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45 Degrees of Tone: The JTM45 Roundup

Germino Amplification Classic 45

Greg Germino is another lifelong guitarist who was bitten by the tube-amp bug after catching the Allman Brothers Band back in 1972. He was so inspired by that show that he switched over from acoustic to electric guitar and began taking electronics classes in high school. In 1979, he requested schematics from both Ampeg and Unicord (Marshall’s US distributor at the time) and began his hands-on education with tube amps. He spent the ‘80s at an electronics job, and by the early ‘90s he was moonlighting doing tube amp repair for a few music stores. He continued to play live with both 50W and 100W Marshalls during that time and moved to Durham, NC to work at Bull City Sound— working on tube amps from the big-name amp companies.

This led to Greg’s being commissioned by Mojo Musical, where he built their Tone Machine amplifier. The following year, 2002, he began work on the prototype of his Lead 55 amp, which debuted in May of 2002. The Classic 45 model is based on the earlier R/S-style output transformer, rather than the Drake 1202-103 used in the ‘65–’66 era, and the circuit is exactly what you would find in an earlier original. The R/S OT is supplied by none other than Chris Merren, who is highly regarded in the world of Marshalls, and known to make some of the most accurate transformer replicas out there.

The Classic 45 was the only amp in the roundup that used 6L6 power tubes. Greg’s decision to use them was a combination of staying true to the earliest tubes Marshall used on the original JTM45 amps and his belief that the current crop of 6L6s sound and perform better than newer KT66s. NOS and vintage 6L6s are also less expensive and more plentiful than NOS KT66s. Our immediate response to the Classic 45 was that it was a lively and aggressive amp, with tons of power that made the pick explode off the strings. In ways it reminded us of our favorite ‘67 Super Bass in its volume and attack, but it still retained the sound of a 45. It may very well have been the loudest amp of the bunch, and that volume translated to a feeling of excitement that made the amp extremely fun to play. It was present without being shrill and had a super-tight bottom end, no matter what guitar we played through it. While the Classic 45 had tons of natural gain on tap, it also cleaned up nicely when rolling back the volume on the guitar, revealing a bright and sparkly chime. This amp is a real beast, and it could hold its own against 100W amps without flinching.

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