1981 Marshall 2204 - questions

1981 Marshall 2204: Sell? Keep stock? Mod?

  • Sell it!

  • Keep it (stock)!

  • Mod it (and crank it up)!


Results are only viewable after voting.

Gnarlly

Member
Messages
2,862
Did some more testing with the amp tonight. I threw in some better preamp tubes (removed the Sovteks that were in there), and the amp seemed to come to life! Just a very pure, classic hard rock Marshall tone.

I'm now leaning towards keeping it, as it really sounds great as is. Even with the 6550's, it still has no problem getting that classic Marshall tone with all EQ controls on 5, preamp on 10. I'll probably try a temporary "piggy-backed" resistor on the 47k bias resistor to see how the EL34's sound in the amp, though I have to admit, I really like the tone with the 6550's as is (granted, I'm not really pushing the power tubes at the volume settings I've been playing it at). I might just wait on trying the EL34's until these 6550's die out.

Oh, BTW: this things stomps on the three Jubilees I have owned. Less gain, but a much more raw, classic tone. Also seems a lot louder than the 50 Watt Jub's, though they are both rated the same.

However, I'd rate the 2204 about equal with my Shiva for classic rock tones at lower volumes. With the Marshall controls set as described above, I could dial in the Shiva to sound very, very close to the 2204: preamp maxed, boost off, B: 11:30, M: 1:00, T: 1:30, P: 1:30, Channel Volume: 1:00, Master fairly low. This is with an older Shiva, with fairly high plate voltage.
 

esoteric pete

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,862
i knew you'd end up playing it and digging it. i dont have a marshall right now but i do have a tophat emplexador 50w and it can get those tones and i love them!

KEEP IT!!!!!!!!!
 

jay42

Member
Messages
7,024
Change the bias circuit and get the el-34's in there...........you will fall in love...........
:banana Yup, that should do it. It's a 100K or 47K tacked in on top of a resistor...you don't remove anything.
 

alivegy

Member
Messages
1,176
I would keep the bright cap too. Preamp at 4-6, mids cranked to 8 treble and presence at 4 and dial in the bass to taste. Gives some amazing strat shimmer that only gets better with a good clean boost.
 

blackba

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
11,166
Oh, BTW: this things stomps on the three Jubilees I have owned. Less gain, but a much more raw, classic tone. Also seems a lot louder than the 50 Watt Jub's, though they are both rated the same.
Are you able to record some clips of the 2204 versus the Silver Jubilee? I love my 2553, I agree its not the loudest 50Watt amp out there, but its got plenty under the hood for my needs.
 

big mike

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
12,911
The mods you want to do are easily changed back, so I would mod it to your liking.

I agree 100% about bright caps, I generally disconnect them as well. When I have a switch for them, I almost always leave the bright cap off.
Ditto.

bright cap only effects things when the amp is played at lower volumes. Easily reversible and not a big deal.

EL34 conversions were regularly done, and is also reversible.
220K for the bias resistors, and whatever resistor to bring the pot into optimal range. Not a huge deal for a competent tech.
I say go for it.

My 2204 (later 80s) is due back today with these mods and a host of bad mods reversed. (previous owner hacked it, and I had no idea when I bought it. My tech actually had to repair traces on the board.
 

big mike

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
12,911
Thanks for the comments and votes everyone. Again when I say "mod it," I simply mean switching to EL34's, replacing old filter caps, and possibly clipping the bright cap; that's it. But everyone assumes that when you "mod" an old Marshall, you want to add gain stages, fx loops, etc.

I'm still somewhate undecided, though by the way the poll is going, most would suggest I keep it (stock). I've owned about 10 all-tube Marshalls in the past 20+ years, and besides a Jubilee that I am trying to sell at the moment, this is the only Marshall I have left. I've been able to get very, very close to the JCM 800 tone with my Shiva, so the 2204 is just not appealing to me as much as it would have used to before I got the Bogner. Sure the Shiva is not exactly the same (more thick, lower mids, and doesn't clean up as well; but that's why there's a clean channel), but it also doesn't have that upper-mids "icepick in my ears" effect like a lot of Marshalls have (including this 2204).

As much as I'd love to gig with a 4x12 again (I'm sure my back would love it even more ;), I just don't see myself using the 2204 like it should be used (cranked up). Instead, it would be stifled in my condo, and I'd be forced to squash it down even more with an attenuator. I'll play around with it some more tonight, but in the meantime, I've listed it on Craigslist. I may have a change of heart, but deep down I think the amp would be better off in a new home; one where it can be used to its full potential.

And yet, it's a friggin' classic Marshall in fantastic condition, responsible for some of the best electric guitar tones in history . . . arrrggghh!!!
I should've added to my last post, I consider these 'mods' maintenance.
 

big mike

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
12,911
Are you able to record some clips of the 2204 versus the Silver Jubilee? I love my 2553, I agree its not the loudest 50Watt amp out there, but its got plenty under the hood for my needs.
I have a Jube on loan, and a 2204 due back I'll have to tackle that as well, could be fun.
 

Gnarlly

Member
Messages
2,862
Are you able to record some clips of the 2204 versus the Silver Jubilee? I love my 2553, I agree its not the loudest 50Watt amp out there, but its got plenty under the hood for my needs.
I won't be able to do any recordings for awhile, but I can provide some more description if it helps.

I've had two 2554's, and a 2553 (the lack of a proper choke in the 2554 does not affect the tone as much as some people think IMO). I think they are great amps, and can get real close to the JCM800's in tone. I liked to run mine with the input gain near max, all EQ on 10, with Presence to taste; setup as a "channel switcher" for clean/semi-clean tones to all out scream with the footswitch.

The Jub's EQ controls, as you know, are much more "dynamic" and provide a lot more tone-shaping than the 800's EQ. This can be a good thing for versatility, but it also sounds to me like the more complex circuit takes something out of the "rawness" and "rudeness"of the tone. This is also evidenced by the overall lower volume compared to the 800 IMO; the 800's more simple circuit seems to allow more power/volume through.

Both amps have plenty of punch and power for gigging, but this 800 seems to feel more "raw" like the 70's and early '80's classic rock sounds, while the Jub's seem to be better off for that late 80's hard rock tone; more compressed, with a distinct mid-presence that all Jub's share. Both are great tones, and personally, I really like the lead tones of the Jub's more (probably the best lead tone I've ever heard). But, as I generally prefer to play rhythm and use a boost for leads once in awhile, the 800 is more my style. I'd say the 800 is king for classic rock crunch, and the Jub is king for soloing.
 
Last edited:

Gnarlly

Member
Messages
2,862
I forgot to mention: I was actually very surprised last night at the amount of gain the amp had after switching in some better high-gain preamp tubes (the Sovteks that were in there before had a lot less gain and a dull tone). I used a Chinese 12AX7 in V1 (the same as what I use in my Shiva), a high-gain JJ ECC83 in V2 to tame the highs a little, and another high-gain Chinese 12AX7 in V3/PI.

The amp now has about the same amount of gain as my Shiva with the preamps maxed (without boost on the Shiva). Easily into early 80's hard rock/metal without the need for a boost. I could easily pull off some old Scorpions and early Maiden tones, using my Strats with low output single coils (EJ: stock bridge, tone about 7, partscaster: SD SSL-1 in the bridge, with tone knob rolled back to about 7), at apartment volume levels though my Shiva's cab/Celestion CL80.

Almost makes me want to pick up a Gibson again. Almost . . . ;)
 

-analog-

Member
Messages
3,269
So, let me know what you all think? Sell it? Keep it stock? or Mod it?
29 year old mint condition marshall..

don't molest it.
don't modify it.
don't blow it up.
keep it.

Its somewhat rare to find a clean/un molested early 80's JCM800 that survived the without a circuit, hair metal spandex,neon paint, or leopard print grill cloth mod..

Leave it stock!
 

blackba

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
11,166
I won't be able to do any recordings for awhile, but I can provide some more description if it helps.

I've had two 2554's, and a 2553 (the lack of a proper choke in the 2554 does not affect the tone as much as some people think IMO). I think they are great amps, and can get real close to the JCM800's in tone. I liked to run mine with the input gain near max, all EQ on 10, with Presence to taste; setup as a "channel switcher" for clean/semi-clean tones to all out scream with the footswitch.

The Jub's EQ controls, as you know, are much more "dynamic" and provide a lot more tone-shaping than the 800's EQ. This can be a good thing for versatility, but it also sounds to me like the more complex circuit takes something out of the "rawness" and "rudeness"of the tone. This is also evidenced by the overall lower volume compared to the 800 IMO; the 800's more simple circuit seems to allow more power/volume through.

Both amps have plenty of punch and power for gigging, but this 800 seems to feel more "raw" like the 70's and early '80's classic rock sounds, while the Jub's seem to be better off for that late 80's hard rock tone; more compressed, with a distinct mid-presence that all Jub's share. Both are great tones, and personally, I really like the lead tones of the Jub's more (probably the best lead tone I've ever heard). But, as I generally prefer to play rhythm and use a boost for leads once in awhile, the 800 is more my style. I'd say the 800 is king for classic rock crunch, and the Jub is king for soloing.
Thanks for the descriptions. I agree the Jubilee is a great lead amp and down late 80's hard rock very nicely. I have not played a JCM800 unfortunately.

If you had to dial in the Jubilee to sound the most like a JCM800, what would your settings be?

Also for your JCM800 2204, I assume you are replacing the electrolytic caps due to the amp not being used much. My Jubilee is not much newer, it makes me wonder if I should not consider a cap job on it at some point in the near future.....
 

Gnarlly

Member
Messages
2,862
Thanks for the descriptions. I agree the Jubilee is a great lead amp and down late 80's hard rock very nicely. I have not played a JCM800 unfortunately.

If you had to dial in the Jubilee to sound the most like a JCM800, what would your settings be?

Also for your JCM800 2204, I assume you are replacing the electrolytic caps due to the amp not being used much. My Jubilee is not much newer, it makes me wonder if I should not consider a cap job on it at some point in the near future.....
For Jub settings that get closest to this 800 with all of the 800's EQ controls on 5, I would use the ones that I posted above: Jub T-M-B all on 10, with Presence to taste (usually between 5-7 depending on tubes). This is with the input gain near max so that the bright cap is out of the circuit. This will give a semi-clean sound on the "clean" channel with a Strat (think "Wind Cries Mary"), and a very cranked Marshall tone on the "lead" channel (lead master high, usually about 7-10 to get a little volume boost from the clean channel). I never liked the rhythm clip mode on these amps, but I could see using that as another way to get more 800-like tones. I also always kept mine in high-power (pentode) mode.

The lead channel will have more gain than the 800; to get closer to the 800 with max gain settings, I'd lower the Jub's input gain to about 6 or 7 (depending on pickups of course). However, as you lower the input gain, the bright cap starts to come into play, so you may have to lower treble/presence to compensate.

For now, I'm keeping the caps in the 800. They look good, and the amp still sounds great. If I start hearing anything strange coming from the amp, I will look at them after trying new tubes first. For your Jub's caps, I'd bet they are fine. All of the LCR's in my Jub's, including my 2554, all looked great and I never had any issues.
 

Jube2550

Member
Messages
3,087
I'd say the 800 is king for classic rock crunch, and the Jub is king for soloing.
Agreed.

Nice score, would love to hear that beast. If you found a good one stock I would keep it and don't mod it. I've always wanted a 6550 JCM800. The back of the History of Marshall schematics show the later made JCM800 & Jubilee power sections as the same. The preamps are different, among other things like the loop, half power switch etc.., so really no comparison. It is a matter of taste or the application. There also appears to be a couple of different Jubilee circuit revisions floating around the web which might be why some sound different than others, Marshall inconsistency within same model lines JCM800 included.

I found the simpler preamp of the JCM800 creates more raw volume (signal path of least resistance) out of the power section. Therefore JCM800s generally sound ballsier and more pure to my ears (as in a good platform for pedals) but less refined (the improved tone controls and subjective OD built in on the Jube) for solos. However, there is that instant gratification of having extra volume that might make some think the JCM800 is a better amp although your neighbors might not. If you have heard both the Jubilee and the JCM800 you should be able to discern the preamps. There are similarities I can hear from both amps due to them using the shared power sections although not in this case due to the wider response of the 6550/KT-88.

I had the 21 yr old caps done (for maintenance) and the bright cap snipped (easily reversible). Since those are 29 years I would definitely have a tech go over it for peace of mind.
 

gldtp99

Member
Messages
3,796
I've got an '81 JMP 2204 w/Sylvania 6550's---still has the bright cap---i replaced filter caps when i got it (amp was inop---one filter can physically damaged plus a few other components damaged)----i fixed the damage and got it running in stock configuration---- i put in the Sylvania 6550's, replacing the JJ KT88's i initially installed---after i heard the amp like this i knew enought to leave it the way it was.
I have a '76 JMP 1987 that's still running happily on orig Daly filter caps.
I've built many versions of 2204-type amps with lots of mods, mostly running EL34's (also some with EL84, 6V6, 6L6GC outputs----soon to build a @75 watt version with KT88's and up-sized iron)---all have their strengths and some do some things better than others.
But i'll leave my '81 JMP 2204 stock--- it is a good sounding amp----it's also handy to have a stock 2204 w/6550's around to A/B other 2204-type builds against.
after all....... Marshall built a pretty good 2204-type amp when they did this one.
So i vote for keeping yours stock---- mods aren't always better, sometimes they are just different.........................gldtp99
 

SgtThump

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,887
Ditto.

bright cap only effects things when the amp is played at lower volumes. Easily reversible and not a big deal.
I'm pretty sure the bright cap on these amps affect the tone of the preamp gain, not the volume. With the preamp gain set lower, the bright cap comes into play and the amp is brighter. With the preamp gain set high, the bright cap doesn't do much and the amp gets thicker.

Either way, this is the cleanest example I've ever seen. It looks like a brand new JCM800 Reissue! I'd keep that sucker just like it is and enjoy a super nice amp! Heck, that could be worth quite a bit of moolah one day in that condition.

But if you just don't need it, sell that sucker for top dollar! I can't get over how clean it is.
 

big mike

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
12,911
Thanks for the correction. Admittedly I know more (with my limited knowledge) about the 1987 circuit.

Got my 2204 back last night, fun amp. No where NEAR this clean, ahd a BUNCH of really poorly done mods undone.
 

SgtThump

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,887
Thanks for the correction. Admittedly I know more (with my limited knowledge) about the 1987 circuit.

Got my 2204 back last night, fun amp. No where NEAR this clean, ahd a BUNCH of really poorly done mods undone.
Yeah, I understand. On the non-master volume models, I'd gladly clip the bright cap, so the amp isn't so bright at low volume levels! I just leave it alone on the master volume amps, though, since I run the gain up high on these amps anyway.

I'm considering clipping the bright cap on the preamp gain control on my SLO, but I just can't bring myself to do it just yet. I like the preamp gain around 5, but you can clearly hear the amp get thicker with it up on 6 or so. I think clipping the bright cap would fix that.

Hey, did you see watch that Landry vs. JCM800 2204 video I did? Those are two SMOKING amps if you ask me! Gotta love these Marshalls.
 

big mike

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
12,911
Not yet...getting your amp back is sorta like new amp day.

LOL Pissed off the neighbors I'm sure.
 




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