Advice on Downsizing the Marshall stack: is 18 watts gigworthy? Really??

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by madprofessor, Apr 21, 2016.

  1. madprofessor

    madprofessor Member

    Messages:
    123
    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2014
    I am pretty new here and could use some advice.

    I am getting old and want to get a smaller rig. I am considering an Aiken, Reinhardt, Retro King, Suhr or Avatar 18 watter, but they are a lot of money and I have some doubts and questions.

    I love my 50 watt and 100 watt marshalls and 4x12s, and I won't get rid of them, but the gigs where I can use them (or want to carry them) are getting fewer and farther between. I play lots of small clubs these days. I want a rig for small clubs, rehearsals, recording, and that is pretty good in the bedroom (and will maybe inspire me to practice!). However, my regular band still thinks its 1984. We play a lot of hard rock and heavy blues (ZZ, Zep, SRV, ACDC, VH etc - among other things) and the band is often pretty stinkin loud in terms of stage volume (we're 3 piece). My other band plays modern country at reasonable levels so no problem there.

    I need to know if any of the above heads with a 2x12 (or 2 1x12s?) can do the job in terms of volume and headroom. I have never owned a marhsall 18 watt circuit, but I have owned some 18 watt el84 1x12 combos - mesa studio 22, peavey bravo, for example - (peavey classic 30 was better for volume but meh) and they wouldn't cut it even in rehearsal - not even when plugged into a 4x12. I know people always say how loud their 18 watters are (and yes I know the watts to db math), but its hard to believe. As I'll be ordering the amp sight unseen, I'd like to hear form people who gig with these amps. Do you ever feel overpowered by bass and drums?

    Also in my experience, el84s can get brassy when cranked. Anybody experience that with these kind of amps when cranked.

    I mostly live for dirty or in between tones. I rarely need loud cleans and prefer my cleans a little dirty anyway. However some cleanish headroom is important. On the other spectrum, I don't much need modern metal rhythm chug and fizz, though I love "vintage metal" tones like early maiden and sabbath stuff. I wouldn't mind a little more vintage vibe and warmth than my jcm 800 gives but I'd still like some of the fullness of the big rig. I like simple riggs - a single channel set to crunch using guitar volume to clean up and a boost for leads. I like harmonically rich sustaining lead tones (who doesn't?).

    I also like the intangible magic when guitar amp and room are in sync. I'm not really getting that with a JCM800 turned down.

    I sometimes use an effects loop for delay/reverb/solo volume boost. Am I right in thinking that isn't much of an option with 18 watters?

    I'd also like to hear about speakers. I've always used and liked greenbacks, but I've never worried about volume before. Are there high efficiency speakers with a similarly warm tone?


    Finally, am I even in the right ballpark, or is there something else I should consider for my Marshall fix in a smaller package?

    At the moment I am leaning towards the Aiken invader (attinuator, xlr out, reverb) but there is no way to test the tone other than clips. The Suhr seems more modern high gain. Reinhardt sounds good but I cant find one. Avatar is little less money. Any opinions, especially on low end frequencies and gain would be nice.

    Sorry about the long post. I figured the more info I give the better.
     
  2. Blix

    Blix Supporting Member

    Messages:
    21,099
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2010
    Location:
    Stabekk, Norway
    IME, an 18w is not gigworthy for a loudish rock band at all, not enough headroom to give you any punch and bottom end.

    The very best solution IMO would be if you bought a Fryette Powerstation and downsized to a good 2x12" and continue to use your proper heads... :)
     
  3. madprofessor

    madprofessor Member

    Messages:
    123
    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2014
    I appreciate the honesty, Blix. You may have saved me $$$$. Have you attempted to gig with one (18 watter)?

    My el84 experiences have not been gigworthy either, but people rave on the volume of their low watt heads so I'm trying to sort it out.
     
  4. pepedede

    pepedede Member

    Messages:
    1,417
    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2014
  5. Blix

    Blix Supporting Member

    Messages:
    21,099
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2010
    Location:
    Stabekk, Norway
    I have gigged with an 18watter, once....

    It works great for say country-rock and similar, but once you want to get your Van Halen on, forget about it.
     
    lousyatit likes this.
  6. madprofessor

    madprofessor Member

    Messages:
    123
    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2014
    Thanks guys. It's a bit of a bummer. Tone-wise these sound like fun and a perfect match for my style, but I ain't dropping a bunch of cash for an amp that won't cut it on stage. I had my finger on the trigger too when I decided to ask for advice.
     
    MrLahey likes this.
  7. mattymel

    mattymel Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,269
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2009
    Location:
    Cincinnati, OH
    I owned a 1974x for years and I would say the exact opposite is true. Unless your definition of country rock is Crazy Horse or the like. Not saying it's anything like a Deluxe, but it's definitely not a clean amp. Not intended to be either.

    From reading the OPs comments (bluesy, hard rock/ZZTop/ACDC) I would say you would be hard pressed to find a better setting for an 18 watter. Those would actually be the ideal playing settings.

    The only possible concern is how much clean you need? An 1974x has cleans, though they aren't my favorite Fender BF variety. And the best cleans it has to offer aren't even that clean. Though it depends heavily on the guitar you are playing. With a Strat you'll get a little bit more control riding the volume knob than you will with a LP or p90s.

    It excels at providing classic Marshall OD at a volume that is plenty loud (if you want it to be) but not loud enough that a sound man will roll his eyes. And being able to do so carrying it with one hand.

    Let me assure any one that hasn't played one, they are LOUD. Not Superlead loud, but who here still plays gigs with a 100 watt Marshall turned up past what? 3?

    My buddy and I A/Bed my 1974x and his mid70s 1987 (50 watt) and the 18 watts basically was right there with it. Only difference...no cleans after 3 on the knob. All you do is add gain and compression.

    The tone knob is an interesting one. You can actually find a little more bass by keeping the tone around 7. Don't ask me why. But it's been that way on every 1974x I've played.

    That being said, no, it doesn't have the low end of a plexi. That also has nothing to do with amp, and much more to do with the fact that you are probably comparing it to a 4x12 cab. Again, I plugged the 18 into my buddy's 4x12 and there it was: all the Marshall low end you'd need. It's different with el84s, but a bigger cab would have you thinking you we're hearing a much higher watt amp.

    For another thing, from my experience most people that obsess about the low end on Marshalls are people that don't play gigs with anyone else. Bass players hate that low end. As do sound men, not to even mention singers that only want to hear themselves.

    The 1974x is one of the most perfectly voiced amps for making sure your guitar heard in a Classic rock BAND MIX you will ever play. It's mids, where the guitar is meant to be. With a boost pedal (which will also coax some more clean headroom) and some fuzz, it's a classic rock BEAST of a gigging a amp. Don't doubt.

    Honestly the only reason I gave mine up (which I'm still kicking myself for) was that it was too loud for the gigs I play. You don't want to keep that amp at 3. It's just like keeping a 50 watt at 1.

    I imagined I'd end up always bringing the 1974x and a Fender DR for cleans and call it a day. But I got lazy too. I'm addicted to pedals. Or I should say that sadly the bands I play in require more than just classic OD tones. I couldn't keep up with packing 2 amps and a big pedalboard for every gig. No way.

    Yeah I guess by the length of this you can tell I'm a true believer in the 1974x. They are awesome amps and single handedly made me a firm believer in the dignity of Marshall as a modern amp maker. I tried out a number of other 18 watt makers, and the Marshall was THE ONE. I highly encourage the OP to try one out for themselves and make the call. I'll probably end up buying another one some day. Though I might still be better off with tweed deluxe for OD amps sounds at the volumes I need.

    Incidentally the 2061x is very similar. And has a touch more bottom end. But not nearly as transport friendly.

    Happy hunting!
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
  8. Blix

    Blix Supporting Member

    Messages:
    21,099
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2010
    Location:
    Stabekk, Norway
    With all due respect, I disagree. I've done countless gigs with plexis, and never had anyone complain. Have in mind I've done mostly harder rock, not "classic" rock, and no the 18watters are not cutting it for me when you want to bring out the spandex. :D
     
    Bobby D likes this.
  9. mattymel

    mattymel Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,269
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2009
    Location:
    Cincinnati, OH
    Ha. No offense taken.

    But the OP is talking about breaking out a long beard and sunglasses! Maybe a English schoolboy uniform! Not only spandex. The 1974x would kill on those gigs. And without breaking your back.

    Don't get me wrong though. My dream amp is a '75ish 4 holer 50 watt. That's an experience. But those cabs wouldn't even fit in my car. If he said specifically VH covers, I'd totally agree.

    Though you can also get a lot more low end with an EQ pedal to dial it in with an 18watt. I had the ext cab too. Man I'm missing that amp now.

    I'm telling you, it would do a way better VH than 99% of the guys on TGP and their MIAB pedals w/ BF Fenders...find the right OD to shape it a little bit and add some lows and it would do the gig easy.

    Not like a plexi would. But nothing does. You gotta move the air. 4x12...
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
    Blix likes this.
  10. ibis

    ibis Member

    Messages:
    910
    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2013
    How about a Bassman RI? Light and loud. Good spread. Add pedals to taste.
     
  11. Laurent Brondel

    Laurent Brondel Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,219
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2011
    Location:
    West Paris, ME
    The 18w will lack bass and punch and will compress a bit and not be tight in the bass if you add a boost, OD or distortion to your crunch tone. It's a great little amp, but for other applications IMHO.

    The closest I've come to a JMP / Plexi tone and feel in a small package is the Lead & Bass 20w head (I have a Ceriatone, much better than the Marshall RI IMHO) with a closed back 2 x12 like the 1965 or 2061cx loaded with the same speakers I use in my 4 x 12 (G12c's), I jumper the channels like on my JMP50 and set it to a solid crunch, almost dimed, but not quite. It's tight and defined, but sounds a bit different of course, the highs are a bit more pronounced than a JMP / Plexi and it doesn't have the bass response those bigger amps have. However, depending of the music you play, it may not matter in the general mix with the whole band.

    However, even closer as Blix mentions earlier, is my JMP50 with the Fryette Power Station and a 1965 2 x 12. Halving the speakers goes a long way to reduce dB's, even a closed back 1 x 12" can sound good if you can get over the Fletcher-Munson effect. I like it so much better than I am selling my 20w head…

    Best practice to test this is to play the amp directly attenuated and find the best sound there, in that configuration, and not play the amp un-attenuated, and then try to replicate that at a lower volume with the attenuator. The Fletcher-Munson effect is unsurmountable then, as the whole vibe of a loud amp and speakers is lost and cannot be replicated. A little bit like the frustration of having to turn down after playing at what seemed an ideal volume…
    But the tone, if recorded, will be undistinguishable between attenuated and "raw", at least IME.
     
    Blix likes this.
  12. Axe-Man

    Axe-Man Member

    Messages:
    4,494
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2009
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    EL84/6V6 amps can be seriously loud. I've had a number of the EL84 variety and they have no issues blaring away. I'd be surprised if my current Laney could be cranked at a smaller gig. Through a good cab, they can have plenty of bottom end with the right preamp.

    A 100watter will be tighter longer and have more girth but you'll have a good idea of how loud things need to be already...if you're running a 50watter at half volume then you're in trouble. If it's loud but the volume is only at 9 o'clock, a smaller amp will possibly be ok.

    The main this is if you need a fire breather, it's already there for when you need it. I can't imagine many gigs outside of big name bands where you get to crank a NMV Marshall or Dual Recto etc.
     
  13. De Batz

    De Batz Member

    Messages:
    1,711
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2015
    Where are you lot playing that let you roll up and crank up 50 or 100W Marshalls? To get an actual rock overdrive with them, you have to be thunderously loud. Or use pedals, which utterly defeats the object of the big amp.

    I've used an 18 watt WEM 1x12 without going through the PA at a bar gig, and that was the only time I've thought I lacked punch and delivery. Otherwise, I've used a 20W Lionheart and a 10W Cornell for loads of gigs, and still not been able to give them the beans that I would have ideally liked. These are all local venues rather than touring-band type places, but still...

    I've literally never had the masters on my (100W) Heartbreaker above a third for an actual gig, no matter the size.
     
    LeicaBossNJ likes this.
  14. HoboMan

    HoboMan Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    15,698
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2007
    Location:
    WI
    I used to gig with Marshall stacks.

    My main gigging amp for the past 3 years is a Budda SuperDrive 18 combo. Smaller clubs I play unmic'd and have never got the MV past 9:00.
    Larger clubs and outdoor gigs I'm always mic'd.

    Played a large outdoor gig last year and got the MV up to around 12:00 and I was drowning out our drummer.

    I briefly used a Splawn 22 watt SuperSport combo last year with the same results.

    I've never played a 18 watt Marshall circuit so YMMV.
     
    LeicaBossNJ and PlinytheWelder like this.
  15. Blix

    Blix Supporting Member

    Messages:
    21,099
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2010
    Location:
    Stabekk, Norway
    While I played fairly large stages when I gigged regularly with my 68 50w plexi, it's all about positioning of the 4x12"(don't point it towards the engineer or at the band, sometimes even backwards) and I often used my pedalboard lid as a shield. It was used as a solo and "rock rhythm" amp, I had another head for clean and crunch. Both into each side of one 4x12".
    I had the amp set to a crunchy AC/DC-ish tone, and in EJ-style, a Tube Driver for solos. :)
    We did a big festival where I had a 4x12" for each head and I could crank the Marshall to 10, now that was glorious!
     
    Echoplexi likes this.
  16. zenas

    zenas Member

    Messages:
    6,672
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    I've had a 1974 clone for years and never bonded with it. However you have to keep in mind there's a ton of differences in 18 watt clones. Mines a Weber VIB.
    Personally I prefer Fender tweeds which kinda makes sense when you rember the 1987 is closer to a tweed Fender than an 18 watt Marshall.
    Of course my favorite classic rock tones were recorded on 5E3s and 5E7s. Wish I would've known that years ago.
     
    duckbunny likes this.
  17. XSinner13X

    XSinner13X Member

    Messages:
    218
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2016
    18 Marshall watts...PLENTY loud for small gigs, and throw a mic in front for larger shows, or an extension cab.
    I have a Mesa Mk 5 25, 10/20w and it gets PAINFULLY loud when the master is above 9 o'clock, totally gigable especially for the club sizes that I normally play.
    Average Boston small venue capacity is between 2-500 avg. so unless you are playing HOB, Agganis arena, The Sinclair ,or the Garden, the 100w Stack is really overkill nowadays.
    Not gonna lie I have mine still as well and you can best bet I will keep it around, at the very least, it'll become a studio queen.
    I have a 50 watter that gets great tone on my 4x10 or my 1x12, and I consider it the goldilocks of the group as it is "Just Right".
     
  18. MmcGrouty

    MmcGrouty Member

    Messages:
    3,517
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    I'd stick with something with el34s. EL84s never really did the job for me, which is why I got rid of most of my small amps.
     
  19. paulbearer

    paulbearer Member

    Messages:
    4,163
    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2008
    Location:
    51°31'55.2"N 0°10'38.0"W
    Another vote for 1974x.
    You say small clubs. 1974x kicks in that environment.
    Or 25/50 watt Jubilee 2x12.
     
    mattymel likes this.
  20. XSinner13X

    XSinner13X Member

    Messages:
    218
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2016
    I'm telling you the Mk 5 25 is FULL of surprises, two channels 3 modes each with cascaded preamps on the crunch mode, ch 1 is a Marshall KILLER.
    Plus it has the cab clone built in, and onboard reverb (Actual tank NOT digital).
    In black dress with a MATCHING 1x12 cab the whole kit is under $2k
    Custom appointments/dress will run it up to JUST over $2k
    Heres mine in Oxblood / Wheat...
    The head is approx 16lbs, and the cab is a hair over 30lbs
    [​IMG]
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice