Price paid: £ 300
Purchased from: Friends
Sound — 9
Guitar wise, I tend to play Flying V's with the standard 24.75 scale lengths and active pickups. My main guitar is a home made V with one Guitarheads active pickup in the bridge. The neck is a Les Paul neck mated to the V body. Its what I like with a big chunky Les Paul style neck and large body that allows the guitar to really ring. I use a brass nut instead of the standard plastic/bone style nut because when playing open strings, it adds sustain and resonance to the tone of the guitar. It will sustain for ages! Being active, the pickup distorts at a much lower volume level than passive pickups, but I still achieve a beautiful shimmering clean tone and then switch to the distortion sound which sounds amazing! there's a quality to the distortion I get that has an edge of "fuzz" about it in the break up. My band plays Epic Doom Metal, which relies on the ability to cut through a wall of distortion with masses of crunch and clarity for singing melodies and harmonies, plus there are a few clean sections in our songs. This amp handles them all in its stride. The amp isn't too noisy but will feed back at the first opportunity. As I said before, its versatility is only matched by its ferocity but it does require you to have the right cab. My head has been upgraded with 2 x 12AX7 tubes as opposed to the ECC83s it comes with, but gain tubes are interchangeable and self biasing, so this small modification is all a part of the tonal delivery my head gives.
Overall Impression — 9
It doesn't seem like a good amp to play Doom Metal with, but I find it compliments the sound of the band well. Uprating the gain tubes and using the 400 watt cab are essential for me. Its the only stack I own but is the 2nd Marshall I have had and this one beats all others hands down for me. If I wanted something for other styles of music, I would be hard pressed to find one that was this versatile. My favourite feature is the sheer power it has. If you can't find a good tone on this amp, you are either far too picky or you're just not listening! As I said earlier, I got this from a friend after he bought a Blackstar Series one 200 watt head. I prefer the Marshall for my style of playing than the Blackstar and ended up building him a tube screamer to tighten up the Blackstar's sound. I don't need to do that on the Marshall. I bought the cab separately but I had access to a 280 watt one in my local studio to test it on, and the difference between the two is quite frankly absurd! If you have the 280 watt cab, change the drivers to the K100's! You wont know what hit you! I wish this had a tuner mute on the foot switch apart from that, I have yet to find a limitation with this amp. I have no plans to change it unless I win the lottery and can buy a DAR FBM and custom cabs or perhaps an Egnater Armageddon or a Fender Machete, or a Fortin Satan... Silly money! All in all, I can't praise this amp enough, but I scored it a 9 because its far from perfect for everyone's tastes, however, if you can, try one. You'd be surprised at what a difference the cab can make to this little beast!
Reliability & Durability — 9
This head is YEARS old but has never let me down. I do gig without a backup and if I had to replace it, I would definitely buy another one. Reliability isn't a real issue with this range of amps because of the lack of output tubes. Being solid state does mean it doesn't generate as much heat as a valve amp and it doesn't weigh as much as one either, plus its less likely to be effected by transportation, EMF and micro-phonics. You don't see these for sale that often because they are that damn good!
Features — 9
Not sure on the year of manufacture, but I believe it was around 2004 when Marshall tried to jump on the "Nu-Metal" bandwagon. Unsurprisingly, the Mode Four was a short lived product, however, during its time of availability, it has earned a reputation as being a Diamond in the rough and they are now sought after by many musicians, Alex Skolnik of Testament among them! This amp is extremely versatile, having everything from clear ringing clean tones to fully saturated brutal distortion, and the versatility of a solid state power stage coupled with a tube driven preamp section means you have a LOT of headroom to mold your sound so it cuts through the live mix. It also means the Head doesn't weight like a ton of bricks! The Mode four comes with two distinct amplification sections and works very much as two amps in one head. All in all, it has 4 channels with clean and classic crunch on one side for blues and classic rock, and then a side dedicated to distortion with OD1 and OD2 options for a true blend of sounds for live work Both amp sections have independently set reverb levels. Channel switching is operated by a foot switch which gives you additional access to a SOLO boost and a reverb button. The amp also has a standard effects loop, an emulated line out and 2 loudspeaker sockets that have dedicated ohmage output plus a dedicated Tuner out socket so you can have your tuner out of your tone loop in case it has an effect on the tone of the instrument. It also has a "resonance" dial which changes the voicing of the EQ so you can choose between the British tone or a more American sounding tone. The distortion stage also has a tonal response setting to add low end, mids and high end so you have an additional boost of those frequencies. The most glaring problem with the features is the design oversight of not having a tuner mute on the foot switch. The head DOES have a tuner mute button, but you have to physically walk over to it and press the button on the head. If they had made it available from the foot switch, it would have been a lot more useful! There is a quirk with the Mode Four range in that you can only use suitable cabs for it. The mode four range of cabs comes in a 280 watt 16 ohm version (designed to be used in duplicate for a full stack), and the 8 Ohm 400 watt monster cab that looks like a Marshall cab on steroids! Of the two, the 400 watt cab is a unbelievably good sounding cab with massive amounts of tight focused delivery thanks to the Celestion K100 drivers inside it. The amount of bottom end you get with this beast is scary and frankly, I wouldn't play through any other cab now. Compare it side by side to the 1960A and it blows it away! The 280 watt version has the standard Celestion G12-75 watt speakers, and frankly there is no comparison between the two. Go for a 400 watt cab with those speakers. Its worth it! I use this amp in rehearsals and on stage. I have never turned the volume knob past 4 and I have had no end of compliments that the Cab alone sounds wonderful, and that the Head and Cab together is one of the most surprising features of my sound.