Marshall JCM 900 SL-X + Strat= Jimi Hendrix Tones!!

For this blog a brief article how the Marshall JCM 900 SL-X responds to various guitars in particular the Fender Stratocaster with its single coil pick-ups.

A quick search on the net reveals what people think about this amp: There is a lot of talk of people finding this amp trebly. Most people seem to agree that the SL-X can produce dark and more modern Marshall sounds.
Most of the videos you will find on Youtube seem to be done with the Metal guitarplayer in mind. This is a pitty, since the amp can produce a lot of different tones, and if you are after a affordable Marshall which can give you those Plexi and JMP sounds, look no further because the SL-X can do this very well. Of course the amp can go further and give you a lot more sounds, this in itself is a good feature.

             Plugging Straight Into the Amp:

Using the amp without the use of any pedals and any guitar will sound fantastistic: Humbuck style guitars sound full on clean settings, dialing in more Gain and Preamp Volume, and the amp starts to break up to however much distortion you want. Using a bit of Gain and adding up the Volume with the Preamp will create a darker kind of distorted tone. There is plenty of headroom in the Preamp, even when using humbuck style of guitars, before you get that full-over-the-top kind of distortion. Using the same approach, but now backing down on the Preamp will create a more trebly kind of distortion, since the Gain adds more treble: Very useful, especially when you are using a guitar with dark, muddy sounding humbuckers.

Using a Fender Strat for the first time with this amp, I was somewhat disappointed: Very trebly, and harsh, but hang on——I went straight from Humbuck guitar to Single Coil Strat, without altering any tone, gain or preamp controls. When using a Fender Twin amp you can do this, and all what changes is the sound of the guitar, with the SL-X you may need to tweak your settings. Once I had turned down my treble, prescence and changed the gain and preamp I was very surprised, very surprised indeed as I could dial in Hendrix sounds without too much trouble. When I added an EQ to my signal things did get even better, but more on this later on.
Getting Hendrix tones out of your amp is not just dialing in the right kind of settings on your amp, it helps if you mimick some of this trademarks of his guitarplaying, like some of his chordvoicings, use of bass-and melodylines within the chords. The speakers and the kind of guitar you use will also have an impact. If you are after the Hendrix tone you will need to experiment with your settings, guitar, pedals and speakers. However, it was a surprise to me, to say the least, that this amp can get so close to the tone Hendrix seem to have on most of his live recordings.

                 It’s All in the Gain:  

Like with so many amps, the gain- and preamp will add a lot of character to your tone, and this amp is no exception to this rule.
Want more treble from your Strat?: use more gain and add more prescence to give your sound more sparkle.
Opening up both the Preamp and Gain will give you a very trebly kind of sound. I personally like to use either the Gain or the Preamp. It is true that both controls need to be activated to get any sound, but you will only need to open them up a little and then you can add more on the Gain or Preamp, depending on if you want treble or a darker tone. Finetweak the overal sound with your tonecontrols and you are ready to play.
Still not happy? Want even more treble? Bring out the pedals!!

                 Pedals: Treble Booster

I have “discovered” a new kind of treblebooster, which works very well with nearly any amp.
Why on earth would someone want more treble from an amp which does have enough treble on its own? Good question!! Because not all treble is the same: By using pedals you can overload other pedals, and this will react with the Gain and Preamp of the amp to create a somewhat unique character.
During the 60s most guitarplayers created distortion by adding more treble. Add more treble to a humbucker in bridge postion and it will start to break up very soon, switch pick-up setting and in most cases the amp will clean up.
It is with this thought in mind that I use the following pedals to create a similar effect:

    Compressor—->Rat—->DOD FX87—–>EQ

The Rat’s distortion is hardly on, the filter is opened up to add more treble and I keep the Rat’s volume at unity level. The DOD FX87 is a simple enhancer, it will add sparkle and can sound like a valve operated kind of unit. It is primitive, and to most people’s ears will sound too trebly, but for my purpose here it is excellent. I somewhat overdrive the FX87 with the Rat. The EQ is a luxury of some sort. You can dial in some more treble or darker sounds. When using the Strat, I found myself backing down on treble on the EQ while dialing in more bass at the same time.
The pedals are there to add the finishing touch really. One could do without any pedals, but since I like this set-up I wanted to try it and found that the results were quite good.

                 Future  Marshall JCM 900 Articles:

It is my intention to create more articles on the JCM 900 series, I would like to create some articles for the use of some well-known Bosspedals in combination with the SL-X. I also want to create a article where I compare the SL-X with the Dual Reverb.
If you are interested in using any of these amps I would say keep an eye on some of the future articles on this blog.

Hope to see you soon again.