JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

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Danley
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JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by Danley » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:46 pm

There might not be many 2203 users who will admit to it on this board, but there must be a few who played one of these over the years. Thinking about checking one out, but making sure I have my expectations in the right place:

In what way does the JCM800 'not do cleans?' That's the most comment 'complaint' about the amp, but is not ever really quantified and I struggle to figure out how a 100 watt master volume amp would not have the headroom to do a clean sound. If you keep the master up/gain down, can the amp actually stay audible and clean at band levels? Or is the clean sound a practice/low volume-only sort of thing?
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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by marqueemoon » Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:21 pm

I just remember it being sort of brittle/shrill/lacking dimension.

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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by RuffiansFC » Fri Jan 17, 2020 5:39 am

having the master volume dimed and using the gain knob as the volume is the only way I've been able to get a decent clean tone from an 800. pretty much goes for any marshall I've had to use/borrow.

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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by mbene085 » Fri Jan 17, 2020 5:48 am

It's a honky amp. My experience has been that many 800 players are also Gibson players. The era they came out and had the most influence was also the era of super mid-intense overwound Super Distortion type pickups and their midrange coupled with the 800's leads to a real ugly clean tone IMO, so those may be factors leading to its reputation for poor clean tones. I even hate the 800 clean with P90s or PAFs, whereas the mid scoop of a blackface or the right silverface Fender can sound great with them.

However, I absolutely love single coil Fenders into a clean/slightly hairy 800. It's a great tone that doesn't get lost in a mix. The mid scoop of the single coils and the mid hump of the 800 are complementary, like the mid hump of a P90 and the mid scoop of a blackface Fender, at least to my ears.

And of course, it depends on the speakers. Something like Vintage 30s will emphasize the mids even more and are popular with distorted Marshalls, but a more balanced speaker gives prettier cleans.

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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by redchapterjubilee » Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:35 am

I actually preferred the clean side to the 2203 I had. As RuffiansFC said, you have to dime the master while plugged into the low input then use the pre to get your preferred volume. And dial in the EQ without being bothered by what it actually looks like. I found myself rolling the treble all the way off, and cranking the bass on mine. But I was also using Jazzmasters and the wrong speakers (I think the cab had G12K-100's?) and I've learned since that JCM 800s are very sensitive to speaker choices. My experiment with the JCM800 ended after a year of messing with it and never being happy. The "keraang" people talk about in reference to the Marshall sound never fit with what I was hearing in my head. Ultimately I gave up on Marshall and went back to the Fender/Mesa camp and have been happy there ever since. This will sound odd but I achieve the Marshall tone I had in my head with a 59 Bassman through British speakers.

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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by mbene085 » Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:53 am

redchapterjubilee wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:35 am
This will sound odd but I achieve the Marshall tone I had in my head with a 59 Bassman through British speakers.
That doesn't sound odd to me at all, it just means the Marshall tone in your head is a Bluesbreaker, the first Marshall tone that anyone in the world fell in love with. It was in essence a tweed Bassman with British speakers.

Though both are iconic Marshall tones, a JCM800 will sound no more like a Bluesbreaker than a silverface Twin will sound like a tweed Deluxe. Different circuits, different tubes, different eras. Both pairs can be described as "classic Marshall tones" and "classic Fender tones" but they are a completely unique and you'd be justified in loving one and disliking the other.

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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by eggwheat » Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:56 am

I never liked the JCM800 with Jazzmasters/Jags. I found it far too shrill.

The best Marshall I had that worked with a Jazzmaster(apart from my '69 small box 50 watt) was a Marshall JMP MkII Master Model 100 watt guitar head and matching JMP cab. The JMP cab was original and loaded with original G12H-30's.

It sounded fantastic, clean or distorted.

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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by Danley » Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:14 am

So it sounds like people are referring not to total inability to get clean, rather: The quality of the sound (shrill/harsh due to the mids,) possibly exacerbated by the speakers/guitars JCM users typically use (ex. hot humbuckers,) and lack of ease to achieve truly clean tones immediately without amp knob tweaking (as would be common with any single channel amp.) How much better does using the ‘low’ input get things?
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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by budda12ax7 » Thu Feb 06, 2020 8:35 pm

This is so wrong....I used a 100 Watt 1987 JCM 800 for a long time....it does cleans just fine. You just need to set it up as a clean amp. In fact, I was using my MIJ jazzmaster into the low input channel....bass all the way up mid 1/2 way, treble on 2. Using pedals for overdrive and modulation....

In fact...at the time I was in this Adorable/Ride kind of band and all the gigs we would do bands were using Rolond JC 120 or something....roll out the marshall 1/2 stack.....one on each side of the drums....morley splitter box......godlike thunder....nice bass tones....

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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by horseblanket » Wed Feb 12, 2020 4:06 pm

I agree. I have a 2204 and cleans up just fine, great in fact.

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Re: JCM800 Users: Clean Sounds?

Post by somanytoys » Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:07 pm

I think it’s a combination of the different factors listed above (guitar, pups, speakers), and also people’s personal preferences and their styles (what it’s being used for).

I don’t have a Marshall, but I have 2 amps that have 2 preamps, one side is a Deluxe and the other is a Plexi (one will convert the Plexi to a JCM800).

I find that the Marshall sound is a slightly cleaner, more straightforward sound. Setting it clean is very nice sound, just not as bell-like and chimey as the deluxe side - but I’m also usually in the Plexi mode.

I don’t play the JCM800 mode all that much, mostly because I usually use the Deluxe side, simply because the Fender tones compliment the sounds of my Vox amp better than the Marshall side does. But when I do use the 800, the gain is usually pretty high or fully dimed, to get the old, heavy Marshall sounds.

With my amps and all of the actual Marshall JCM amps that I have played over the years, the clean channels on them have all sounded very similar.

Unless you’re a huge fan of the glossier Fender tones, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
-David

It's a boost booster, to boost your boost - it makes your tone much muchier.

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