It feels like Carlos Santana has been around forever, and in his time he’s probably used a fair amount of gear in his setups. In his infinite wisdom he has decided that less is definitely best, and runs a seriously minimalist gear rig these days. However, it’s no wonder he doesn’t bother with a whole lot of gear, because the gear he has is some pretty impressive stuff.
PRS Santana II
This guitar has been Santana’s go to axe for years now, and is customised specifically for his needs. If possible he prefers to play a whole show through with one guitar, and so the main reason he is going to switch guitars is if one goes out of tune. Some of the changes to facilitate this are PRS Phase III locking tuners being put in, as well as a Prototype locking bridge system and brass nuts. The guitar features a maple top and mahogany back as well as a solid rosewood neck and fingerboard. Interestingly, because of EU import regulations Santana has this guitar essentially duplicated, but with an Indian rosewood neck and fingerboard.
Toru Nittono Model T Jazz Nylon
Santana plays this guitar on a stand out on stage, and it’s one of the more unusual looking guitars in his collection. With the tone and volume controls tucked away under the fingerboard and further controls including mid-range, cut and overall output volume inside the back of the guitar, there’s very little chance of the setting being accidentally knocked or changed on stage, but they are accessible enough for when he needs them.
1973 Mesa Boogie Mark 1
It appears that Santana is not one to change his gear up once he finds something he likes, as he’s been using this amp since the 1970s. It is an original version of the amp, wrapped in a snake skin finish. Since he’s been using it Mesa Boogie have actually reissued the amp with his help, with the ‘King Snake’ amp sounding very similar, if you’re after that classic Santana sound.
Bludotone Universal Tone
Santana has two of these in his setup when he performs, and he had these built for him by Brandon Montgomery. In what is another quirk of his rig, one of them is actually the prototype model of the other amp. These are Santana’s main dirty amps for lead tones, and he doesn’t really try and achieve a clean tone with it.
Dumble Overdrive Reverb
There are also two of these on stage with Santana, and he switches between them, the Bludotones and the combo amp on an as needed basis for each song. All of the amp heads run through PRS 4x12 cabinets.
Custom RMC4 Picture Wah Pedal
Santana uses pedals very sparingly, and this is the only real pedal on his board that he interacts with in a meaningful way during shows. The pedal has been slightly modded for Santana’s personal tonal request.
TC Electronic D-Two Delay
This delay effect sits in the off-stage rack unit and is enabled by his guitar tech whenever it’s needed. Apart from these two effects the only other things in Santana’s current set up are amp switching pedals and a Pete Cornish LD-1 preamp. This is a real testament to the playing and the gear of Santana that he doesn’t need much gear to entertain crowds night after night.