WHEN ZAKK WYLDE PLUGGED INTO A wall of Marshall JMD1 amps at Winter NAMM’s product launch party this past January, the colossal roar could probably be heard in another galaxy. I was in the front row, and while I was almost vaporized by the onslaught, the astounding display of tone and vibe was immediate proof that the hybrid digital preamp/EL34 power stage of the JMD1 series is as fearsomely powerful as Iron Man in full battle huff. Armed with 16 digital preamp models that emulate tones made famous by Marshall amps such as the JCM800, JCM2000, Mode Four, and plexi—as well as delay, reverb, modulation, and simulations of Marshall’s Guv’nor and Bluesbreaker pedals—the JMD1s provide Marshall zealots with just about every tone they could ever desire. I tested the 50-watt JMD50 ($1,350 retail/$999 street)—variously mated with a Marshall 4x12, an Old Dog X-Cab 4x12, a Mesa/Boogie 1x12, or an Egnater 2x12. The full JMD1 line also includes the 100-watt JMD102 2x12 combo ($1,199 street), the 50-watt JMD501 1x12 combo ($1,149 street), and the 100-watt JMD100 head ($1,099 street). The JMD50 was dragged to gigs, rehearsals, and a studio session, and test guitars included a Hanson Chicagoan, a Gibson Les Paul, a PRS Mira X, a Fender Stratocaster, and a Gibson Faded Les Paul Jr. with P90s.
After being blissfully pummeled by sound waves at the JMD1 launch, I didn’t expect the JMD50 to be sonically puny, but, hey, 50 watts is less than a stack or two, and I’m no Zakk Wylde, either. But the JMD50 delivered the goods, breaking out of band mixes whether the amp was positioned more than ten feet away on a large stage, or two feet back on a cramped stage. And there was plenty of headroom left to blast out solos without being swallowed up by enthusiastic drummers.
One of the things about Marshall amps I’ve always loved is that you can plug in and get a fabulous tone almost immediately, and every one of the preamp models on the JMD50 offers the same facility. Based on personal taste, some models will likely thrill you more than others, but I doubt you’ll ever find a tone that sucks, or that isn’t workable for one application or another. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the preamp models, as we didn’t have the original amps around for comparison, but the vibes are right on. The Mode Four unleashes enough low-end grunt to overturn a tank, the 1959 nails old-school Brit rock snarl and shimmer, the JCM800 is muscular and edgy, and so on.
The effects sound good, and you can dig into the parameters at home and then store up to 28 signal paths into the included footcontroller for instant versatility at gigs. I also plugged my own pedalboard into the effects loop with no tonal compromises. The speakersimulated output sounds great in a pinch, but it misses the air and edge of miking a cabinet. MIDI fiends can further load up the JMD50’s armory by controlling up to 128 different configurations.
Yeah. Wow. That’s really the bottom line on this amp. It always sounded great for me, and with its historic model library and onboard effects, it’s pretty much a one-stop tone machine for the stage and studio. And, you know, if it’s good enough for Zakk...
CONTACT Marshall Amplification, marshallamps.com
PRICE $1,350 retail/$999 street
CONTROLS Master, Presence, Reverb, Delay Level, Delay Adjust, Mod Depth, Mod Adjust, Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, Gain, Pre-Amp, Footswitch/MIDI Program, Compare, Ext FX, Delay/Tap Tempo, Modulation, Ch 1, Ch 2, Ch 3, Ch 4, Manual.
DIGITAL PREAMPS Clean Channel: Modern, Full, Classic, Natural. Crunch Channel: Vintage, Classic, Deep, Full. Overdrive Channel: Classic, Modern, Deep, Detuned. Lead Channel: Deep, Solid, Classic, Modern.
TUBES Two EL34 power tubes
EXTRAS Footcontroller, MIDI In/Thru, series/parallel effects loop, speaker-simulated line out, headphone jack, mp3/CD player input, noise gate.
WEIGHT 34.6 lbs
KUDOS Fabulous versatility. Historic collection of amp models. Good effects. Stunning roar.