Had early Marshall guitar amps reverb

This is what the British amp sound sounds like - Marshall under the microscope

Sound and history of legendary Marshall amps

Realize classic Marshall sounds in the modeller

The term "British guitar sound" is certainly not as clearly defined as the Californian one, as there is a whole armada of well-known amp manufacturers who have been shaping this sound on the island since the 1960s. These include Laney, Orange, Vox and of course Jim Marshall, who certainly put his stamp on the sound of rock'n'roll most clearly. In the following, we want to get to the bottom of the peculiarities of the legendary amplifiers, place their development in the history of the brand and deal with how we can implement the characteristic sounds of these icons as authentically as possible in our models and plug-ins.

Although the typical "Marshall-Zerre" always has a similar basic character, there are clear differences between the individual models that have enriched the amplifier landscape since the 1960s. If you put all of them together, the result is a virtually endless list, which is why I would like to limit myself to the icons that are mainly associated with Marshall. Even if good amps are still being built after the 90s and to this day, the JTM45, Super Lead and Super Lead MkII or 800 series including the Silver Jubilee are the legendary figureheads of the brand.

Tip for users of models or plugins:


Keith Richards claimed that the great merit of the early Jim Marshall was perhaps not necessarily due to the JTM45, but rather to the invention of the 4x12 "box, which was still a novelty at the time, but was actually a necessity because of the increased wattage. Hard to believe that this type of box developed out of Pete Townshend's wish to have an 8x12 "box on stage. However, since it is not a challenge for anyone who has to transport it, the full stack was developed from it, in principle a "sawn through" 8x12 "cabinet, the upper half of which is again beveled (slant).
Marshall is generally associated with Celestion loudspeakers, in contrast to Fender. For example, early models from the mid-1960s were equipped with 15 watt G12 Alnicos, which were very similar to the Blue Bulldogs that were developed for Vox. The most characteristic speaker types are of course the greenbacks, also called G12M, which were initially available in the 20 watt and then in the 25 watt version and for many are the classic rock and hard rock speakers par excellence. Since they emphasize the mids and deal with bass and treble very harmoniously, they seem predestined for the British guitar sound. Here, however, the collector's spirits differ when it comes to the sound quality of different cone manufacturers, with Pulsonic Cones being particularly popular. Incidentally, the term "Pre-Rola" loudspeaker refers to the inscription on the back of the speaker, where the name Rola Celestion was to be found from 1970 onwards. However, Pulsonic Cones were also used in the early days of Rola, so pre-Rola is often used synonymously for Pulsonic, although "Post-Rolas" can also fall into this category.
When buying impulse responses, most speaker models also have their bass resonance frequency in their name, which is specified either as 55 Hz for the bass version or 75 Hz for the lead version. Of course, the bass version does not mean that you shouldn't use it with the guitar, just that this guy knows how to handle low frequencies better, whereas the 75 Hz version feels more comfortable in the midrange. Paul Kossoff, Jimi Page and Hendrix often use 55 Hz models, whereas AC / DC or Van Halen can hear the G12M running at 75 Hz.
G12H speakers, which by the way also often go under the name "Greenback", stand out a bit in terms of sound and are considered to be more "neutral" in sound than their G12M colleagues. In the most common version, these deliver 30 watts and were used by Jimi Hendrix, for example.
In the 80s and 90s G12-65, G12-80 and G12-T75 models were found in Marshall's speakers, the latter being more of a mixed response among connoisseurs, as they were too harsh in the heights and too scooted in the Felt middle. Nevertheless, this speaker has its justification for modern sounds and can develop its effect especially in combination with another type of speaker, e.g. if you mix two creambacks with two T75s.
1986 came with the Vintage 30, also called V30, a new classic on the market, which wanted to invoke the more traditional sound and again offered a more pronounced mid-frequency, which is, however, a little higher and has slightly harder highs than the G12M Model. In addition, despite its name, the speaker can digest a full 60 watts and thus offers more headroom than the Greenback. Famous users of this speaker are e.g. Slash or Steve Stevens.

There are, of course, an infinite number of intermediate stops and options that, in order not to go beyond the scope of this article, I cannot go into any further detail. To get to know each other, however, I would first recommend the impulse responses of the above models, i.e. the G12M, G12H or V30 variants.
Here, too, counts: trying is more important than studying - why not try a 2x12 "Jensen box or a 4x10" cabinet in conjunction with a Marshall?


Even if there were Marshall models with reverb or even early models with tremolo, these on-board effects are certainly not as important as they were with Fender amplifiers, which is why experimenting with external pedals is even more worthwhile.
Since early Marshall amps do not have a loop, you will hear all effects before the input with most guitarists from the 60s, but also with Eddie Van Halen, for example, which of course produces a different sound. The use of fuzz pedals, boosters or overdrive pedals is of course very popular in combination with Marshallamps. With Hendrix this was e.g. the Fuzz Face, with Ritchie Blackmore a Hornby Skewes Treblebooster and an Aiwa tape machine or with others the Dallas Arbiter Rangemaster as a booster. From the 80s onwards, especially in combination with the Super Lead MkII models, you will find a Pro Co Rat, a Tubescreamer or a Boss OD-1 in front of the amp, which shaped the sound of the entire hard rock and heavy metal decade. For the boost function, the level control should be set up and the gain should be set to a moderate level.


Although the Marshall's model numbers may look like years, they have nothing to do with the year of release or prevailing musical styles of that time and are admittedly quite confusing.
The subject of this episode will be the selection of the models listed below. Some intermediate models, such as the PA or Bass series, majors (Richie Blackmore) and custom models (Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc.), as well as minor circuit changes that identical series have undergone over time, cannot be taken into account here become.

  • 2245: JTM 45
  • 1987: Super Lead in the 50W version
  • 1959: Super Lead in the 100W version
  • 2204: Super Lead Mk II in the 50W version
  • 2203: Super Lead Mk II in the 100W version
  • 2555: Silver Jubilee

Setting of the audio files:

For the sound samples, I choose the respective amp models from the Fractal Audio Ax FX III and use an identical speaker fold, which is a mixture of G12H and G12M in the 75 kHz and 55 kHz variant.

On guitars you will first hear a Stratocaster almost clean in bridge and neck position, a crunchy Maybach Les Paul in bridge and neck position and a modern variant for more gain, played with an Ibanez AZ as a representative of the superstrat genre, as they were in the 80s Years since Eddie Van Halen was used.

1. JTM45 / Bluesbreaker

In our last episode about the fender models, an amp came up that can be understood as the godfather of the first Marshall, namely the 5f6a Tweed Bassman. At the request of many rock guitarists who visited his shop at the time and did not want to pay expensive import costs for Fender, the British Jim Marshall and his team took this model in 1962 and changed a few elements to get more distortion. Until then, PA systems had primarily been developed. In the preamp, for example, 12AX7 tubes ended up instead of the 12AY7 of the Bassman, and the power amplifier was equipped with KT66 tubes - the hour of birth of the first Marshall, the top version of which was to be named JTM45.
Of course, not only this modified circuit is decisive for the new sound from Great Britain, but also, as mentioned above, the combination with the new cabinets or speakers from Celestion.
According to this, the JTM45 sounds a little different than the bass man on the one hand, but does not yet really have the typical British "pretzels" that are primarily associated with Marshalls from the Plexi era, and therefore has a unique position. Since the model offers less distortion than the following models, overall faster and more compressed and has more "sag", the amp is perfect for blues and classic rock and can also be very convincing clean. Depending on the setting, the bass sounds a bit "broken", as can be heard very well on early Clapton recordings. Overall, however, the sound is rather warm, creamy and harmonious.

The top version of the JTM45 with almost 30 - 35 watts was also available as a combo called "Bluesbreaker", which was mainly due to Eric Clapton's playing on the 1966 album of the same name (also called "Beano" album) by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers became known and thus got its name. The JTM45 has two high-treble inputs with bright cab and two normal inputs, which can also be jumpered using a patch cable.
As with the Bassman, the tone stack is designed in such a way that the bass can be turned down almost to a minimum value and the treble and mids can be turned up all the way. A central position of all potentiometers will hardly lead to satisfactory results. Amps designed in this way also harmonize perfectly with treble boosters, the only "distortion form" that was available at the time. Since the amp does not have a master volume, the volume also controls the degree of distortion that occurs in the power amplifier.

JTM45 reissue

Famous players or typical JTM45 sounds are e.g .:

  • Eric Clapton (on John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, often in Normal Input))
  • AC / DC (especially early plates)
  • Mark Knopfler (e.g. on "Brothers in Arms" or "Money for Nothing")
  • Paul Kossoff (Free, e.g. "All Right now")
  • Gary Moore (e.g. on "Still got the Blues")

2. Super Lead 1959 and Lead 1987 series (Plexis)

The desire for more volume, especially from musicians like Pete Townshend, but also Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, led to some small changes to the JTM45, such as initially an additional transformer to get more watts and four KT66 tubes.
After a certain amount of time and a few intermediate models, the lead or super lead series was found, which was basically similar to the JTM45 series, but did not have a rectifier tube and was equipped with EL34 tubes. There were also changes with regard to the component values, the interconnection of the presence controller and the tone stack.
At first, the JTM45 became the JTM50, initially with a rectifier tube, which was later also omitted, which resulted in the Marshall Lead "1987". The 100 watt version with a larger transformer and four EL34 tubes was henceforth called Super Lead and became synonymous with the Jimi Hendrix sound.
All in all, the changes meant that the new series was less thick in the clean area and tighter, more biting, less "sweet" and more aggressive in the tug. From here the era of the amp models begins, which is associated with the typical British, "scratchy" Marshall sound.

Now it might get a bit strange: Since the front panel at Marshall had a thin plexiglass cover on the chassis between 1965 and 1969, the Super Lead models are often simply called "Plexis", although some JTM45 models also had plexi fronts. On the other hand, some call the Superleads with aluminum front from 1969 just as "Plexis" and generally use the name as a generic term for the Superlead series.
The labeling of the front panel with JMP for Jim Marshall Products, in contrast to the previous JTM (Jim and Terry Marshall), has meant that designations such as JMP50 or similar were also used for some Marshall models of the Plexi era.
It can get even more confusing from the 70s, because there are a few small variations on the "Plexis". From 1972, US exports were equipped with 6550 instead of EL34 tubes and the models of the Plexifront era also differ somewhat in terms of sound from the models from the 1970s, which is more likely to be due to changes in the components and less to circuit differences.

Now we come to the sound. Since the tonestack is designed a little differently here than on the JTM45, this time you can also do a little more with the bass. Of course, the "English setting" is known, in which every control is set to the maximum, but also lowering the bass and increasing the treble and mids, depending on the rest of the equipment, sounds very good.
Depending on the guitar, especially with single coil models, or depending on the speaker, the treble input can sound very harsh and high-pitched, which is why removing the Bright Cap was also a common modification. Here we recommend fine-tuning the treble and presence or working with an EQ. Raising the center frequency at 800 Hz can also modernize the sound of the Plexis a bit.
Pedals harmonize perfectly with the Super Lead models, such as the Fuzz Face for the Hendrix Sound or Tape Distortions for Blackmore, but also models like the RAT, Tube Screamer or Boss Overdrives. Treble boosters are of course ideal for use in the normal channel. The inputs can of course also be bridged with the Plexis.

1987X Reissue

Famous super lead players or recordings are:

  • Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Eddie Van Halen (1968 SLP on Van Halen I)
  • George Lynch (with Tim Caswell Mod)
  • Slash (on "Appetite for Destruction" with Tim Caswell Mod)
  • Yngwie Malmsteen


Marshall Super Lead 50W - 1987

Bright In:


Super Lead 100W - 1959:

Bright In:

3. Superlead MkII Master Volume Series / JCM 800

Until now, the degree of distortion could only be controlled together with the volume on a potentiometer, and that sparked customer demand for two things: more gain and an independent volume control. Both wishes were met in 1976, namely in the form of a master volume and later, i.e. at the end of 76/77, a cascaded preliminary stage.
The end result was the Superlead Mk II of the Mastervolume series, which was available in a 50-watt version with the model number 2204 and in a 100-watt version with the number 2203. Cosmetically, the chassis remained similar, but the switch was exchanged for a "rocker switch" and the lettering and the binding were slightly larger.
This single-channel, which strongly influenced the rock sound of the 80s and also became the subject of a number of modifications or "hot roddings", now sounded much more aggressive than the previous model and heralded the musical style change from classic rock of the 70s to heavy metal of the following period .
Since the lead sound still provided too little gain for some guitarists, overdrives or distortion pedals, which also only appeared on the market at the end of the 70s, such as the Pro Co Rat, the Boss OD-1 or the Tube Screamer, defining the sound of this era.

In March 1981 the JCM 800 series appeared and brought hardly any technical innovations compared to the Super Lead MKII, but rather optical changes. The housing was completely redesigned and from 1986 the input sockets were no longer vertically but horizontally arranged, which, however, also involved circuitry changes. The "vertical input" variant is considered to be the better sounding one.
The JCM 800 was available as a top in four versions: the master volume version with 50W (2204), with 100W (2203) and the two-channel version with 50W (2205) and 100W (2210). However, when one speaks of the "800 sound", what is usually meant is the single-channel sound.

JCM 800 2203 Reissue

Famous JCM800 players and recordings are:

  • Steve Vai (with David Lee Roth)
  • Steve Stevens
  • many metal bands of the 80s such as Judas Priest, Dio, Mötley Crue, etc ...
  • Eric Clapton (e.g. "Forever Man")
  • AC / DC (e.g. the time around "Let there be rock")

4. Silver Jubilee (2555)

The Silver Jubilee emerged from the JCM 800 series in 1987 and was released as an anniversary model on the occasion of the company's 25th anniversary and Jim's 50 years in the music business, which is why the faceplate also bears the label 25/50.

This amp offers a few features that allow it to come up with more gain. Diodes ensure clipping and the tone control works a little differently. The amp can be switched from pentode mode with 100 watts to triode mode with 50 watts and also has a "rhythm clip" push-pull potentiometer for extra gain. In total, the Silver Jubilee has two channels and three switchable gain modes.In 1989 the amp was withdrawn from the series, but is available again as the Reissue 2555X.

Silver Jubilee

Famous Silver Jubilee players and recordings are:

  • Slash (Guns’n’Roses live shows, in the studio only from "Velvet Revolver")
  • Joe Bonamassa
  • John Frusciante
  • Alex Lifeson

What happened next?

In the following years, of course, other Marshall amps such as the JCM900, the 30th Anniversary series, the JCM2000, the JVM series and many more were created above models certainly leave the deepest footprints.

JCM 900

And now have fun recreating your favorites!