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Back in August my Marshall 4212 JCM800 combo died on me during a gig. Being the stupid fool I am, I didn’t have any spare valves/backup amp (although I managed to get through it running through the other guitarists spare, a Peavey Classic 30). As I had a gig the following day I had to go grab something quick (from somewhere that took credit cards!!). After hearing good things about the Vintage Modern I hauled ass down to Sound Control in Bristol (taking my trusty ’59 Reissue and GeorgeL cable with me) and went for a test drive.

The Vintage Modern is so called because its got a “vintage” sound (courtesy of the KT66 output valves), with modern features; a -10db/+4db effects loop, foot switchable reverb and “Dynamic ranges” and Post Phase Inverter (PPI) Master Volume. I’m a bit of an “old skool” player, so the vintage sound really appealed to me, as did the way you work the amp.

Although the amp has a foot switch to change dynamic range, moving from Low to High engages an extra 12AX7 in the pre-amp creating a large volume jump from one range to the next. It was designed this way on purpose as its not a multi-channel amp like the DSL, TSL or JVM, its a single channel amp with two separate ranges. Like the old JTM’s the way to go from clean to crunch is via the guitars volume control, which is a method sadly lost on the majority of younger players who are brought up on a diet of multi-channel amps. I’ve not got a problem with this (after all my 4212 is a twin channel amp), its just that I feel everyone should at least learn how to do it the “old” way to help them appreciate the dynamics of working with an amp. To be honest, I think that having the dynamic range on the foot switch is the biggest problem with the VM. It encourages people to think that the amp is multi-channel when its not.

Anyway, I subsequently bought the 50 watt head and the following gig I ran it through my 4212’s V30’s (which I had changed to after an unfortunate incident with the stock G12T-75’s and the corner of my guitar stand). Although very nice sounding, the open back 2 x 12 cab of the 4212 just doesn’t have that low end I liked when playing through the matching 4 x 12 in the store. So the next thing to do was to buy the matching 4 x 12!

Not long after this, the band separated due to personality clashes between some members of the band, and I’ve therefore had only limited time to dial in the amp. However, over the past week, I’ve rolled the amp out and begun experimenting. Like I said before, I’m much more into the vintage sound than your average 20-something, so I like the natural voice of the amp anyway. However, the low dynamic range doesn’t have quite enough gain to get my juices flowing, so I stick it on high. I then set all the tone controls on 5, along with both gains (the amp has two gains, body and detail, which control the amount of gain on 400hz and below and 400hz and up respectively). I can then set the master volume to a reasonable level, which for my house is about 1-2 on the dial. I then adjust the gain to taste, with the guitar volume on 7ish. This lets me get a nice crunchy rhythm sound, which will clean up as I back off, and increase in volume – but not too much gain – as I turn up to 10. For me, this is with the detail on about 3 and the body on about 2.

After the gains are set, its time to move onto the tone shaping. First I adjust the bass, which will typically sit around 4-6 depending on venue. Next is middle, typically around 6-7 and lastly its treble again, 6-7 dependent on venue. Last is presence which doesn’t normally move too far from 5.

Because of the PPIMV you can I’m fairly sure that the tone isn’t going to change too much with the increase in master volume, mostly those mids will start to fatten up as the power valves get working. This is fine as when you’re playing with a band, you need to be able to cut through which is what those mids help you do. I’ve yet to experiment how the gain is affected by the increase in volume, but again, I should think it will be largely the same as the tone stack as its all before the MV. The only things I can see changing is the players/audiences perception of gain and the amount of gain introduced by the power valves clipping (or power amp distortion as its known).

I will have to up the master at some point, but it probably won’t be until I have a day off so I don’t disturb anyone too much!

Oh, btw if you’re interested in the Vintage Modern go to the Vintage Modern forum for more info.