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Marshall

Marshall 1987x

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 ūüôā

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.

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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.

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The 61 Reissue, best SG out there?

Why is it always that guitar manufacturers do reissues of the first year they released a¬†design? 61 Reissue for SGs, 52 for Telecasters, 54 for Stratocasters, Les Paul is probably the exception…

Whatever the reason is, it works. I’ve always found the 61 reissue to be the easiest to play, with a thin neck but a flat fretboard it’s just butter.

It sports two 57′ humbuckers, which for me are ¬†the finest pickups ever produced by Gibson, they have a really smooth tone and crazy sustain, almost Les Paul like. The hardware is nickel instead of chrome, that means it’s not annoyingly shiny so you get this sort of faded metal colour which ages very nicely.

These where produced until 2013 where they were replaced by the SG Standard, the Standard from 2013 is not the exact same guitar as a 61 reissue.. but it comes pretty close, they use 57′ humbuckers and half pickguard, although the hardware is all chrome instead of Nickel.

The 61 reissue actually started under the name “62 Reissue”, which wast first produced somewhere in the 80s and around mid 90s the name changed to 61 reissue, I think the specs and hardware were maintained.

If you are in the market for an SG standard… which will set you back roughly 1200 US dollars.. try to find a used 61 Reissue… they will hold their value a lot better than a standard and for me… it’s a superior guitar, just be careful with the fretwear.

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Marshall JMP 2200 & vintage Celestions

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.

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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.

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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.

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Going custom

“Custom”… that is such a sexy word for¬†guitar players, for some of us getting a custom is just reaching the top! -of guitar shopping that is-

So 2 years ago I decided to give myself a birthday present… and this in fact was¬†a Jaydee guitar, made by John Diggins, who is the genius who came up with the Lightning bolts on Angus Young’s guitar, -our good friend¬†Solo Dallas has this info covered on this link– back in late 70s and early 80s John used to repair Angus’ guitars, to a point were¬†Angus’ original 1971 Standard only had the Gibson headstock left from the original guitar… everything else had been rebuilt by John.

So to me… ordering this guitar wasn’t only a big deal because it was custom made… but also because it’s something very unique that was ¬†built specifically for Angus’ and he toured with it during the tour of ’81, and they are not that many out there, in fact there are only 4, so it is pretty unique!.

The whole experience of ordering the guitar is such a surreal thing,¬†you feel special… the fact that you are talking to the guy who is a legend and will be building your guitar is just… incredible.

Fast forward 12 months, and I started getting updates via their Facebook page and you see how these guys create a masterpiece from just a piece of wood.

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And you also see your name on that wood! might not mean much to some… but it does mean a lot to us!.

Fast forward 2 months and I got this:

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All sanded and ready for spraying!

and just 2 weeks later I get this:

Step by step… built, paint, finish!

I was so excited! of course…I drove up to their office in Birmingham that same Saturday to pick her up:

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It was such a mix¬†of emotions… because you wait for so long you get the updates and then that’s it… it’s done… and¬†you are there… playing it… it feels that it doesn’t still belong to you… feels like you need to tame her… for me it is such an iconic guitar… that I felt I need to gain her respect, which I’m still doing… and playing her as often as I can.

It’s such a massive¬†experience, I don’t know why it has hit me so much, I think the combination of such a great instrument but also being one of Angus’ guitars… is just too much to take in.

The instrument itself is flawless, the craftsmanship that goes into this thing is out of this world, but I think what I enjoyed the most was the whole treatment I got, the way these guys deal with you.. they make you feel like a rock star, they reply to your emails in record time, they send you updates via Facebook and also.. you get to meet them and have a chat with them at their office. I got to hear some stories from Mike -John’s son- ¬†of when he was in the show that Angus’ received this guitar from John and jumped on stage… you find yourself talking to someone that is part of rock history, and also… you get to be in a place where Tommy Iommi’s been… he is local to Birmingham, UK and John builds guitars for him.

Waiting 18 months is not easy… but the reward is so big… you’ll be wanting to wait another 18 months pretty soon!.

If you do have the chance… treat yourself to something special.

 

A day in NYC…(support the locals!!)

So I recently went on holiday to the Big City, did the typical touristy stuff but I wanted to do something special with the music stores… of course we can go to Guitar Center and fool around with pretty much anything they have there… but I wanted a “true” NYC experience…
I woke up that day and added to my google maps all the music stores up to Central Park, after 30 minutes of research, my itinerary looked like this:

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I’ll go into more detail later… but it took me around 2 days to do the whole thing¬†,¬†it was a tremendously rewarding experience, I¬†used to¬†skip local stores and go¬†to big chains like Guitar Center or Samash, mainly because I used to find it a bit uncomfortable asking to play a specific guitar to the owner in a small store where “everyone” is watching you or expecting to buy something or “get the hell outta my store”, but this was just my perception of being just a kid and not realizing how annoying big stores are… filled up with kids treating instruments like toys or¬†people shredding away at high volume disturbing everyone else at the store.

So I packed up by bag put some comfortable shoes and headed to the streets.

From South to North.. these are the stores I went into:

Rudy’s Music ¬†Shop(461 Broome Street):¬†had an extremely luxurious selection of guitars, it was just breathtaking seeing not only custom shop guitars but also guitars owned by famous artists and some limited runs.¬†A great place to visit and admire some gems they have there…

 

 

Rivington Guitars 73 East 4th Street: As the owner describes it “Little guitar store” it is little but packed with some gorgeous SGs,¬†most of them vintage and at a great price! he had a 68 for like 3 grand or something, so you can tell the guy is not trying to pull one on you by selling you overpriced vintage stuff! I wish I had gone back to that store because my visit didn’t make it any justice,

 

 

Chelsea Guitars (224 West 23rd Street):¬†This¬†is the one that will steal all my good memories from New York, I went into the store presenting my self as a “blogger” I’m sure that’s what every store owner wants to hear… I almost wanted to tell him… “I have a blog.. but I’m still cool”, anyway… I think I spent 2 to 3 hours in total ( I visited the place twice) Danny had so many cool stories and he dedicated time to each one of them, he had some exquisite and beautiful guitars there… some old and some newer ones (he did take the time to explain¬†what really is an Old guitar!, thanks Danny). This is a must visit and please dedicate time¬†to it and of course buy something! although he won’t force it on you,¬†if you don’t have much cash on you (we musicians never do!) just buy a t-shirt they are very cool.

 

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30th Street Guitars (27th between 6th and 7th ave) : This store reminded me of Rudy’s but it’s “friendlier” you can browse around without any guilt, they had some beautiful guitars, I spoke to the technician or the owner.. (who knows) and he confessed that he had spent time fixing Angus’ guitar for the show of the 14th of September at the Madison Square Garden, (my whole purpose of the trip). again… great place to visit

Rogue Music (30th between 6th and 7th ave):¬†Another cool store this one, I don’t think they had any of my particular interest… I mainly care about SGs, but the owner was exceptionally nice.

I won’t comment on Samash or ¬†Guitar Center… you probably already now what a chain store looks like :).

That’s my list… those where my best 2 days in NYC, I loved every minute of it, everyone was exceptionally nice and now I understand the concept of supporting local business… I’m sure they have plenty of customers in NYC… but if you have local stores in your area that you haven’t been to, please do… go there talk to people and get involved, they’ll surely appreciate your custom.

Instant Angus

This is the reputation the SD Storm earned, a pedal that you plug in and Angus Young sound comes out of the speakers… so, is it true?

Yes!, definitely the pedal gives you that extra bite that Angus achieves with his tone, this is not a distortion pedal, in my opinion it’s a combination of an aggressive booster and a compressor,¬†allowing you to have sustain and overdrive without loosing clarity on your tone.

The pedal is simple… 3 knobs, Power, Storm and Snap, which I think they mean Input, Output and Compression, I could be wrong though but to my ear this seems to be the effect they cause on the tone.

The achieved¬†tone from¬†the pedal is very¬†affected by the Amp setup (duh) but really… you can’t just set your amp to clean and plug and play like a distortion pedal,¬†because it’s not a distortion pedal… so it needs the right level of gain and volume from the amp.

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I tested it using my 71 Gibson SG and the Eric Clapton Stratocaster. I’ll comment on both separately:

Gibson SG: I used the¬†OD1 channel with very little distortion (3) and on volume on 7 on the Marshall TSL, with the overall master on 1 (Yes, I got neighbours), the pedal configuration was: Power:10, Storm:7,Snap:5. I loved the tone that came out of the speaker but I was missing something… and it was volume… as we all know, great guitar tone is achieved by volume so I switched to my Blackstar HT1R using the emulated output straight to my headphones, used the clean channel with gain on 6 and master on 9, and it just blew my mind, everything was there the clarity of Angus’ tone but also the heavy “distortion” he has, Angus has a very distinctive E Chord sound.. it just sounds so bassy but clear… and you get just this with the Storm, using the guitar volume on 6¬†¬†and 10 for the solos.

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EC Stratocaster:¬†Marshall TSL on the clean channel, with gain on 5 and master on 1.5,the pedal:¬†Power:10, Storm:7 and Snap on 5. SRV instantly came hrough my amp,¬†using the neck pickup I fell in love all over again with my Strat, (tuned half step down), that classic glassy sound you get on the Strat but slightly overloaded¬†it’s a very addictive tone, and again the clarity remained there, every note and string sounded as clear as it would be coming out of the clean channel.

Overall I liked the pedal very much, it’s very hard to describe the sound, sometimes I think it is¬†similar to what you can¬†achieve with a distortion pedal, but it’s also far away from it, because the clarity that your tone has with the Storm can’t be achieved with a normal distortion pedal. If you are after a classic rock¬†sound THIS is the only thing you need to add to your rig.

The price tag on this baby is $335 US dollars, it’s not cheap but you have to think that this pedal is hand built by one guy… not an assembly line in a massive factory, so this impacts directly on the cost of the product.

The presentation was very good, I got a T-shirt and a big picture of Fil and Angus, signed by Fil, there are no instructions manual, which of course are not needed, however I feel that this should’ve included some sort of ideal set up to achieve Angus’ tone, Fil has worked extremely hard to achieve this and I’m sure he has a few tips that we would all love to hear.

Head to www.solodallas.com to get the pedal.

Is it worth buying the real deal?

We choose this “profession” because we like music… and we¬†probably have a favourite band and a favourite musician, and this guy/girl will use¬†certain type of gear, so when we start our guitar playing journey we always try to sound like someone and we use all sorts of excuses like “when I get my proper Gibson SG my technique will improve, everything will be easier”, and then we have the amplifiers…. “I can’t get that sound because I don’t have a Marshall JTM45 with Celestion green backs ” and so on…

The list of gear is immense and infinite but there is one thing we can’t buy or get as fast as we would like… and that is ability which needs practice… which is achieved by being a disciplined guitar player and practising a couple of hours per day.

But do we really need all this gear to sound like our guitar hero? debatable… I don’t think we actually need the big brands but I do think it adds mojo to our playing, for example…. an Epiphone will cost ¬£200, the same model built by Gibson will cost ¬£1000, does that mean there is an extra ¬£800 of quality? or, that our tone is going to sound ¬£800 better?

Not really…. yes they use better quality electronics and better wood…. but I’m sure one of the reasons why American brands are so expensive is due to¬†salary wages, an average Chinese factory worker earns 1/3 of their American colleagues, and this is all translated to our beloved Guitar/Amps cost, not only the employees but also management, real estate, etc.

The first time I picked up a Gibson I couldn’t believe it… the smell of the wood.. the¬†quality of the finish, and of course… the similarity with Angus’ guitar, which I think is the most important aspect of my Gibson, because let’s face it… we need to be in a good mood to be able to perform well and what gets us in a better mood than having a real Gibson and a real valve driven Marshall, I don’t know what it is but they have a different mojo and when I pick up my Gibson I feel in heaven and I just play better… maybe it’s because there are no excuses why I should make mistakes? since there is no where to hide in a pro guitar, ¬†you can’t get anything better than what you already have.

It takes loads of time and money to find your tone and if you are just beginning this process of buying stuff… enjoy it… and buy as many guitars and amps as possible, all of them will sound different and all of them will have a different effect on you, and try not to sell your old gear, although in my case I had to keep selling to keep buying but this allowed me to go through tens of different guitars and amps.

On the images you’ll see all the gear I have owned throughout the last 15 years, unfortunately I only own a fraction of it now, but everything I owned as helped me shape my sound¬†and way of playing.

It’s a beautiful journey but it is expensive and sometimes frustrating, but as I previously said… enjoy it because¬†you will only go through it once.

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Marshall Code

So, a few weeks ago Marshall posted on their official Facebook account that on the 21st of January they where going to “change the world” again or something like that, when I saw that¬†I got really anxious and I honestly had no idea what could they possibly launch, they don’t need much do they? it’s like Coca Cola… they got the brand and the recipe… nothing needs to be improved, no matter how many flavours they launch you always go back to the regular Coca Cola, however they’ve launched something called “Code”, which is effectively a modelling amp.

Marshall has been smart about this, let’s be honest.. there are tons of amp modellings… but they are from Line 6 or VOX, and to be honest they are not the most popular amps out there… but they offer modellings that “recreate” the sound of the classics, however… nothing gets more classic than a good old Marshall tube amp, and if you’ve tried these modelling amps I think it’s fair to say that they are excellent… but you still want a Marshall.

The idea behind this is brilliant, it’s a cheap-ish (¬£169 for the 25w combo version) solid state amp that can recreate pretty much any other amp in the Marshall range, but it’s not only that… for those of you that are crazy about tubes/valves this little amp lets you combine pre-amps with output amps using different combinations of tube types on either of one of them, and this is great¬†because this is something that’s hard to achieve when you have a tube amp, you can’t just go around¬†changing tubes without re-biasing or buying adapters.

I don’t know about you but I’m thrilled with this and can’t wait to get my hands on one, I’ll certainly be sharing the experience if I do so!

Main photo is from Marshall official website: link

here is a cool video from Marshall showing the features of this product:

A decent practice session

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.

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