Price paid: $ 200
Purchased from: private seller
Features: This 100 watt solid state amp was made roughly two decades ago, and it's still going! A staple in many old school death and black metal recordings, the Marshall 8100 head has gained a cult following in the years since it's introduction.
The amp has two channels, each with switchable voicing and three band EQ plus gain, with the boost channel boasting a contour knob and channel volume as well. The first channel, called Normal, is the old school clean and crunch channel. The clean channel is decent, the gain cannot be set high, as it runs out of headroom quite quickly. If set right, the clean channel is pleasing, spanky, sparkling, and tight.
Pressing the switch activates the crunch channel. The sound of this channel should be instantly familiar to those familiar with the Marshall JCM 800s and JMPs, as it's models after them. Keeping the gain low on this channel yields warm, round sounding rolled back clean tones, very Marshally in it's response. For those who like a crunchy rhythm sound and utilize their volume knobs for clean, this is the channel for you. The gain gets all the way up to super crunchy rock such as Aerosmith and late seventies/early eighties tones. Placing a boost such as a tube screamer or something comparable will take the tonal versatility of this channel even further, unlocking classic eighties and nineties crunch and grind.
The other channel, called Boost, houses the higher gain section of the amp. With the OD1/OD2 switch unselected, the tone and gain is very close to the crunch channel, except with increased volume and notably less warm on most settings. The contour knob is considered by many to be the selling point of this amp, and it really shows its power on this channel. Sweeping back and forth brings a myriad of grindy, crunchy tones out of the amp, from smooth warm tones to grating, noise rock styles screams. The gain on tap with this channel is limited, but with a proper boost it can easily get high gain, and the unique sounds in this channel will certainly please those who are looking for punk and noise tones.
Pressing the OD1/OD2 switch in unlocks the highest gain section of the amp. This channel is made for pure high gain metal and hardcore. The sounds out of this channel will EASILY please diehard thrash, death, black, and hardcore punk players with a little dialing on he EQ and contour knobs, as this channel can clear the spectrum from Mesa style roar all the way past Marshall scream to an otherworldly shriek of pure mayhem. Many people consider this channel the entire reason to own this amp, but to disregard the others would be unfair, as they all do their own thing.
The controls on this amp are all in the front, including the loop and effects level, which makes quick adjustments quite easy. The reverb is decent, certainly good enough for rock, punk, or metal, but more traditionally minded players may find it slightly lacking. The effects loop is quite nice, and has a -0, -20 switch and even a level switch. While this amp lacks any digital effects, its no frills attitude, coupled with its versatile tone abilities, makes it a deadly tool for the touring musician. // 9
Sound: This guitar does rock, punk, and metal like nobodies business. I play black metal thrash, and punk with it, and it absolutely kills. Each channel has it's own unique voicing, and I even use the crunch channel for rhythm and OD2 for lead sometimes. The channels on this amp are more than enough to find your sound on, and it reacts very well to effects. The main drawback on this amp is the clean channel, it need to be treated right, but other than that, this amplifier is without a doubt the most versatile amp as far as sounds go that I have owned. // 9
Reliability & Durability: This amp is built well, and I would rely on it. It broke shortly after I bought it, but repairing it was easy, and for an amp that is 20 years old, I expected it. I imagine it has been treated roughly, as I bought it from it's second owner, and he didn't know how long the previous owner had had it, but the first owner took it upon himself to write on it. I wouldn't gig it without a backup, as it's getting older, and I always want to have that insurance of another amp I can grab quickly in case something goes wrong. Except for the one problem, this is an incredibly solid amp. // 7
Overall Impression: As said before, I play a lot of extreme metal and hardcore with this amp, and it suits it very well. I've been playing guitar for four years, and I've owned four Marshalls, a Peavey 5150, Line 6 Spider and Roland Cube, and this amp is my prized amplifier. If this amp were stolen or lost, I would definitely buy another, although it may be difficult to come across, as they are getting somewhat rare nowadays. There isn't much I could ask for extra on this amp, as I don't like onboard effects, and the gain and voicings are more than enough for many players. You could put this in the backline, and four different genres could play that night and not even touch the settings. This is a classic amp, and I'm proud o own it. // 9