Apr 102019
 

Given the current popularity of mice that roar, Marshall looks to be onto some winners with its British-made, new-for-2019 Studio Series amps. Each reconfigures the most significant designs from two distinguished periods in the company’s history: The Studio Vintage SV20C nods to the hallowed Plexi of the late ’60s, while the Studio Classic SC20C is based on the JCM800 2204 of the ’80s.

Both bring their predecessors into 20-watt class with lower voltages on their dual-EL34 output tubes (which are capable of producing 60 watts per pair) rather than using smaller EL84 or 6V6 tubes (Marshall did much the same with the offshore-built Origin 20 last year). Each also has three 12AX7 preamp tubes and solid-state rectification, all packed into your choice of a decidedly cute head or a combo cab carrying a single Celestion V-Type 10-inch speaker. The models have been updated for the 21st century with a five-watt low-power mode enabled by reconfiguring output-stage voltages, effects loop with bypass switch, and a D.I. out. We tested both with a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Stratocaster. They were also patched into Celestion-loaded 1×12 partially open-back and 2×12 closed-back extension cabs to get a feel for their use in the head format.

STUDIO VINTAGE SV20C COMBO

Rendered as more of a mini Bluesbreaker, the SV20C reflects a wise choice in capturing the iconic styling of the era, with a cab covered in black levant with gold piping, a script logo and a salt-and-pepper grille cloth. The birch-ply combo cab measures 19.7 x 18.1 x 9.6 inches and weighs 35 pounds fully loaded. The control panel presents the classic four-hole format, with a volume control for each of two channels, Normal and High Treble (the latter adds a bright cap to what’s already a more brightly voiced channel). This is followed by shared treble, middle, bass and presence controls. That EQ stage fronts the cathode-follower tone stack, which uses an entire 12AX7 to drive the tone controls, a design common to both amps (and most classic Marshalls above 20 watts, for that matter). There’s no master-volume control here, so you’ll need to drive the thing hard to get to the succulent grind, or add a pedal up front, but that’s the old-school Plexi way.

Inside the folded-steel chassis, components are arrayed across one main printed circuit board, with two other narrower PCBs front and back for the potentiometers and rear-panel jacks. All tube socket connections are also made directly to the main PCB, but the output-tube sockets are reinforced with mountings to the chassis, while those for the preamp tubes are not. All in all, it’s in line with construction standards for modern consumer-grade guitar amps.

The SV20C control panel

The SV20C is an impressively stout little amp, with that characteristically Plexi-like grunt, thump and bark when set to just the edge of breakup, and thick, dynamic vintage-style overdrive when pushed beyond. Like the originals, it arguably delivers best when you parallel the two pairs of inputs with a short patch cable to dial in both channels at once. Even on the five-watt setting, it’s a pretty loud beastie by the time you get it grinding, so you’ll still need an attenuator or some other solution if you’re looking for bedroom high jinks (it loved a JHS Angry Charlie and a Wampler Tumnus Deluxe that I put in front for overdrive). And sure, it might not stand toe-to-toe with your $8,000 vintage ’67 half-stack, but it delivers a sound that should put a smile on any Plexi-loving guitarist seeking that familiar tone in a convenient club-and studio-sized package. The results were entirely respectable — and plenty of fun — even through its own 10-inch speaker, but the SV20C gained proportionally more meat and gristle through the extension cabinets, as would the SV20H head when used as such.

SPECIFICATIONS

Studio Vintage SV20C

CONTACT marshall.com
PRICE $1,499 street

CHANNELS 2
CONTROLS Normal loudness, High Treble loudness, treble, middle, bass, presence
POWER 20 watts
TUBES Three ECC83 (12AX7) preamp tubes, two EL34 output tubes
EXTRAS Low power mode (5 watts), D.I. output, FX loop with bypass switch, dual outputs for 4Ω and 8Ω and single output for 16Ω
SPEAKER 10″ Celestion V-Type
WEIGHT 35 lbs
BUILT U.K.

KUDOS Chunky and manageable petite-Plexi tones in a stylish and convenient combo
CONCERNS None

STUDIO CLASSIC SC20C COMBO

Fittingly, the SC20C’s cabinet follows ’80s styling in more heavily textured gloss-black elephant covering, complemented by white piping that frames the black grille cloth and front-facing control panel, all in a birch-ply cab measuring 20.1 x18.1 x 10 inches and weighing 32 pounds. Given its more hot-rodded nature, I might have been tempted to call it Studio Lead rather than Classic, but the JCM 800 Lead Series Studio legend on the gold control panel covers that base.

This circuit uses the cascading-gain preamp of Marshall’s JCM800 models 2203 and 2204 of the ’80s, which were successors to the Master Model amps of the late ’70s. Together, these lead-intended Marshalls are responsible for a huge portion of the classic rock tones of the late ’70s, ’80s and ’90s that we often mistakenly attribute to Plexis, although they have other elements in common with those ’60s classics. This design sacrifices the two independent channels but provides two chained-together tube gain stages in series with a master volume to rein it all in when you plug into the high input. Using the low input takes you via just one gain stage for a rhythm sound that’s slightly undergunned compared to the traditional Plexi clean, but it’s there if you need it. Note that this is not a channel-switching amp: You physically move your cable plug from one jack to the other to change sounds. Otherwise, bonus features and construction are all identical to those of the SV20C.

My first observation is that this mini JCM800 feels a little less at home through its 10-inch speaker, although it stills sounds very good just as it sits. The sizzle inherent in its high-gain preamp does benefit from the balancing out that a bigger 50-watt output stage brings to the lower register, though, and perhaps even more so from the thump and high-end attenuation that a closed-back 4×12 delivers. As such, the amp sounded a lot more authoritative through the closed-back 2×12 cab, but that’s to be expected. All that aside, this is one mean little combo as stock and an absolute blast to play. Need to fill a small-club gig with effortless Slash, Zakk, Tom Morello, Billy Duffy, Fugazi or Scorpions tones? They’re all here in abundance. It’s also worth noting that this amp cleans up superbly well from the guitar’s volume control, a characteristic of this circuit, which sort of makes it an instant “multichannel” amp, even without a footswitch connection, and yields a much more satisfying rhythm sound than the rather emasculated results of the low input.

Both these rethinks of classic Marshall designs are a lot of fun and will undoubtedly win over plenty of players. The Studio Classic SC20C successfully encapsulates that roaring ’80s rock sound, but the Plexi-like Studio Vintage SV20C delivers a boutique-leaning performance that earns my vote for an Editors’ Pick Award.

SPECIFICATIONS

Studio Classic SC20C

CONTACT marshall.com
PRICE $1,499 street

CHANNELS 2
CONTROLS Pre-amp gain, master, treble, middle, bass, presence
POWER 20 watts
TUBES Three ECC83 (12AX7) preamp tubes, two EL34 output tubes
EXTRAS High-and low-sensitivity inputs, low-power mode (5 watts), D.I. output, FX loop with bypass switch, dual outputs for 4Ω and 8Ω and single output for 16Ω
SPEAKER 10″ Celestion V-Type
WEIGHT 32 lbs
BUILT U.K.

KUDOS A tasty encapsulation of the ’80s rock sound in a compact package, which sounds even more ferocious through a larger extension cab
CONCERNS Tones can be a little strident through the onboard 10″ speaker

Review: Marshall Studio Vintage SV20C and Studio Classic SC20C
Source: Guitar Player