Vintage Marshall vs Handwired Replica?

Robzoid

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I'm wondering about the tone of vintage Marshall amps vs handwired replicas done today by experienced amp builders. I've seen the schematics for vintage Marshalls posted online. So, that makes it seem like a current day builder could 1:1 reproduce a vintage Marshall and build an amp with the exact same sound. Then again, perhaps not. Is there anything that makes a vintage Marshall tonally superior compared to what an amp builder could make these days with a remake/clone? I wonder if there are certain parts, materials, etc. used back then that aren't available anymore that make the old amps somehow sound better, or if the replica would sound essentially the same as the original.
 

V-man

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There are 3 things IMO that makes a vintage Marshall superior:

1. Unregulated components that cannot be precisely reproduced due to environmental laws and regulations.

2. Idiosyncrasies (parts usage varying from individual amps each week and component drift occurring over time), which contributes to the amp being smoother/rounder/mellower/more…”??” etc. Note: individual variation and/or component drift can work for OR against what the user wants.

3. Confirmation bias. People who paid $250-$300 for a 30+ year old MIJ Boss HM-2 (complete with component drift) are going to find a way to reason why their purchase of the noisy old pedal is better than the new HM-2 Waza Boss released.
 

AtomicRob

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I'd add "output transformer" to that list, although you can get pretty close modern replacements with vintage style construction. But like anything it depends on exactly the vintage amp in question - some have the magic combination of parts that sounds amazing and some don't.
 

william vogel

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You can’t get the steel that was used in the transformers. The grade is available today but it’s not the same. This is a difference that can’t be cloned. I have all the vintage parts, Mullard mustard caps, Piher resistors, Phillips caps, Lemco caps. I get really close but the output transformer is impossible to replicate exactly simply because of the lamination steel. The clone will probably be more reliable simply because it’s new but it’s a trade off.
 

Geeze

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I see both sides - as an investment the vintage takes the cake. New 'clones' will take a hit on value. The less known builder the more hit typically but may cost much less than a vintage or a big name like Metropoulos or Germino.

Do the builders know what they're doing? Most certainly - it's not a matter of component value matching but getting all the bits to work together to produce the tone you want - tone stew, if you will.

Now the other side - since there is a bit of 'drift' with Marshalls how much exactly are you trying to achieve? How many do you have to demo to find 'THE ONE?' Can anyone agree on what the perfect Marshall tone is? I've had exactly one clone built to 73 metal panel specs and then I had him tweak it a bit to filter out excessive lows when it's cranked. I'm happy and while I lust after vintage NMV Marshalls I don't want the TLC required - if I blow a tranny the value is crushed. Same reason I avoid the unicorn fart greenback speakers.

I'm in process of trading off my last vintage JMP 2203 for a JTM45/100 build. Why? I like the NMV Marshalls [and others] better at any volume and there ain't no way I'd pony up for a real one.

In summary - investment do the vintage, otherwise get exactly what you want for most likely less dough.

Russ
 

Robzoid

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@Geeze Actually, a JMP 2203 is what I'm interested in. I'd pretty much have to buy it off reverb, which seems like a bit of a gamble. I was suspecting/hoping that vintage was mainly about resale value and just wanting to own an original. Then again, I haven't heard any side by side comparisons online between a vintage Marshall and a clone, so I can't say for sure. How was your 73 clone compared to the vintage Marshalls you owned tonewise?
 

Geeze

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Actually, a JMP 2203 is what I'm interested in. I'd pretty much have to buy it off reverb, which seems like a bit of a gamble.
I don't know of a clone mfg that does the JMP 2203 era and you may need to pursue a '77 through '80 models if you want the JMP head shell styling. Marshall did some of the JMP's in JCM cabs for a while into the early 80's. They came stock with 6550's - my preferred tube / tone in those. Expect to have it serviced when you get it - filter caps most certainly if they are original. The '78 I had came with the GE 6550's and was bone stock. I had the caps replaced and it was the one MV amp I regret selling.

It's a good idea to know what the transformer cover numbers are when shopping so you can spot replacements and many of the earlier series had four speaker jacks. As long as there aren't extra holes you should be OK.

Unmolested internals -

OGenZZr.jpg


8NuUQxb.jpg


This one earlier one had a Hiwatt OT to replace the stock I suspect it blew.

1VSmz73.jpg


Most of the MV JCM builders do the 'hot rodded' versions well but I've not spent much time running them.

Russ
 

V-man

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@Geeze Actually, a JMP 2203 is what I'm interested in.

I don't know of a clone mfg that does the JMP 2203 era and you may need to pursue a '77 through '80 models if you want the JMP head shell styling. Marshall did some of the JMP's in JCM cabs for a while into the early 80's.

Ceriatone appears to have the closest copy with the themed headshell, barring the obvious caveats of the HW construction and extras like FX loop and external bias points.

I would think the obvious key is the filtration. US-Canada market JMPs ceased in 1981. On paper, the JMP should = JCMs until ‘84 when the inputs changed from VI to HI and filtration was augmented to what some call “harsher” (there are threads about this subject). In reality, legos starting appearing @ ‘78 and populated more prominently from ‘79 forward (all cherry legos moving forward)… just one of those idiosyncratic changes between JMPs themselves.

If Ceriatone does “JMP filtration,” you have the closest approximation possible pending the iron on board. If it’s “JCM filtration” it comes down to having a tech mod whichever amp/kit (where possible-that’s above my ability to comment)
 

playloud

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@Geeze Actually, a JMP 2203 is what I'm interested in. I'd pretty much have to buy it off reverb, which seems like a bit of a gamble. I was suspecting/hoping that vintage was mainly about resale value and just wanting to own an original. Then again, I haven't heard any side by side comparisons online between a vintage Marshall and a clone, so I can't say for sure. How was your 73 clone compared to the vintage Marshalls you owned tonewise?

As you're specifically interested in stock 2203s, I'd say the complexity of this apparent dilemma is significantly reduced: just get a vintage/original. Even with the much-discussed price increases, they still seem to sell inside US$2k, and you can't get a quality clone for much less than that (exception may be Ceriatone, but the difference in initial cost would be more than met by the difference in resale value).

Now if you were interested in an offset JTM45, it would be a different calculation...
 

neikeel

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I agree with Playloud
I’ve built many clones over many years and can get very close.
OT can be very close too (more significant in NMV).
Particularly the Merren and Marstran OTs. My 45/100 is spot on with Marstran iron.
Other factors oft discussed are soaked/bedded in filter caps and the AB pots that often test high.
 

TheOtherEric

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Lots of folks eventually conclude that vintage Marshall is simply better. After owning a few Marshall style amps (Ceriatone Plexi 51, Bray Coco 50, Splawn Quick Rod) and Trainwreck clones, I concluded the transformers really are key to a great open, clear, present tone. All those non-Marshalls I sold off since they paled in comparison to my ‘76 JMP 2204 and ‘73 JMP 1987.

If you aren’t too picky, a Ceriatone 2203 should be fine (if you don’t mind the one year wait). Germino has a clone too, and a 4-month wait, but it’s priced the same or more as an actual 2203.
 

Smellytele

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Since I see transformers mentioned; a while back I posted about getting a 78 2203 as a gift and the PT was blown (OT was just fine). I replaced the PT with a new production, but do you think it's worth having the original rewrapped (rewired, repaired, whatever)? The amp sounds great as is, zero complaints there. Wondering if it'd be worth it for long term value (though I'm NEVER selling it). Maybe this is worth it's own post??
 

V-man

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Since I see transformers mentioned; a while back I posted about getting a 78 2203 as a gift and the PT was blown (OT was just fine). I replaced the PT with a new production, but do you think it's worth having the original rewrapped (rewired, repaired, whatever)? The amp sounds great as is, zero complaints there. Wondering if it'd be worth it for long term value (though I'm NEVER selling it). Maybe this is worth it's own post??
Why?
You aren’t selling it and you are happy with the tone. Makes little sense pissing the money away.
 

Deftone

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@Chris-in-LA has a 2204 and a couple of clones. I was just asking him about them. He may be able to provide some more insight.

I recently bought myself a '79 JMP 2204 and I'm completely blown away by how good it sounds. Plus it's saturated with Marshall mojo. I love it. Super happy with that purchase.

FWIW I also have three handwired "clones" made by Randy Fay at Phaez. Whenever I go back to the Phaez amps I'm equally impressed by the tone and quality. Everything people describe about Hand Wired amps is in there... touch, volume and tone control response...plus they work well with any guitar, pickup, pedals, speakers, or cab. I've bought a total of five Phaez amps over the years and have never been disappointed with any of them. He builds you exactly what you ask for and he takes the time to tweak each amp until it sounds stellar. He's very reasonable on pricing as well and turnaround is quick. Highly recommended.
 

FutureProf88

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I've owned several clones and a couple of vintage Marshalls. I've played several more vintage Marshalls that I didn't own. In my experience it came down to the individual amp.

I owned a '71 superlead for a while that was good, and it was cool, but it wasn't anything mind blowing. I had a 100 watt Germino that sounded and felt better to play. I currently have a Rockitt Retro 1987 clone that sounds and feels amazing - I've never played a pre-'76 50 watt but I can't imagine it would be much better. I have played a '76 1987. I have a Granger JTM 45/100 Monterey-spec clone. I did get to compare it against an original 1966 JTM 45/100. The Granger felt a bit less stiff, but it's running a lower voltage power transformer than the original spec, and at full tilt it seemed a bit louder in the room. Again, I preferred the feel of the Granger and once both amps were turned up beyond 4-5 you couldn't tell much of a difference between them.

Oddly enough, for me the "magic" Marshalls I have played have all been late 70's amps. I had a '77 Superbass that just sounded phenomenal. Felt great to play, and every single time it made an odd sound or had a volume flutter I freaked out. That was why I sold it - I found that I was too uptight about it to play it and enjoy it. The other Marshall that stands out to me was a '78 2203. Typically I don't get alone well with the MV amps because I just can't seem to dial the fizz out, but this one didn't have any to speak of. I tried all kinds of settings on it and just couldn't make it sound bad.

My thoughts: If you want a player, get a clone or a reissue. The clones that I have played have sounded every bit as good as most of the vintage amps that I've played and it's easier to view them as "oh if I hurt it somehow I can just get it fixed." If you blow a transformer you haven't just blown up a vintage Dagnall or something. If you want something to have as a collector's piece that you can occasionally play then get an original.
 
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You can’t get the steel that was used in the transformers. The grade is available today but it’s not the same. This is a difference that can’t be cloned. I have all the vintage parts, Mullard mustard caps, Piher resistors, Phillips caps, Lemco caps. I get really close but the output transformer is impossible to replicate exactly simply because of the lamination steel. The clone will probably be more reliable simply because it’s new but it’s a trade off.
I agree. All these old amps,tubes and components make them all a little different anyway between old ones. Pots ,OT’s also have something to probably do along lots of factors. Along with how stuff was maybe even put together back then.

I kinda quit trying to put anymore thought in exactly why this is with any piece of musical gear lol. How far do you want to take it and time to do so is a thing.

It is hard to truely clone something. Say one example you like of any old amp. Depends on how nit picky ,money and how much time you have. Certain guys can tune them amazing well after doing it for a long time.

As times change with how things are made. I don’t care if it a old fender pickup,a killer sounding simple old fuzz face even . Really anything . Times change (stuff like materials used to make components is what i mean). A lot to it from all angles. Just the sum of everything (tolerance ,parts that kinda thing)used in a nice old example . Not to say it can not be done reasonably well or even exceptional sometimes.

Hell sometimes you can have parts that even test almost exactly the same ,same old materials and same make . They still don’t sound 100% the same. Not even old versus clone thing.


The way I feel about it is If it sounds how you like is what matters. It is funny sometimes a example that has the worst or lowest quality parts in it Can be amazing for god know what reason. I have stumbled every once in awhile in to it.

Sit in front and play a old anything with new clone and a/b them. Best way to see what you think. I have a Park ltd PMC100 that really holds it own and in some ways is better than a old amp. That said there are minor difference but that is to be expected with any of the. Especially if you are looking for listening for them ,maybe even in your own mind.

Say You have a gig in grimy ,humid ,muggy biker bar or by water. It could rain on/off ,drunks ,bad power or what have you. most gigs are not ideal great situations for old amps lol. I would much rather take a nice remake than a really valuable old amp you really like .

A lot time newer remakes even using old parts might be Cheaper better smarter alternative for playing .

Some tone differences are they can tend to Brighter , louder because some of the electrolytics caps. Not as clean/clear , more bottom, more dirty/aggressive on some off the top of my head. It all depends on what you hear. The new ones can actually be noisier which is strange . Maybe freq,dynamic thing that goes both ways.

I think a good old ones is more natural sounding (what ever that sounds like)and less ear fatigue at high volumes. Ghosting has never been a issue with old ones I have. While the old ones can be more complex and not as overtop as some remakes.

Again an huge general statement . They can feel different . Like the last 10 thru 15% you know in the machine. However that is what make or breaks it If your into to that.

I would say they are all different even between each other. However the newer built amps with old parts minus original ot/pots do sound different. I don’t want to sound like a wine taster here so I will not any further .

I would say try to find in a store/person that some and a/b them. That way you can hear/feel what you think and notice that are differences between the examples you have there.

Some builders make some really nice stuff. Park LTD stuff ,Metro,Marshall hw look for used stuff or originals. Very talented smaller builders as well. It really depends on a Particular amp new or old. I would say Mitch Colby is really great guy to have a amp made by. Especially builds with old parts And Merren transformers.


I agree with playloud ,neikeel and others above comment 100% above.

Then again I do believe in stuff with time with music. My Generation stuff. As in hearing a really great old player from the 1960s or early 70 ,really any era. Know or unknown . Guys still around and playing today. You hear the greats from those times play a few notes live and you instantly hear/feel it . You go that’s it within couple phases or notes. I feel that kinda thing exists from just time they came up thru. Kinda hard to clone stuff coming from different eras . You don’t have to and new clones are great amps.
 
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neikeel

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@william vogel

I’ve got a bundle of old transformers of various types with old lams. If you want you can have them for cost of postage (bearing mind I’m in U.K.).
 
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Gene Ballzz

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I think the best and most revered clones (Metropoulos & Germino, to name a couple) can and often do meet and/or exceed the tones and qualities of many original Marshalls. Those builders have spent many years experimenting and learning which details are significant and which are not! There are many other builders who have not spent that time/effort and their products usually show it! Nik at CeriaTone has been doing this for quite a while and I've heard very few negative comments about his stuff! It should be remembered though, that he is striving to meet a price point and balance that with quality.

With all that said, I'm completely blown away by what my SV20H can do, for what it is and in its wattage range! It is definitely "All Marshall" for sure!

Just My Opinion,
Gene
 

jgab

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Unmolested internals -

OGenZZr.jpg

I've never seen 0.022uf coupling caps like that before. Do you have any side photos of those?

No offence but that's one of the messiest wiring jobs I have ever seen in a Marshall. Must have been someone's first day...
 

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