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User Review

Classic Marshall Tone - Reviews Marshall 2204 JCM800 Master Volume Lead [1981-1989]

The JCM800 is one of the most famous amps Marshall has ever made. The 2204 version was the 50 watt version of the famous 2203 that was used on so many recordings in the 80s. They came in two different versions -- the vertical input and the horizontal input. Unlike the 2203s, there was no difference in filtering between the vertical input and horizontal input models. One thing worth noting is that most of the models that made it over here came with 6550s installed instead of the EL34s that the UK guys had. The 6550s lead to more headroom and a clearer sound, where as the EL34s give that famous crunch and midrange that Marshall is more widely known for.


This is one of those amplifiers where it's hard to get a bad sound. Regardless as to whether you have 6550 or EL34 tubes installed, the amp sounds great no matter where the knobs are. Built like a tank, the amp has proven its reliability over time and is still used today. The knobs are clearly labeled with nearly zero chance of user error. The lack of an effects loop somewhat dates it, and it's probably this amp's biggest flaw. That said, it's also one of the reasons why this amp delivers great tone. The clean design allows the 2204 to show its true sound without having to go through messy loop circuitry that could potentially color the overall characteristics of the amp.


Plugging straight in, you can get an awesome AC/DC style crunch. Boosting the amp with an overdrive pedal and giving it some volume, you can get some of the famous tones that were prevalent during the 80s. Don't expect a super gain monster amp; this was built in the early 80s, after all. It also doesn't have a real tight low end. What it does have is some wonderful Marshall high midrange that cuts through any mix and lets you be heard in a live setting. The amp is fairly unforgiving, so if you're a sloppy player, it'll show.


Overall, this amp is a period piece that is surprisingly relevant to today's music. Despite being built in the early 80s, the amp is still being used in today's recordings, touring on the road with famous musicians and being a foundation for many of the amps built today. It set the bar way back when, and it's still a standard today. However, it is showing its age a little. Being a single channel amp, having no effects loop, having a "looser" low end and lacking gain compared to today's amps, it is definitely not for everyone. Still, I feel it's one of those amps that should be in any serious musician's arsenal. Many famous amp modifiers have extended this amp's life and made them fire breathing monsters. Those looking to fix any "faults" the amp has should look into getting it modded. Those looking to start modding amps should also look at this amp as it's incredibly easy to modify. It's a great starting point for someone looking to gain some electronic knowledge regarding amp circuitry.