Spent last Sunday at the Birmingham Guitar Show here in the UK, it was a great day, the place was buzzing and there were loads of stands.
ATB had their display of vintage guitars including two 1960 Les Pauls at £300k! There was a nice 1962 ebony block SG. First time I see one of them in person. All in all it was a feast for our eyes.
As I walk past the Orange stand… it comes to my mind a distant memory of me using an Orange at a rehearsal place and quite liking it. So I stopped to see what they had, it wasn’t much… but one of the guys from Orange approached me and talked me through their collection, they had this OR15 heavily discounted because it was in black tolex and apparently hadn’t sold well.
I was with a friend who was lugging his 69SG which he offered me for trying out the amp, these places tend to be loud and it’s hard to really test anything out… but as soon as I plugged in and hit a note… I knew I was buying this thing.
It sounds like something between a Marshall and a Mesa Boogie, it has the Marshall growl but the mesa boogie sustain and body. I heard that Orange amps tend to be a bit on the darker side. This could be true… but speakers play a big part.
It sounds great, it complements the SG really well, it also has great response at al volumes, it doesn’t fall apart if you abuse the gain or the volume.
It’s not made in the UK as it’s not top of the line but still it is a great amp, this black edition i saw it retailing at anything between £550 and £600, I paid £349 at the guitar show!
If you are looking for a small amps that can kick like a mule… try this one out, it’s more manageable than the SV 20 H as it has a master volume and gain knobs, which means you can probably get a clean-ish sound for pedals.
These are cute, aren’t they? Like little monsters before they get angry and start roaring!
The SV20H is part of the new series of Marshall, attempting to deliver classic rock sounds at friendly volume levels, they also have a re-vamp of the jcm800 called Studio Classic.
The SV20H is a 1959SLP but with 20 Watts instead of 100, or… a 1987x at 20 Watts instead of 50.
It also has the ability to go down to 5. Now… you might think… oh good, I can use this at bedroom levels… wrong!
5 watts is borderline ok for a rehearsal, the full 20W is loud enough for a gig and no microphone required for the cabs.
The SV20H is an awesome bit of gear, the tone is there, the classic Marshall tone we all want.. is there, I used to have a 1987x and sold it on, It was heavy and I was always carrying an attenuator I also sort of fell out of love when I bought the Mesa Boogie 295 + the studio preamp.
I honestly think that the SV20H is an improved version of the 1987X and also a friend of mine has the same feeling… and he owns an original 1987.
It cuts through better… it creates better feedback.. more responsive, better clarity. It’s an improved Marshall, companies seem to have taken the chance to make things better and not just repeat history… I also cover this subject on my latest Gibson SG Custom Shop.
Technology is better than 50 years ago, this doesn’t mean we live in the future and we stop using the same concepts as before, there’s no need to revolutionise the gear we use… but… better components, more reliable, and more importantly… better testing environments, more time… smarter people and… a bigger customer base always gives you more feedback. There is more competition than we ever seen before and brands are listening.
Continuing with the Rack units… but… I’m not getting a rack… I’ll just use them as heads…
Man is this thing powerful or what?!? So… specs are: weighs around 22 kgs it has 2 output transformers capable of delivering 2x 95 watts each, you can push a lot of cabs! 4 in total if you use the outputs… however… with a cab switcher… you can push 4 16 ohm cabs per channel… a total of 8!! That’s a full Stadium rig!
6L6 and El34 tubes, so each channel has 2 modes.. Class A through the EL34 at 30 watts, or Class A/B at 95 watts using also the 6L6. What’s cool about this… well… apart from having different tones… you can run the channel at 30 or 95 Watts, which makes quite a bit of difference.
In total this unit has 12 tubes, which translates into £200 for a whole set of JJ tubes… it has 2 channels with independent stand by switches and volume knobs, it has 2 presence controls… one for each channel.
The volume knobs are just great, they behave like a hi-fi knob, you can just tame the volume to any level you want, but more importantly the volume sweeps in a beautiful way, there’s no sudden increases or drops like on Marshall amps.
I’m running this power amp together with a Studio Preamp, this is pushing 4 cabs at a total of 4 ohms, and man…. this thing sounds huge! Also loud… but the sound has this 3D sort of thing about it, pretty much like a Matchless, I’m not entirely sure if this Power amp colours the tone or not… but I’ve read that some people are actually using it for hi-fi, so I’m guessing the unit just amplifies whatever the preamp is putting out.
If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll know that I’m after the AC/DC Donington 1991 sound, during the razor’s edge tour, this combination of the 295 and Studio Preamp pretty much nails the tone, it’s almost addictive!
I’m yet to use this in a live environment (thanks Covid 19) but I’ve played relatively loud at my studio (100db) and it is just a gorgeous tone! Of course I’ve been testing it with my SGs.
I hear that rack units are out of fashion… and people are buying 15W combos or heads… I’ll tell you what people are not thinking about… headroom… 100W is loud… but… running a 100W amp at half volume sounds much nicer than a 20 W amp at full volume, the articulation that you get with the massive transformers of a 100W cannot be achieved with a 20W head/combo.
The Power amp plus the preamp weighs a total of 26kg. My Marshall 1987x weighs around 15 and an SLP 1959 weighs 20Kg… so… yeah.. these Mesa are heavier, but can you put a price on tone? Would you care carrying an extra 6kg if you know your tone will be much closer to what you want?
Of course not… 6kgs is nothing… just ditch some other crap from your rig. These units are outstanding and I’m pretty sure that they will come back into fashion soon.
Mesa is one of those brands that we look up to… but sometimes we don’t really know why, it’s high end… but it’s mainly used by shredders, so…. I don’t know I just never really considered them however they always had a very respectable position on my Amp brand ranking.
So… I was born on 1983, my first AC/DC memories are from razors edge album and the famous 1991 Donington concert, this for me… is the AC/DC sound, this is what I listened to a thousand times, this is what I played air guitar to, this what I sang to, this is the VHS that I watched so many times that tape was beginning to stretch.
Why is this concert one of the best ever live performances not only of AC/DC but… of every band that has ever rocked this earth. well… I don’t know, it is beautifully shot, the crowd size is overwhelming, that little acrylic floor was a groundbreaking idea, Angus and Malcolm’s playing is just incredible, Chris Slade sitting on the drum throne with those massive ground toms up in the air… such an iconic image. The stage is also incredible, Angus walking up and down those ramps… it looked like something from the future.
Fast forward a lot of years! (Like 25) and I find out that AC/DC used Mesa Boogies in their late 80s, thanks to this Japanese magazine I now knew part of the secret recipe of why Donington sounded so good.
What is this preamp? Is it a combo? Is it a head? No rubber feet?
Well… this is a rack unit and according to the internet, these are not in fashion anymore… but that might change :p
This bit of kit is outstanding. 4 ecc83 + 1 ecc81 for the reverb, this is built like a tank!! Remember the boss pedals that you could run over with a car and still work? Well… this feels the same, metal enclosure, metal panel, the wiring is a mix of point to point and hand-wiring.
So what does it do? Well… it creates happiness, some say these are difficult to dial in, but… with a little bit of research… I was riding the good tone wave within a few minutes, this thing is awesome, I tried not to get carried over with the amount of gain you can get out of this thing just because at the end of the day I’m after an AC/DC tone and not Megadeth, the unit has a lot of mids! But… there is a graphical 5 band EQ to tame anything you want.
The sound is great, it’s very articulate, even at high gains… notes don’t get lost, the tone cuts through nicely and the sustain is just the sweetest thing.
Within a few knob adjustments I was able to get the donington sound I’ve been after for a long time.
This unit requires a power amp, which I’ve ordered and it is still in customs… (thanks brexit) but for now I’m using my trusty 1987x FX return to skip the Marshall preamp and use the Power Amp section only.
One of the things I love about this unit is that it sounds big… it sounds like an arena… even at low volumes… although… I’m always playing at at least 95db in my studio.
I never thought I would buy a Mesa, they always intimidated me, a lot of knobs… and… can I only shred? Well… it seems like they are just awesome amps… and a bit infamous… I think you need to know how to dial them in. I’ve heard great things about the Lonestar and the Stiletto.
Do yourself a favour and go play one of these bad boys! You’ll be surprised!
Big year this one, I finally managed to acquire a Matchless amplifier, something I’ve been wanting for a looooong time.
Being totally honest… I loved the way the look, that was the main reason I wanted them, something that looks that good has to be good too.
There are not that many artists that use matchless, but the main one I care for is Ricardo Mollo, guitarist from Divididos and probably the Argentinean Hendrix, the guy is an animal and a tone freak, very colourful playing, interesting rhythms and sounds.
A few weeks back as usual I started watching videos about it… then reviews, then more videos, then pictures… and then I found one in Reverb at a very decent price, so I pulled the trigger.
The seller brought it to my house that very same day, I was super excited, a few hours later… the amp arrives. Oh my god, what a feeling… I think level of excitement matched the one I had when I got the 71SG and the Jaydee.
I first plugged in the telecaster… don’t ask me why… but I wanted to hear a single coil pickup
Man… as soon as I started playing I was in a sensory overload, the cleans… the depth of sound, it was like the first time you enter a house of mirrors… you just look everywhere and think “what the hell is going on”
Every chord just sounded perfect, every string had its own character, suddenly you can hear how the guitar was truly designed, I think this should be Matchless’ moto: “hear your guitar for the first time”
Let me dig deeper into this concept, I’m a Marshall Man, I have like 10 of them and I’ve always loved them way more than anything else, I’ve always thought that any other brand with a similar sound was just trying to imitate them, so… why bother trying them.. just get the real thing. But… you know when you are playing with the band.. or with just background music and your solos don’t cut through or you can’t really hear that high E string on the G chord? I know of course you can tweak your sound, etc. But I’m talking about a different level of “hearing everything”
Matchless provides cut through 360 degree sound, I don’t understand how they do it, my Matchless is a Lightning 15 Reverb, so it’s not top of their line but everything they do is top of the line…. everything is done to a level of detail that is out of this world.
I’ve started testing tones and everything just sounded incredible, the Treble and Bass control (yes… no mids) interact with each other in a ver intuitive way… and they are extremely responsive, you can go from scooped mids, high bass, high mids, high treble, etc but just playing around with these two knobs.
I play in an AC/DC tribute band, and I tell you… this amp does better AC/DC tone than a Marshall, and my usual setup is either the JTM45 or the 1987x with a 1960AX cab… so.. also top end stuff, but again… Matchless is just incomparable.
They are crazy expensive, but I suggest you find a way of trying them out, it’s a before and after experience, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing another brand any time soon… at least until I get to buy their flagship model… DC 30.
So… to summarise… Matchless is just that… something that is impossible to Match, something that has been done with so much care and thought that it can’t be better… everything has a purpose nothing was left to chance or to economic reasons, everything is there for a reason.
Those are all the Marshall amps (heads and combos) I’ve owned over the past 20 years, I’ve sold some of them and I must have around 8 or 9 at my home studio now, I’m only listing them so you have an idea of what my Amp Journey has been.
Once you enter the tube/valve world you don’t look back (sometimes you do :p) but this tube/valve world is complex, confusing, expensive, loud and heavy!!
Let’s talk about the Loud characteristic most of these amps posses, you can buy a 5 watt tube amp and it’ll still blow your pants off, there’s a number of reasons this happens, the speaker efficiency also plays a huge part of this, but let’s stick to the amp.
The guitar signal moves through the inside of the amp getting powered up and ready to come out of the speaker ready for you to enjoy, on this journey the signal acquires distortion, volume and EQ, now… valve amps have a “power section” which is where the famous power tubes come into play, this is where things get out of control on tube amps (mostly vintage jmp styles with no master volume) because this stage not only gets you the volume but it also gives you more distortion and a specific tone that you might be after.
Some Marshalls will have a Master Volume, and this controls the amount of voltage that gets routed to the power tubes, it also allows you to play with distortion at “bedroom levels”, but the most exciting Marshalls to play (plexi style) often don’t have a master volume…. what does this mean? Well… it means that you don’t have a gain control, so all the distortion comes from the volume, which means… you need a ridiculous amount of volume to get the distortion we all look for, this is THE distortion.. Page, Hendrix, AC/DC, etc. This is what we all want to hear from a Marshall.
So… why am I writing this? Because I’ve found ways to obtain this sound without going deaf, and believe me when I say…. these amps are loud! I wasn’t around in the 70s so I’m not sure how loud these bands would play in pubs, but it would’ve been deafening loud.
What you need is an attenuator, to attenuate the signal that the amp spits out before it hits the speakers, now… this is critical to remember. The Master Volume controls the voltage to the Power Tubes but the attenuator, lets the amplifier be and it attenuates the audio signal that goes to the speaker after it leaves the amp, so the amp tone is genuine… everything you want it to be. And why do we want this? Because power tubes are a component of the sound too so we need to let them be a part of the tone. The attenuator is a genius invention and gives us the ability to run these genuine marshall tones at bedroom levels
There are a lot of attenuator brands out there but I’m going to talk about the one I have but also give some pointers of what to look out for.
Don’t buy an L-pad attenuator. These can be found for like 30 bucks on ebay, they do work but they also catch fire quite easily if you overload them. Trust me.. I built one and once I tried to use it with a 100W amp and smoke started coming out even though it was for 100W. If you do use an L-pad attenuator get at least double the rating of the amp
Don’t buy attenuators that only work with one speaker load combination, THD hotplates, Palmer and some others offer attenuators at decent prices (£250) but they are designed for 4, 8 or 16 ohms, so you’ll need a new piece of equipment if you ever change your speaker combination.
I bought the Two Notes Reload, why? Because I found it at a good price and it has an ohm load selector along with other things, it’s a great piece of gear, it also has cab simulation and some other fancy stuff that I’ll never use.
We are in constant search for our sound… and I don’t think it’s a one way journey… it’s got many many curves, loops and we sometimes go back to places we’ve been, it’s definitely something that characterizes us musicians, there is always something we are missing, but I don’t want to come across as “hard to please” there are many many moments were you feel you have the perfect rig, the perfect setup, the perfect tone, that moment during rehearsal or a gig were you just feel you are sounding exactly as you think you should.
But the journey must continue :p. what’s the thing that we bump into a lot of times in our journey? Amps… and which brand? Marshall…. there is just nothing like it.. I’ve tried many many brands and models in fact I went ahead and tried a Friedman… and a Victory… and you know what they all compare themselves to? a Marshall… and what is everyone trying to sound like? a Marshall… but don’t get me wrong… Marshall was at the right place at the right time, anyone could’ve done it… but Jim was there in his shop when Eric Clapton came in looking for an amp, and that is the sound my generation relates to, not Eric.. but Marshall.
But… which Marshall? would any of them do? YES! try them all please, some are crap.. some are awesome… some of them work for different stages in your guitar life.
Anyway…. yes.. as the title says this is about the 1987x a Marshall that looks as good as it sounds and as loud as your mom calling out for lunch while you were out playing with your friends.
I owed it to myself… a Marshall with no master volume, were the distortion would come from turning that bastard all the way up to 11 (actually.. anything above 3 or 4 just creates more distortion and not volume.. 7 is about right for AC/DC) I knew that this amp would only be useful in a rehearsal with a really loud drummer or in a gig…. (stadium gig) but I wanted it anyway, even if I didn’t have the right attenuator.
This amp sounds so good! it’s just so 70s in your face guitar distortion… not too distorted, not too clean.. just about where you want it. I bought mine used… as like everything I buy because it’s cheaper and it’s just as good as new or even better… it has been broken in already 🙂
This is probably the purchase that I did more research for…. I’ve tried as I stated above… Friedman, Victory, JTM 45 and Cornell Amps (British made), the 1987 is the one that I liked best…. the one that represented the tone I was after… the Cornell one was awesome.. that came in second.. but I always knew that I would’ve still wanted a Marshall after buying a Cornell.
it’s got the basic controls but the difference here are the inputs.. it’s got 4 inputs… but.. what for!! well.. they are actually 2 + 2… two of them are high and 2 normal…. brighter vs less bright…. but you can combine them… I only use the high input, but you can connect a short cable between a input 1 and input 2 and then you can mix high and low so you have a bigger spectrum of sound.
I’m currently using it with a Torpedo Reload, it’s an attenuator with a lot more functions…. apparently it is also awesome for recording… but I haven’t tried that part yet.. I can say the attenuation bit works like a charm… you can control the volume with a normal knob…. and not with those stupid decibel steps like the Palmer or many others… it also has a multiple OHM selector… so it will work with 4,8 and 16ohms, easily changeable.
If you are into Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Hendrix, Ac/Dc or any thing that uses an electric guitar and has classic distortion… do not hesitate.. and try this amp.. it is Loud! you WILL need a good attenuator.. and they are not cheap so you need to budget at least half of what the amp costs for an attenuator.
I was in the market for some Celestion Greenback speakers (G12M) which are supposed to be the holy grail of speakers… together with the GH12.
Browsing on ebay… -as you do- I found someone selling this odd looking Marshall supposedly from circa 1976 which some Rola / Celestion speakers designed for Jim Marshall.
The seller was claiming that these speakers were in fact the famous GH12 -50 watts in this case- so I started doing my research, there is almost nothing about the JMP2200 all the Internet knows is that it’s a mid 1970 Marshall and it appears to be one of the first Solid State amps created by them.
I then moved on to researching the speakers, checked the serial number.. and boom! again.. 1976 Rola Celestions, I was so excited! long story short.. I went ahead and purchased the amp. It is probably the heaviest amp I’ve ever carried! after 3 days my arms are still in pain.
I plugged in my Gibson SG tinkered around with volume and… it was pure magic, the tone that comes out of this thing is unreal, I’ve owned probably around 20 Marshalls from different price brackets including of course 100% valve amps… and to me this JMP 2200 is the best thing I’ve heard, you get Ac/Dc tones without any effort, just plug in and play.
These beasts are not easy to find… but if you do see one on sale, do yourself a favour and purchase it! I paid around $180 US dollars for mine but I would’ve paid a lot more knowing it sounded this good.
Controls are pretty simple, the only thing that stands out are the inputs, it’s got 2 + 1 inputs, being bright and normal (?) -at least that’s how they sound to me- and one that combines and a volume for each.
It’s a well known fact that musicians have a hard time getting a decent practice session where we live, doesn’t matter if it’s a house or a small flat you’ll always be bothering someone if you try to drive the tubes on your amp.
So we usually spend loads of money trying to find a perfect practice amp, and I’m not saying I found the perfect couple… but pretty close to it.
I purchased a Blackstar HT1-R it’s 1W with a 8″ speaker and reverb, but… it has an 12ax7 tube which makes a big difference, it’s a pre-amp tube so it won’t give you a true tube sound but this amp sounds so big! I mean… 8″ speaker but it just has loads of oomph and at really decent volume, the best thing about this amp is that it’s loud enough to be used in a full band practice session but it’s also appropriate for “bedroom practice”, and it’s not too expensive, they go used for £150 or so.
All in all I totally recommend this amp as a practice amp, it’s so much better than a small Marshall.
Marshall… Marshall… (echoes..) so… I can’t insult a Marshall and even less when I’m talking about blackstar, as you may know Blackstar was founded by ex Marshall employees.
Of course my other favourite practice amp is a Marshall.. and it’s the already mentioned on this website Class 5. this is superb… but slightly louder and you need a bigger space to drive the 10″ speaker and the full tube circuit, even if you get the model that comes with a master volume (or an attenuator) it still feels that it needs more volume to get the best out of it… I absolutely love this amp and it just screams AC/DC all over the place it’s not versatile at all.. but then who wants versatility, we only want one thing.. or maybe two… Blues and Rock!
Add this Marshall Class 5 to the practice amp list… but only if you live in a house and you got a room far away from parents and neighbours, because you’ll need to crank it! and this one can be used for a gig or practice at any time.
So there you go… my 2 favourite practice amps. Marshall for blues or rock and Blackstar if you want to blast some Megadeth from your guitar.