What connects tonemeisters like Alex Lifeson, Joe Bonamassa, Slash, and John Frusciante? Well, aside from writing badass riffs, playing great solos, and getting OMG-level guitar sounds, it would have to be the Marshall Silver Jubilee 100-watt head. Each of these heavyweights has entrusted a big part of his legendary tone to this legendary amp at one point or another. Despite their stylistic differences, all of these players have gotten intimate with the big, loud, throaty roar that Marshall in general—and the Silver Jubilee in particular— has come to embody. So when Marshall released a reissue of this classic amp, which was originally a celebration of Marshall’s 25 years in the amp game and Jim Marshall’s 50 years in the biz (25/50… get it?), we were eager to see if it could reproduce what this holy grail Marshall was known for.
For those that don’t know, the Jubilee is a 2-channel amp with three gain modes: Clean, Rhythm Clip, and Lead. All the sounds share the same 3-band EQ, but that is far more flexible that what you might think, due to a wide-ranging and powerful tone stack that modifies your tone much more than many other Marshall designs.
I plugged in a PRS McCarty and a Fender Strat and auditioned the 2555X’s sounds. I’ll say this straight out: This amp will not do what it was designed to do unless you turn it up loud. That’s not to say that the sounds you will get on each of the channels at low volume are bad—they’re not. It’s just that the power, muscle, depth, and terror that you really want from a Marshall won’t reveal itself you crank it to a rock and roll level. If you’re willing to do that, here’s what you’ll get:
An ungodly clean tone. You know those clean sounds that are so clean they almost scare you? We’re talking about tones with huge headroom that just keep getting louder the harder you hit them. These are the same clean tones that become magically chimey if you back off just a bit and can be slightly distorted—in a Pete Townshend kind of way—if you really hit them hard. Those are the clean tones that are lurking in the 2555X. They will change the way you play and you’ll be glad they did.
Then, there are the dirty tones. Cranking the Output Master and keeping the Input Gain at noon or below produced a loud, powerful crunch that reminds me of what some early Marshalls that I’ve been able to play have sounded and felt like—not a singing, saturated tone, but a balls-out display of power-chord brilliance that records beautifully and, if you double track it, forget about it—it’s the sound of rock. You can dirty it up by increasing the Input Gain or by pulling that knob to engage the Rhythm Clip. Now you’re in the JCM800-land of distortion, and it’s thick and rich. One thing this amp can do that my beloved 800 could never do, however, is drastically modify the tone with the EQ. I had no problem adding lows, taming highs, scooping mids, or anything else with this great 3-band (plus Presence) setup.
Pulling the Output Master knob (or hitting the included footswitch) engages the Lead channel. It has tons of gain on tap and can produce endless sustain at surprisingly low volumes. Like every other sound on this amp, the Lead channel was at its most Marshally when it was loud. Then, this amp sort of became an instrument unto itself, where I could “play” it by riding my volume control, changing pickups, moving to the side of it, or any number of other things that created or controlled feedback, reduced or increased distortion, or varied the volume from pretty loud to really freaking loud. It’s a whole other thing than playing at bedroom levels and it’s inspiring, musical, and a little intimidating. All distortion levels sound great on this channel, but I really dug keeping the Input Gain below half mast and digging in hard. That gave me a barking, midrange-heavy tone that had exceptional clarity but still fed back effortlessly. Maxing the gain out made left-hand-only legato work a breeze and was still admirably quiet for that amount of distortion.
Marshall has included some other goodies on the 2555X, such as a series effects loop, a D.I. out, and a High/Low Output switch on the front panel that switches between pentode and triode operation on the EL34s, dropping the power to 50 watts. Don’t be fooled, however. That 50 watts seems just about as loud as the 100-watt setting.
Given the relative simplicity of the 2555X’s front panel, it’s surprisingly versatile. If I had a gig that could accommodate the amazing growl of this beast, I would set the Clean channel clean, the Lead channel about halfway up, and then have a couple of simple boost and overdrive pedals in the front. That way, I could get any level of volume and distortion that I wanted. But you could also just crank up the Lead channel and ride your volume knob, and you would still have access to any level of volume and distortion via your picking dynamics.
Players have been bitching at Marshall to release a Silver Jubilee reissue for a long time and it’s easy to see why. This is a great-looking, awesome-sounding amp that can cover a ton of ground.
PRICE $1,900 street
CHANNELS Two (footswitchable, footswitch included)
CONTROLS Presence, Bass, Middle, Treble, Output Master (with Pull Channel), Lead Master, Input Gain (with Pull Rhythm Clip)
POWER 100 watts (High Output) or 50 watts (Low Output)
TUBES Four EL34 power, three 12AX7/ECC83 preamp
EXTRAS High/Low Output switch, effects loop, D.I. output, footswitch.
SPEAKER Tested wih Marshall 2551AV 4x12 ($1,300 street)
WEIGHT 49 lbs
KUDOS Timeless Marshall tones. Powerful, responsive EQ. Loud as hell.