Amplifier Reviews

SoloDallas® SD-50 Guitar Amp Head

11 Sep History of the JTM50

The Black Flag JTM50 is a rather rare and coveted after amplifier made by Marshal between 1966 and 1967. It was one of the transitional steps between the JTM45 amps and the plexi panel JMPs and later metal faces. During the short period of time it was produced, the JTM50 saw a few important spec changes that would be a precedent for further development of the Marshall guitar amps. (more…)

Read More
IMG_2986

13 Nov Never Underrate Your Equipment – A Marshall MS-4 Demo

 

Dear Rocking Friends,

 

Every one of us has a dream. A gear-related dream, to be precise. A Marshall Super Lead maybe? I think I just said something magical there. But you know, you don’t have to have that kind of equipment to achieve (or at least approximate) the tone you’ve always been dreaming about, as I shall demonstrate with this post. Now to be clear, the aim of this writing is not to say that expensive gear can be replaced, but rather to show you that you can squeeze out a somewhat decent tone – something you didn’t quite expect – even from cheaper gear. To sum this up in a sentence:

You don’t know you’re beautiful you sound amazing.  :-) 

 

So let’s jump straight into the setup I have for this demo:

  • Vintage VS6 SG – This is a $300-ish SG copy, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a decent guitar in this price range!
  • Marshall MS-4 – You probably know this little pocket amplifier already.
  • Shure SM57

Nothing quite special as you can see, it’s a very straight-forward setup. The only thing I did to the recording you’re about to hear, is that I applied some reverb via software. Other than that, this recording is raw, and has not been enhanced in any way. Have a good listen:

 

 

One thing to keep in mind while listening to this, is that the MS-4 has very tiny 3″ speakers inside of a plastic cabinet that barely has any air in it. This is the reason for the boxy sound, and the lack of bass. But once you get over that, it sounds very decent, especially the Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution part! That one sounds frighteningly close to the original in my opinion.

Now let’s take this experiment a little further – in case you’re not impressed already. I added the following items to the rig:

  • Boss GE-7 – Used as as clean boost in front of the amp (via the output volume slider), no EQ pattern was set.
  • 1960A replica cabinet with original 1973 Rola Celestion G12M greeenbacks – I admit that this is a bit of an overkill, but I really wanted to make sure that nothing is holding back the little Marshall from unleashing it’s glory.

In order to plug the MS-4 into the external cabinet, a modification is required to the amp. This consists of bypassing a resistor inside the amp that limits the output signal to headphone levels. After that is done, the headphone jack now becomes a speaker output jack – but make sure you don’t plug any headphone into it anymore! If you need exact instructions on how to do this, please let me know in the comments.

So after the amp was prepared, I hooked up everything, and I was very impressed by the results. The amp sounded surprisingly dynamic, lively, rich in harmonics, and enjoyable. I even managed to get a nice sustained feedback! I mic’d up the cab to make a second recording, here it is:

 

 

Now let me ask you something at this point. Could you possibly tell (without reading the article) that the amp used in the recording is a $50 1W solid-state pocket amp? If this was a blindfold test, I guess you would bet for something way more expensive, wouldn’t you? That’s fine though, I would do the same  😆

 

Before ending this article, let me address one more thing… The whole point of this article is to give you an idea on how to get a better tone from your existing gear. The answer is very simple: take your time! When you’re setting up your amp, miking your cab, or even just setting the knobs on your stomp boxes, remember this: if you think you’re done after a couple of minutes, you’re not! 

Let’s say you’re miking up your cab. What you shouldn’t do is to try out a few major mic positions, and pick what sounds the best for you, or either use a position that you used earlier. In many cases, tiny adjustments (I’m talking about millimeters here) can make a world of difference. When I mic up my guitar cab, I usually spend at least about 30 minutes setting up the mic position every time. Even if I marked a previously used mic position with duct tape on the cabinet, I only use that as a starting point. You should always absolutely geek out every possibility before recording. I find that spending extra time on the setup after you think it’s perfect is almost always beneficial. Of course the same rules apply to all the setup that’s required for playing, and not just miking.

 

Another very important thing is that you should always think of your whole rig (from your hands all the way to the speakers) as one big instrument! I cannot emphasize this enough. You’re not only playing the guitar, and having an amp that only makes it louder. The whole rig is one big instrument, but most importantly an instrument that has soul (not literally of course). Every piece in the rig is equally important. You have to spend time with your gear getting to know it, thus being able to use what is has to your advantage. A good rig is not just something you play on; it’s something that helps you expressing yourself, and also makes you feel good doing it!

 

I hope you find my thoughts useful, and will benefit greatly from them, just as I did. As the title says: never underrate your equipment!  :-)

Finally, here are a few pictures I took during the recording session:

 

 

Have a good day!

Read More

14 Feb Playing with a Marshall YJM (quick initial impressions)

Marshall YJM poster.

So, just got a used (but like new) Marshall YJM, which is a signature amp (Yngwie Malmsteen). While I never cared for Mr. Malmsteen not even for two seconds in a row (with Respect), I love the amp.

It is basically a regular Marshall 1959 Super Lead, 100 watts amplifier (which is my favourite amplifier type in the world), loaded with additional features that the vintage ones don’t have. Including a boost, reverb, noise gate and embedded attenuation via a modern “EPA” electronic circuit that lowers the voltage going to the main (EL34) tubes thus reducing the output up to bedroom levels.

I immediately tried the EPA function, which didn’t strike me as the best attenuation method available – it lets the amp drive way less and subtracts high frequencies, at least compared to my Aracom.

Expect a much better review of this soon – I am very interested in the differences between new and vintage amps, attenuation technologies and tone in general (you knew it didn’t you). I think these right here are all the necessary tools for us bedroom rockers, and I will not stop investigating.

Edit: after speaking with friend CrossroadsNYC (moderator at the marshallforum.com) it turns out that these are known characteristics, and it is just normal for the EPA to behave like that. I still like my Aracom a number of times better, however keeping in mind that the Aracom is a few more hundred bucks and the EPA is included with the amp… you know the math.

 

I made this little AC/DC copycat thing this morning to let you have a grasp of what the YJM sounds like. All parts played with a 1967 Gibson SG Standard (the one that was recently repainted), stock pickup (which I don’t even know if it is a t-top anymore, it came with the guitar and it is rather old). Cabinet is a Marshall B type with vintage 1970s G12Ms “blackbacks”. Microphone was  my newly acquired Neumann U47 FET (god I love it).

IMG_1009-2

 

The two guitars on the sides were played with NO TSR; the solo in the centre was played with TSR in standby for its first half, then TSR on (you should be able to tell when this happens).

The Marshall YJM settings were P0, M4, T6, V4 (yep, voume on 4), attenuated with my Aracom. Guitar volume and tone both on 10.

Like it?


Wanted to add the backing track in case someone wants it

Read More

25 Jul The Big Speaker Shootout

In my belief, speakers are the most important part of your tone. They are not only devices which convert electric current into sound. All speakers have their unique voice, they all sound and feel different. Because of this, I have always thought about them as an instrument. A good speaker actually acts just like an instrument, reacting to your picking dynamics, creating feedback, co-operating with your amp and your guitar in a way that can yield very pleasing results – if you use them properly. A good speaker has this mojo which cannot be written down in words. :)

 Just in case you missed the terrific post about the history of Celestion by JaiminhoPagina, you can find it right here

Why am I telling this to you? Because it connects directly to this one. I think that post is worth a reading before digging into this one, as it sums up the history of celestion, and the speaker models, cones etc. over the time very well, which I think is very important before you listen to them and judge. And now let’s get to the topic 😛

A long long time ago in a galaxy far away… there was a forum thread on thegearpage.net, started by Scumback Speakers, which contained amazing soundclips of different speakers. To be more specific, it is a comparison between original pre-rola celestions, new celestions, as well as several celestion clones, like Scumbacks.

Unfortunately the links became dead, so the clips were unavailable for some time. Recently I contacted Scumback Speakers, and I asked them to update the links, so that the clips are once again available to everyone! (more…)

Read More
g12h_zoom1

22 Jul Celestion Loudspeakers: From Blues to Greenies and beyond

Speakers are extremely important when we are talking about tone. They give the amp its “voice” and so, in order to get the right sound, you will need to use the right speaker. So, what should I get to achieve the tone I want? Well, now that’s a tricky question.

This article will be a (maybe not so) small post about the history of Celestion, as well as a brief description of each model they produced over the years. Of course, this won’t cover every one of them. I’ll simply feature the ones that I think are the most popular and most widely used models.

Let’s start, shall we?

Early years and the G12 AlNiCo

Celestion started as a manufacturer of speakers for general use (radio, TV, etc.) back in the 1920s. In 1947, it was bought by British Rola and, one year later, production moved to Thames Ditton.

AlNiCo Blue 15w (as used by VOX)

It wasn’t until the 1950s that Celestion developed their first guitar dedicated speaker: the G12 AlNiCo T530 (a.k.a. “Blue”), basically a modified version of the CT3757 radio speaker. These first speakers went through quite a few changes (also appearing in different colours like silver, chrome and red – also with different codes) during the early years, but they remained with a low (in today’s standards) 15w (20w in latter versions) power handling and with both 8ohms and 15ohms options. It was used in Vox and early Marshall amps. With the 100db sensitivity, it was a very “loud” speaker. It was also bright, lively and had a more restrained bottom end. It’s probably more suited for Blues with clean or lightly crunchy tones.

About Greenbacks

Let’s start with a simple little thing. Most of you probably already know, but it’s worth to clarify this to the “newbies”, alright? (just joking! ;P)

G12M Greenback

The old Celestions from the late 60s and early 70s had a green plastic back cover and this is why they were nicknamed “Greenbacks” (no sh*t, Sherlock!), but “Greenback” does not refer to any specific model. It’s simply a “generic” name that was given to the speakers of this period, similar to how “Plexi” is a name to all the pre-1969 Marshalls. In other words, both the G12M and G12H can be called “Greenbacks”. Not only that, but also their many variations, such as the 55hz “bass” cones and etc. But I will explain everything in details shortly. The bottom line is: be careful when using the name “Greenback”. (more…)

Read More

12 Feb More Modern Classic Playing (Audio Only, LONG file)

So, fever’s gone.

I’m still down here in Dubai, will stay some more here until the snowing and freezing cold in home Rome, IT, ceases.

Prior to leaving, I had recorded a few files to study the sound of both the Modern and Classic Wizards. These were not supposed to be posted, but I thought you may be interested.

It is somehow boring, these are mere exercises of mine to warm up, be flowing etc.

This is the Modern Classic with a Les Paul, a newer one, one that I really love.

Settings on the amp are my usual settings, presence 0, Bass 5, mids 3-4, treble 5, gain 6 and master 8.

There is some post processing done to this, might get annoying in the end – sorry – but I wanted to play with this. It’s a stereo delay.

Wizard Modern Classic Les Paul

 

The second file is played with a 1969 SG, way below standard tuning. At some point, my 1965/1958 Les Paul Conversion “The Husk” gets in. Same settings, different guitars, to let you understand how the playing and different guitars act to the amp.

Wizard Modern Classic 1969 SG and The Husk

 

Edit please note: both takes were played with my beloved Schaffer-Vega Diversity.

 

 

Read More

03 Feb Introducing the “Wizard Modern Classic 100W” with Black Robot’s “Cocaine” Cover

Update note: We just received a kind email of Mr. Rick St. Pierre (Wizard founder, owner and maker) who has informed us that AC/DC started using Wizard amplifiers exactly during the 1990 Razor Edge tour. 

I think it doesn’t get more accurate than this, since he is the man who provided, serviced and maintained the amps for AC/DC!

SD

(more…)

Read More