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Marshall Meets New Technology

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , , , , , , on May 1, 2008 by ivancheung

The years 1989, 1990 and 1991, all saw new products for Marshall.

In 1989 Marshall ventured into a new territory for them – effects pedals. Effects pedals are small solid state units which alters the guitar signal (usually before it enters an amplifier). Although effects pedals had been around in various forms since the 70s, 1989 marked the year Marshall would put its stamp on the market.
The pedal produced was named ‘The Guv’nor’, and its function was a overdrive/distortion effect. However the particular type of overdrive/distortion effect makes it significant. ‘The Guv’nor’ would provide an emulation of the trademark sound of a Marshall stack amp, (similar to digital modeling). The purpose of this was to provide the Marshall sound in a very affordable unit, and also making Marshall available to consumers who owned other branded amplifiers.
‘The Guv’nor’ was a huge success and opened the doors for Marshall within the effect pedals market and the solid state market. In the years to come, Marshall would produce other effects pedals. Initially they would all be related to Marshall in some way such as emulating the sound of their own amplifiers; But later they would branch out to effects which have little to do with Marshall such as tremolo effects.

Below: original design of The Guv’nor

The following year Marshall would return to tradition when they released the JCM900. The JCM900 was regarded as Marshall’s new flagship amplifier and carried on some of the attributes of the brand. The most significant feature of these new amplifiers were that they were marketed as “the amps that go to 20”. The message is clear: the loud just got louder.
Although the JCM900 was favoured by younger Rock / Pop Punk guitarists, it was associated with those who embody classic metal (though in a tongue in cheek manner) – Spinal Tap. Aside from the band/actors appearing in adverts and promotional movies for JCM900s, the amps themselves were featured in the second Spinal Tap movie and Marshall even went as far as building a guitar shaped like a stack amp for them (guitar built in conjunction with Jackson Guitars).

Below: JCM900 and the Spinal Tap guitar

After producing one product that was new for the brand identity, and one that embodied the classic attributes, 1991 saw a merge between both. The Valvestate amplifier range was released by Marshall which combined solid state technology with valves. Perhaps Marshall never got enough recognition for their efforts, but the Valvestate showed the market that you could produce an amazing sounding solid state amplifier (exceptions noted). This amp was a hybrid of technology and as a result, it contained the desirable sound of valves and boasted the practical advantages of solid state (more durable, more consistant, lighter weight, cheaper costs).
Combined with Marshall’s line of effects pedals, the company had secured a place in the amateur market more than ever now. Over the next few years, the Valvestates proved to be the best selling amplifiers of the companies history.

Below: the Valvestate range