3203 Mosfet Lead 100 review by Marshall

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Features: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.8 Good
  • Users' score: 9.6 (9 votes)
Marshall: 3203 Mosfet Lead 100

Purchased from: Private Seller

Sound — 8
I run this head into a Carvin 4x12 with Vintage 30s and use a Gibson SG Special almost exclusively. Where this head is the strongest is the great sounds you can get out of this head that sound surprisingly very tube like. In my band we play mainly post-hardcore music (UnderOath, Oceana) and this amp with the gain knob pulled out and set on 2 o'clock, the tone knob (another name for presence on this amp) set at 5 o'clock and EQ set to personal preference, it achieves it easily. When I'm looking to play something more classic (Zep, ZZ Top) I push the gain knob in to get a nice midrange boost, and adjust the EQ slightly to compensate. I've also found the treble knob to be very sensitive and usually sounds best dialed back more than the other parameters in most cases. The clean channel is what one would expect from a solid state; being very pristine and clear. I usually run an EQ pedal in the loop to give the amp a little extra bass as I find that it can lack a little punch/tightness for the music I play.

Overall Impression — 8
I am honestly surprised no one praises, or seeks this head out as much as they should and it is still relatively unknown. The sound and overall quality of this amp is, in my opinion, the best solid state Marshall has ever produced. While it does have some minor shortcomings in terms of it's shared EQ, this amp easily outperforms the MG/Valvestate series of amps and comes awfully close to capturing the tube warmth and JCM800 sound. I suggest this amp for someone who has the extra money laying around or a beginner who wishes to get a cheaper amp that actually sounds good.

Reliability & Durability — 8
Considering it's solid state, and has been working fine and has been gigged with since 1985, I feel pretty confident in it's road worthiness. I've never had any problems with it and I have no worries of it breaking down on me anytime soon. Although I believe if it did break down, I would at least see how much it would cost to fix. It's the only thing I do not like about solid states in comparison to their tube counterparts, is there are less things one can try and fix themselves before paying a lot of money for a Tech/Shop/Dealer to look at it.

Features — 7
The Marshall Mosfet head was developed in the mid 80s in an effort to create a solid state head that could sound on par with it's tube driven brother, the JCM800. I know most people get into the mind set of: "Solid states NEVER sound good", the Mosfet actually manages to sound very tube like. The amp has 100 watts that can be fed into a 16ohm or 4ohm cab. The amp features an FX loop and direct line out on the back for plugging directly into a board/recording interface. The Mosfet features two channels: a clean and gain. These are foot-switchable along with the reverb. Both channels share a common EQ (Bass, Treble, Mids) which can be somewhat of a hindrance for those who want ultimate versatility with EQs for both clean and gain channels and is the only feature I wish it had. The gain channel has a gain, tone, and level knob. The gain knob is also push-pull. While pulled, it gives a scooped tone and while pressed in, a nice mid range boost is enabled. After becoming familiar with this amp, I have fallen in love with it and use it on the road as a back up for my JCM2000 and always use it for at home/practice use. For an older amp, I think it has great features, better looks than the MG series and very sturdy as well.

18 comments sorted by best / new / date

    here is a tip to get the wind cryes mary vintage sound. master volume:8 bas:10 mid:5 treble:2( whit a vintage 50´s strat pick ups....beautiful classic sound!!! never turn down the master volume, thats the secret to get a good tube like clean and over drive sound....emilio form mexico city!!!
    I bought a 5213 mosfet 2x12 reverb twin a few weeks ago, I'm still learning to use it but I noticed that you can get the thing to sound like Jimi's tone, very impressive.
    jdpudsey is correct. 3203 Artist model is not a Mosfet amp. It has 2 x EL34 power valves/tubes and a 12AX7/ECC83 driver valve. So, the power amp is valve/tube and the preamp is solid state. It puts out about 30 watts RMS. The Lead 100 Mosfet Head, model 3210, is what people are talking about here when they are mentioning an all solid state head that sounds good. And they do. Probably the same pre-amp circuit as the 3203/4203, but having a Mosfet solid state power section. MOSFET transistors have greater valve/tube like characteristics than regular transistors, so they do sound more like valves. The 3203 (Artist) head and the 3210 (Lead 100 Mosfet) head look virtually identical from the front. And they both sound very good. Hope this clarifies the thread!
    The 3203 is not mosfet at all. The mosfet lead 100 is 3210. The 3203 has a valve power amp running 2x el34 tubes or 6ca7 tubes. The preamp stage however is all solid state. Before anyone tells me that i am wrong just dont. I have owned 2 of them since 1986 and have replaced the valves a many times over the years. I also own the combo version of this amp which has a single V30 - its called the 4203.
    I picked up one of these recently as well after reading so many good comments about it and I am truly amazed! Great cleans and POWERFUL distortion. Unbelievable for the price and for SS (I paid $200). A few clarifications on the original poster's comments: It takes 4, 8 or 16 ohm loads so it sweeps the full range and adjusts automatically to whatever you plug into it as long as the cab or combination of cabs equals either 4, 8 or 16 ohms. Get all the juice at 4 ohms though and somewhat less at higher resistances. Also, the push-pull gain knob provides a mid-heavy tone in general when pushed in but when pulled out, you can use the eq from the clean channel for greater tone flexibility on the boost channel. Best sounding amp I've ever spent less than $800 on!
    I have one of these that I bought for $200...my favorite tone comes from combining both channels, whch gives a blend of that pristine clean tone and the amazing drive that this head is so quietly famous for. This amp is a true rock and roll animal, and especially considering that it's solid state, cranks out true Marshall tone like nothing else, with none of the long range reliability issues associated with most tube amps. Tell ya what...how about we keep this one a closely guarded secret? It'd be a shame to have to pony up more than $200 for my next one lol!
    Hola familia yo tengo la serie completa del Marshall lead mosfer, cabezal de 100 w. y sus 2 pantallas de 4 x 10. Jams me ha defraudado en ms de 20 aos que llevo dndole guerra. En numerosas ocasiones ha estado al lado de amplificadores de vlvulas y los ha dejado mudos. Irrompible y duradero con un limpio fabuloso, la saturacin o distorsin del amplificador es muy rockera tipo AC/DC, por este motivo utilizo una pedalera de efectos. Sinceramente una bestia brutal para el rock, blues, Jazz, etc. En definitiva para cualquier tipo de msica que le pongan saldr victorioso.
    I just picked one up with a matching 4X10 (my personal fave) bottom. It was at an antique furniture place and I got the whole thing for $250.00. When I got home and plugged it in, it ran terribly and there seemed to be 3 speakers blown. I almost brought it back to the store, but decided to call my amp guru first. He found that all it was was mildew from dampness (he assumed it was stored in a damp basement or garage for a few years) and with some good cleaning, it is absolutely running perfectly - speakers and all. A nice bonus is that it's in pristine condition as well... so I certainly lucked out. BTW - I agree, it's a very good sounding solid state amp. I wouldn't know the difference for the most part. Mick
    I've used one of these for more than 20 years. No tubes to replace, fantastic clean tones, and tons of gain. I'm glad they're unknown to most people, since you can still get them for 200 bucks.
    Excellent amp. Another great Valve sounding solid state amp is the 'HH V-S Musician' released in 1976. It had a switch called 'Valve Sound' that gives you a very razor edged maxed out 'Plexi' Sound. The tone correction module on this amp used mos-fets and has serious amounts of punch that modern solid State amps lack. The trouble is the manufacturers get away with these crap amps because they know many people use pedals. But the Great think about the Marshall Mosfet and the HH V-S Musician is that you don't need pedals to make it sound good. They already sounds great
    I had one of these a long time ago that I picked up second hand for around $150. It sounds really good for a solid state and can be had pretty cheap. It's nothing amazing though, I used mine as a backup for a long time.
    I had a Lead Series marshall amp a while back, but a smaller less wattage version, and i would have to agree with the above quote of "best solid state marshall". It is worlds better than any MG piece of crap. It's a shame they don't really make these anymore because the gain on these things blows most other solid state amps away.
    I see a lot of great reviews of the 3210. Lots of folks talking about "running both channels at the same time" how is this accomplished?
    I have played through my mosfet Lead 100 for 13 years with no problems (knock on wood). In addition to its roadworthiness and killer tone, I love the simple interface. The Lead 100 is also compatible with almost any 4x12 cab so it's great for touring guitarists. This is a great amp that I would recommend to anyone who needs a wide range of quality tones and an amp that can take a beating. Best $250 I ever spent!