Red Rocker
Guitar Player|Holiday 2021
It’s standard issue beneath its custom skin, but this 1974 Marshall 50 Lead stack has looks that thrill.
DAVE HUNTER

IN A WORLD OF none-more-black amp stacks, there’s something irresistibly lustworthy about a rig swathed in bright, bold, stage-stealing red levant. Sure, the circuit, tubes, transformers, speakers and everything else under the hood are just the same, but a stack like this just has to sound better than the standard issue, right?

Regardless of any imaginary sonic superiority, custom color Marshalls from the golden years are extremely rare, and highly collectible. And regardless of that, we can still expect this month’s featured amp and cab to generate a raging aural assault defined by gut-thumping lows, fat mids, and sizzling, crackling high-end crunch, and that’s what it’s really all about. Call it classic rock, Brit rock or what have you, it’s the sound that launched a thousand hits, colloquially known as “the Plexi tone,” even when the so-called “Plexi” in question was produced well past the era of the genuine plexiglass-paneled amps.

Marshall introduced its first proper production model, the JTM-45, in 1963 and used control panels back-painted in gold on those and all amps through 1969. In 1966, the model designation segued to a more powerful 50-watt JTM-50 and then to JMP-50 in late ’67 (which had by then been joined by 100-watt models), until the company began using metal control panels instead of plexiglass after 1969. Although all of those 1963-’69 amps had plexiglass panels, the term “Plexi” is more often used to describe the ’66-’69 amps, which gained more power, a few circuit changes to make them brighter and tighter, and a solid-state rectifier in place of the previous tube rectifier, among other things.

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