3203 Artist Review

manufacturer: Marshall date: 10/03/2015 category: Guitar Amplifiers
Marshall: 3203 Artist
This amp won't impress that much you on its own, but is a good platform for your pedalboard.
 Sound: 9
 Overall Impression: 8.5
 Reliability & Durability: 8.5
 Features: 7.5
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
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reviews (2) pictures (2) 14 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 9.3
3203 Artist Reviewed by: beno21, on august 12, 2010
0 of 2 people found this review helpful

Features: Ok, this amp was built in 1986. Its 30 watts class a, with tube power amp ss preamp. Its 2 channels, clean and boost/gain, with footswitchable reverb. Effects loop in the back, 4 8, or 12 ohms. One flaw is the gain channel, it doesn't have a proper eq section, just one tone knob. This can be fixed with an eq pedal however. Its good for most kinds of music, doesn't get real good cleans, but with some tweaking you can get by. The gain channel is phenomenal. Gets everywhere from blues to ACDC to Metallica and harsher sounds. I know these amps came out in the eighties for a few years before being discontinued. Most of them had 2x El34 power tubes, some 2x KT88 tubes. This one has the KT88s. Apparently they don't sound so different, just KTs have better bass resposne. 8 out of 10 due to lack of gain channel eq, and average clean tone. // 8

Sound: Ok i have a few guitars, mainly play a Gibson LP Custom w EMG 81 85, stock Gibson LP Studio and an Ibanez JEM7v. Also a mex tele n a BC Rich. The stock Gibson sounds awesome - really chunky, plenty of bass response and crisp highs. The EMGs are a bit more versatile and I can get a spot on Metallica tone, generally doesn't sound as dark as the stock gibby, but still dark. Ibanez - a bit weak, lacks brightness. Suits any music style pretty easily. Not very noisy, slight buzz with high gain, not bad though, no shreeking feedback. Clean channel breaks up around 7 or 8, not the best clean tone though.If you want that distorted Marshall sound though this thing is pretty mean. I've played JCMs and the 3203 has just as good high gain tones, if not better. // 10

Reliability & Durability: I've had it for 5 years or so now, never had any problems. I recall the transformer was replaced not long before I got it however. It is dependable, I gig with it a fair bit and never have a back up. // 10

Overall Impression: I play hard rock and metal. This amp fits in perfect. Great ballzy high gain sound. I've been playing for 8 years, the only other amp I have atm is a Fender frontman 15g, just for bedroom practise and thats all I need. Don't be fooled by the 30 watts though. This amp is loud. To mix in with a drumkit it only needs to be on 3 or 4, so theres plenty of headroom. The only possible improvements would be a better clean channel and full eq on the gain channel. This amp sounds like a JCM, not one of those cheap AVTs that have tube preamp and ss power. But a sweet amp. I'll definitely try to replace it if it were stolen. Fairly hard to find though. // 9

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overall: 7.5
3203 Artist Reviewed by: kd350, on october 03, 2015
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 250

Purchased from: Local Craig's deal

Features: Locally acquired from a young guy who just upgraded to a point to point Avatar. I've been a fan of the Mosfet Lead 100's having two heads with matching 4x10 cabs and a rare 1x15 combo. Found a custom box which emulates a JTM 45 and housed it. Tis an '89. It's essentially a JCM 900 with a solid state preamp section. Features all the options on the back a period tube Marshall has with an even more versatile Direct Output volume knob which the Mosfets have as well. If I'm just running out to a jam sans pedalboard, I run a Fulltone Fatboost in the loop which thickens the sound and adds watts. // 7

Sound: This head is feather light - 10lbs lighter than the solid state period Mosfets. Smaller power tranny to credit. As with others, I use an EQ in the loop so no need for the C 13 clipping. With all the SS Marshalls (including the Lead 12 and 20) the apparent low volume harshness goes away when the gain and masters are up. The 30 watts can be maxed out and I did have to switch to the Lead 100 head when a kid came up to jam and cranked his Blackstar one night. I have over 30 pedals to compare and nothing comes close to sounding like that Marshall sound in your head as the drive in these Marshalls. That said, the clean channel has quite a lot of crunch to it. It mixes real well with clean boosts and overdrives and one can ride the whole night without the channel switcher. Having a boost upstream and an EQ downstream will get you in JCM territory. Gibsons sound real thick and have tons of sustain with these half hybrids. // 8

Reliability & Durability: Truth be told, this particular unit does hum a bit when cold and when on standby. Had new blues installed and biased by a tech who said there's nothing obviously wrong and to just accept it. I have so much gear that there's not much demand on the Artist. Plopping an extra head on top of the ("Honey I slightly shrunk the Marshall Stack!") makes the whole shebang-with casters-still 6 feet high. So yes, I gig with a backup. It's nearly 30 years old and so are the backups. It's dirt cheap to retube, accepts standard twin post footswitches and has spirit. There's no embedded micro components as all resistors and the like are above board and discreet. Do caution and check voltage stored in the caps and/or bleed them before poking around. The tube sockets have flying leads so you're not cooking the board with heat. In fact this is the coolest running amp I have. The front plate never gets warm and in back only a touch when straining on two cabs. Still I shut down and switch heads between sets. // 7

Overall Impression: Despite having two JCM 900's, a Granger Plexi, Carvin V3M and a Mesa combo, the solid (and hybrid) states get used all the time. There's not a huge panoply of versatility here, that's what humbuckers, single coils and a pedalboard is for. I've been playing since the seventies and have been hankering for eighties gear made in UK or the US. These amps were a grand in today's money, made with union labor, and by the same folks and materials as the top heads and combos of the time. The Marshalls suit my finger style rock/fusion/psychedelia well. These get you, with a Uni-Vibe and an octave fuzz on your board, close to Jimi at Woodstock. In fact, the Vibes get lost in the mix without the brightness and lack of compression of the solid state pre-amp. This amp won't impress that much you on its own, but is a good platform for your pedalboard. Go ahead, slam the front end with all the boosts you got, it'll love it. // 8

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