Purchased from: Emerald City Guitars
Sound — 10
The sound is definently the biggest factor that lead to me buying this amp. My main musical style is metal, and I play a Gibson Explorer through it. It offers a very versatile range of sounds, which I like. Really, this amp offers anything from great, warm cleans to bone crushing metal distortion. Crank the clean channel volume and you'll get a nice, natural overdriven crunch. The disortion on the amp is awesome, but is best suited to 80's metal/rock, such as Megadeth, Van Halen and Iron Maiden. If you want that classic 80's Marshall tone, get a JCM800! This is the amp for that sound! And nothing beats a tube amp for good distortion.
Overall Impression — 8
Many consider the JCM800 one of the best amplifiers for playing metal music. As for my personal opinion, I think this is very true as far as playing 80's metal goes. It's not really the right sound for something like nu-metal. But I'm definently more of a classic metal guy anyway, and many artists I like have either used or still use a JCM800. I've been playing for almost 2 and a half years, and decided to save up for a tube amp. I tried many amps, including Peavey and Mesa/Boogie models, but ended up coming back to the Marshall (Mesa is awesome too, but far too much money for me) As awesome as this amp is, there have been a few problems I've encountered w/it. However, I receieved great service and help with it. Turns out it needed new power tubes and I took it back to the shop, but they fixed it (put in new tubes) for free, and even gave me a loaner amp to use while it was being serviced. My only gripe with this amp is that the speaker in it is 16 omhs, which prevents the amp from getting anywhere near as loud as it's truly capable of. This can easily be fixed however, with the addition of a 4x12 cab or a new speaker. Overall, I'm satisfied though. If you going to buy an old tube amp, be prepared to have it serviced and/or fixed up if you want optimal performace from it. Despite these drawbacks, it IS worth it though. As much as I like the newer Marshalls, especially the DSL series, the JCM800 blows them all away IMO. You may end up going through a little trouble, but you'll end up with a killer amp! You'll also end up spending quite a bit less money than a brand new Marshall tube amp.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This thing is built like a tank. It's not even that big, but it weighs about 50 lbs or so. I would still be careful with it, as there are fragile objects like the tubes inside, but other than that, it's definently built to be taken around. The speaker in this amp is 16 ohms, which is rather high, so I would probably have to mic the amp, get a new speaker for it, or hook it up to a cab operating at lower omhs to gig w/it. Tubes will last for awhile (recommended that you change power tubes every 2 years or so), but it depends on how much you crank it.
Features — 10
You know, I wouldn't really expect a whole lot of features from an older amplifier, but it has pretty much all the features you'll ever really need. Sure, you're not going to find any kind of built in digital effects, but it has an effects loop jack, a master volume knob, and 2 footswitchable channels (Footswitchable channels became more common in models starting in the mid 80's, so my guess is that this amp could have been made anywhere between 1984 and 1990. Honestly, I'm not sure when though). There are also seperate EQ knobs for each channel. The clean channel lacks a mid EQ knob, but it still sounds good anyway. And as fun as built in DFX are, you don't really need. You'll probably get better quality from effect pedals or effect boards anyway. I mainly play in the garage with bandmates or my bedroom. The speaker in the amp isn't built to take full advantage of the amp's power(16 omhs), but 50 watts of tube power is plenty for most situations, even if you play really loud music like metal or punk.