The guitar lovers usually go crazy for some of those good old vintage tube amps released way back in the 1960s, or even the 1950s.
Despite the technological advancements which gave birth to some really refined amps or even digital amp modellers, the fans of the vintage stuff still take the significant portion of the guitar-playing population.
But the one model we’re going to focus on here is really special. In fact, it takes us back all the way to the very beginning of one of the biggest companies of the guitar world.
In 1962, a guy named Jim Marshall started a small shop, not knowing that his name would be celebrated by all the coming generations of musicians.
The first product that came out of his shop was the almighty JTM45 amplifier that marked the beginning of the revolution in rock ‘n’ roll.
In this review, we will be explaining a thing or two about this legendary amp model and a few of its different variants that came out over the decades.
First off, since it was originally made so long ago, the JTM45 has some pretty simple features. The total power of this amp head is 45 watts, although there are different versions with different wattage.
The newer model like the JTM45 2245, which was introduced in 1989 and is made to this day, features 30 watts.
Interestingly enough, the amp was made after legendary Fender’s Bassman. So the earliest versions of the Marshall JTM45 used 6L6 tubes in the power section or even the US 5881 tubes.
During the later years, these amps implemented KT66, KT88, and the classic EL34 after which Marshall amps are now known for.
The preamp section had the classic ECC83 valves, and some of them had the 12AX7 variants. The currently produced 2245 versions bear two 5881 tubes in the power section, three ECC83s in the preamp, and one GZ34 rectifier tube.
As far as the controls go, they have always been straightforward. And even the newer versions still have some of those intentionally vintage things to offer. The amp has two channels, each with high and low gain inputs.
Then we have the presence knob, as well as the 3-band EQ with bass, mid, and treble. Then we have two knobs labeled as “high treble” and “normal.” This “high treble” controls the first channel and the “normal” controls the second channel.
The controls and some of these basic features remained the same over the years with the releases of the new models.
On the back end, we can find the two standard 1/4-inch outputs for speaker cabinets. There is also a selectable load switch that allows you to choose between 16, 8, and 4 ohms.
Being vintage-oriented, even the present-day versions do not come with any kind of effects of effect loops.
The initial versions of the Marshall JTM45 differed in design from the classic Marshalls we know of. They had the gold plexiglass front panels, with “Marshall” written in block letters.
It was only after 1965 that they introduced the Marshall logo as we know it today ñ the white plastic one in cursive.
But the overall looks changed as well and we got the well-known easily recognizable Marshall amp heads. The original ones had the so-called “offset” control panel, which was located in the bottom right corner.
The versions from 1965 and onwards had the classic golden plate located in the low middle part of the front face. It’s the same design we see on many other Marshall amp heads as well.
All that we can say – really vintage and really British. Even the newer versions manage to capture that classic old sound conceived back in the early 1960s.
However, if you do get your hands on one of those oldest models, like the aforementioned “offset” ones, you’ll be in for a treat. With volume control pushed over its limits, you can get some surprisingly great distorted tones with some fuzziness on top.
Of course, these amps came, and still come, without any reverbs or other effects on it. It’s the pure sweet organic distortion that comes out of it. Even the clean tones get some sparkle on it without “spilling” all over the place.
The bright “treble” channel does this perfectly. But if you’re playing the guitar with single-coils, you might want to get some of the high ends toned down a bit if you want to avoid those “icepick” ear-piercing tones.
It is probably easier to control with those vintage-styled lowe output humbuckers. This is probably why the Gibson Les Paul plus classic Marshall combo has worked so well over the years.
The moment you play the first notes through it and the moment you hear it’s tone, it becomes pretty apparent that the JTM45 and any of its versions are dedicated exclusively to vintage tone lovers.
While it is true that you’re allowed to experiment and do whatever you feel like doing in music, this amp is not exactly recommended if you want to play anything that’s modern.
It’s dirty, it’s fuzzy, it’s filthy, but all in a good way. As we said, it was designed to copy the legendary Fender Bassman amps, but it features a bit of a different twist.
Then we come to this amp’s price. The new models, which were introduced in 1989 as sort of a re-release of the original JTM45, can be around $2,500 or even more.
However, if you somehow have one of the old versions from the 1960s, then you’re in for a treat. The ones in good condition can reach staggering prices, even somewhere around $10,000 or more.
Well, this comes as no surprise as even Jimi Hendrix used these back in the 1960s. Now, we could argue whether these prices are overblown due to Marshall’s reputation, but one thing remains – their tone is still highly sought after by even the biggest professionals in the guitar world. So there must be something other than just simple hype.