The Truth About Marshall Stacks (there, I said it)

Discussion in 'Amps & Cabs' started by Kevy Nova, Mar 12, 2012.

  1. Kevy Nova

    Kevy Nova Well-Known Member

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    The Marshall "stack" was invented when Pete Townshend and John Entwistle of The Who went to Jim Marshall and asked him to make them custom 100 watt amps with 8 12" speakers because in those days, guitar amps were not mic'ed and they were starting to play bigger venues that required bigger amps to be heard. It didn't take long before Clapton, Hendrix, Page and every other big guitarist of the day caught on and started using Marshall stacks.

    But as time progressed and technology got better, so did PA systems which means that today, a tiny little practice amp mic'ed through the sound system will sound just as loud as a 6 foot tall stack. The fact of the matter is that there is no longer an actually need for giant amps. ANY place that is big enough to require that kind of volume will have a good PA system to mic your amp through. On top of that, a 5 watt amp turned up all the way has MUCH better tone than a 100 watt amp turned up to 2. Tubes need to COOK to sound their best and the best way to do that is to use a low wattage amp and crank it. I saw Jeff Beck last year and he was playing through a 5 watt Fender Champ cranked all the way up and mic'ed through the PA system and he sounded HUGE!

    So the Marshall stack, while still a cool piece of Rock & Roll history, is completely obsolete nowadays. In fact, the ONLY reason they still exist is so that people can live out their adolescent-boy fantasies. The middle-aged guy in this video is the PERFECT example. DISCUSS!

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGy0pPllHVQ]Marshall - Big Bob's Marshall Warehouse - YouTube[/ame]
     
  2. Kevy Nova

    Kevy Nova Well-Known Member

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    And THIS is WAY more common than you think:
    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Kevy Nova

    Kevy Nova Well-Known Member

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    My favorite amp is a 15 watt Fender Blues Jr. NOS with one 12" speaker because it is loud enough to play in any small club but in bigger places where they mic the amps, I can still crank it to get that great "crunch" without pissing off the sound guy. That's the other end of it; if you are playing a place with a PA system, the sound guy doesn't want you to be so loud that he can't control your volume. So if you bring a huge, high-wattage amp to a club that has a PA system, prepare for one of two things; you will have to turn your amp down to 2, where it sounds weak and thin -OR- the sound guy will just take you out of the mix all together in which case, you'll sound great on stage but terrible out in the crowd. I've seen it happen dozens of times.
     
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  4. rcole_sooner

    rcole_sooner Member

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    This thread makes me sad. I'm gonna go home and hug my Marshall. :laugh2:
     
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  5. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. As a guy that has been playing since 1972 in pro bands, I've never owned nor gigged with a Marshall...ANY Marshall. I've always preferred Fender, whose Bassman amp Marshall intended to copy anyway, although the English components sounded different...but lots of great stuff was played on the Marshalls...the Who, Hendrix, Zep, etc.

    First off, is this guy in the video for real or is it a spoof? Hard to tell if he's goofing on the whole macho wall of amps thing...or not.

    16 seconds in he swigs whiskey while doing repeating one-hand pull-off cliches...a boutique is a place that sells women's underwear, not where a man goes to buy a guitar amp.....a "harmonic problem" caused by a well-done mod?

    I'd like to hear the other side from you guys that ARE Marshall players. Also, these stacks were developed before the modern PA, as Kevy points out, and there is no reason to haul such oversize gear anymore....except that nothing moves a lot of air behind you except a bigger cabinet. That's never been a part of my playing style, interacting with a LOUD tube amp, but for some that's the holy grail of tone.

    We all have heard of bands with a wall of dummy amps, just for show!
     
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  6. Moose

    Moose Well-Known Member

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    I did a blind test listening to amp simulations without knowing the simulation name. I liked the Fender Bassman sound best, so I bought one.
     
  7. javamagic

    javamagic Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget that apparent loudness pretty much follows a scale to a factor of 10.

    So to be twice as loud as 1 watt you'll need 10 watts, and to be twice as loud as 10 you'll need 100 watts, and twice as loud as 100 is 1kW!!!!

    There are many other factors to consider too, particularly the efficiency of the speakers. Remember that when Marshall made the first 4x12 cabinets they were intended to handle the output of an amp rated at 33 watts clean (the JTM45), and that the drivers were only capable of handling 20 watts each, probably with a 97db efficiency. Therefore, to handle the power from the JTM100s that Marshall produced at the insistence of The Who, eight 12" speakers were a necessity, not a macho posturing statement.

    Sadly the HM wall-of-stacks cliche endures (unnecessarily) to this day but that doesn't mean to say that the 100 watt head and two 4x12s is without its merits in the right circumstances.
     
  8. Tony M

    Tony M Well-Known Member

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    "A guy walks into a bar with a Marshall half stack........"

    Kevy and I are same page same paragraph same sentence on this one.
    First I had a Fender Twin Reverb.
    In 1972-73 I used a HIWATT because a Marshall was not loud enough.
    Then I went back to Twin Reverbs (plural) but loaded them with EV SRO 12's.
    I am wiser now. I use an old Blackface Deluxe and put an E-609 in front of it.
    Or a Vibroverb reissue for really large venues (small pedalboard with either of these).
    Or if travelling really light a Mesa 5.25 express 1 X 10 on the 5 watt setting & no pedals.
    In and out in 1 trip. Guitar, amplifier, pedal/wire satchel. Much better.
    By the way, I have worked concerts where the fake wall of amplifiers was in use.
    (I won't tell names becauuse I don't want to disillusion anyone.)
     
  9. rcole_sooner

    rcole_sooner Member

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    I'm just a bedroom hack, so this has no stage merit. Also being in the bedroom, I play through isolation cabs (I don't wanna go deaf).

    I like my 50W Marshall, but I find I play the C30 as much or more. Part of this is due to the fact the Marshall gets the iso cab speaker pretty hot, and that worries me a little, but mainly the C30 just sounds great.

    [​IMG]
     
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  10. Tony M

    Tony M Well-Known Member

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    I forgot to include my Classic 30 in the earlier post.
    Still in and out in 1 trip though.
     
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  11. bloosman1

    bloosman1 Active Member

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    I have a JCM 2000 DSL100, I am VERY pleased with it, everyone to their own.
    ---J---=-)
     
  12. Tony M

    Tony M Well-Known Member

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    Not saying the large amplifiers don't sound good.
    They sound wonderful while your hearing lasts.
    Just saying they are like dinosaurs. Very cool very large
    animals that are difficult to manage in a confined area.
    In a small to medium sized venue they are an engineer's
    nightmare when turned up. They bleed into the vocal mics,
    and splatter sound everywhere making it impossible to mix.
    They can also be a logistical problem when there are narrow
    stairways involved. The majority of venues do not have
    loading docks and ramps and 8 gorillas in their 20's to help
    with the load in load out. It's mostly clubs and small bars
    where you don't need that kind of firepower anyway so why
    carry it when a small combo will do the job just fine.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
  13. Six String

    Six String Moderator Staff Member

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    I can appreciate the "bigger is better", having been there in the 60's- 70's with the Vox/ Marshall stacks and would also say I still understand the younger following "need for the towers"... but age has a way of justifying down sizing. As has been said, it is the sound that is the most important and fortunately from my stand point, I am glad to have "my sound" without using an amp. Trust me, it helps on the back big time. As a backup... I do have amps and even better young friends willing to roadie them.... lol The tech advance does give us the power, sound and abilities we needed in the big amps way back when.

    BTW... I love the "back stage view" posted... that's wild! :naughty:
     
  14. Kevy Nova

    Kevy Nova Well-Known Member

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    And I'm not saying that they don't sound good, I'm only pointing out that the circumstances that led to the need for giant amps just don't exist anymore. I've seen bands with two guitarists, one using a stack and the other using a small combo, and can you guess which one always sounds better? It's the one with the small combo cranked and mic'ed every time. If you're playing with a stack, you have two options; turn down enough so that the sound person can work with your volume, in which case your amp sounds weak because tube never sound good on two -OR- risk having the sound person take you out of the mix completely, in which case you'll sound great on stage but terrible from the audience.
     
  15. javamagic

    javamagic Well-Known Member

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    I agree. When put on a huge stage at a big festival (as usually happened back in the late 60s/early 70s) they worked perfectly well, but now...

    ...if you want to recreate the sound of a cranked 100 watt Marshall or Hiwatt by using a 5 watt thing, it won't produce the same magic for all sorts of electronic and physical reasons. :)
     
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  16. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    That's the place for the beast. Outdoors! Big hippy festivals! thousands of people to hear the roar of the Celestians speakers barely keeping up with Marshall wattage.

    That magic is what I meant about a playing style that interacts with the high volume tube amp. That is hard to get with any other rig. Perhaps thats' why I have not really used that part of guitar technique in my style. I didn't play those kinds of gigs, even when focused on pure rock.
     
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  17. cooljuk

    cooljuk Member

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    While I agree, overall, with most everything said here, there's something that a 50 or 100 watt amp can do to a speaker that a 5-20 watt amp can't. It's just a different sound. Not better, not worse. Just different. The headroom and response is just different.
     
  18. Voxman

    Voxman Moderator Staff Member

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    :dunno:[​IMG]
     
  19. bloosman1

    bloosman1 Active Member

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    I would "like" the above post 25,000 times if I could!
    ---J---
     
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  20. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    The best part is that there is another Marshall tucked away behind the full stack.
     
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