Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m going to do a rundown of what amps I’m using for pedal platforms, and why.Continue reading “2019 Review: Pedal Platform Amps”
This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.
Good afternoon! I’m a bit late with this week’s #CoffeeAndKlon. There’s a couple of reasons why. And one of them does involve the Klon.
I’ve been a bit flat for most of this past week. Delivered a couple of workshops and a talk on the Saturday and Wednesday, and didn’t have much left in the tank after that.
So Thursday and Friday, I’ve mostly been finishing off the home studio revamp. A bit of upgraded gear, and mainly about getting the gear I already have back into use.Continue reading “CoffeeAndKlon #22: Who Needs Pedals When You’ve Got A Great Amp?”
Here in the UK, the online second hand gear market is in the worst shape I’ve seen for decades. Even frequent ‘sell for £1’ events by eBay haven’t helped.
So instead, I’ve decided to sit down, and sort out my home studio setup.Continue reading “New Arrivals For October”
This conversation was originally published on my Twitter feed.
Good morning! Hope you’ve been having a great weekend. I’ve got another #CoffeeAndKlon for you today, and it’s all about guitar amplifiers.
But first: coffee!Continue reading “CoffeeAndKlon #18: Covering All The (Amp) Basses”
So March has been and gone. In the end, February’s absolute deluge of available 2nd hand gear wasn’t repeated this month. But a road trip later in the month brought a chance encounter with something a little bit different …
These are my initial impressions of this month’s new arrivals. I’ll do full articles on each of them when I’ve had some time with them.Continue reading “New Arrivals For March”
At Winter NAMM 2019, Marshall made a major announcement: they launched not one, but two 20W amps based on classic designs. The Marshall Studio Vintage 20 is based on the famed plexi-era amps, and the Studio Classic 20 is based on the JCM 800 – the amp of 80’s rock.
And, by all accounts, both of these amps absolutely nail those tones.
Where does this leave last year’s big new amp, the Marshall Origin? Will the Origin finally find its audience, or is it going to disappear?Continue reading “Initial Thoughts On The Marshall Studio Amps vs Marshall Origin For Pedals”
The turning of the year can be a great time to hunt for new (to you) guitar gear. The second hand market is normally flooded with folks who are moving on gear they no longer want – or sadly can no longer afford to keep. And there’s Winter NAMM, where brands large and small drop announce new products.
I’ve been lucky enough to pick up some stuff that I’m interested in, and I thought I’d share it with you. Some of it is new to me, and some of it is me taking a second look at things I’ve had before but didn’t gel with. And there’s a few very special items too.
I’m going to do full articles on each of them, once I’ve had a bit of time with them. For now, here’s the very first impressions for you.Continue reading “New Arrivals For January”
Glen Fricker has posted his thoughts on Marshall’s CODE 25 amp. Given his infamous Line 6 Spider review, this should be good 🙂
I’ve heard the Marshall Code live, being demo’d by Marshall themselves. There were plenty of folks in the audience who not only liked what the CODE offers, they went out and bought one. There’s clearly an audience for this amp.
Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment.
I’ve just spent two days hiding from unseasonably warm weather, locked in a room with the Marshall Origin 20W head and my Les Paul. Two days of writing, recording, re-recording, and mixing 12 demo tracks.
Now that it’s over, what do I think?
It’s Damned Loud!
This amp needs cranking to get the best out of it. Yes, it has built-in power scaling so that it’s usable at home volumes – but it isn’t the same amp when its held back like that.
To make the demo tracks, I ran the Origin 20W head through a Two Notes Captor and into to my audio interface. Instead of using a real cab, I used an impulse response from Celestion – their G12M-65 in a 1×12 open-backed cab. The end result sounds very close to how the Origin sounds through my real cab.
That meant I could run it with the Master on 8, and the Gain between 5 and 8 depending on whether I was using pedals or not. That seems to be the sweet spot for this amp. With the amp cranked, the power tubes get to contribute to the overall gain.
I normally run the amp in the middle power setting, with the Gain on 5 and the Master at around 2 or 3. Set down there, the amp needs pedals to help it rock out. The results are fun, and it does sound good for home volume levels.
But if you can’t turn it up, you’re missing out.
It’s Damned Bright!
Another reason to crank this amp is to do with how bright it sounds at lower volumes.
This amp’s energy is somewhere up in the upper mids. At low volume, those frequencies dominate our hearing, and the amp sounds very bright. It’s only when the amp is turned up that we start to hear the wider frequencies that the Origin produces.
It is the nature of these vintage amp designs. Even the famed Marshall Super Lead amps were originally very bright amps.
But … the community has spent the last 50+ years moving away from amps that behaved like this. Today, most of the community doesn’t have any experience with those original, unmodded amps, and as a result, Origin’s brightness has come as a bit of a surprise to most folks – me included!
When the inevitable Origin v2 comes along in a few years, Marshall should consider revising the design so that it’s not so bright at lower volumes. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see if the community comes up with ways to mod the Origin to help address this in some way.
It’s Very Clean(ish)!
This amp is never super clean. There’s always a bit of grit in the signal, and that helps it work really well with affordable overdrive and distortion pedals. It stays that way until you really crank it. I haven’t played another amp with this much headroom before.
From demos I’ve seen, and other people I’ve talked to, I think that there’s quite a bit of variety between different examples of this amp. Mine seems to be at the lowest-gain end of examples that I’ve come across. It’s certainly go nowhere near the gain that you’ll see in Marshall’s official demo video up on YouTube.
So soon after Origin’s launch, there’s not enough examples out in the wild to form a reliable picture. Are all 20W heads very clean(ish), or do they vary? Do all the 50W amps have more gain on tap? I don’t know. Only time will tell.
Get Over The Plexi Thing!
Some folks saw Marshall’s branding and pre-release promotion of this amp, and assumed they were getting a 2 grand Super Lead for 500 bucks. When Origin turned out to be something else, they were very disappointed … to the point that they just couldn’t get over it.
And yet, when I’ve invited people to take the Plexi challenge, and pick out the real Plexi from Origin (or Origin + plexi-voiced pedals), so far no-one has successfully done so. I think that says it all.
Now, to be clear, I have never seen Marshall market this as a budget-plexi amp. Nor has anyone been able to produce a single example of Marshall doing so. It’s just a case of folks convincing themselves that it’s the only thing Origin could possibly be. And, with a little bit of help, it can be.
Maybe you prefer the “plexi” tone, or maybe you’re building a budget rig to gig with so that you can keep your expensive Plexi-style amp safe at home. Just run a plexi-style pedal in front of the Origin amp, and you’ll be close enough.
And if you’re not chasing the exact “plexi” tone, save yourself a bit of money and use affordable pedals from Boss or TC Electronic in front of it instead. It’ll still sound great.
It’s Not A Pedal Platform Amp
If you want to get most of the tone, and all the dirt, from your pedals, the Origin isn’t the right amp for that. The Origin has too strong a character for that role. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work.
It does take many pedals well – especially pedals that are designed to run into an amp that’s on the verge of breakup. The end result is a tone that sounds largely like the Origin, and feels largely like the pedal.
I’ve been impressed with just how good the Origin works with affordable pedals in particular. It’s perfectly voiced for these pedals. You don’t have to spend a lot to tailor the sound to suit.
You just can’t tailor it a lot.
Update 2019-06-26: I was very wrong about this. The Origin is a great pedal platform. When I wrote this article, I was running the Origin through a Celestion Creamback, and it was that speaker which was making all the pedals sound similar. Since then, I’ve switched to using a Celestion Blue and a Celestion A-Type together, and that’s made it a much better pedal platform.
It’s A Keeper!
I bought the Origin because I wanted to build an affordable rig that I could recommend to friends. The blog posts this week have been a big part in me figuring out what I’d recommend, and why.
I’ve had a blast recording with it. I thought it sounded pretty good – and excellent for the money – and it gives me a way to get at sounds that I didn’t have before.
Those affordable pedals I’ve tried sound great through this amp. They’re meant for an amp just like this. They really suit the kind of simple bluesy rock that I enjoy. I’ll be doing more with them later in the year for sure.
In the meantime, the Origin has become my main practice amp. There’s something about playing through a real valve amp that the Kemper doesn’t replicate (well, there’s several somethings, but that’s for another day!) Since I got the Origin, I haven’t switched the Kemper on once to practice with. And I can’t see that changing any time soon.
Should You Get One?
- like vintage tones (everything before the hard rock tones of the late 70s onwards)
- can crank it up, or
- are happy to use pedals to make up the difference
then the Origin is an amp you’ll enjoy.
I think it suits vintage-voiced Les Pauls and the bridge position onTelecasters really well. These guitars have their strengths in the same upper-mids where Origin’s energy is.
Everyone else will probably be happier with the 2018 version of the Marshall DSL amps. It has a really nice clean channel that suits clean guitar as well as pedals, plus a great modern-sounding gain channel. I have one on back order, and once it’s here, I’ll do some in-depth demos of that to help you decide for yourself.
Marshall’s new Origin amp is best described as “vintage-voiced”. But what does that mean?
It’s easier to explain when you can hear it next to something else. So here are two demos. The first one is the Origin, and the second one is a JCM 800 – the sound of 80’s rock.
Have a listen, and then I’ll describe what I hear.
Sorry for my ugly mug. I’m too cheap to pay SoundCloud for access to their mini player 😀
What Are The Differences?
There’s three areas where the Origin sounds noticeably different to the JCM 800.
- where the energy is in the mids
- how hard the clipping is
These are the same three differences between the Origin and a Plexi amp. The JCM 800 is simply further along the gradient on all three measures.
The differences are a little starker to my ears, because the JCM 800 has a tighter sound. You can hear that by comparing the performances, and how much closer together in timing the two guitars sound from track to track.
What do you think? Comments below!