Guitarists (myself included) tend to live in an unusually backward-technology world. Meaning, what was made back then was generally always considered better and more valuable than what is being made now. The proof is in our love of all things vintage, whether we’re talking tube amps, guitars, or effects.
While there is certainly some validity to the argument of certain aspects of “older is better” being true (I would argue that this is true if we are speaking about vacuum tube production, wood availability in guitars, etc.) compared with what’s currently available now, continuing to make the claim of “older is always better” when discussed as an ENTIRE category of guitar gear I would say is false. And I still love vintage gear, but let’s explore this a bit and really think about it and remove our blinders for a moment.
First, Some Background…
When people most often think of vintage Marshalls, the most highly regarded are the non-master volume series including the model 1959 100 watt head produced in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. It’s hard to argue against the amp that Hendrix, Page, Van Halen, Clapton and many others used.
And while I would agree that they are incredible amps, the REAL game changer in my mind for Marshall was when the company introduced its master volume series of amps in 1976. The models 2203 (100 watts) and 2204 (50 watts) heads became instant hits, and quickly began to outsell the non-master volume versions by the late 70’s. Why? Well, they sounded great at more reasonable volumes which essentially made them more practical for guitarists who couldn’t always play at full volume and crank up a non-master volume Marshall inside a concert arena.
The Vox name should be familiar to virtually any guitarist that’s taken that quest for tone or is a regular visitor to this site. That name is of course associated with some of the most famous amplifiers of all time, including the AC15 and AC30. The AC15 had its beginnings in the late 1950’s with the AC30 following soon afterward – and now, even after more than 50 years with the same circuit design at their heart, these are still two amps that continue to be revered for their tone and are as musically useful today as they’ve ever been.
So when Vox announced two years ago that it was moving toward the production of modeling amplifiers, no doubt there was skepticism about what the final product would be like. I’m sure mutterings of “Why mess with a good thing?” were heard and told as well as how a company rooted in “older technology” would do with the creation of amplifiers based on new technology and engineering requirements.
Most readers at this site understand I’m a big time “amp nut” – with a special love for old Marshalls in particular. Some readers have even complained, “Too much Marshall!” in terms of content and asked me to pay attention to some other amps out there.
Well, o.k., I’m going to move away from the Marshalls, but not too far for the moment as the Mojave AmpWorks Peacemaker and Plexi 45 certainly share the Marshall heritage – in the case of the Plexi 45, its circuit is as dead-on of a true JTM 45 clone as you’ll find in any new amp built today. The Peacemaker however, adds some twists to the legendary Marshall tone, which we’ll dig into shortly.
During the past few years, there has been a resurgence in the interest of vintage gear of all types, not only guitars and amplifiers, but even effect pedals. In the case of effect pedals, this is a most interesting phenomenon because during the ‘80s, when digital state-of-the-art rack systems were in vogue, effect pedals were basically considered “old junk.” Regardless, with so much interest in the market for vintage tones and gear, it was a no-brainer for companies to seek to fulfill the demand by creating reissues. And of course, like anything else, some of these recreations were built more accurately and better than others.