EVH 5150 III 100S (Image credit: Future / Chris Gill)

For Van Halen’s 2012 tour, Ed relied on EVH 5150 III 100-watt heads that were modified, but for the 2015 tour he used a 100 percent stock 5150 III 100S that featured all of his custom modifications as standard features. 

The amp head on top with the green tape and star was the only amp he played for the entire tour, even though he brought six backups.

EVH 5150 III EL34 Prototype

GWM534 Eddie Van Halen Rig Tour

EVH 5150 III EL34 Prototype (Image credit: Future / Chris Gill)

This is the original prototype of the EVH 5150 III 100-watt EL34 amp. “I plug into it every couple of shows to see how it’s holding up in its first road test, to see how it’s maintaining its tone,” Van Halen said. “The sound is very vintage Van Halen, but it also has the capability of achieving modern high-gain tones.”

Stage Amp Wall

GWM534 Eddie Van Halen Rig Tour

(Image credit: Future / Chris Gill)

The massive wall of amps and speakers seen on stage was mostly for show, as only the three miked EVH 5150 III 4x12 speaker cabinets were in use. The outer cabinets amplified the wet delay-processed left and right signals, while the center cabinet received a dry direct feed from the main 5150 III 100S head.

Rig tour: Eddie Van Halen – Effects


GWM534 Eddie Van Halen Rig Tour

(Image credit: Future / Chris Gill)

Ed was “old school” when it came to his pedalboard, preferring to have his stompboxes accessible on stage where he could easily reach down and tweak them if necessary. The sheets at the upper edge and lower left corner were notes to remind Ed of the lyrics when he was singing backup vocals.

GWM534 Eddie Van Halen Rig Tour

(Image credit: Future / Chris Gill)

Ed used the Roland SDE-3000 digital delays mainly to create reverb-like ambience in his wet/dry/wet rig setup. His PCM70 Cathedral setting was cut from Guitar World’s February 2016 article due to space constraints – it’s the “double delay” algorithm with both delays set to 424ms, feedback 12 percent (both), mix 100 percent and the remaining parameters at 0.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.