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Marshall JCM 800 - Settings?


rw2003

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There were several different models of JCM800. The most popular was the 2203 (higher preamp gain with master volume). I have the model 1987 (older style, 4 inputs and no master volume).

 

Settings will vary with amp model, cabinet used, aging of the tubes, room, etc. My amp's in the studio and I can't give you my current settings now.

 

However, the greatest tonal discovery I'va had with my Marshall was to use it with a clean boost in front of it (to drive the signal before it gets to the preamp). This is where I get all the classic Marshall tones! And of course the power tubes need to be cooking (a THD Hotplate or similar attenuator is highly recommended as well to reduce the sheer volume).

 

Most well-known players boost their signal in front of their Marshall so it might be worth experimenting with the idea. Even Zakk Wylde uses a boost in front of his JCM800 despite his use of active pickups.

 

There are many pedals that can be used as such a boosting device: TubeScreamer (TS-9, TS-808), Boss DS-1, Treble Booster, etc. AnalogMan and Robert Keeley modified pedals are definitely recommended.

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Yes, there were plenty of JCM800 models. I have a 2205 (50 Watts, Dual Channel w/ master volume).

 

I plan to spend some more time trying to fine tune the sound of the amp. I'll follow your suggestion and try a clean boost in front. I do have an old (early 80's)E-H LPB-2 boost which I believe is clean... I'll dig it out and give it a try. I guess an MXR Distortion+ doesn't qualify as clean!

 

For instance on the actual amp settings, I found the following on Slash's snakepit web site:

 

"For live appearances, the JCM SLASH Marshalls are used for a dirty sound. For the dirty tone, the SLASH recommended settings are: Presence: 7, Bass: 7, Mid: 4.5, Treble: 7, Output Master: 6, Lead Master: 10, Input Gain: 6.5. The JCM SLASH Marshalls are used for a clean sound, too, when modified with KT88 output tubes. The SLASH Marshall should be tuned this way for the clean tone (SLASH recommendations): Presence: 0, Bass: 9, Mid: 3, Treble: 5 1/2, Output Master: 10, Lead Master: 0, Input Gain: 4. The 2555 Silver Jubilee at 50 watts is used for the Heil Talk box. All tubes are groove tubes."

 

http://www.snakepit.org/equip.html

"Spend all day doing nothing

But we sure do it well" - Huck Johns from 'Oh Yeah'

Click to Listen to Oh yeah

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Those settings for Slash might be great for a Les Paul but I mostly play a Strat and Presence and Treble both set to 7 would be too piercing for me.

 

As for the clean boost, that would provide you with better note articulation and sustain without losing your amp tone. You can try it with any distortion pedal (I am not familiar with MXR Distortion+) that has separate gain/drive and level controls. Keep the drive/gain as low as possible and boost the level knob: that will let you experience the potential of a clean boost (it will still color the sound of the amp because a distortion pedal is meant to modify the tonal character but it will still allow you to get a feel for what slamming the preamp can do for you). If you like what you hear and feel, then it would be time to consider a dedicated clean boost pedal.

 

Again, it's worth repeating that this will work on an amp that has an overdriven power section (e.g. SUPER LOUD unless it's tamed with a power attenuator).

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Originally posted by Darklava:

I have the model 1987 (older style, 4 inputs and no master
The other one was more popular?The one you have

is the one most guitarist seek ;)

Yeah, I know :D ! But it's not typical of the JCM800 series (it's a leftover from the previous series). Most people know the JCM800 series as the first Marshalls with master volume and I meant to say that the 2203 was the most popular of those JCM800.
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For what its worth....

 

Here's a link to the Marshall site that describes the different JCM800 amps that were made back then...

 

http://www.marshallamps.com/heritage/jcm800/jcm800_01.asp

 

The complete write-up is four pages so click the next link to keep reading!

 

I guess Marshall agrees that the 2203 was the most popular back then as they continue to make that one today.

 

While I'm sure there are tonal differences between the JCM800 1987/1959 vs the 2203/4/5/10 of the same era and by no means am I trying to imply one is better than the other, here is a quote from an article titled "The Ten Most Desirable Marshalls" from a Gp published mag named "The Marshall Amp"...

 

"The master-volume can also be set full up to use the gain control just like a non-master design, so you could get a classic Marshall sound signature from these amps if you wanted to."

 

The article also goes on to say that part of the initial "bad rap" of the new JCM800 head could be attributed to the change in Celestian speakers found in the newer cabinets. The cabs had G12M-70 speakers in them as compared to the older cabs which used G12T-65 speakers. Marshall supposedly switched back to the G12T-65 in later productions.

"Spend all day doing nothing

But we sure do it well" - Huck Johns from 'Oh Yeah'

Click to Listen to Oh yeah

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Originally posted by rw2003:

"The master-volume can also be set full up to use the gain control just like a non-master design, so you could get a classic Marshall sound signature from these amps if you wanted to."

Yes, you can get a similar tone; just make sure you keep the gain knob very low (the non-master volume models have surprisingly very little gain to them, they really get most of their tone from pushing the power tubes).

 

A friend of mine had a JCM900 as a backup and I was using it when jamming at this place; by using a hotplate and a clean boost and turning the master wide open (with the gain around 2-3) I liked the tone much better than using its signature preamp gain. Please also note that the JCM800 is generally considered as having a better tone than the JCM900.

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What you put in front of your amp to drive it doesn't even need to have a distortion quality to it. Just something to up the signal before it hits the amp. You can even use a compressor in front of your amp to drive the preamp section a bit. I like that a lot. Just make sure the compressor is first in the chain if you are using other pedals.

 

As far as settings go, I start with everything on 10, except for the master. Then I up the master and begin to pull things back as I need. I generally end up with treble at about 7, mids on 10, bass at 8, and presence at 5. I try not to dwell to much on knob placement, just go with what sounds best. There are other things like humidity that can affect your sound, too.

 

You can really only get the classic true Marshall sound by pushing the power section, whether it's using an attenuator or not. Also, I've always thought that the Marshall cabinet was integral to the sound. It gives you the "knock" that only Marshall cabs have.

Everybody knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It's a scientific fact. - Homer Simpson
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I used to do the Spinal Tap all knobs on 11 :eek: thing back when I still used to use my 2204 (attenuated by the way). Sure sucked for changing to a clean tone though which is why I no longer use it. Can't bring myself to sell it though.

Lyrics. Wasted space between solos.

I can't tell you, but I can play it for you.

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Originally posted by Rhino Madness:

Originally posted by rw2003:

"The master-volume can also be set full up to use the gain control just like a non-master design, so you could get a classic Marshall sound signature from these amps if you wanted to."

Yes, you can get a similar tone; just make sure you keep the gain knob very low (the non-master volume models have surprisingly very little gain to them, they really get most of their tone from pushing the power tubes).

 

A friend of mine had a JCM900 as a backup and I was using it when jamming at this place; by using a hotplate and a clean boost and turning the master wide open (with the gain around 2-3) I liked the tone much better than using its signature preamp gain. Please also note that the JCM800 is generally considered as having a better tone than the JCM900.

So does this mean I should set the Master Volume to 10, set the Gain to 2-3 and then adjust the overall volume with the volume knob?

"Spend all day doing nothing

But we sure do it well" - Huck Johns from 'Oh Yeah'

Click to Listen to Oh yeah

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Originally posted by rw2003:

So does this mean I should set the Master Volume to 10, set the Gain to 2-3 ...

Yes (that is, if you want to get a tone similar to the older style Marshalls).

 

... and then adjust the overall volume with the volume knob?
No. The volume knob on the guitar will adjust the tone and amount of distortion (the amp should clean up very well) but the volume of the amp will remain loud. That is why I would recommend an attenuator between the amp and the speakers, as the volume will be extreme without it.
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I guess I've been playing with that pre-amp distortion all these years!!!

 

So I should run the JCM8000 head with both master volume and volume full up and gain set at 2-3 to get the older sound?

 

That is going to be very loud as you say... I'm currently using volume 8.5 and master volume at 4 with gain set to 7. The sound is pretty good but I can't play in the same room as the amp. I close the door to the room and play from the hallway!

 

Any recommendaions on an attenuator? If I get one, which brand? The Marshall Power Brake or maybe the THD Hot Plate or something else?

 

Thanks!!!

"Spend all day doing nothing

But we sure do it well" - Huck Johns from 'Oh Yeah'

Click to Listen to Oh yeah

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The Marshall PowerBrake does not have as good a reputation as the THD Hotplate .

 

However, other attenuators are reportedly more transparent to the tone of the amp (but I haven't heard them personally). You can try the Weber Mass or Minimass or the Dr. Z Airbrake .

 

I've heard that the Weber units are the cheapest and most transparent but with a somewhat unrefined look. They are a family-owned business with an excellent reputation (mostly known for their excellent speakers).

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By the way, there is nothing wrong with playing with more preamp gain in your tone. If you are satisfied with the sound, then that's where it's at for you and everything's great.

 

Getting a Hotplate or another attenuator will let you experience a different tone and feel and you would be able to compare that to your existing settings. However, you might just end up liking your current setup better. It really depends on what you play and what tone/feel you like best.

 

I don't want you to get the impression that you are using it wrong as it is. Simply a different flavor.

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Scatterbrain... Yeah the Marshall Air Brake gets no press these days. Wonder why??? Although, Marshall claims that use of any other attenuator may hurt your amp.

 

 

Rhino... I understand what you are saying... yes, a guitar tone is a subjective thing. I just want to be sure I'm getting the best out of the equipment I have and maybe find a better tone as compared to what I current have. It's been a while since I used to play gigs with my JCM800... and back then I didn't use the 4x12 cabinet. I had a 1x12 (who know what speaker!) sort of home made cabinet. It was a lot easier to carry around. I used to mic it throught the PA if I was in a larger place. And even then, I had no one besides myself to figure out the best way to use the amp. That's what makes these forums great... expert advice available!!!

 

I stopped by my local Guitar Center this afternoon to check out what attenuators they had...

 

The salesman helping me said that they did not have the Marshall, TDH or any other brand in stock. I'm not sure if that meant they don't stock them or they are just out of stock right now.

 

The salesman offered another suggestion... use a compressor/limiter or just a plain compressor in place of the attenuator. Does this make sense?

"Spend all day doing nothing

But we sure do it well" - Huck Johns from 'Oh Yeah'

Click to Listen to Oh yeah

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Originally posted by rw2003:

The salesman offered another suggestion... use a compressor/limiter or just a plain compressor in place of the attenuator. Does this make sense?

The compressor/limiter option will affect your signal going into the amp but will not allow you to crank the power tubes without insane volume levels.

 

The attenuator's function is to dissipate some of the energy from the speaker output of the amp before it reaches the speakers. That way the output of the amp is intact in tone but there is essentially less of it to reach the speakers.

 

Musician's Friend has the THD Hotplate in stock and they have a 30-day trial period. Whatever attenuator you pick, make sure you order the proper wattage one (based on the speaker cab you will use it with).

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