Marshall Super 100JH Limited Edition

The new Super 100JH—Marshall’s latest hand-wired model—is based on an original Super 100 reportedly owned by Hendrix. The new amp’s construction is consistent with that of the original, and Marshall obtained components from many of the original manufacturers to create a reasonably accurate replica. Some construction alterations on the power transformer were necessary to meet current safety standards, and the chassis on the new amp is steel instead of aluminum (which was done to make the amp more robust than the original), but the Super’s circuitry is neatly handwired on tag boards that have the same thickness and matrix pitch as the original boards.

The amp also retains the original style gold-colored Perspex (Plexiglas) front panel, though the cream-colored styrene rear panel looks more yellow than those of most vintage Marshalls. As per original spec, the indicator lamp is a 6.3-volt incandescent type, which glows orange through its bullet-shaped plastic lens. Baltic birch plywood cabinetry, small gold “Marshall” script logos, and “100” corner badges and leather strap handles are found on the speaker cabinets. The black Levant covering and white piping and gold beading on the head and speaker cabs is also as per original spec, and the new amp even features the same tone-circuit mod that was done to all of Jimi’s Super 100s (see sidebar for details).

Up From the Skies

Courtesy of its extra-long tall cabinet (which stands 634" higher than a standard Marshall 1960B cab), the Super 100JH stack is impressive to behold. It harks to a time when guitar amps had to be big in order to produce the desired volume in a large hall, and while today’s P.A. systems have essentially eliminated that need, there’s still a lot of primal thrill to be had just standing next to something like this. The leather handles found on these cabs aren’t much help when moving time comes, however. Why Marshall didn’t originally put wheels on these boxes is a mystery, although, considering how the earliest cabs for the 100 watt-setups housed eight 12" speakers (only about six of these 8x12s were made in 1965, the “new” 4x12 cabs were probably thought to be easy enough to carry. The fit and finish on the Super 100JH rig is excellent. The coverings and extensive beading and piping on the exteriors are well executed, and the gold front and white rear panels and gold-on-white badges look as cool today as they did 40 years ago when these elements helped establish the visual identity of Marshall products.

The Super 100JH is bone simple to use, though the two-channel configuration presents you with the choice of using them independently, or combining them with a short jumper cable (which is connected between the bottom input of one channel and the top input of the other) to allow blending the brighter and darker channels to best suit your style and instrument. You can also daisy-chain up to three heads together by plugging your guitar into the top input of either channel, and then running a longer jumper cable from the bottom input of the same channel to either of the top inputs on each subsequent amp. Jimi typically did this in concert, using the Channel 1 (High Treble) input on all his amps.

With only one amp to test, we simply jumpered the two channels, turned both Loudness controls to 10, and were quickly reveling in some amazing tones. The full Super 100JH setup produces a ton of volume, but the loudness actually proved a little less intense than what was delivered by the 1959HW Super Lead 100 reissue (which is based on a 1969 model that used EL34 output tubes). The Super 100JH is definitely a more pleasant amp to play—especially in a smaller room—and its softer dynamic response contrasts to the vicious attack of the studlier Super Lead. With a little finessing at the guitar end (and only one cabinet hooked up), you could probably get away with using the Super 100JH in a smaller club, while still enjoying the fantastic dynamic response that this amp delivers. Even with the Loudness controls maxed, you can still get a decent clean tone by rolling down your guitar’s volume and lightening up on your picking attack. And for even better clean-to-lead transitions, you can always call on a venerable Fuzz Face (or other fuzz or distortion pedal) to provide the bulk of the grind for lead work, while setting the Loudness knobs a bit lower to ensure a clean, crisp rhythm sound.

Voodoo Chile

The real beauty of the Super 100JH, however, is how readily it delivers ultra-classic rock tones. Whether your touchstone tones are Jimi’s, Peter Green’s, or Eric Clapton’s, this amp delivers them all with uncanny ease. For Hendrix stuff in particular, the Super 100 really has no peers. Plug in a Strat, put all the knobs on 10, and you can hardly help but cop those explosively electrified tones and otherworldly harmonics (such as occur when wrangling the vibrato to its stops while flicking the pickup selector back and forth) that pour forth from that wall of 12s. The power-supply-induced ghost harmonics are also quite a trip with this amp. Those crying tones that halo fingered notes when you dig in hard are a signature element of early Marshalls, and they add a certain spice to the Super 100JH’s sonic brew.

Bold as Love

Big, powerful, and as exotically elemental as a mid-’60s Jaguar XKE, the Super 100JH is an amp that few will own (only 600 stacks will be available worldwide), and even fewer will likely haul to gigs. It’s an icon of the highest order, and, sadly, probably one that’s destined to be relegated to the trophy rooms of wealthy guitar enthusiasts. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Marshall certainly wouldn’t have been able to allocate the resources necessary to revive such a beast if an upscale market wasn’t there to support the effort. A cheap thrill it ain’t, but the Super 100JH is definitely Marshall’s most exciting handwired offering to date.