Originally published on Dolphinmusic.co.uk. Updated July 2018
Ed Sheeran gear guide 2017 update: As Ed Sheeran's Divide album spends yet another week at No.1 and hits well over one million album sales as of Monday March 20/4/17, we decided to update our Ed Sheeran gear guide. Here's all the info you need about guitars and gear he's used, and how to get a similar sound!
A little history...
Most of us first heard of this genius performer upon the release of his first commercial single, The A-Team in June 2011. But before hitting the charts in that year Ed Sheeran already had a huge fan base. He performed as much as he could on the come-up, playing gigs every chance he got and making himself known through collaborations and a number of candid video’s on YouTube, Ed Sheeran pretty much paved his own way to the top of the charts.
In addition to delivering a ridiculous 300+ gigs 2009, Sheeran made a name for himself releasing independent collaborations with the likes of Wiley, Sway and JME.
Sheeran featured on the EP No.5 Collaboration Project (2011), which soared its way to No.2 in the iTunes Charts and sold over 7000 copies in its first week, all with no major promotions and no record label backing.
With a shocking 11 EPs, a multi-million selling debut album (+) and a fan-base that could probably rival the population of China... times 10, Ed Sheeran is most definitely setting a new bar for the acoustic singer songwriter. His double win at the BRIT Awards 2015 (Best Male Solo Artist & Album of The Year) coupled with a myriad of headlining gigs at Wembley Arena confirmed him as a major musical force for the years to come. His followup album 'X' followed in 2014, and has now sold nearly 8 million copies.
Watch our Ed Sheeran Gear Guide Video:
Want to know how Ed plays his guitar, what pedals Ed Sheeran uses and what guitar he uses on stage and in the studio? Watch our guide below:
Ed Sheeran in 2017 and the release of '÷' (Divide)
As of March 2017, his newest album '÷' pronounced 'Divide' has hit sales over well over 1 million and counting. Amazingly, 9 songs from the album appeared in the UK top 10 in its release week, with all 16 tracks appearing in the top 20 - causing calls for the chart system to be reviewed.
No wonder then, that so many people feel inspired and are influenced by him, so the aim of this Ed Sheeran Gear Guide is to answer many questions people have regarding his setup, and also to give a few pointers on how to get the Ed Sheeran sound.
ED SHEERAN'S 'X' ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC GUITAR
Ed himself described the guitar as "awesome" and said it's exactly like the one he currently plays. This electro-acoustic guitar is sure to sell out quickly, and is ideal not just for Ed Sheeran fans but any live performer who wants a collectible, great sounding acoustic! Check out the Limited-Edition Martin Ed Sheeran 'X' Signature Guitar. We even covered this guitar in more detail here. Unfortunately it's no longer available, but it's based on the Martin LX1, which Ed uses and has used his entire career.
This guitar, as said before, is a replica of one of his main instruments as of 2015, and which could be seen recently at the BRIT Awards 2015 ceremony.
His main guitar during 2012 however, was a bigger-sized model - a customized version of the popular Martin 00-28VS Grand Concert. It seems that, as Sheeran's gigs keep getting bigger, he's decided to move on to a bigger-sized guitar:
The guitar is fitted with Fishman Matrix Infinity pickups, and used for the romantic ballads. According to his guitar tech, Sheeran only uses Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb light 12-53 strings. He also used Dunlop Trigger capo on some songs.
However, it seems Ed has gone back to his roots and has been seen playing the Martin LX1E Electro Acoustic Guitar in Natural in performances during 2017. Here he is playing the 59th GRAMMYs - you can watch the video further down below.
The Martin Ed Sheeran Divide Signature Edition 3 Acoustic Guitar
The team at Martin Guitars produced yet another signature guitar for Ed Sheeran in celebration of his new album 'Divide'. This forms a trilogy of signature guitars from the pop superstar and offers fans and travel guitar enthusiasts a high quality, great sounding guitar that will last a lifetime. Check out our demo and review of this limited edition Martin Ed Sheeran Divide Signature Edition 3 Acoustic Guitar below:
Watch our video review below:
ED SHEERAN'S MAIN FX PEDALS
Possibly Eddie’s most notable piece of equipment ever was his Boss RC-30 Looping Pedal. Sheeran used the RC-30 in most of his live performances and he’s probably the most recognised looper in the UK right now. Roland themselves believe that Mr. Sheeran is in fact “A master of looping on the cusp of greatness.”
After many years touring, Sheeran moved into more complex looping realms, with a massive custom pedalboard called "The Chewie Monsta".
As looping is a crucial part of Ed Sheeran's performance, he and his guitar tech decided to upgrade to this custom built unit, which allows for better sound quality, better looping and better control of the sound at bigger venues. According to his guitar tech, Trevor Dawkins:
"We needed to source a pedal that had separate outputs for the guitar, percussion, and vocal elements of the loop, allowing for separate treatments (reverb, echo, harmonizer etc.) at the front of the house, Chris and I spent about 6 months contacting every pedal manufacture worldwide that we could think of to get someone to help us come up with a pedal that would be future proof and sonically superior to the RC. Although a couple of manufacturers were interested, no one had an existing product that really came close to what we wanted to do in terms of numbers of outputs and attainable loop lengths."
The "Chewie Monsta" is not an FX pedal, it's a sophisticated, unique pedalboard controller that Ed uses to manipulate a Roland FC300 MIDI Controller which is placed off-stage, described by his tech as the "brain behind the looping system." The pedal controls Ed's new looper: a Mobius 2 VST plug-in, hosted on Ableton Live. (For more info on Mobius, which is a FREE software, visit circularlabs.com)
The Monsta has four Roland double pedal-type switches as well as two video screens to monitor the program’s record/overdub/playback functions as well as showing the time frame of the loop itself. The two far left switches (REC / STOP) are part of a Boss RC20 pedal, because Sheeran wanted to keep the same familiar feel. The remaining switches are taken from three Boss RE-20 pedals. Watch him using it at Glastonbury 2014:
According to Trevor Dawkins:
"The pedal allows Ed to record, overdub, and play back on any one of four synchronized loops, each of which has its own output, allowing us to now have the guitars, percussion and vocals separately, which is invaluable in a live situation. Ed can also now mute the loops individually, allowing him to alternate between different sections, such as a verse/chorus scenario. We also have an undo function, which allows Ed to clear the last overdub on the selected channel, should he need to."
Live, besides his guitar, Sheeran also plugs a Sennheiser e945 to the controller, which is used to loop his vocals. At gigs, Ed uses two mics. The second one is not for looping, it's used just for a clear signal.
As of 2017, Ed has upgraded the Chewie Monsta, with the 'Chewie II Monsta Looper'. Here it is below:
To get that "Shape Of You" sound, Ed is also using the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 MK2 for the keys part of the song. You can watch the whole performance of "Shape of You" LIVE from the 59th GRAMMYs below. Here, you can see the Chewie II in all it's glory and watch the man loop an entire song. Incidentally, the track sold 227,000 in it's first week and debuted at No.1 in the UK singles chart - not bad considering he plays everything himself! Ed can plug the keyboard, microphone and guitar into this beast.
Boss RC-30 LoopStation - Sheeran’s Crème de la Crème
In addition to his concerts, Sheeran has used the Boss RC-30 in a number of videos, for the likes of SBTV, such as his “remix” of 'You Need Me, I Don’t Need You', which currently has over 5.5m hits on YouTube. The RC-30 has made an appearance in many other videos including 'Wayfaring Stranger' and 'Small Bump'.
This pedal is a fantastic tool for any singer-songwriter who want to enrich their solo performance, so it's no wonder it's become Ed Sheeran's essential on stage tool, only replaced more recently.
Featuring two synchronised stereo tracks, each independently controllable with volume faders and track select buttons and an auto-recording feature that starts recording the moment you begin playing/singing there’s no wonder why countless artists are climbing on board this loop train.
The RC-30 comes with a great line-up of creative looping effects built-in, including pitch bend, step phaser, sweep filter and tempo delay. Plug in your microphone through the XLR connection with an option of Phantom Power for condenser mics; with the RC-30 you’re options are always open.
If you feel inspired by Ed Sheeran and want to experiment with a looping pedal, there are also other good options available, so check them out:
- Boss RC-1 Loop Station
- Blaxx Looper Mini
- Electro-Harmonix Nano Looper 360
- Vox VII-1 Lil' Looper
- Boss RC-3 Loop Station
But if you want something closer to the "Chewie Monsta" in terms of functionality, there are a few options. If you want a huge amount of functionality the best options is the Boss RC300 Loop Station Guitar Pedal, which allows you to plug your microphone and guitar, and choose between looping either or both:
Another pedal used by Ed Sheeran is the Boss TU-3 Guitar Tuner, a very practical and easy to use tuner that's a favourite among many top performers. This white pedal can be seen on many live videos and pretty much every professional pedal board around the world as it's an industry standard:
ED SHEERAN'S ACOUSTIC GUITARS
There has been a lot of interest on this front recently, everybody wants to know what guitar Ed Sheeran Plays. Well we’ve done our research and we’re pretty sure we can answer that question, so you can all stop wrecking your brains trying to catch a glimpse of his headstock.
Mr. Sheeran has found the guitar that works for him, and stuck with it. Although many of us might say that once we’d hit the big time we’d go splash out on a top of the range guitar that costs more that we’d make in a year, Sheeran pushed aside that ‘gotta buy big’ mentality and settled down with the incredible LX1E Little Martin.
Now that's... a guitar with character!
MARTIN LX1 LITTLE MARTIN
The LX1 Little Martin is a popular and affordable acoustic, also very suitable for beginners. This is a great guitar and the perfect model for Ed Sheeran fans! There's also a very budget friendly electro acoustic version too, the LX1E Little Martin.
MARTIN LXME LITTLE MARTIN
The LXME Little Martin is another great guitar for Ed Sheeran fans who perform live, because it's an electro-acoustic model with a great sounding pickup.
The Little Martin is in extremely high demand at the moment!
Ed Sheeran’s Little Martin guitar, although constructed to a smaller scale than your regular acoustic, is in fact a superb quality and highly praised instrument. This Martin & Co LX1E travel guitar is recognised for its quality sound and playability. In fact, it's one of the best travel guitars ever, thanks to it's size, playability and budget friendly pricing. It is comfortable to hold and easy to lug around with you on the fly, so we can understand why it was Sheeran’s instrument of choice, I mean, he played over 300 gigs in one year for goodness sake and keeps going!
Despite its downsized 23” scale neck and small, modified 0-14 (uncovered) fret design, the LX1E Little Martin produces a full, broad sound with a surprisingly good bass tone. It has equally good high end and low end response, with a pretty impressive ability to sustain and project. It’s got everything you need in an acoustic.
The most recent Martin Ed Sheeran X Signature Edition Guitars are structured using a Solid Spruce top with inlaid Koa "X" and feature really cool custom appointments such as the Black Ping tuning knobs, black richlite bridge and fingerboard with black bridge pins, saddle and nut. To celebrate his platinum selling album "Multiply" the cool green "X" inlays are featured along the fretboard and on the headstock.
Ed has made the LX1E Little Martin his own with this signature edition, taking a lesser known but sweet sounding Martin and making it a great busking and gigging all rounder. Plus for every one sold a donation is made to East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. Check it out in more depth here.
HOW TO SOUND LIKE ED SHEERAN: THE AFFORDABLE ALTERNATIVES
For the more budget conscious player, you can't go wrong with the Washburn WDM8SNS Mini. This model looks almost identical to Ed's, but at a more budget friendly price:
The Washburn WDM8SNS Mini Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar is a hard wearing mini guitar perfect for any guitarist on the go. This mini acoustic guitar features a solid spruce top which delivers the warm rich tones you would expect from a dreadnought acoustic. Also available, the Washburn WDM8SENS electro-acoustic version.
The Washburn WDM18SNS Mini Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar ALL Mahogany is an excellent choice for those who missed out on the now discontinued Ed Sheeran signature model. The all-mahogany body gives it a darker, warmer tone, and looks simply stunning! Also available, the electro-acoustic version, ideal for live performers - the Washburn WDM18SENS Mini.
The Eastcoast James Neligan ASY-A Mini Travel Acoustic Guitar is a high quality, budget friendly acoustic travel guitar. A solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides ensure you have a bright and articulate tone to play with. An impressive guitar that will last many years of hard touring, and considering the fact it will cost you under £200, you can't go wrong really.
We actually wrote a blog on the best travel guitars, ideal for, well, travelling... If you prefer smaller scale guitars that don't skimp on quality or sound any of these travel guitars will set you up nicely on the way to that Ed Sheeran sound.
ED SHEERAN ELECTRIC GUITAR
OK, it's not quite as shocking as Bob Dylan going electric in the sixties, but it is still surprising to see Ed Sheeran playing an electric guitar! At the MTV EMA 2014 Awards, Ed was seen playing what looked like a "Crashocaster" guitar - the first of which was made for Eric Clapton in 1997. At first, Ed was under the impression that this was an Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster, given a custom "street-art" paintjob by New York artist John Crash Matos - but unfortunately it turned out to be a fake and a completely unauthorised copy. Ed immediately stopped playing it when he found out it was a fake!
To remedy the situation, Ed then asked Teddy M - an emerging British contemporary artist and John Crash Matos to collaborate to create the "Crash x Teddy M" Stratocaster . Ed would be seen playing this at his Wembley Stadium shows in 2015 and is currently using it on his current Divide world tour (2017). The Crash x Teddy M guitar can be seen below and more information can be found over at Teddy M's official site.
We reached out to Teddy M, who was kind enough to give us a little insight into the background behind this awesome guitar.
How did the project come about?
I read Ed is a big Clapton fan and when I saw him playing the fake Crash Strat at the Grammy Awards, I asked Crash about it. He wasn’t too happy and I let Ed’s management know. They very kindly and quickly confirmed Ed had no idea it wasn’t a real Crash painted guitar and that he would stop playing it immediately.
Ed’s management then said they would like to commission a collaboration between myself and Crash, to create something unique for Ed on a Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster. Given this all happened just as Ed was about to head out on the final leg of his X world tour and Ed was surprisingly now without an electric guitar, I offered to loan him my own 'Green T’ Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster while we completed his commission and which he then played for the remainder of the X tour.
How closely did you work with Ed on the project?
Ed was busy touring, so I was communicating with his manager whenever they had cellphone signal. To Ed’s credit, he was happy for myself and Crash to come up with our own design and to be honest, this was a relief. It took the pressure off, there were no expectations, we were free to create our own artwork.
What was the inspiration behind your ideas?
Crash is an art legend, much underrated likely because he's still alive! He is regarded as the pioneer of street art, exhibiting with the greats in the 80’s, namely Andy Warhol, Basquiat, and Haring. Crash uses the ‘Eye’ symbol in many of his works including Clapton’s main Crashocaster, so you see this prominently displayed on the front of Ed’s guitar. We worked together on agreeing the colours and this was the first time I used the ‘Teddy M Heart’ symbol which has since gone on to form the basis of the first Royal graffiti with British Royalty and also the recent Range Rover Autobiography Art Car.
Is there a third collaboration with Ed in the works?
I’ve asked Ed’s manager if he’d like something special for Glastonbury, so who knows… though I’m quite content seeing the ‘Crash x Teddy M’ Stratocaster given it was created with one of my living art heroes for, as GQ said, “The Biggest Selling Male Popstar on the Planet!"
A good alternative to this style of Fender Stratocaster - but in beautiful gold finish - is the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster 50s Sherwood Green Metallic.
Ed was also seen playing a Vox AC30 along with his Fender Strat way back in 2015, when he joined Beyonce and Gary Clark Jr on stage for a Stevie Wonder Medley. Here's the tweet from Fender guitars (with the fake Crashocaster).
ED SHEERAN'S STUDIO EQUIPMENT
When it comes to the studio equipment Ed Sheeran's uses, one product in particular made a huge impact on the singer songwriters sound - the Focusrite ISA 430 MkII. This great interface was used by world renowned music producer Guy Massey.
The Grammy award winning engineer and producer Guy Massey, recorded two tracks on Sheeran’s album +.
"One track was guitar and vocal and the other was piano and vocal - it was all live.” Massey used a ribbon mic and the Focusrite ISA430 MkII and says, “both songs are just very pure recordings really, and when we came to tracking we had a few preamps to choose from, but I just chose the ISA430 MkII because you can just dial things in so quickly. It’s very intuitive in its layout and I always find it very easy to get a great sound, whether it be a clean and pure vocal or slamming drum destruction.”
The Focusrite ISA430MkII represents the pinnacle of Focusrite’s analog channel strip technology.
Combining all of the classic designs into one comprehensive production tool. The 430 features an optional 192kHz/24-bit A-D conversion with soft limiter , Phase-cancellation de-esser for more natural processing and a VCA-based expander/gate with "hysteresis" setting to avoid chattering.
With such impeccable specifications we can see why Massey and Sheeran fell in love with this sweet bit of kit. Focusrite, always aiming to please were sure to include these four main elements into the ISA430 MkII. The classic Focusrite transformer-based mic pre with variable input impedance, EQ with two dual-range parametrics HPF and LPF, and of course a dual mode compressor with both VCA and optical circuitry. These can each be accessed individually and can be used as separate processors.
The possibilities are pretty lengthy with the ISA430 MkII, there’s simply nothing quite like it.
Sheeran says "Jake and Guy captured everything I wanted to capture. The album sounds exactly how I wanted it, so thanks Focusrite!"
THE MIC LINE-UP
Ed Sheeran’s producer, Jake Gosling is a big fan of sE electronics microphones and uses then frequently with a lot of his artists, from Lady Gaga to Timbaland.
Sheeran used an sE4400a microphone for recording acoustic guitars, live pianos and percussion in both the No.5 Collaboration Project and in his debut album +, which also features some vocal recordings from the sE Z3300a condenser microphone. The sE Z3300a seems to pop up in many of Sheeran’s live YouTube performances, including the ‘You Need Me l Don’t Need You’ video.
Sheeran also used an sE4400a microphone for recording acoustic guitars, live pianos and percussion on this same album, and with the sound quality of this guy’s tracks, we have no reason to doubt its performance ability.
Here’s what Jake Gosling had to say about sE Microphones:
“I use the sE4400a pair all the time now! I record a lot of guitars and live piano with them, and they’re a fantastic vocal mic too. They’re incredibly versatile… a brilliant set of mics, and nowadays I can’t live without them. They build quality, performance and sound, are totally reliable and very true.”
sE Electronics Z3300a
The Z3300A microphone is in fact the most versatile class A FET microphone in the SE Electronics range, utilizing a large 1.07” twin diaphragm, giving the engineer a choice of the three most widely used polar patterns, omni, cardioid and figure of eight.
Couple this with a 100Hz low cut filter and new ultra clean, ultra quiet Z range electronics and the Z3300A is the ultimate solid state microphone for almost all recording applications, from vocals, to pianos and acoustic instruments, as Jake and Ed have proved. Check out the full range of sE Electronics microphones.
sE Electronics 4400a
sE Electronics 4400a condenser microphone is often compared to the incredibly popular AKG C414 (now discontinued) as it is a true all-rounder, versatile and does a great job in every recording situation you give it.
The sE Electronics 4400a inherits its dual capsule design from the highly successful sE2200a II, with four polar patterns (Cardioid, Hypercardioid, Figure of 8 and Omni), 2 bass cuts at 60Hz and 120Hz, and 2 pads at 10 and 20dB.
Ed Sheeran and the Beautiful, Tall & Sleek Neumann U87
The Neumann U87 Microphone is one of the most prestige microphones available on the market, and is practically a piece of permanent furniture in... well, too many studios to mention.
The U87 can be seen in Ed Sheeran’s live YouTube recording of 'Wayfaring Stranger', famous for its warm sound and well balanced characteristics, the U87 really brings out the best in every performance.
The current U87A yields a 6dB improvement in signal-to-noise over its predecessor. A 10 dB attenuation switch is located on the rear. It enables the microphone to handle sound pressure levels up to 127 dB without distortion and the low frequency response can be reduced to compensate for proximity effect.
... But let’s be honest, talking about all of the technicalities is pretty much useless until you actually hear this mic's quality for yourself, so check out Ed Sheeran performing 'Wayfaring Stranger' with the Neumann U87 here.
Sheeran Gives his Paw Printed Acoustic the AKG Treatment
The AKG C 425 B pencil mic was spotted playing the role of Sheeran’s guitar mic in his live performance video for the song ‘Small Bump’. This mic is an excellent tool for accurately capturing signals rich in transients like those with a percussive sound.
Using an extremely light diaphragm, the AKG C 451 B is almost totally insensitive to handling noise. Other features include an all-metal body for excellent protection from RF interference and high reliability for excellent results under almost all conditions. Plus, it’s just beautiful! With its sleek and slim body; nothing could look that cool and not sound great. View a complete range of AKG microphones and recording equipment.
Recently, Ed Sheeran was spotted using a pair of Beyer-Dynamic DT770 headphones, a superb choice for anyone who wants professional monitoring at a quite reasonable price...
Recent Ed Sheeran News
Ed Sheeran is still breaking streaming records and well on his way to becoming one of the greatest selling artists the UK has ever produced. We can't wait to see what he does next. You can find out more about Ed Sheerans latest releases and live dates here.
We’re sure to have more to add to the Ed Sheeran Gear Guide soon enough so watch this space for updates with the latest gear he’s been spotted using!
If you hear anything new and you think we should ad it to our Ed Sheeran gear Guide , feel free to update us and comment below.
View a complete range of guitars and effects pedals over at PMT Online.