Walls of Marshalls - how


Gold Supporting Member
In "The Last Seat in the House" Bob Hanley talks about building the sound system for Woodstock. And yeah, it was overwhelmingly complex. The amplifiers were McIntosh 300w tube versions and it was one of the first use of rigged mains with repeaters for the crowd farther back. I don't know how they accomplished delays, perhaps the first use of Eventide (Clockworks at the time)? Anyway, it took a while but that was the eventual death knell for having/needing multiple stacks onstage.

Nowdays if it's done it's usually a gimmick-Jucifer gets publicity for being the loudest current touring act, for example. But in terms of delivering sound to the audience a good PA would do a much better job. Just sending sound from a massive wall of amps results in a lot of time smear and decreased intelligibility-it's just noise in general. Even the Dead's "wall of sound" was at least engineered a little to try and make it sound clearer.

That said, there's a certain destructive excitement involved in rock music, still. And standing in front of a full stack is pleasing to both the guitarist and the audience crowded around the front of the stage. Hearing be damned!


My best friend worked on backline hire, was used by all the major bands in the 70s and 80s and their biggest seller was totally empty Marshall cabs. Just put there for macho show I'm sorry to say. And folks like Clapton and knofler often used small fender 5 waters Miked up and pushed through the pa.


You’d think if you were going to use fake cabs, you’d at least have backs on them. Unless you’re the headliner, the amps will be coming off stage after the performance in full view of the audience. Seems to me the last thing the road crew would want to be worried about is making sure no one sees the empty fake cabs.

Back in the day, I had 2 Marshall heads onstage, both on, but only using one (with one cab). The other guitar player had a Marshall combo sitting on top of a fake cab. We placed them side by side so it looked pretty impressive.


Pity so many used fake cabs. But when I saw the Who at the Spectrum in '74, I am pretty certain all of the HiWatt stacks were being used .
I can personally attest that every one of the Who's cabs was loaded, having helped with the get in when they played the "Live at Leeds" set at Sussex University in October 1970. My back is still playing up!


Active Member
This thread has been eye-opening. I appreciate the comments from those who set-up live stages and for the pictures.


So, in the old days when rock'n'roll was loud and we did no wear helmets when we went out with the rubbish bin bands would sport these huge, typically Marshall, stacks on the podium. Walls of those things. I saw Slayer one of those days and there were 30+ 4x12 Marshall cabs on the stage.

Of course, we know that today we can make way better sound with just one or two cabs and perhaps without a cab at all. Today's stages are mostly empty and while the change in style has something to do with it, it surely has technical reasons, too.

It always bothered me, however - how was the bloody thing WIRED? Did they use some kind of s split and ran the signal through 10 Mashall heads? Seems like a nightmare to me.
A small number of heads feeding several boxes? Sometimes it almost looked like those things were dummy empty boxes just for a show.
One head for the pre-amp and the EQ + a rack of "dumb" power amps?
I know that many of those walls were just for show, in fact some were nothing more cardboard boxes with a decorated front. I used to work security at shows in Germany and while I have encountered 1 of the phony walls and listening to the the backstage talk I have yet to see one that was fully wired. My guess is it would have required an equally impressive wall of amps backstage, I just can't fathom the impedance issues it seems there would be if they tried to link multiple cabs together. I'm no expert mind you, this is just my guess based on limited experience.


These are some of the most "Reliable" Marshall and Orange Stacks you'll ever find ... and the last one the most "Refreshing".

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Best sounding Stack ever .... the one Marshall COPIED!
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Are these custom-built or is there a place to purchase them. I wouldn't mind redecorating my living room with a wall of those.


What your band needs to be heard is one of these each : -

Guitarist's rig.jpg

I remember many moons ago Ginger Baker's AirForce had a gig in the town I lived in at a smallish/medium sized club.
They opened up at full concert volume with full concert rigs.
I have never felt anything like it and it was so loud and painfull to the body that everyone went outside into the street to listen to them as it was just at a tolerable level to listen to.
No one, apart from the band, was left inside for the duration of whole gig.
Dunno what wattage they were pumping out but I used a 200watt Vox Supreme on stage in them days (never got used at full vol except for outside gigs) and it was nothing like as loud or as painful as GB's AirForce were.



Hi Pagers, just for fun I tried this setup. Bottom line the sound was so intermodulated it was entirely useless. One amp one or two cabs ONLY. 96541E91-F90A-48F8-87F7-E17761146791.jpeg


I don't like seeing bare stages although I don't like the idea of empty cabs for show either. Empty stages look too tidy and almost pristine, reminds me of over produced music that has a sort of soulless sound to it. (miss those early records that include minor mistakes and unintended tempo changes. Nice and raw) or seeing a great four piece band from the past that has 12 members on stage today. Very cheesy and what a waste to have empty cabs even though a lot of my and your favorite rock bands done/do it. But I want to see what they're playing. At least Brian May from what I gather uses nine ac30's using a few and the rest on standby. Or is it twelve.

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