The tg guide to ... amp modelling
Loud, fast and dynamic, the 1959 ‘plexi’ kickstarted the classic marshall sound
1 The four input jack sockets and volume controls
The 1959’s dual non-switching preamp channels can be ‘jumped’ with a short lead to make both preamps active, allowing players to blend the two very different-sounding channels for a wide range of tones as well as giving a small gain increase. If you look at archive footage of classic rock legends like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Paul Kossoff, you’ll often see a Marshall 1959 with the jumper lead.
2 The rear panel valves
Early Marshalls were based on classic tweed Fenders and used the KT66 valve, which was a British version of the American 6L6. The 1959 Super Lead was the first Marshall to use the European EL34 pentode, which was a key part of the bolder response that typified the ‘Marshall Sound’. In the early 1970s, amps shipped to America were fitted with the 6550, which was less prone to transit damage, but sounded different again, with more headroom and a stiffer feel.
3 The bass, mid and treble tone controls
The Marshall’s tone network was inspired by (or copied from, depending on which book you read) the 1950s Fender tweed Bassman, which was one of the first amps to feature a middle control. With no gain control and master volume, the amp has to be turned up very loud to produce any kind of distortion. Today, most 1959 users use a drive pedal in front of the amplifier combined with an attenuator, for more control.