First Impressions: Marshall Vintage Reissue Drive Pedals

Now that I’ve spent a little bit of time with the new reissues of Marshall’s legendary drive pedals, I think it’s worth talking about them collectively.

You can read my individual First Impressions of each pedal here:

Read on for my First Impressions of the vintage reissue drive pedals.

Marshall Did It Right

Let’s get this one out of the way first: Marshall did these reissues right.

Marshall could have released new versions of these pedals with tweaks and changes. A lot of people would have welcomed these circuits in smaller pedal housings. Some people would have been happy if these pedals became true bypass. Marshall could have tweaked all sorts of things about each circuit, such as where unity gain is, the amount of drive available, and so on.

They didn’t.

Marshall made the decision to make these reissues as identical to the original pedals as they possibly could. I think that’s the right decision, and Marshall should be applauded for it.

Why do I think it’s the right decision?

The originals are iconic, legendary pedals. Two of them each spawned a whole boutique pedal industry – the Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB) pedals, and the bluesbreaker pedals. Getting these circuits back into the hands of regular guitar players … it’s just the right thing to do.

It doesn’t stop Marshall from releasing modified versions of these circuits in the future. Heck, if anything, I reckon it’s made it easier. If they did, and people didn’t like the mods, then they now have the unmodified circuits to buy instead.

And if you don’t like the quirks of the originals, boutique pedal makers like JHS and Wampler already have you covered.

I think it’s the best of both worlds. Everyone wins.

They Are Benchmark Pedals

Each of these pedals (yes, even the ShredMaster!) sets the standard that competing drive pedals will be judged by. They’re that good.

That’s not to say that they’re the best at what they do. I’m sure that there are derivatives out there that might be more to my taste (or your’s). But now that they’re widely available, why settle for anything that’s objectively worse than these pedals?

In the coming weeks (when I can tear myself away from my tweed amps …) I’m going to do as many side-by-side comparisons as possible between these reissues and equivalent pedals from other pedal makers. There’s a lot to be learned there!

If there’s a comparison that you’d love to see, let me know in the comments below.

The Full Set Looks Great Together

Kristi was in the room when I was taking them out of the shipping packaging. She’s seen me unbox countless pedals over the years. Normally, they don’t interest her very much at all.

The sight of these four pedal boxes, though, did catch her eye.

Maybe it’s the size (more on that in a moment …) or just the minimalist design? I don’t know. But these pedals definitely have a ‘wow’ factor going on before you’ve even taken them out of their boxes.

The Pedals Are Large, The Boxes Are Even Larger

I wonder how many of these pedals will end up without their boxes, simply because of just how big each box is? The boxes are over twice the size of a typical Boss pedal box 😱

If that sounds excessive … it’s largely a consequence of just how large these pedals are. They’re not quite as wide as (say) the King of Tone or any other dual-drive pedal, but it’s not that far off. Plus, they’re also close to being square in dimensions.

You’re going to need to make plenty of space for these pedals, and for their boxes too. That is, if you decide to keep the boxes …

The Boxes Will Not Age Well At All

Each pedal comes in an even-larger box, which sits inside a cardboard sleeve. To open the box, you have to slide the cardboard sleeve off, and then slide it back on again when you’re done.

It’s a very tight fit, and I’ve already noticed that the edge of the sleeve is starting to look a little banged up. I’ve only had the pedals 5 days, and opened each one exactly twice!

If you’re a collector and you want to keep them mint, it’s something to keep in mind.

Inside each box, the pedal sits on top of a cardboard insert. These are very fragile too, and the pedals can get snagged on them. I’ve already broken one of these just by taking the pedal out of the box.

I’m disappointed that the boxes have these avoidable flaws. I’ve bought these pedals to use, and I’m feeling a little unhappy that every time I reach for one of these excellent pedals, the box is going to get a little tattier. It didn’t need to be like this.

We Don’t Know How Widely Available They Will Be

The good news is that, at launch, these pedals definitely were not marketed as ‘Limited Edition’ reissues or anything that like. So there’s genuine hope that, once demand settles down, they’ll be in stock for years to come.

That said …

  • These pedals have been very popular, and many of the retailers I normally buy from have sold out of some (or all) of these pedals. If you look around, you can still find the odd ShredMaster or DriveMaster pedal, but The Guv’nor and BluesBreaker pedals seem to be sold out everywhere already.
  • Anecdotally, Marshall seem to have had a hard time getting their product into stores in the last few years. I’ve been after a couple of Marshall amps, and they’ve been out of stock everywhere for so long, I decided to buy something else instead. I hope these pedals will fare better.

That’s why I bought the full set of pedals straight away.

Do You Really Need The Full Set?

I bought all four, because the collector in me wanted the full set. I freely admit it: I was driven hard by the fear of missing out (FOMO for short) this time around.

If you’re not a pedal collector, though, you might want to think twice before buying them all:

  • There are plenty of product demo videos up on YouTube proving that The Guv’nor and the DriveMaster are practically identical in tone. If all you’re after is that particular sound, either one of them will do the job.
  • The three circuits (BluesBreaker, ShredMaster and Guv’nor/DriveMaster) are aimed at very very different genres of music. You might well find that only one of them suits your style and tone.
  • While they’re cheaper than boutique pedals, they’re definitely priced towards the top end of the drive pedal market.

Once these pedals are back in stock on a regular basis, I imagine we’ll see them appear on the second-hand market at reasonable prices. If you’ve already bought one or two, and are curious about the rest, be patient and you should be able to pick up the others eventually.

Second-Hand Prices On Originals Haven’t Adjusted Yet

One of the reasons I’m glad Marshall has reissued these pedals is that most people simply can’t afford one of the original pedals.

The second-hand prices for the original pedals have been sky-high. You could literally buy a giggable guitar for the asking price of an original BluesBreaker pedal, for example. These are tones and circuits that have become out of reach for most hobbyist guitarists.

I don’t follow the prices of these old pedals closely, but anecdotally I haven’t seen asking prices come down to anything close to the price of a vintage reissue pedal yet.

Maybe it’s because the vintage reissue pedals are largely sold out atm? I don’t know. But given all the product demos showing that the reissues sound the same as the originals, I don’t understand why someone would pay three, four or even five times the price for an original release pedal.

It’ll be interesting to see what people try to sell the vintage reissues for when they start to hit the second hand market.

Final Thoughts

I think these pedals are awesome. Yes, even the BluesBreaker, even though it doesn’t excite me like the others have. And I think it’s fantastic that Marshall have reissued them.

Regular readers will know that I love having options. These vintage reissue pedals have given me options that I definitely didn’t have before. I’m just not sure (yet) what they are …

I need to spend quite a bit of time comparing them to the Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB for short) and bluesbreaker-style pedals that I’ve already got, to work out which pedals I want to use regularly.

My current guess is that The Guv’nor/DriveMaster will be my preferred MIAB pedal, partly because none of the others get regular use as it is. I really do wish I’d know about, and bought, one of these when they first came out.

I’m expecting the BluesBreaker to lose out to my King of Tone and my Wampler Pantheon. I’ve got a few other bluesbreaker-circuit pedals too; I’m fairly sure that all of them are an improvement on the original. Well, except for the JHS Morning Glory v4. I really don’t get why so many people love that particular pedal …

And I really need to try running a bass guitar through the ShredMaster. Of all the pedals in this series, that’s the one that’s intriguing me the most.

2023 is off to a good start, at least when it comes to newly-released gear 🙂

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