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.
Two months ago we posted part 1 of our project Jensen speaker rebuild for our original 1964 pre-CBS Fender Super Reverb. The amp has original transformers and used to sound wonderful – but the original Jensen speakers were in rough shape. The cones had tears, and the magnets on two of the speakers had shifted off-center, causing the voice coils to freeze and no longer produce any sound.
At LegendaryTones.com, when we’ve taken on amplifier upgrade projects in the past, often we have recommended replacing stock factory speakers in the process with new models. This is especially true with Fender reissue amplifiers, as often the reissue models include speakers that do not sound or respond anything like the originals – regardless of the brand name they are badged with.