Marshall International: The Rose-Morris Disaster

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , , , , on April 26, 2008 by ivancheung

Since the start of the company, Marshall has been on the side of the working musician. Providing the young player with the best product at a low cost. However, this would change when Marshall entered a disastrous deal with distributor Rose-Morris.

By the mid 60s Marshall had achieved fame with many of the most famous bands using them. Marshall had dominated the domestic market and there was a demand from the international market as audiences from other countries were exposed to the brand through the British band’s touring.

Rose-Morris, a renowned international distributor would be the one to help Marshall grow. In 1966, Jim Marshall signed a 15 year deal with Rose-Morris, which although did help Marshall grow, would also turn out to be the worst mistake in the companies history.
Rose-Morris were making an enormous profit from the mark up of Marshall products (up to 55% for products distributed internationally, when the industry standard was around 12%).

The mark up by Rose-Morris meant that Marshall products were very expensive by the time they reached the retailer. From here on, Marshall would only be affordable by the rich. We could argue that this gave Marshall a desirable image since the young players who could not afford the brand saw their heroes (the professionals) using it, ingraining a higher sense of quality and transforming the brand into an aspirational one
Unfortunately this whole incident meant Marshall weren’t making enough profit. For the next 15 years Jim Marshall decided that in order for Marshall to survive he would have to expand into different markets; such as starting his own wholesale business distributing other musical equipment, and even two department stores called MBC based in London.

(When the Rose-Morris deal ended, Jim Marshall sold the leases to his department stores as he didn’t need them anymore. He alleges that he made more money from the leases than all the profit from his amplifiers during the deal).

The Rose-Morris deal meant Marshall became an international brand, but at a high cost.
For those interested in Jim Marshall and the company he created, I highly recommend you buy:
Maloof, R. (2004) “Jim Marshall: The Father Of Loud”, San Francisco: Backbeat Books.

James Marshall Hendrix

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , on April 25, 2008 by ivancheung

Above: Jimi Hendrix

A young James Marshall Hendrix, also known as Jimi Hendrix impressed Chas Chandler (bassist of The Animals, and owner of his own management company) so much that Chandler decided sign him to under a production and management contract. For Hendrix to get his start, he was taken to London in hopes of forming a band.
Soon after the band The Jimi Hendrix Experience would be formed, and they would befriend the other local bands of the time such as The Who and Cream.

Hendrix who was a Fender amp player would soon be converted. One night in 1966, he shared the stage with other bands using Marshall stacks. He was told that if he wanted to use his own Fender, he would have to clear the Marshall stacks off stage first (a time consuming and laborious task). So that night, Hendrix played through a Marshall and loved the sound so much that he wanted to meet Jim Marshall – the man who shared his name.

The relationship between the world’s loudest amp and the world’s loudest player began.

Since then Jim Marshall never hesitates in crediting Hendrix as Marshall’s greatest ambassador.

For those interested in Jim Marshall and the company he created, I highly recommend you buy:
Maloof, R. (2004) “Jim Marshall: The Father Of Loud”, San Francisco: Backbeat Books.

A new way of looking at Marshall…

Posted in NPD: Guitar Amplifiers on April 25, 2008 by ivancheung

This image was created during the visualisation of my designs.

However since its creation all design ideas have been abandoned while I redefine my proposition…

More Power!: The Marshall Stack

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , , , , on April 24, 2008 by ivancheung

Above: Townshend with his wall of stacks

As the British Invasion became more aggressive, its popularity was hitting new heights. Bands such as The Who began playing to larger audiences where more power was needed. Pete Townshend and John Entwistle not only wanted to be heard, but they wanted to be felt. Like the beginnings of the JTM-45, Jim Marshall was asked to build this new amplifier.

In 1965, Marshall would reinforce its status as the loudest when they unveiled the 100 watt guitar amplifier – the most powerful of its time. This 100 watt amplifier head was very similar cosmetically to the JTM-45.
What set it apart was Townshend and Entwistle’s request that they needed a giant speaker cabinet to go with this monster of an amplifier. Instead of the 4×12 (four 12″ inch speakers) cabinets being used at Marshall, Townshend and Entwistle wanted it doubled to an 8×12 cabinet!

Jim Marshall warned the two musicians that such a large cabinet would be very difficult to transport, but realised that such a cabinet was for aesthetics rather than anything else (the 8×12 cabinets were intended to be a backdrop on stage to emphasise the power behind the band).

After a few gigs, Townshend and Entwistle returned, revealing that their roadies were complaining about the size of the cabinets.
Marshall’s solution was to simply cut the cabinet in half, creating two. This then became known as the full stack (while a amp head and a single cabinet would be referred to as either a stack or a half stack). A side effect of 8 speakers was a distinct tone which has become part of Rock music history (Hendrix anyone?).

The world’s most iconic amplifier was born!

Over the next few years Marshall would continue to show the world why they were the loudest by producing amplifiers capable of providing 200 watts, and then 300 watts. Although these efforts were impressive, the 100 watt amplifier remains one of the most important milestones of Marshall’s history.

For those interested in Jim Marshall and the company he created, I highly recommend you buy:
Maloof, R. (2004) “Jim Marshall: The Father Of Loud”, San Francisco: Backbeat Books.

Mapping Marshall: Update

Posted in NPD: Guitar Amplifiers with tags , , , , on April 23, 2008 by ivancheung

This is an update to my previous post ‘Mapping Marshall’

Since that post, I have refined my brand more to my liking, with a greater effort in positioning the competitors in relation to each other, the brand attributes and related concepts.

Click on image for a larger view

Marshall Versus Vox

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , , , on April 23, 2008 by ivancheung

Above: The Vox AC30

Marshall’s main competitor within Britain was Vox. Vox had been around a few years longer than Marshall and had established itself as one of the best amp makers along with Fender. At the time, notable bands such as The Beatles and The Shadows used Vox. They specialised in combo amps such as the AC30 which has become legendary in its own right.

Marshall on the other hand, was a rising star, attracting bands such as The Who and Cream.
Jim Marshall, happy with the success of his company, decided to place an advert in Melody Maker thanking all the musicians who had used Marshall. Vox owner Tom Jennings saw it as shrewd advertising and was not happy. Jennings phoned up Marshall and alleged that some of the musicians listed in the advert were under contract with Vox. 
Marshall were then asked by Vox’s solicitor to, in the future, submit names of any musicians they planned on using in adverts so Vox could approve or disapprove first. In response, Marshall asked the solicitor to sign under a list of musicians who were under Vox contract so they could avoid them (Jim Marshall knew, if the solicitor signed, it meant the list of musicians would genuinely be under Vox contract at the time, and not just Tom Jennings’ allegations). Neither side relented, and no agreements were made.

Tom Jennings was a man with a fiery temper, and the phone calls to Jim Marshall he made during this period included some colourful language. After one phone call, Jim Marshall fed up with Tom Jennings, proclaimed to his employees, “I’m going into battle with Jennings at Vox, and I’m going to put him out of business.” (Maloof, 2004, Pg.51).

This claim didn’t take long, as a few months later Marshall released the ‘Bluesbreaker’ which was direct competition for Vox’s AC30. The ‘Bluesbreaker’ won due to a number of reasons; firstly, it was popularised by Clapton; secondly it was priced 35% below the AC30; and thirdly, popular music was changing.
As the Vox had The Beatles (the biggest band in the world at the time), Marshall had The Who (the new kids). Around 1965, popular music became heavier, faster and more aggressive. Vox were slow to meet this new consumer demand… a demand Marshall specialised in. From this misstep, the Vox brand would go downhill, with Tom Jennings leaving his own company in 1967. The Vox brand would be passed around to different owners through the next two decades, all with disastrous results. Meanwhile Marshall would establish itself as a market leader of Rock amplifiers within the UK and World.

For those interested in Jim Marshall and the company he created, I highly recommend you buy:
Maloof, R. (2004) “Jim Marshall: The Father Of Loud”, San Francisco: Backbeat Books.

Amp Types: Full Stack

Posted in Amplifier Basics with tags , , on April 23, 2008 by ivancheung

Images for this post taken from

A full stack amplifier is a Marshall design and a signature.
This is the stack amp (or half stack), stacked onto an additional speaker cabinet. Each cabinet houses four 12″ speakers.
The full stack grew out of Pete Townshends request for a single speaker cabinet with eight 12″ speakers. Although this was built, Townshend’s roadies soon complained about the difficulty of transporting such a large unit. Jim Marshall’s solution was to cut it in half!
No other amp screams Rock n Roll more than a Marshall full stack!

Here are some images of the Full Stack.