18 Aug Marshall 1987XL (Reissue) David Bray Modified and Marshall 4×12 non Slanted
I bought this amp around 2006, I think. I’d had many Marshall heads but had sold all of the most powerful ones (from 50 watts upwards) only keeping smaller heads which are easier – with a smaller studio like mine at the time – to record with.
As I wanted to do AC/DC stuff – and other classic rock – on YouTube (and I wanted to do it well) I thought that I should have one. I really wasn’t going to own vintage heads again, too many issues. I just wanted a decent sounding amp that I didn’t have to treat with too much care, could boost for hours with no problems, etc.
So I looked around a bit and did some research, I wanted it to be a Plexi, and it had to be a Marshall. I wasn’t too aware of clones at the time. What I’d read – around and about – was that the reissues didn’t sound anywhere close to the vintage heads I was used to, and that had made all those great sounding records I was stimulated by (AC/DC, Free, … ).
So I knew I had to get in touch with someone that could modify the amplifier I was going to get, and even before purchasing one, I contacted David Bray and asked that he pick directly a decent reissue head and cabinet and modify the head to make it sound “better”.
So he did (the head only). About a month or so later, he said the head was ready for me but the cabinet was too big to be shipped, so I cancelled the order for the cabinet and got a reissue one locally, in Rome.
I’d wanted a non slanted cabinet, as I knew that AC/DC played “better” with non slanted ones (slanted/non slanted: the “slanted” ones are “cut” on the top, the non slanted ones are square, i.e. big boxes). Also, for recording, I had read here and there that non slanted ones would be more reliable for microphone positioning, and that the bass and medium frequencies would be easier to capture.
Plus it looked better
I got the head and cabinet and started doing what you’ve seen me do for quite some time.
The head is a 1987XL (model name), 50 watts output and loaded with EL34 tubes (my choice). I am not aware of which modifications David did to the amp to make it sound like I want it to. I never asked….. he never told me. What I do know is that it has a sort of MV (master volume) in the back panel to bring down its loudness and allow me to play without getting deaf too soon! Plus, I wanted to play over/with the records, so I needed a playable volume. Also, it has push/pull main volumes (for the high treble channel and the darker channel) which add a gain boost, I’ve never really used that feature though. You can find more specifications on David Bray’s site. I think mine is a “Mod I” rework.
The page at David Bray’s with sound clips from this amp are here
It’s a good amp, it doesn’t sound too much like the older ones though, despite the modifications. The older ones have those bass/middle/high frequencies that just blend together in the “most creamy” sounding texture you can imagine. It’s that sound that you’ve heard on the records you know, there wasn’t much added magic to those in post production, they do sound that way. Naturally you have to know how to set the knobs, depending on how you want to sound and the environment you’re in, but the main texture of their tone is built in and that stays as it is.
This reissue – and most of the others I have tried or listened to – just don’t cut it like the older ones or some of the contemporary clones, (like George Metropoulos’s line of clones for example).
They are stiffer, less “alive” in dynamic response and react differently to the knobs when you turn them one way or the other (up or down). They seem to have an even narrower band of setting in their tone.
Still, I thought it was good enough for what was its intended purpose, videos and some live gigs with my band at the time.
So, in case you were curious about it, there, now you know!
Article adaptation by Robert Taylor