Price paid: C$ 650
Purchased from: Used
Features: This is the "2500" model--the 50 watt JCM900 SL-X, built in 1997.
This is known as a high gain amp for metalheads, but it can do classic rock crunch as well. I was going to buy a 2204, since I was looking for a single-channel amp without diodes in the circuit, but the 800s are pretty expensive and I wasn't sure if it could handle the kind of distortion I need for the stuff I play. The SL-X has all tube distortion and plenty of it. Anyway, there are two knobs that control the gain setting which you can blend to create different sounds. I keep the "Preamp Volume" at about 7 and "Gain Sensitivity" (which goes from 10-20) at about 14. This gives me plenty of distortion for smooth leads and for rhythm work with a lot of fast palm muting, plus there's tons of room to dial in additional distortion if I needed it for some reason. For more crunchy, bluesy sounds I just roll back the volume on my guitar.
Single channel with a footswitchable volume boost which is great for solos. No reverb, but an effects loop in the back if you need it. A spring reverb would be cool but I'm willing to sacrifice it for the tone I get from this thing. Basically you can go from blues to metal, no fancy stuff. I haven't tried using any effects with it yet.
Also has direct line out, valve failure LEDs and low power mode. // 7
Sound: I use an SG with Burstbucker Pros and a Les Paul with Gibson 490s. Playing through a Marshall 1960B cab. I believe this is a Canadian made amp with EL34 tubes, not the 5881s that everyone seems to hate.
With the volume up past 7 this thing sounds HEAVENLY with the Burstbucker Pros. Its tone is much clearer than my TSL 100, though it lacks the low end the TSL can get with the "Deep" switch. The SL-X produces nice, bright, defined but still very heavy chords. It's a great set up for anthemic punk rock. I use the Les Paul with 490s for metalish songs with more palm muting work--the BBs are a little weak when it comes to that, great for singing leads though.
Never had an issue with noise. It's always loud enough and with the 50 watts you can dig into the tubes a little more, obviously. I have not had the chance to compare this with a JCM 800, but I have no desire to look for a JCM800 now. The SL-X sounds amazing.
It's also a pretty rare amp, as I've only seen two of them on the Toronto area Craigslist, one of which I bought :P ...So either people are holding onto these things, or maybe they just never sold many to begin with. Either way I think it's a very underrated amp that anyone who is considering buying a JCM 800 (or one of the other 900 models) should definitely check out. It's less expensive and more versatile than the 800s, and it sounds leagues better than my buddy's JCM900 Hi-Gain Dual Reverb, which may be due to the tube as opposed to diode distortion. // 9
Reliability & Durability: Seems pretty rock solid and of better quality than my TSL 100. I never use a backup since I can't afford to own one haha (the TSL is currently for sale), but I'm not worried about this thing conking out. No problems as of yet but I haven't had it for very long so my rating reflects that. // 7
Overall Impression: Great amp for hard rock, punk and metal, but if you play those styles and also play blues, classic rock, etc., this amp can do that too. Great for someone looking for a no-nonsense amp that you can just plug into and wail on. More simplicity means there is less to go wrong. Again, the SL-X has beautiful crunch and awesome high gain tones, but cleans are basically non-existent.
If it were stolen I would certainly buy this amp again unless my band broke up, in which case (going by my current budget) I might buy something more versatile since I enjoy many different kinds of music. // 8