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DSL-50 and JCM-800 opinion question...

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by jbow, Aug 31, 2005.

  1. jbow

    jbow Member

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    I have been reading all the JCM800 threads here and asking questions there and it seem's that most people agree that the 1981-82 800s are the best sounding of the bunch. I accept that.

    Most people also seem to think that the DSL50 is the best current production Marshall. I'm sure some disagree but it seem's that most agree on the DSL.

    My question is this: How well does the DSL50, or DSL100, cover the sound and feel of the early, or your favorite, JCM800?

    Thanks for the input here.

    J
     
  2. dave s

    dave s Member

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    I don't think the DSL50 or 100 sound as good as an early(ier) 80s JCM800. Granted, the DSL heads are much more versatile than the one-trick-pony JCM800, but the 800s have much more girth and thickness to the base tone than either of the DSL heads.

    Plus, when a kid was picking one at a Guitar Center a year or so ago, I stepped in because the head sounding like something was wrong with it. Salesdood goes in the back and gets another copy, new-in-box which sounded a little better, but not much.

    Neither of those two sounded anywhere as nice as my DSL 50. My DSL 100 sounded better than the 50, but taking it on gigs was like driving a formula 1 car to the corner store for milk.

    So I guess my point is that the stock DSL heads can be hit or miss in terms of finding one that sounds good right out of the box. The JCM800 heads from the 80s were built like tanks and most that I've owned and played through over the years have been of obvious quality and all very road worthy.

    I'm on my 5th or 6th JCM800 product and for a guy who doesn't take any special care when it comes to gear, these amps take a beating and keep on rockin'!

    dave
     
  3. jbow

    jbow Member

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    Thanks Dave...

    I haven't heard that about the DSL series but I am glad to know it. I really don't need either one but I have wanted one for a while. Maybe i'll look for a single input early 800 1x12 combo, they seem to be going for really reasonable prices. I guess they are the same as the head.

    J
     
  4. rooster

    rooster Member

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    There's actually a HF rolloff capacitor in the combo that's not in the head, but that matters little. I think it's to compensate for the extra brightness that an open-back cab puts out as opposed to the standard 4x12 cab that a head would push. As far as which years are the "best," these are the general rules that I use with 800's:

    1) the channel switching ones suck. hard. really hard. the year doesn't matter.

    2) on the single-channel combos, the earlier years tend to have a lower voltage power supply than the later years, so they sound darker, and go into power tube compression earlier.

    3) the M70 speakers suck pretty hard, and v30's (which I normally don't like much) do a MUCH better job. I've never tried a 65 in one, but I bet it would sound pretty good.

    HTH.

    rooster.
     
  5. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    I agree with Dave that the DSLs almost sound like there's something wrong with them - to me, they have an odd hollowness in the midrange that just isn't 'right', and irritates me. I think it may be a transformer issue because I've played a very early one, which had slightly different transformers, and it sounded much better (though still not what I would call great). Is yours a '97, Dave?

    I actually (marginally) prefer the tone of the TSL - and especially that the channels are true independent channels, which they aren't on the DSL - but I still don't 'like' the TSL either.

    I totally disagree with rooster that the Split-Channel 800s 'suck'. They certainly don't sound like the straight MV models, but they do have a great sound of their own. I actually prefer the very first version, but I know most people prefer the later ones, which are IMO brighter, smoother and a bit more buzzy (there are two minor variatons in the later circuit as well) and have more gain. But I'd take any version of the JCM800 Split-Channel over any DSL/TSL - or JCM900, with the possible exception of the SLX model.

    A JCM800 (any year, MV or Split-Channel) vs. any of the others is not even a close comparison for build quality, reliability, dynamics or sheer output power either. Marshall simply stopped making good modern amps at the end of the JCM800s IMO.
     
  6. jbow

    jbow Member

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    John, thanks for the info... can I ask for a little more? I am intrigued by your mention of the SLX. I have never heard an SLX but I was of the opinion that the SLX was a raging gain monster which, imo, most Marshalls are not... I mean, yes, they have a lot of gain but they also have a good clean and a lot of really great sounds between clean and molten.

    Also what about the 1987X ? I am also considering it to be used with a good pedal. The only Marshall I have owned was a 78 JMP50 MV head which was really nice but not quite what I was looking for. I am thinking that the 800 may be what I want but I still want to know more about the 900 SLX and the 1987X. The SLX would certainly be a cheaper buy...

    I like classic metal, hard rock, and bluesy rock...Marshall stuff for sure.

    Thanks,

    J



     
  7. KRay

    KRay Member

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    I tried to make do with a DSL 50 but I just couldn't make the darn thing sound right. I can't put my finger on what was wrong but i knew right away I had made a mistake. (I took it back) I have owned several Marshall's over the years. I am sure there are some people that make them sound great (Jeff Beck?) and i am no tone snob but I have to tell you I am back to JCM 800's of the single channel variety for my heavier stuff and I couldn't be happier. YMMV.
    kevin
     
  8. KRay

    KRay Member

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    Just an update. When i said some people make them sound great, I was refering to the DSL 50's. Not the whole Marshall line.
     
  9. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    I think the hollowness you mentioned might be just the crappy preamp tubes. I used to have a DSL50 and after I changed from the Marshall-branded preamp tubes to EHs the amp sounded so much better that when I sold the amp I didn't have the heart to leave the Marshall-branded tubes back in and gave the buyer the EHs. I still have the Marshall tubes in my closet and I tried them in my Stephenson LJ-10 head. The end result was that those tubes sucked all life and tone out of it. The stock Svetlana EL34s in DSLs are good though.

    I think the DSLs can cop a fair approximation of the JCM800s (single channel ones, don't care for the 2205 or 2210), but it's not the same sound. To my ears the DSL is smoother and less aggressive on the Classic Gain channel Crunch mode.

    I think you have to decide what you want. The DSL has better clean tones and also high gain tones so it's more versatile. The JCM800 has that sheer punch and aggressiveness that makes it nice, but it is kind of a one trick pony.
     
  10. amplifiedtorock

    amplifiedtorock Member

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    I gotta throw in my $.02 here.

    I love my single input, channel-switching JCM-800. The key for me is to use quality NOS tubes and run the EL34's a little hot. ALSO -- refrain from too much gain! Try to get the master at least half way up with each channel volume around half way too and resist the urge to add more gain than needed. This gives a tasty clean with only a hint of breakup and a big OD boost when needed. After that I'll use a Klon and a Soulbender for more gain or sustain. This amp excels at low-medium gain with awesome cleans, the reverb is not that great tho.
    FWIW: I've got mine going into a 2x12 semi-open back cabinet with a G12H30/Greenback pair and use a HB Les Paul, p90 SG or HB CS-336.

    The DSL-50 is a big step down IMO. The gain is grainy and missing serious mid punch. It's hard to stick out in the band mix with this one. Again, try to keep the gain down and masters up to get thicker tone, but nowhere as full sounding as the JCM-800.

    Good luck.
     
  11. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    The SLX does have a lot of gain, but the two-stage gain controls mean that it's actually quite flexible. I'm not sure about whether it will do a good clean tone though... and it's not switchable, other than two separate MV levels. It does of course have most of the JCM900 build quality problems, so check carefully before you buy - although at least they don't have the multiple-IC preamp that the reverb models do, which is one of the reliability issues.

    The 1987X does sound to me quite like a 70s metal-panel 50W, not like the Plexi 50 it's supposed to. It's pretty well-built for a modern Marshall - all the reissues are substantially better than the DSL/TSLs on that count.

    Given your music tastes I would still maybe go for an 800 split-channel. That amp was built to play hard rock and classic metal, and a lot of the original records in the 80s were made with them.

    Yes and no. Those tubes are really nasty, but even better ones don't make enough of an improvement to cure that odd hollow character in my experience. It's not even the speakers, although the Chinese G12T-75s in the stock Marshall cabs really don't help at all. I just think it's something fundamental in the voicing of the amp - the TSL doesn't have it. It sounds flat and dull instead ;).
     
  12. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    Weird, I've never perceived the TSLs as flat and dull and didn't notice a hollow character in the DSL50 I had (I think it was a 1998 model?). My DSL was biased slightly cold and did sound better when biased to 40mV though.
     
  13. kingsxman

    kingsxman Silver Supporting Member

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    I think you'll find alot of people who disagree with that statement. I have a Marshall JCM 800 2205 (50 watt channel switcher) that sounds great!! Mine is made in 1987 and supposedly the year makes a big difference. The earlier models (I'm not sure when the cuttoff is) tended to have alot of bleed through on the channels. Hence, the "clean" channel never really got very clean. Now, does the 2205 sound as good as a 2204?
    Maybe not...but its close...and its quite a bit more versitile with the addition of the clean channel.

    As for the DSL, you can get "kind of" a decent jcm 800 sound out of the clean (I think its called the crunch) channel if you dime the volume (run the master lower), turn the presence all the way up and control the treble knob. But..then you lose the ability to get a clean sound.

    The TSL's just suck. GOod clean channel...but thats not what you buy a Marshall for.
     
  14. JohnnyL

    JohnnyL Member

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    By Kingsxman:
    I too have a 1987 4210/2205 and totally agree with Kingsxman. Its a good JCM800!

    Peace,

    JohnnyL
     
  15. clunk

    clunk Member

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    My opinion. Stick to the early 80's 800's. Personally i like the single channel ones. Primarily the 2203. 900's to me were terrible. And the newer DSL and TSL's are an improvement over the 900's.
    Whoever it was that said they have a 50w 2204 JMP MV. The early 80's JCM 2204 is very much the same amp only a little brighter sounding. Not much difference.

    Clunk
     
  16. Rock Fella

    Rock Fella Member

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    I found both dsl50 and dsl100 to have the grainy overdrive john mentioned ,plus I found them thin sounding and lifeless. id buy a pre 85 2204 or 2203 without hesitation.
     
  17. clunk

    clunk Member

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    I agree but still a big improvement to me over the 900's. The 800's were simply the best rock/metal amp ever made. Historically they have outsold any other amp in history so far. In fact 4 times as many as any other amp. These amps basically set the bench mark for alot of other amps made that followed that same gendre of music. And it wasnt just/rock metal players using them. Blues and country players used them too. Although rock/metal is where they shine.
    If you use these amps for metal there is really no point in using channel switching. Set the Preamp down to minimal and adjust the MV. Get a good Boss superoverdrive or HM-2 pedal (made in Japan era) or if you plan on playing it cranked turn up the MV and use a good mxr pedal. Between all these you can get almost every kind of metal sound from the 80's-early 90's. EVH, Randy Rhodes, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Zakk wylde,Sound Garden you name it, its all there. With EL 34's you do get really nice output tube compression with the early 80's models. I personally prefer these tubes over the 6550's. Although the 6550's do sound good too. Anyway enough advertising. :D

    Clunk
     
  18. jbow

    jbow Member

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    Hey DS, I didn't realixe who I was talking to yesterday...how's your mom and them?

    About the DSL 50/100... you couldn't tame the 100 with the MV? I thought that was one of the big plusses of the DSL series, the low volume tones? Just too big?

    I just picked up a JTM60 1x12 combo today, I need to change a tube in it. The previous owner changed some caps in it and rebiased and it really sound's nice but I may resell it. I've got four of those Carvin blowout 12" speakers coming and am going to put them in a 4x12. I am probably going to buy a 900 SL-X and a DSL 50 to compare the two and then keep one of the three, including the 60. I may pick up a a dual reverb and an 800 too so I can compare them all. I really appreciate your opinions about Marshalls.

    Come see me sometime or call when you're coming south and we'll come take you out to dinner.

    J
     
  19. jbow

    jbow Member

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    KRay... Jeff Beck uses so many effects and has such weird tone these days that i'm not really sure what his use of a certain amp really means. The last two albums were certainly good but also WAY different...imo

    Trower however get's killer tone out of JCM 900s. I read something he said about them and it was: (paraphrase)... "I use two JCM900s and one JCM800. I use an overdrive (or distortion...I don't remember which he said) with the JCM800 but I plug straight into the 900s, they don't need a pedal."
    I don't remember where I read that.
    I think they are probably all good amps with tweaking. Trower did not mention anything his tech might have done to the amps but I am sure they are well tweaked.

    I'm thinking that I may well end up with an SL-X head.

    J
     
  20. clunk

    clunk Member

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    I'd be willing to bet that trower's 900 is most deffinately tweaked.

    Clunk
     

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