Other Amps

Are Marshall amps uncool/passe now?

1

Whether by what I see in backlines, local or touring bands, or even the number of members of the Facebook Marshall amp group (under 300) I wondered if these are currently uncool in The Modern World. But then everything comes back at some point.

2

Maybe they're just overkill---at least the stacks.

3

I played through a solid state Marshall practice amp (don’t recall the model) when I was taking lessons and honesty liked the sound no matter which Gretsch I brought with me on any given week. Even thought of getting one but didn’t and agree that the stacks are overkill at least in my situation.

4

What with modeling, profiling, and a new generation of "character" pedals, Marshall may now be a tonal color rather than an amp.

They're not exactly transparent or flat response, and not ideal as a pedal platform. It's easier to get a Marshally tone from a Fender-kinda amp (using technology) than to get a Fender clean tone from a Marshall.

A whole range of Marshall tones, however, is still crucial in most players' tonal bag-o-tricks.

5

Check out the Les Paul forums. Marshalls, and the legions they inspired, are alive and well!

6

By the time they became popular, they weren't making the good ones anymore. They were just a Tweed Fender in a bigger box anyway.

7

I've got a '73 50 watt lead model 1987, one of the last hand-wired turret board (pre-PCB) amps and it sounds glorious. I got it relatively cheap and had to remove a terrible mod ("One-wire mod") but all the wires were still there, I just needed to buy a cap or two. I don't play out and can rarely play it at home but it definitely has "the sound".

As far as touring bands, I see a lot of Vox and Orange at the shows I attend.

8

By the time they became popular, they weren't making the good ones anymore. They were just a Tweed Fender in a bigger box anyway.

– Billy Zoom

Billy what years were the good ones?

9

I wish I had an excuse to use one. The combos look great This one is Popular

10

I think that with most veneues having sound systems, and all the advancements that have been made, stacks just aren' t needed like in the old days.

A lot of stacks on stages now are just props. I know several guys that love and use their Marshall combos.

11

I blame soundmen...

Seriously, gig after gig I had soundmen tell me they wanted my amp on 1 or 2 and they would control everything through the PA.

I told them one and all to ... off. And I was just playing a Fender 4 speaker Deville, but I needed that thing on at least 6 to get the tone I wanted.

What would they tell me if I had a big Marshall? To put the volume on zero?

Honestly, I think the digital age has gone a bit too far. There are a host of local sound guys that talk garbage about me, as I basically would kick the mic off the amp and just turn it up (as woudl the rest of my guys). PAs are necessary for vocals, but if the stage is up a few feet and you point your amp the right direction, most of the time I just don't find them necessary. Night in and night out we had good crowds and got everyone dancing--band after band after band where we basically just blasted volume through out amps. THe gigs that were disappointing and... sterile were the "sound guy gigs." I think I dealt with one or two guys that really knew what they were doing and then it was great, but most of the time these guys just do not do a good job (and they can't leave the knobs a buttons alone even when they hit it).

K

12

They still seem popular to me. However, bands that want that big rock sound have more options as well... the Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier is a holy grail amp for many, I see Oranges around a lot, and there are a lot of entry level options like Bugera and Blackstar. Why buy a Marshall combo when you can have a Blackstar stack?

I’d also add that the PA option is best when done properly. U2 and even AC/DC do it... however, their amps at are at volume in sound isolated rooms below stage to get the tone they want. Both of those bands have excellent rig rundowns in YouTube that show how it’s done.

In a club/local bar setting, you would need an isolated cab and a good sound person to make this work.

13

I gig out often at local bars/ clubs and find that my Vox AC10 is more than enough to do the job.
I seriously doubt the practicality of playing through a Marshall stack these days, but I do enjoy my hearing.

14

Personally I think all high wattage big tube amps are passe these days...for a number of reasons:

  1. They are heavy. No way around it. If you want lots of watts in a tube amp, you are going to need lots of iron. Huge power and output transformers that can handle high voltages and current. Large (multiple) speakers with huge magnets that can handle the load, often in separate cabs to keep all that vibrational power from shaking the tubes. You will have to deal with that to and from gigs.

  2. Why bother with tube amps? Don't kid yourself that it's for those elusive "warm clean sounds". Solid state can handle cleans just fine. The main reason you buy a tube amp is for the overdriven clipping sounds. You aren't going to get those easily with a 100 watt amp without using a master volume to control things...and at that stage you are better off using a smaller amp instead of using a master volume or attenuator to fix a problem you created by buying a large unwieldy tube amp.

  3. PA technology has gotten better. It make a lot more sense to mic a small amp to the PA and let the mixer balance things than to set up a huge fog horn on stage blasting the first few rows and making it impossible for musicians to hear each other. Back in the 1970's people put on concerts that way out of necessity but it's not ideal anymore.

  4. Large tube amps are expensive to maintain compared to smaller amps.

  5. Gigs are getting smaller and the target market for guitar amps in general is getting older and more sedentary. Smaller amps fit the niche better. Ever wonder why a vintage Deluxe Reverb sells for more on the vintage market than a vintage Super Reverb or Twin? Demand is higher for smaller amps these days.

  6. Recording? Again you don't want a big amp for that. What a headache.

15

Pretty much agreed on all guitarcapo points.. Biggest amp I ever owned was a 1970 marshall 50 watt head, and that's been decades. I am ok w/ solid state in theory, but except for Thomas Vox nothing is/was made that suits me.

16

gc, most of those observations are spot-on. A couple thoughts from my persepctive, though.

I think you're right that the market for amps - as such - seems to be aging out. That makes it easy to succumb to the associated fear that the market for guitars is also aging along with us old bastids. But I think recent sales numbers show that "kids" are still buying guitars, finding inspiration and motivation not only in the long, deep, rich, and wide musical heritage of the 20th century, but in making new music of their own.

Or that's my hope anyway. I guess if electric guitars and associated gear gradually faded from cultural currency altogether, those of us still wheezing could still enjoy all the music they facilitated - but it's nice to think that the very foundation of one's musical and artistic tastes and perspective would prove long-lived, universal, more-or-less everlasting. The violin in its current form has remained current for centuries; piano and organ are still vital; even harpisichord music hasn't been abandoned.

But in the case of the keyboard instruments, technology has been able to replace their core functionality with much more convenient, affordable, compact, and reliable alternatives. Top concert pianists, organists, harpsichordists obviously still perform on the "real deal" - but I'm pretty sure they've put in many hours practicing on technological substitutes. And in recordings, the simulacrums often stand in perfectly authentically. (And in fact orchestras have been similarly "replaced" for recording.) So while the technology changes, the use, veneration, and culture of the instruments themselves thrive.

So samelike with guitar amps. The guitar itself is already as compact and "efficient" as it can get (and still interface effectively with the human body). But amps - in all their wide and multifarious tonal permutations - have been conceptualized, abstracted, codified, condensed, downsized, sampled, modeled, digitized, and profiled. It's simply no longer necessary to carry that weight - or blow down the walls of Jericho - to get that sound. Young players coming up in an era of modeled and profiled amps, I think, accept that without thinking. It's a given of their experience; it's their whole context for involvement with "amps." They can get any tone players of the past evolved by poking dinosaurs with high voltage - but at any volume from earbud to small monitor to room to club to arena - without toting the bales.

They - and we - can recognize amp types and their circuit variations as the ultimate sources of particular tonal colors, without having to actually own the amps themselves to get them. Further, the effect chains, speaker variations, mic deployment, and studio processing which have been part of virtually every guitar tone we've ever heard are also "in the box" - and in some cases, rendered so "authentically" you really wouldn't know the difference.

Given that, it's surprising amps as we know them haven't faded off the scene entirely; in another 20 years, they might. But the astounding health of the pedal industry, now in a golden age of innovation and proliferation, suggests that there's still a healthy market for amps. No doubt many of them are being plugged into modelers or profilers (the best of which sound and respond "like amps"). But it seems to me that most players, from beginner to pro, have opted for a middle ground: a smallish amp (by yesterday's standards), very portable, for a core clean tone - extended across the threshold into infinite flavors of drive and dirt and otherwise enhanced by pedals.

I think as guitarists we like to hear our instruments at some default volume, no doubt variable from one player to another. Left to my own taste, I seem to like mine around 85dB - and that's right where a mid-power amp, barely cranked, lives. Authentic though modeled or profiled tones may be, at sub-conversational volume levels, they just don't satisfy - or at any rate it takes a lot of careful and sustained self-re-education, a kind of intentional cognitive therapy, to adapt to them. (When there's no choice - as for late night noodling or recording without disturbing cohabitants - I've learned to manage, knowing that when I can crank the same tone to more satisfying playback levels, I'll realize that yes, everything is there after all.)

Short version, yes: you just don't need the iron to get the sound anymore. We can argue about it, but the argument has already been lost.


Why bother with tube amps? Don't kid yourself that it's for those elusive "warm clean sounds". Solid state can handle cleans just fine. The main reason you buy a tube amp is for the overdriven clipping sounds.

I can't agree with this at all. I continue to maintain I'm not a tube bigot - and certainly there are solid state amps that sound wonderful. I have a few. But I still gravitate to a tube amp, specifically for a "warm clean sound." In fact, I generally plug into more power than I'm going to need just to get that sound with enough headroom not to overdrive.

I guess we can all distinguish between the tone an amp produces when overdriven and the volume at which that happens - but I've been playing since the late 60s, through amps of all sizes, with lots of other players, and the choice to crank an amp to bejesus has rarely been about the tone it's going to make at volume. It's usually simply about being LOUD.

However the amp sounds when it's loud enough to rattle windows, annoy old people (of which, as we age, there are fewer and fewer - till we look in the mirror), scare children, and attract girls and the cops - is GOOD. We didn't care if it was clean, overdriven, or shredded, as long as it was socially unacceptable - as long as it was a raw and blatant assertion of SELF.

Despite that phenomenon (which I think has been a constant through the rock era, from 1952 onward), really big tube iron was evolved to maintain a CLEAN tone at higher volume. Until the mid-late 60s, guitarists who intentionally sought overdrive were in the distinct minority. And I'd guess the early overdriving rockers were as much after volume as that singing saturated tone. (Though I could accept that some needed both - the saturated tone they'd first heard in a small amp in full rage, along with enough volume to fill the Royal Albert Hall without PA reinforcement.)

But from the time that tone itself became a thing, distinct from the volume at which it was normally produced, we've been headed toward the small-amp/big-PA and amp-in-software future in which we now live. Young players take this as a matter of course. It's only us old bastids who are still figuring it out.

There may still be reasons to have piggy-back amps, closed-back multi-speaker cabs - but except in intentionally retro situations, neither attaining sufficient volume nor tone are among them.

That said, I hold onto a Bandmaster with a pair of 12" JBLs and a Kustom with 2-15s. Even at sub-lethal volumes, there's still something about that much speaker area moving that much air. So I still don't quite believe my own analysis. But I very rarely use them, and usually just to remember what it was like - till someone tells me it's too loud, which is probably the result I was always hoping for.

And I thought the theatre presentations at the Rock & Roll HalloFame were entirely too loud.

17

I think they were just too popular and people are wanting to stand out more with their amps both sonically and visually.

18

This will never be uncool.

19

Having been born in 1954, my aural conditioning came from Fender amps in various forms and Marshall amps that were cranked. There's of course room for other guitar sounds, but those are the two that soung 'right' to me. Within the Fender realm, there is a substantial amount of variety; from bright to mellow, clean to dirty.....but when it comes to Marshalls, they sound best, to me, cranked. The Marshall crowd talk about the differences between the KT66 and EL34 tubes; they are both magical when driven hard; something about the way they compress is just beautiful, and they give up the goods a little easier than 6L6s.

And of course, there is nothing uncool or passe about this:

20

The 1962/Bluesbreaker not withstanding, classic Marshall - in the the eye of the beholder, has always been about 50/100/200W full and half stacks. A time for which has passed for everybody, including most stadium acts. Most of their amps post JCM800 (aka a quarter century ago) have fallen flat, and the the most actively sought after old Marshall for active use by most folks is a version of their old 18W "practice amp" from 35 years ago.

That said, there's no real substitute for actual loud sound waves mechanically feeding back into electric guitars, digital or otherwise.

21

Has anyone here tried the new Origin Marshalls -- 20W and 50W heads and combos?

22

Hmm. Maybe all of this is true, but over about 15 years here I've fronted multiple bands, gigged and gigged and gigged, and when our guitar players are playing tube amps, people get up and dance. High or low volume, they seem to feel it. I know I do. I've had guitar players go solid state or modeling... and it just not get people moving the same way. Call me hard-headed, but... I wouldn't bring a guitar player into a new band if he's not going tube. The amp can be small--but it makes a difference when you are selling tickets or when you know you will be graded on audience participation by the bar.

K

23

Actually--since 1997! So 20 years!

24

Maybe, but I'm sure Angus Young doesn't think they are passe.

25

The 1962/Bluesbreaker not withstanding, classic Marshall - in the the eye of the beholder, has always been about 50/100/200W full and half stacks. A time for which has passed for everybody, including most stadium acts. Most of their amps post JCM800 (aka a quarter century ago) have fallen flat, and the the most actively sought after old Marshall for active use by most folks is a version of their old 18W "practice amp" from 35 years ago.

That said, there's no real substitute for actual loud sound waves mechanically feeding back into electric guitars, digital or otherwise.

– Kap'n

Yes volume is a thing as are all other elements in the chain. Music can be felt as well as heard and the sound waves create physiological changes that can enhance mood. Which is the great thing about dance music, and I include rock n roll in that classification.


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