This month Marshall have launched their first new Guitar amp range for several years. The Vintage Modern essentially updates the JTM 45/ Bluesbreaker type amplifier using KT66 type power tubes rather than the more traditional EL34 power stage. Its their first KT66 based amp for 30 years.
The amp takes the original Marshall concept : IE- of 2 channels running simultaniously, one for the high end and one for the low, to build an overall tone a stage further. Except rather than pissing about with jumper cables and excessive volume, the amp has 2 seperate gain controls labelled Body (low end) and Detail (high end) as well as a midrange boost, Master volume and a digital reverb. The FX loop is serial and I’m not sure why in the 21st century it is not a parallel loop, but maybe if your more of a trad rock, blues player you don’t need such things. But in my world a serial loop is pretty much a waste of time as soon as you start using any serious Modulation/Delay effects.
Having seen a DVD of guitarist Chris George demonstrating these new amps, they seem to give a slightly warmer and more bluesier take on the famous Bletchly tone. I admit nothing really knocked me out, but demo’s rarely do.
Now I’ll be sure to give my own thoughts on this once I’ve had the chance to try one out. But I do wonder about the timing of such a launch.
Back in 2003, The Darkness seized the cultural zeitgeist of our musical landscape and Marshall introduced the ModeFour, this was essentially their attempt to get in on the, by then, already fading Nu Metal Market share populated by amps such as the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, Hughes & Kettner Warp 7, and of Course Randall’s various solid state and hybrid heads.
Now I’ve only ever seen one guy gigging a Modefour and that was in a Indie Rock band rather than a metal act, the mediocre guitarist who’s name escapes me was weilding a PRS Custom 24 but I have to admit, the rather fizzy and non descript tone didn’t knock me out, It didn’t sound like a Rectifier and it didn’t sound like a JCM 800, it sounded like a Boss Distortion pedal through an old Randall tranny head and I was glad I’d bought a TSL 60 some 2 years earlier.
I’ve no idea of official sales figures, but I reckon that if the Modefour was a big seller there would have surely been a ModeFour combo out by now. I do see a few MF350′s on Ebay and they never seem to go for much.
Now with The Darkness reduced from national heroes to something of a laughing stock, Marshall have decided that this is the time to release a “Classic Rock” type head and combo. As many guitarists are dubious of too many knobs on a Marshall. I suspect these will do very well. However the combo version looks rather non descript.
Now If I ran Marshall Amps I’d have built the Vintage Modern 50 watt chassis into a much cooler & sexier looking Bluesbreaker type cabinet. Then they could really cash in on the affluent ‘Weekend Warrior’ market, who need a stylish amp that fits comfortably into the boot of a Chelsea Tractor.
But surely Marshalls priority as a company now is to update the now ageing JCM 2000 range of professional valve heads. Much as I love the DSL & TSL. There are certain issues of switching and better FX loops that need addressing. Burying your head in the Classic Rock soup will not do you any good, time marches on.
While companies like Hughes and Kettner seem to have stolen Marshalls Thunder on the multi functional channel switching amp with the Triamp and Switchblade ranges. Its easy to forget that Marshall had a midi switching 3 channel all valve head on the market some 14 years ago in the shape of the 6100LM . If Marshall mated the JMP-1 midi preamp front end into an EL34 based 100watt power amp. They would have a programmable head to rival the Switchblade.
So come on Marshall pull the collective finger out eh?