27 Sep Angus Young’s Marshall Amplifier(s) & the “Back in Black Tone Project”

Update of Mon, Oct the 4th: our own headwhop26 has posted info from a reliable source stating the following:

Angus has frequently recalled the use of a 100-watt late-60s Marshall JMP100 Super Lead amp with EL34 output tubes in the early days of the band, while Malcolm often played through a slightly earlier JTM100 Super Amp with KT66 output tubes, a late-’60s Super Bass with EL34 tubes, or a 100-watt Plexi Super Lead much like his brother’s”

“Angus also often records through the 100-watters, he has been known to use any of a range of several JTM45s. a JTM50, and a later JMP50 in the studio (the former with KT66s , the latter two with EL34s)”

“Angus has also taken to replicating his recorded lead tone live with a JTM45, which is sometimes miked through an isolation cab under the stage.

Update: despite what I had stated (please see below), the “Back in Black recording session” images are NOT them: those are barely Vanilo rehearsal room, Pimlico London, auditions for new singer, March 1980, 8004004, © 1980 Robert Ellis/Repfoto, i.e., pictures shot while trying a replacement for Bon. Apologies.

Weird statement, don’t you think (I’m referring to the “Angus Young’s Marshall Amplifier”)? Most have always thought it’s always been the JTM45 and that’s it. Or some other JTM amp, such as a JTM50, which is also the Metro replica I just got.

Well, I have a surprise for you: this is just plain wrong, would you believe it? I’m researching this pretty deeply, as deep as I can, everywhere, including interviews, pictures and video footage.

I don’t know about you, but the type of Angus tone I’m after – and I’ve always been after – is the early one up to 1980-1983 at the most (so basically, 1974 to 1983), with the top – for me – being Back in Black.

So one would think that it was a JTM45, as since Ballbreaker, everyone has been talking about the JTM45.

Truth is instead, that the JTM45 was used only recently or very early and for the most part in the 1970s, it was other models most likely being, JMP models!

I am reading on the Marshall forum specifically that people with good ears and good knowledge of Marshall Amps tend to think that given the sponsorship AC/DC got in 1977 from Marshall, Angus – NOT Malcolm – has been using the latest models that Marshall was putting out in those years, namely, the JMP models that according to someone, would have been used from 1977 until 1983 continuosly.

Let me show one of the many pictures that you can find around of a late ’70s JMP Master Volume head:


There’s plenty of videos online showing AC/DC using these (this is just one among the many, please submit all the ones you can find: AC/DC Goes To College). The rather difficult thing about these would be to determine whether they were 50 or 100 watters. Because at the time, they were exactly in the same box, with only one or two knobs being different, and the same box was in fact for the 50 watter and the 100 watter. From the available videos, it’s still hard to determine.

Also keep in mind that Master Volumes were introduced around ”76/’77. Prior to that, JMPs were still available but in non Master Volume configuration.

Regarding the amps used in Back in Black, there is also a part of interview done by Guitar World magazine that reads:

GW After Highway to Hell your sound got considerably darker and heavier. Was that a result of Bon’s passing, or was the band naturally heading in that direction anyway?
ANGUS With Back in Black that’s just where it was going. Some stuff, like “Hells Bells,” was obviously written with Bon in mind, but then a lot of it was written when Bon was still around. I remember during the Highway to Hell tour Malcolm came in one day and played me a couple of ideas he had knocked down on cassette, and one of them was the main riff for “Back in Black.” And he said, “Look, it’s been bugging me, this track. What do you think?” He was going to wipe it out and reuse the tape, because cassettes were sort of a hard item for us to come by sometimes! I said, “Don’t trash it. If you don’t want it I’ll have it.”
GW Was the little single note lick his, too?
ANGUS Oh yeah. In fact, I was never able to do it exactly the way he had it on that tape. To my ears I still don’t play the thing right!
GW Probably one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the band is that there are demos of Bon singing Back in Black songs.
ANGUS He never sang. He was actually supposed to come in that same week he died. He had this pile of lyrics he’d been kicking about and he said, “Well, maybe I could come in and try out some ideas.” A week earlier, however, Bon did come down to the rehearsal room and play some drums. Malcolm and I were working on “Have a Drink on Me,” and Mal had been on the drum kit and wanted to play some guitar. So Bon walks in and Mal goes, “Just the man I wanted to see!” Since Bon had been a drummer we had him hop behind the kit and we demoed the track.
GW What gear were you using on Back in Black?
ANGUS Still 100-watt Super Leads. The old-style ones, without those preamp things. I remember at the time that was the new thing Marshall was trying to push. They were trying to get people interested in ’em, but I wasn’t really interested.
MALCOLM In addition to the Super Leads I think Angus went to a smaller 50-watt Marshall for his solos. Just for some extra warmth. I was still using my Marshall bass head, and I believe Cliff had a little SVT amp.
GW Some of the solos on that album are so memorable, particularly on “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the title track. Were they worked out beforehand?
ANGUS Some were totally off the top, and there were some that I took a bit longer with. With Mutt, he’d just listen and tell you when he thought something was great. Sometimes I’d be there for a whole day doing one guitar solo, and then he’d go, “Remember what you were playing at the beginning?” [laughs] And I’d have to go all the way back to the start.

So, as you can see, Angus states several times I used Super Leads (and their 50 watts counterpart, the 1987) but in NON Master Volume format.

Interesting to see it collide with some images – studio and live – but hey, if Angus says so…

And for example, live, from the Flick of The Switch Tour:


But even earlier, live, in this picture dated 1978 (PLEASE note that the amp on the bottom behind Angus is a Master Volume JMP!)


And Belfast 1979


Basically, NMVs (NON master volumes) have all the 4 input holes while MVs have only TWO holes (see the pictures of my two incoming heads).

I am assuming there are little differences in tone, I am telling you, though I might be wrong. I also remember reading that seemingly the Young brothers didn’t like MVs, though I HAVE FOUND at least one image where they are using one, as you have read for the 1978 picture above.

So much that I bought two of these yesterday: a 1977 JMP50 (watts) Mk II and a 1979 JMP100 (watts) Mk II . The first one being an MV and the second one being a 1959 Super Lead NMV a 100 watt MV (but modified with additional MV/attenuator for further ease of use and tone-enhanced).

More videos are being suggested – of the era – and we can see here brand spanking new JMPs.

From what I see, there is one MV and one NMV on each side, with the MV being the left head on each side (one for Malcolm, one for Angus).

Which would match the picture posted above  of the 1978 show (one MV, one NMV): probably that was the setup for year 1978.

Here are the two JMPs I just bought (coming to me NOW), respectively (’77 JMP50 and ’79 JMP100):



I still have to study this in better detail and learn all of the differences there are among these, but my “Back in Black Tone Project” has become now dead serious: I will not accept limitations or anything else and will try to achieve it with all of my strengths.

IF I ever make it, I will describe and publish the whole process, the gear involved and possible ways to emulate it.

So this post officially launches the “Back in Black Tone Project”.

Stay tuned, I am unstoppable.


Also, Member George (SGAce) points out that:

I checked my cd’s and I found out that in the Powerage album (the remasters series), inside the booklet there are live photos where the amps are JMP MKII Master volume. Check the pages 10, 12 and the last page of the booklet..





I have to say that I am impressed with photos of the BNB recordings. There are too many things to check on these photos.




For example in the third photo from the top (where the group is together), take a look of what is behind Malcolm.
.One cab 4×12 non slanted
. One head amp JMP MKII Master Volume
(Note: it’s actually a non-MV model – 4 inputs)
. And on the bottom of the amp, is a JMP MKII Master Volume COMBO (2104 model)
(Note: Or it could also be a non-MV model – the 2187).
From my search I found that the 2104 model with black grillcloth started to be produced late 1979 to 1981, and they were equipped only with 2 g12-65 speaker with marshall logo.


A Follow up to this post can be found here: God’s Gift to Rock: A Late ’70s Marshall JMP 100 Watt

Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri

We Are Rock 'N Roll People.

  • avatar
    Posted at 13:10h, 20 June

    So Fil, do you more tend to take a NMV or an MV for Back in Black sound?

  • avatar
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    Posted at 15:45h, 05 January

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    […]Angus Young’s Marshall Amplifier(s) & the “Back in Black Tone Project”[…]…

  • avatar
    Posted at 09:39h, 24 October

    Just a note about my unending search for the Back In Black tone.. I truly believe no matter which head I use, or which cabinet, I will never achieve the correct Angus tone on the Back in Black album without his Schaffer-Vega wireless system. Here is an interview clip I found with Tony Platt describing Angus’s setup for recording the album thus verifying the importance of his wireless system in his tone.. KIRK


    • avatar
      Posted at 09:45h, 24 October

      Kirk, “we” are working on it, no worries. Not true (that it is unobtainable). The SV Diversity System, had a compressor on board and a volume boost. That’s it, that is the difference. Probably also it would boost treble freqs, as it is usual with radio transmitters. A few guys and myself are experimenting this. You can find the thread here (Metro Amp Forum: http://forum.metroamp.com/viewtopic.php?f=31&t=33322). A treble boost (classic circuit), or a mid boost, or a volume boost and/or a compressor will do the simulation well enough. NOTHING is unobtainable. SD!

    • avatar
      Posted at 10:08h, 24 October

      BTW Kirk, had you seen my post here about Angus Back in Black tone?
      Here: http://www.solodallas.net/1976-marshall-super-lead-mkii-back-in-black/
      I got “close” (but close could not be enough, I reckon myself). Still working on it…

      • avatar
        Posted at 00:50h, 25 October

        Thanks Fil, I must have missed that thread.. KIRK

  • avatar
    Posted at 17:38h, 12 October

    I just don´t understand why people still think they were using plexis that much.
    You can see the Master JMPs in really every stage performance from Let There Be Rock to Flick Of The Switch days (which were the best DC-days in my opinion).You can even see some JCM 800s here and then.(FOTS-Rehearsals).-
    I think the old plexi stuff was used when High Voltage , T.N.T. and Dirty Deeds were recorded.(You can see these amps in booklets and photos from that time.)
    Pretty sure that 2203s and 2204s were used later and the boys returned to plexis by the time Fly On The Wall came out.
    Maybe Ang and Mal have some old “favorite amps” , which were only used in studio.-but I think either Ang has a bad memory or he just doesn´t want people to know his little studio secrets.
    I mean compare Dirty Deeds with Back in Black-
    the sound is just totally different.That´s not only because of the totally different style they were doing with brian and the different recording methods-I´m sure that they used mastervolume amps in the big days in both studio and live performances.

    • avatar
      Posted at 17:43h, 12 October

      Completely and wholeheartedly agreed.

    • avatar
      Posted at 19:38h, 12 October

      Maybe it’s just the same as with his first SG. Either he doesn’t remember it correctly or maybe he even just didn’t care about that much which amp he should use at this moment.

      As Fil posted here, they had a lot of amps with them for the “Back in Black” recording and maybe Angus just took the one with the best sound or the best matching tone at the moment or he even picked up just the next amp lying around that sounded good for him at this moment.
      With that count of amps lying around its easy to be at fault in which one was used back then.

    • avatar
      Posted at 19:44h, 12 October

      Even Deeds had JMPs in it. If you listen to Rocker, you hear the same kind of distortion (not the same amount) at Angus’ side as you do on LTBR, which was in the JMP era. But for me its also strange that Angus says that the JTM was always his amp. Not sure if he just wanted to keep it short and use the JTM as a representant for Plexis instead of naming the tons of Heads he played. Even JTMs sound fairly different, the KT66 and EL84s, the 45watters and 100watters, and there are JTM50s, that are actually the first JMP models, realy strange statements. He also never explained why he switched to 61-65 type SGs in the 80s and stayed with them till today, would be interesting to hear that from the Maestro himself.
      But this site here will help us to get the infromation piece after piece and i hope that someday even eq settings will be revealed here first. I dont know a place where so many enthousiastic AC/DC investigators are around 😀

  • avatar
    Posted at 12:31h, 02 October

    I have to say that I am impressed with the photos of the BNB recordings. There are too many things to check on these photos.

    For example in the third photo from the top (where the group is together), take a look of what is behind Malcolm.
    .One cab 4×12 non slanted
    . One head amp JMP MKII Master Volume
    . And on the bottom of the amp, is a JMP MKII Master Volume COMBO (2104 model) .
    From my search I found that the 2104 model with black grillcloth started to be produced late 1979 to 1981, and they were equipped only with 2 g12-65 speaker with marshall logo.


    • avatar
      Posted at 12:43h, 02 October

      Your finding will be published here – with your permission – and credit will be given as due. Awaiting on your response 🙂

      • avatar
        Posted at 12:48h, 02 October

        of course my friend, we are all together to this purpose.

        • avatar
          Posted at 12:56h, 02 October

          one more thing, in this photo the MV amp is on top of the combo, for a reason. To have straight access to knobs and not spend time to find them where there are in the combo. BUT the combo is MIKED so definitely they using it.

  • avatar
    Posted at 11:31h, 30 September

    A bunch of Marshalls can also be seen here, but dont know which types. Video is recorded 1983 I think. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CyCZ4mBmo

  • avatar
    Posted at 10:44h, 30 September

    Hey Fill!! My main amp it’s a 50w JMP MV. I bought a NMV but I changed it for a MV with the same dealer here in Spain because of the “superb power” volume problem: my band’s practises are in a very small room and I got no money for a power attenuator (I spend it all on the amp and cab haha).

    Both amps are ’77


    The tone on the NMV was incredibly better. The one I have on the MV is awesome, but the REAL tone was into the NMV. You can get a very good “after Fly on The Wall era” tone on my MV, and it’s easier to find, because of the possibility of controling the gain much better. But, again: a fully crancked NMV sent me to the 1980 AC/DC’s stage (or studio).

    I still like the “new” sound, specially the one in “Ballbreaker”, so one of these days I will bought myself a JTM, but I’ll never abandon the JMP. And If I can, I’ll go for a NMV.

    Oh, and… Hello everyone, I’m new in here, the best site of the whole internet!

    Thanks Fill!!!

    • avatar
      Posted at 10:46h, 30 September

      Welcome ROCKER! Como estas. So… I did well in buying one MV and one NMV. Heheheh. I thought so.
      Do you have any recordings you would like to post to us?

  • avatar
    Posted at 08:32h, 30 September

    skip to around 3:15
    Couple of 100 Watt JMPs on Mals side also, and i think these are MVs.

  • avatar
    Posted at 06:35h, 30 September

    If we combine the live set in Essex University in 1978 and this live in 1983, I am convised that they (especially Angus) used MVs. My favourite guitar tone comes from Powerage and Flick Of the Switch albums. My ears also tell me that the sound in these two albums is gainy and not that clean.. I believe that the gain knob in MV’s do the difference.

    • avatar
      Posted at 06:39h, 30 September

      And I – like you, before me – have now developed the same, exact belief.
      I think there is enough matter now to create a whole new “revealing” post here on solodallas.net.
      Title will be, “Angus’ tone was not as clean as we all thought”. So much for speaking the contrary!

  • avatar
    Posted at 06:19h, 30 September

    Live in Detroit Michigan in 1983, between 1:29-1:31.
    When Angus jumps, right behind him is really visible a JMP Master Volume (2203-2204).


    • avatar
      Posted at 06:24h, 30 September

      Just as I thought and mentioned above, thanks George. I think he really used MVs – despite Malcolm saying “they didn’t want them” – I think he was speaking more for himself! – and couple it with one or more NMVs. Now recently, they turned to NVMs only, but that’s a recent move. And also a swift change of tone that I never really liked. This necessity to keep the guitar “clean” is something we all talked about – even I did! – but it was in good part a mistake. The “great tone days” of AC/DC were well overdriven, and it all makes good sense now. THIS is the AC/DC tone I like, not the recent one from recent albums.

      • avatar
        Posted at 13:51h, 30 September

        Which interview does Mal say they don’t want MVs? And I agree, the tone hasn’t been as good as from 1974 – 1991, but I think it’s just because as the band’s gotten a bit older it’s not as easy to rock as hard as they used to .

      • avatar
        Posted at 06:28h, 02 October

        i thought the tone on the last 2 albums sounded alot like the early ones. could the differences be in the mixing and mastering?

        oh and hi from denton tx fil! big fan of your work. learned alot of the solos from your youtube videos lol.

        • avatar
          Posted at 08:07h, 02 October

          A fellow Texan!!! Howdy You!!! Yes I agree, there is similitude in recent albums and that was a precise decision of the band (after so many requests). Yes, the differences are also in the mix, but even more, in the way the albums were recorded, with what gear (analog, digital), the studio rooms they played in, the type of amplifiers and cabinets used, the guitars, the microphones involved and their preamps, … you name it. There is such a HUGE number of variables to make us all pale right away. Recording/producing an album is an art!

    • avatar
      Posted at 06:45h, 30 September

      You have been… nominated (laughs). Post edited with credit to you George, inserted the video you submitted. Good evidence. We need strong facts just like this one.

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