Been a while since I had a Marshall (that wasn't modded), but I just picked up a 1981 Marshall JCM 800 (2203, 100W) head unit. It's a first year model, and one of the "good" ones before they changed in late '83 to '84. You never know what to expect from these old Marshalls, because I've never heard two that sound alike. I went and picked it up, didn't have a chance to try it out (was in a hurry). Has the normal wear and tear expected for a 28 year old head unit, plenty of bumps and bruises. Owner didn't have the back panel, so I'll need to pick up one.
Bought it for $675, score! Took it home, popped out the chassis and checked it over. It's all original, completely stock and unmodded. Original transformers, caps, etc. No scratchy pots or loose knobs, tube sockets are good, etc. It even has what I speculate to be the original tubes in it, a quad of really old Sovtek 6AC7's biased up around 41ma. When I say Sovtek, I'm talking original Sovteks that haven't been made in 20+ years, not the newer New Sensor stuff that's Sovtek by label only. If it's not the original tubes, then they're still a good 20+ years old I would say, unless the owner had some NOS versions that were dropped in later, which I doubt.
So how does it sound? It sounds like a Marshall should, and quite frankly like they haven't really made an amp sound in a long time. We plugged it into a Mesa (Traditional, Straight) $x12 w/V30's and a Marshall 1960B 4X12 w/G12T-75's. It was literally hard to make the amp sound bad. We were screwing around with old thrash sounds mostly, because my buddy is a Metallica fanboy through and through...haha. Bumped up the high end so it would take your head off, lowered the mids and started dicking around with an old Kill 'em All, Ride the Lightning, Peace Sells kinda sound:
[VIDEO]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-nCawAD3Kc&feature=channel]YouTube - 1981 Marshall JCM 800[/VIDEO]
Yeah, the camera sucks, haha. The cam mic makes everything sound so small, so you get none of the girth of the sound from the room...and I had to stand outside to avoid it clipping the mic. But you get the idea, much ballsier in the room.
It was pretty easy to dial in other sounds, too. Roll off some of that piercing high end, bump up the mids and you get a more modern metal tone. Lower the gain a tad, toss a chorus in front and you get instant 80's RUSH. It stayed really tight regardless. Not in that clip, but we even dicked around by cranking the Bass to "10" for shits and giggles, lowered the top string to Bb, and it still tracked tight. It was pretty big and open, but focused all around.
Couldn't be happier for a $675 purchase. I'll def be keeping that one in the collection.
Nice buy! "Good" versions of that amp kick ass, although the 50w version (2201? I can't remember) sounds even better!