An elusive Marshall rarity reappears—reminding us how dynamic and versatile these big Brits can be.
The iconic Marshall Silver Jubilee was produced for a single year—1987. They now fetch ridiculous sums of money on auction sites when they come up for sale—which isn’t often. Several years after that first release, Marshall put out the Slash signature amp based on the same circuitry. That amp, too, became an object of lust. Needless to say, a legend (and a speculative collectors’ niche) grew—along with a market eager to see a reissue. Marshall has heeded the clamor with the new JCM 25/50 2555X Silver Jubilee.
The 2555X is not a down-to-the-last-woodscrew reissue, which is nice, because several design changes are clear improvements. Where older versions had two speaker jacks and an output impedance selector, now the amp simply has five speaker output jacks ranging from 4-to-16 ohms. The company also improved the switching circuitry to eliminate a relay flickering issue that plagued some originals.
In most critical ways, the 2555X is a faithful recreation of the original. A classic Marshall tube array of three ECC83 preamp tubes and four EL34 power amp tubes drives the works. The no-frills front panel consists of knobs for presence, bass, middle, treble, output master, lead master, and input gain. Two of the knobs have push/pull functions: The output master can be pulled out to change channels in lieu of a footswitch, and the input gain can be pulled to activate the rhythm clip function, which adds an extra gain stage for dirty rhythm tones. Next to the power and standby switches on the front panel, there’s a low/high output switch that gives you the option of pentode (50 watt) and triode (100 watt) operation.
Clean Yet Very Mean
I tested the 2555X head and matching 2551AV angled 4x12 closed-back cab, which features Celestion Vintage 30 speakers, using several guitars including a Gibson Les Paul Standard, Fender Stratocaster, and Ernie Ball Music Man Axis Sport.
Both amp channels share a single set of EQ controls. And while having dedicated knobs for each channel would be ideal, it’s not hard to find settings that work well for both channels. The EQ controls are very responsive and even small tweaks have noticeable sonic effects. Things get trickier with the shared gain control. And if you have the clean channel set for an ultra clean sound, the lead channel might not have the amount of gain you want. For example, with the gain set to 2, clean tones had acres of overhead, but the lead channel ended up more in blues territory than rock. Moving the gain to 5 was a good compromise. Here, the clean sound is still clean-ish and the lead channel is distinctly in rock mode. But the Silver Jubilee may still require players that relish clean-to-filthy extremes to depend on an overdrive pedal to make up the difference.
There’s a lot of upside to the Silver Jubilee’s capacity for clean tones. They are heavenly and may make players reconsider what they think they know about Marshall clean tones. With each of the EQ controls and the gain knob at the mid point, the Silver Jubilee produces a basically clean sound that’s rich and robust with humbuckers, snappy with single-coils (using a right-hand plucking approach), and rivals the best of my blackface Fenders in terms of headroom and character.
Activating the “rhythm clip” feature transports you from clean-tone territory and into the rock rhythm guitar and dirty-blues-lead zone. In lower gain settings, you’ll hear excellent note clarity through the dirt—which feels great for funky, filthy rhythms with the Les Paul or SRV-style, rhythm-meets-lead stylings with the Stratocaster.
You may almost never think of jazz and Marshall together, but improvisational wizard Wayne Krantz spins his mind-bending musical tapestries through an original Silver Jubilee. Krantz often employed the rhythm clip function, and with his work in mind, I set the bass to 8, middle and treble to 4, shut down the presence, set input gain to about 8, and played syncopated, funky-figures fused with unusual clusters and double-and-triple stops. Note clarity was excellent and individual notes in those dissonant chord voicings were clearly separated and very musical sounding. Employing a pick-and-fingers approach to better articulate the voicings added an extra bit of bite. This is often a surprisingly dynamic and sensitive amp.
For many, switching over to the lead channel is where the real fun begins. It delivers that classic Marshall roar with a vengeance. In the ’80s Marshall mods were all the rage, and the 2555X has a hot-rodded JCM800 vibe. With the Music Man in hand, and with the amp set with presence at 8, bass at 7, mid at 7, treble at 5, and gain at 7, the ’80s metal tones flowed easily. Articulation was tight on chunky rhythm parts and palm-muted, scalar runs, which combined with the massive low end to sound positively earth shaking tones. Leads, meanwhile, sound smooth and uncompressed—killer for Satriani-type legato patterns that focus on fretting-hand approach rather than pick attack. Sustain is excellent and as ample as I would ever need. The lead channel is also fairly dynamic and backing the guitar volume knob back to around halfway yielded a more overdriven sound, but with much more sustain than you’d typically generate with a pedal. And just moving between slightly tamer-sounding overdrive tones and brawnier, wide-open settings felt much more organic than footswitching between sounds.
For heavier blues-rock vibes, I added bass, dropped the presence a little and plugged in my Les Paul—a ticket to Joe Bonamassa-style sounds that were warm but aggressive. Even with the bass cranked, note articulation was still superb throughout all registers.
Joe Bonamassa’s live rig features an always-on Marshall Silver Jubilee sandwiched between several other amps, including a Dumble Overdrive Special. That should tell you how well regarded—and versatile—the Silver Jubilee is. I’ve owned and played many Marshalls over the years, and the 2555X is among the very best I’ve ever laid hands on. Whether you’ve been lusting for an original Silver Jubilee or just want a phenomenal sounding powerhouse of an amp, this re-awakened monster offers an experience you should not miss.