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Power for this fairly small-sized beast is created by four EL34 output tubes. The preamp section contains no less than five 12AX7 tubes. The speaker compliment is an interesting combination of a 12˝ Vintage series speaker and a 12˝ Heritage speaker, both 8 ohms and wired in series for a total of 16 ohms.
Straightfowardness is the name of the game on the front panel: two sets of controls, each with Gain, Treble, Middle, Bass, and finally Volume. The channels are designated Overdrive and Clean/Crunch; each is governed by a small rectangular button equipped with a three-colored LED in the center. The colors indicate the mode that comes into play when that LED is lighted: green is the least gain, orange is medium gain, and red is the high gain selection.
Of course, the Clean/Crunch channel selections are for the cleaner side of things. When the green LED is selected on this channel, the volume is bypassed effectively, putting it on 10 for the most clean headroom (like a JTM-45). This is the only selection in which this volume control is bypassed. The orange selection is a great Super Lead/plexi tone, and can be overdriven very well with higher gain settings— though it probably has a bit more available gain than a real Plexi or Super Lead. I took the liberty of putting a BSM Rangemaster pedal in line here to see about producing the Clapton “Beano” tone. There it was! I didn’t need a very high gain setting to produce it—maybe about 4 or 5. The red selection yielded the JCM 800 tone; I felt it was a bit smoother and bluesier on the low end than the JCM 800 setting on the other channel. Marshall wants you to be able to overlap the JCM 800 settings, so that two different types of gain structure are available, making the transition between the two channels quite seamless.
The Overdrive channel starts where the Clean/ Crunch channel ends, with its green LED setting at another JCM 800 type of sound. This version has a bit tighter bass, and more gain is certainly available if needed. The orange LED setting (which was my favorite) was a highgain Super Lead or plexi, reminiscent of the older, modified Marshall amps I have owned. Finally, the red LED setting of this channel has all the gain anyone would ever need, but with a tightly focused low end. It preserved pick dynamics and had incredible harmonics. There was sustain for days, and the overtones were musically pure, so octave sustain was easy. There was so much gain I felt guilty playing it.
On the right of the control panel are the master volume controls. These two controls may be assigned to adjust the overall loudness of any selected tone. It’s possible to set these up as a lead volume boost control through either MIDI control or the supplied foot switch—a very convenient feature. Just to the left of these two controls are the Presence and Resonance controls. The resonance enables adjustment of the low frequencies to compliment the speakers used. The Presence, as on all other Marshalls, sets the upper high harmonics and brightness. Both of the controls operate in the power section, so their function is global.