Marshall 1959HW Super Lead 100

Monumentally huge, frightfully loud, and painfully expensive, the 100-watt Marshall stack has been the undisputed icon of rock for the last 40 years. Originally developed in 1965 to satiate Pete Townshend’s lust for power and volume, the 100-watt heads quickly progressed through many evolutionary refinements.

By the end of the “plexi-panel” era in 1969, the design had reached an unprecedented pinnacle of viciousness. While the early plexi heads could emanate a beautifully refined sense of articulate and nuanced presentation (when coaxed in that direction), the later and more feral plexis sounded like they’d just as soon tear your head off than have tea and crumpets. Offering increased gain and tons more upper-midrange and treble emphasis than its plexi predecessors, the circa-’69 design is the version Marshall chose to replicate for its 1959HW reissue.

Time Machine

It’s obvious that the folks at Marshall are deadly serious about making all their Hand-Wired repros as authentic as possible, and with its meticulously laid out and harnessed wiring and boutique-grade components, the 1959HW’s build quality is simply impeccable—there’s simply no evidence of any detail that hasn’t been thoroughly attended to. Vintage Marshall fiends will surely dig the authentic-looking perforated turret boards. To preserve the correct vintage appearance, while also abiding with modern safety regulations, Marshall uses a special board material that was developed especially for the HW series. In fact, it’s registered with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) as Marshall EM42 brown, and it is made exclusively for Marshall. Eat your hearts out, boutique builders!

Dagnall has been making transformers for Marshall since the early days, and they still had the specifications on file for the late plexi’s output transformer. Many amp gurus will attest that the output transformer is one of the most important components in any tube amp, and a great amp deserves a great output transformer. The 1959HW’s output transformer has a 1"-thick core, and, according to Marshall, is an exact replica in terms of dimensions and performance to the original plexi transformers.

For my sound tests, I played the head through a full stack, and I used a variety of guitars. The first and perhaps most important thing you need to know about the 1959HW is that it’s a very faithful recreation of an amp that was designed to operate at excruciating volume levels, and in that regard it’s extremely authentic. To experience this amp in all its glory, you have to crank it up to frightfully high volume levels, just like they did in the old days. If you play at anything less than bone-rattling levels, this amp is probably not for you.

Can You Hear Me Now?

The 1959HW stood proud when compared with several original plexis. With a PRS McCarty plugged into the High Treble channel, its low-end was devastatingly taut, punchy, and well controlled—unlike some of the originals, which sounded noticeably looser in their lower registers. The High Treble channel has a rather large bright cap (.005uF) across its Volume control, so it can sound excessively bright when the knob is set low—especially when using a guitar with single-coil pickups. Just like the originals, though, this cap’s effect decreases as the Volume knob is turned up, and if it’s cranked all the way up the cap has no effect.

The 1959HW’s attack was always quick, percussive, and articulate—even at the highest volume levels, where, again, the older amps could feel a bit softer and more malleable. Which would you prefer? I suppose that’s a matter of personal taste dependent upon your particular situation or application. I’ll say it again, though, the 1959HW requires a total commitment to volume. In many ways, it’s more of a lifestyle choice than an amplifier, which is that’s exactly what made it so much fun back in ’69.