Nearly 50 years since its creation, the Marshall JTM45 remains both a relevant and near-perfect example of what a great rock ‘n’ roll tube amp should be.
About the Authors
About 5 years ago, while playing a 9/11 benefit
show, I had the good fortune to meet two people
who would not only profoundly impact my life
with tube amps, but would become lifelong
friends. John Rossi and Tony Burns were there
that day; Tony, a killer player and a regular on
the Tempe/Phoenix music scene, and Johnny, his
friend and amp tech, making sure Tony’s amps
were running well in 115 degree heat at the
outdoor amphitheater. When I saw Tony’s wall of
Marshalls next to my backline of Marshalls, it was
an instant conversation starter.
We spent time between sets that day discussing
the various finer points of our amps and gawking
at each other’s rigs. The show went great but my
’67 Super P.A. felt a bit stiff, and wasn’t reacting
in the most flattering way. This incident proved to
be the catalyst, as Johnny was an underground
semi-retired tech and ultra-fanatic Marshall enthusiast,
and he had some ideas that he wanted to try
out. He invited me over the following Sunday to
check out the amp, and to experiment with various
preamp and power amp tubes while BBQ-ing and
having a beer. Tony was there, and it became clear
that we all had a deep respect for these amps;
rather than modify them, we wanted to bring
them back to their former glory. After five years,
and dozens of hacked-up Marshalls coming back
from the dead, here we are. Over that time we’ve
learned more about these amazing amps than any
of us ever anticipated, and we’ve have had a blast
in the process. I have no doubt in my mind, based
on my readings of the various amp forums, that
there are plenty of groups just like us all over the
world doing the same thing.
MetroAmp JTM45s (a kit version as well
as the GPM 45), a Germino Classic 45, a
head. After searching through our collection
of cabinets, we settled on both
an eighties Marshall JCM800 4x12 with
blackback 25s, and a Mojave 2x12 cab with
1963-era Celestion Alnico Blues. It may
sound strange that there were no pinstripe
or basketweave cabs used for the roundup,
but that wasn’t for lack of trying. Among all
the members of the amp group, we actually
have a pinstripe, a basketweave and a variety
of Marshall 4x12s, but for some reason
we always come back to the early-eighties
JCM 800 cab with blackback 25s.
That particular cab has more clarity, tone
and authority than any other, and it remains
our favorite in the bunch—despite the cool
factor of the older cabs. The 2x12 with
Blues was a natural choice, as that flavor
shares similarities with the mid-sixties
Marshall cabs and is also a popular speaker
configuration for Bluesbreaker combos. The
guitars we used were our standard array
of Les Pauls from the ‘70s, ‘80s and 2000s,
as well as a newer 2008 Fender Strat and
two early-seventies Strats. With everything
in the room (it was quite a sight!) we were
ready to begin.
Original 1965 JTM45
To get our ears accustomed to the JTM45
sound, we began by firing up our ’65 head
with a Les Paul. Normally, this head has EL34s
in it, but we borrowed the Genelex KT66s
from the Mojave and biased the amp to
accommodate them. It made sense to us to
use KT66s, because they were what the amp
was designed for. With everything looking
good, we flipped it from standby and beheld
the beauty of this vintage masterpiece. It’s no
wonder players and collectors are paying big
bucks for these amps; everything we played
through it sounded incredible.
What was amazing was how much of a rock ‘n’
roll amp this really is. Considering how long
it’s been since it was conceived, the amp’s
sound remains surprisingly current. The distortion
is organic, full-bodied and earthy, and
it allowed the personality of the guitar and
player to shine through. While it was very easy
to play, this is an amp that still requires a level
of discipline and control to fully harness its
capabilities. It makes sense that players who
want to be heard would play on this style of
amp, because like it or not, whatever you play
through the amp is… well, amplified. It just
comes out better.
We played through it for a good long time,
switching guitars and speaker cabinets to hear
it in as many different configurations as possible.
Whether it was a Strat, a Les Paul, a 2x12
or a 4x12, the sound was always remarkable—
perhaps the very definition of great tone.
Subjective? Yes. Brilliant? Absolutely. Rolling
back the volume on the guitars exposed a
beautiful clean tone that was harmonically rich
and defined, never muddy or dull. Even with
the guitar’s volume knob all the way up, the
dynamic response of the amp, and the way it
musically fed back, was awe-inspiring.
Once we had established a base tone for comparison’s
sake, it was time to play and listen
to the other amps. Before I break down each
individual amp and builder, I must observe
that each and every one of the amps had ridiculously
good tone, and they all sounded like
JTM45s, but each had its own unique voice.
Aside from the reissue Marshall, all of the
amps are hand-wired. The reissue Marshall was
of PCB-construction, and used the standard
parts and components that Marshall was building
their amps with during that era. I spoke
with Mitch Colby from Korg USA (Marshall’s
US distributor), who told me that the reissues
have not undergone any significant changes
since their reintroduction 20 years ago. While
they are using the components that Marshall
builds with today, they should yield very similar
tones to the earlier reissue amps.
MetroAmp JTM 45 Kit and GPM 45 Custom Build
George Metropoulos is no stranger to the
world of Marshall amps or to the online ampbuilding
community. Having run MetroAmp
for some time now, George offers everything
from fully built replicas of many classic
Marshalls to ready-to-build kits and hard-tofind
replacement parts for vintage Marshalls.
A player, George honed his amp-tech skills by
adopting a DIY approach, taking care of his
own amp repairs on the road. This extended
into repair work at home, and then really
took off when amps began coming in for
restoration rather than simple re-tubing. After
his ’73 Super Lead was stolen from a gig, he
realized it might be best to leave the valuable
amps at home, and so he embarked on
a never-ending quest to replicate the tone of
the old Marshalls.
Like all the builders in the roundup, George
is passionate about vintage Marshalls and
obsessive over the details that make these
amps so coveted. We received two amps
from Metro: the JTM45 kit (which can be purchased
already assembled for an additional
$400) and the GPM45, George’s custom-built
JTM45 using NOS vintage parts. When we
fired up the MetroAmp 45s, it was clear that
they both came from the same camp. Both
amps were meticulously built and incredibly
precise in their layouts. The main physical
differences between the amps came down
to the caps, resistors and tubes. Both amps
shared the same iron and layout, so they
also shared a lot of the inherent tone in their
circuits. As George is a fan of the mid-sixties
JTM45s, Metro’s transformers are based on
the Drakes, rather than the earlier Radio
Spares iron. Still, there was no question that
the GPM45, which included NOS Phillips
mustard caps, Allen Bradley carbon comp
resistors and a gorgeous set of Genelex
KT66s, was sweeter sounding.
While those differences accounted for a tonal
upgrade, what made the differences even
more compelling was the way they affected
the touch factor of the amp. Much like our
’65, the custom-built Metro had an ease
about it that felt like a broken-in vintage
head, making it a breeze to dig in, or to lay
back on the strings and feel the amp act as
an instrument. It was truly inspiring. Of all the
amps in the roundup, this amp sounded most
like our ’65—frighteningly close! I should
mention that the Metro kit version was actually
plugged in first, and before comparing
it to the GPM45, we all agreed we’d be
thrilled to have one in our collection. We may
be splitting hairs here to some degree, but
knowing that anyone can buy a complete kit
for under a grand, and have that kind of quality
and tone—that says a lot.
GPM 45 Custom Build:
Wallace Amplification BKW45
Brian Wallace has electronics in his DNA.
His father, an electronics engineer, and his
grandfather, an RCA tube repairman, were
both instrumental in his early education
and development in tubes and electronics.
When he was young his father gave him a
75-in-1 electronic projects kit and further
encouraged Brian by letting him watch as
he built his own projects. Like all of the
builders in the roundup, Brian is a player.
He began modifying amps in 1974, when
he removed the speakers and baffle in his
Checkmate amp and replaced them with
a baffle he created and some purchased
speakers—altering the sound of the amp
and thus beginning his lifelong journey.
In 1995, he was approached by Guytron
Amplification to help out while they were
getting started. A positive experience, it
propelled him to the next level and led
to the creation of Wallace Amplification,
which now offers several amp models as
well as replacement transformers under
the Marstran name.
Wallace’s first amp is the BKW45, but he
is more than a clone maker. Recently he
introduced the Abaddon, which is a 50-watt
master volume head consisting of four
gain stages in the preamp. There is much
more to come, including a line of pedals
and a reissue of the Fuzz Ace pedal he
made back in the early 90s. The BKW45 is
a unique flavor of JTM45. A hair darker in
tone and possessing slightly less gain than
all of the other models, including both the
vintage and reissue Marshall, it yielded
enormous bloom and a bold, thick, sustaining
quality. Even though there was a little
less gain, it didn’t affect playability, and we
never struggled with the amp. It was one of
the rarest qualities I’ve experienced in an
amp, and certainly an unexpected bonus.
The Wallace had a magical ability to push
notes through loud and clear while still being
able to dish out gritty and harmonically pleasing
chords that didn’t fight the non-perfect
intervals they were built on. This all came out
of an amp that was using tubes you can buy
today without breaking the bank.
Speaking of breaking, check out the sidebar
on what the BKW45 was subjected to by
UPS en route to our roundup. In spite of the
gorilla treatment it received, the amp arrived
without shattered glass and performed flawlessly
throughout the entire set of three
sessions of playing and listening. That’s a
testament to a solidly built and roadworthy
piece of equipment. And one look inside the
amp will show what a dedicated and precise
builder Wallace is. In tone and build quality,
the amp is a work of art.
|Ever wonder what could happen to your amp in shipping? In the case of Brian Wallace’s BKW45 amp, UPS had a field day, and decided it would be a lot of fun to throw it around. When the amp arrived, it was packed neatly in a new cardboard box with padding inside suspending the padded road case that housed the amp. That’s double-boxed and protected by a case built for heavy abuse. Sadly, it took one good slide down the end of a ramp and collided with either another box or the wall of the truck. Though the box didn’t show any signs of abuse on the outside, it was clear that something had shifted when I opened the case. Take a look at this picture of the damage and the way the entire amp was shifted to one side because of the impact. Believe it or not, the tubes didn’t shatter and the amp worked fine, but it was cosmetically damaged by a broken front Plexi panel. This isn’t the first time this has happened, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it happen with this type of road-worthy packing. Let this serve as a reminder to always insure your amps, as the shipping company can’t tell if you’ve got a bag of peanuts in a box or an amp that was lovingly built by somebody like Brian.|
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
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
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.
Mojave Ampworks Special Edition Plexi 45
Anyone familiar with the JTM45 would surely
be jealous of Victor Mason. Not only has
he seen more than his fair share of vintage
Marshall, Vox, Hiwatt and other rare treasures
come through his shop, but Victor recently
acquired 26 of the all-time greatest JTM45s
ever assembled via the Kronemyer collection,
and he’s got the pictures to prove it! This is just
one of the factors contributing to the obsessive
nature of Mojave (and the associated Plexi
Palace). Having been around for over a decade
on the internet, Vic has been repairing, restoring,
buying and selling vintage Marshalls for
quite some time now. Stemming from his early
desire to find out how EVH created the classic
brown sound, Victor embarked on his journey
through countless hours of digging into vintage
amps and learning where their strengths and
weaknesses lay. Mojave now offers an entire
line of amps to serve the classic Marshall tones
and well beyond with innovative features and
designs. The Mojave Plexi 45 also has two very
unique features over a stock JTM45. First is a
simple feature to allow volume control by way
of throttling the power level. Second is a line
level output, which is adjustable and incorporates
a ground lift.
Standing apart cosmetically from the rest of the
amps, the Special Edition Plexi 45 is built on
the same footprint as the Coyote and Scorpion
designs, with a white-and-black color scheme
and chrome hardware. The head is built with an
open grille cage that allows for maximum airflow
to keep the set of completely NOS glass cool.
The 45 supplied for the roundup consisted of
a pair of 1970 NOS Genelex KT66s, 3 Mullard
12AX7s and a Mullard GZ34. Like the Germino,
the Plexi 45 is based on the R/S transformers,
which are custom wound by Mercury Magnetics.
The chassis is a thing of beauty; the .09” thick
aluminum, with a high tensile strength and welded
edges and seams will ensure it will not flex,
bend or develop fatigue, like the early, folded,
softer chassis, and will prevent the heavy transformers
from causing the chassis to sink in and sag. Mojave deviates from the original JTM45
by using modern, tight-tolerance parts. Custom
manufactured caps and metal film resistors allow
each amp to sound as close to the one built
before it as the one after it. Consistency is something
that Vic definitely strives for, and it shows
in the build quality and attention to detail, and
the desire to add convenient functionality to his
We found in testing that not only did the
amp have an extremely low noise floor, but that
it was an authoritative and powerfully voiced
amp. There was definitely something different in
the tone of the Plexi 45; it was cleaner sounding,
but still very bold. Having been to Vic’s shop,
I was fortunate enough to play one of the 26
JTM45s he had acquired, and I’m positive that
the experience with those amps had more than
a little to do with the design of the custom R/S
transformers made for his Special Edition model.
The amp is built like a tank.
Marshall Reissue JTM45
While the reissue looked very similar to
the ’65 on the outside, especially due
to the fact that it’s already 20 years old,
the differences on the inside were quite
pronounced. Assembled with more modern
methods, and using a PCB rather
than hand-wired turrets, you could easily
be fooled into thinking that it wouldn’t
perform like the others. This particular
amp was the only one in the bunch to
use EL34s rather than KT66s or 6L6s, so
the sound was definitely different. It was
incredibly loud and focused sounding,
and actually had many of the characteristics
of a Super Lead. The sustain and power of the amp was incredible, and for
an amp that can be found used for around
$1000, this is a sleeper bargain. Marshall
has taken some flak for their amps sounding
stiff and cold from the factory, but with
a little attention–slightly hotter bias and
good tubes–this amp is a monster. And just
because it says it’s a 45-watt amp, don’t
harbor any illusions that it would be a good
bedroom amp. This is a loud and powerful
beast, and a tone machine as well.
The Blindfold Test
As a final, fun test, we did a blind study, to see
how accurately I could identify each of the various
amps in the roundup. Johnny and Tony set
up the group of amps, and I sat in a chair with
my back turned away from them. With the guitar
plugged in, they began to fire up the various
amps, and we got rolling. Out of all the amps,
I was always able to distinguish the Wallace
BKW45, due to it’s slightly darker sound. The
Metros were also fairly easy to spot, but I ended
up guessing the kit as the custom build and
vice-versa. The ’65 was also an easy amp to recognize,
but as ear-fatigue set in, the lines began
to blur substantially. Pretty soon, I was confusing
the Germino for the reissue JTM, the Mojave
Plexi for the Wallace, and the Metros for the
real JTM. It just goes to show you that all of the
amps performed remarkably well, and you can
be fooled when you’re not seeing what you’re
playing, so never discount a PCB reissue head
as a second fiddle to the real thing. In the mix
of a band, these differences become small, and
any one of these amps would hold their own
any day of the week.
To have the opportunity to play through
so many variations on a classic theme was
not only fun, it was educational. Each
one of the builders excels in creating
their own unique version of the great
rock and roll amp that Ken Bran, Dudley
Craven and Jim Marshall built back in
1962. While like all Marshalls, the JTM45
went through changes in tubes, components
and designs over its lifetime, there
is a trademark flavor and color that still
can be found in all of them. Not everyone
can afford a vintage 45, but with the
help of these builders we have the opportunity
to get into that sound and have
build quality that will last for years.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
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About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
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RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.
The new finish, according to Lava Music, is “inspired by the beauty of the golden hour,” a shining time just before sunset and after sunrise when photographers covet to capture stunning pictures.
With bright and warm golden hues, the new finish adds a brilliant metallic glow to the surface of Lava ME 3, complementing its AirSonic 2 carbon fiber unibody which features L3 Preamp with FreeBoost 2.0, delivers industry-leading sounds by breakthrough acoustic technologies, and houses a multi-touch display powered by Lava-developed HILAVA system.
Speaking of the HILAVA system, Lava Music also added four new effects: Nebula, Desert Rose, Cassette, and Edge of Breakup. As unique as their names sound, they are very much different from what we normally know about effects. Programmed into the HILAVA system, each of the four is powered by the company’s latest ArctanDrive algorithm and incorporates effects like Pitch Shift, Delay, and Reverb. And every one of those incorporated sub-effects comes with various parameters that players can adjust to design unique, overdriven sounds by just tapping on the multi-touch display. That said, those effects enable users to play with overdriven tone on an acoustic-electric guitar without even plugging in any external gear.
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Lava Me 3 in Golden Hour is now available starting from $999 on LAVA MUSIC, Amazon, and local guitar dealerships near you.
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