Price paid: $ 900
Purchased from: CraigsList
Features: Up for review today out of my collection is my Marshall 1962 'Bluesbreaker'. This derives its name as this was the amp that Eric Clapton was playing when he was a part of John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. To be frank this is a combo version of the famous JTM45, the first true Marshall. This is a RE-ISSUE model but they did a great job on getting the original specifications correct. As pulled from the Marshall Amplification website read below:
"After the huge success of the JTM45 amplifier, a 2x12" combo version was released to satisfy popular demand and the now legendary 1962 combo was born. Once again the use of a GZ34 valve rectifier is responsible for helping to achieve the famed output stage compression and sustain exhibited uniquely by both the JTM45 and the 1962. Though tonally similar to a JTM45, the 1962 combo is loaded with two re-issue 'Greenback' 25 Watt speakers to re-create that classic sixties tone. The 1962 'Bluesbreaker' combo also comes with the addition of a footswitchable Tremolo effect."
As stated you can sum up that paragraph by saying a combo JTM45. For some reason, which I always am amused by, no one ever seems to know the wattage of either the Bluesbreaker or the JTM45. I think it is the 45 that throws people off but people both the JTM45 & 1962 Bluesbreaker are only 30Watts! Very exciting! Iin Marshall land that is a fairly low wattage amp so yes you can actually get tube breakup without going deaf. We will talk about sound in the following sections. Now for all you number people here are the specifics:
-2x12" Celestion 'Greenback' Speakers
-Pre-Amp Valves: 3 x ECC83
-Power Amp Valves: 2 x 5881 (I recommend using KT66's)
-No FX Loop
-Weight: 30.2kg / 66.58lbs (Extremely Heavy, somehow even heavier than a Fender Twin RI)
This is essentially a Two Channel Amp, Lead & Bass if you will. As in classic Marshall Plexi amps you can really tailor this to your sound with the use of 'blending' the channels. Most common is blending the lower sensitivity input of channel 1 to the high sensitivity input of channel 2. I encourage experimentation with this. When I had my Marshall 1987X I had a completely different blend!
All in all the Vintage Series amplifiers from Marshall are pretty specific in their sound and thus their appeal. I have realized that not many people are really interested in these amps on this site because they really aren't that versatile. There is no distortion, no channel switching, no reverb, no built in effects, etc. But you know what, that is the allure of these amps; at least it is for me. The raw, unique, unmistakable tone of a Vintage amp without all the mucky muck. // 7
Sound: A quick bio on myself and sound preference. I listen to Zeppelin, AC/DC, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton (while with Derek & The Dominos), and so forth. The point I am making is Blues/Rock. That is what I play, that is what I am comfortable playing, and those are the sounds I try to achieve. From time to time I sprinkle in some Jet, The Casanovas, RHCP, Weezer. But primarily I am a Blues/Rock guitarist. With that being said I do not play black metal or death glory shred, or inverted backwards Thrash punk post-neo classical stuff so NO I will probably agree with you when you comment and say this amp sucks for that. Yes it probably does and that is exactly why I have it.
What I found sounds best through this is any sort of Gibson. I believe deep down in my heart that Gibson and Marshall's are total BFF's. They get along so harmoniously and have had a 50+ year relationship that is still going strong. I primarily play my Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro (57' Classic & Burstbucker III) and my Gibson 61' SG RI (57' Classics) into this amp. The tone I get is so easy to achieve. I don't have to play with the dials, I don't have to angle it towards a wall, I plug in and bam, instant tone haven. My amp settings are simple. Blend channels 1 & 2, and set everything to 12 o'clock on the amp. That's right, simplistic, just like my playing. With simple rolls of the volume knob on your guitar you are really able to clean up the sound or take it to some heavier AC/DC like tones. As I said it is really easy to get great tones with good gear. If you are a classic rock guitarist do yourself a favor and try out one of the Vintage Series Marshall Amps, you will not be disappointed.
Now I do run my pedal board into this, I play in a cover band so I need to achieve a very wide variety of tones. Feel free to check out my profile to see what pedals I currently use but I do want to make a point that this amp handles the pedals very well. For shows I have the amp at about 3/10 on the volume and even with the volume at that, using one of the Gibson's I am able to get a great tube breakup. I use an Ibanez TS808 with the overdrive set at about 3/10 and the volume at about 7/10 for my boost to push the tubes for lead work and finally I use a Fulltone Fulldrive II Mosfet for my heavier rock tones (i.e. Guns n' Roses, etc). That is what I need to do when I have to get certain sounds. When I am at home, working on originals or just fiddling around I just prefer Gibson-Cable-Amp. The tone is so pure as it is, let's not muddy it up.
As this Marshall does have a Tremolo effect I would love to talk about it. I was beyond impressed with this effect on the amp, at lower volumes and using either the Rhythm or Middle pickup on the Les Paul I was able to nail the 'Born on the Bayou' by CCR tone and tremolo/vibrato. It sounded great! Wait 'It'? Do you not use it anymore? Perfect time to transition to Reliability & Durability! // 9
Reliability & Durability: To begin right where we left off this amp has been an absolute work horse and my gigging amp that has proved itself time and time again. Oh but wait, the Tremolo just stopped working one day. So it is not 100% working anymore. You know what though, I don't care, I don't use it for live work and I have no issues. I bought this amp second hand off of CraigsList and have since put a considerable/extreme number of hours on this. At first the Tremolo was always spotty, sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn't, and hitting the footswitch would or would not shut it off. It was almost nicer this way because when it did work it was a great surprise. Like someone just gave you a new effect to play with and you weren't expecting it. Well those days are gone. I suspect it could be the footswitch but also as I said, I don't care. What I get from the amp is tone, that is why I bought it, not for Tremolo.
Outside of that issue, which could be extremely annoying for some, this amp has held up quite well. And this thing has been battered. It nearly looks like it is from the 70's based on the wear. Tolex tear here, dent here, ding there. You get the picture. I do not by any mean abuse my gear but this is the life of an amp on the road. I am giving this a 7 even though the Tremolo died because of the sheer consistency this amp has operated at throughout the years. // 7
Overall Impression: I have been extremely impressed with this amp. Being that this has been the amp I have used more than any other on stage it has a special place in my heart. It consistently 'wows' me with its tone and its beauty. When I buy something my main concern is that it sounds good. But when I am forking over my hard earned money, I want it to look great too. I have not bought certain musical instruments for that very reason. The Bluesbreaker though, in my humble opinion, is the best looking Marshall. The subtleties of the front with the grill cloth, the controls being hidden on top out of sight make this a very special amp.
Overall Marshall does not sell a lot of these amps. The Vintage Series is not their big money maker. The sound these produce is for a very specific person and player. You don't see these amps everywhere; basically just old guys play them because that is the tone they look for, oh and me and I just listen to what you kids call old guy' music. These amps do not get nearly the amount of recognition they deserve. In a day and age where the amount of crushing distortion sells amps, this Marshall amp delivers the foundation of Rock n' Roll. A pure, unadulterated, unmistakable tone. Throughout my life I have realized that the older I get it is not about playing fast, or being super technical, it is about moving people with your playing and with your tone. This amp is nowhere near for everyone, but this is for me, and for me this amp delivers my tone.
'Purveyor of Tone' // 9