Marshall 1959 ‘Plexi’ Super Lead
Loved by Page and Hendrix this legendary amp set the tone for 80s rock and metal
Ferociously loud with dynamic range and a powerful bass
Marshall’s legendary 100-watt head was introduced in early 1965 following requests from several bands including The Who and the Small Faces for an amp with more power.
The ‘Plexi’ nickname refers to the control faceplates Marshall used on their earliest amplifiers, which were made from clear plastic with black lettering screen-printed onto the back face and over-sprayed with gold paint. The earliest Super Leads used KT66 valves and had two output transformers; in 1966 the valve layout changed to the familiar EL34. The circuit remained more or less constant until 1973, when printed circuit boards replaced the earlier hand-wired models. The Super Lead’s preamp features two non-switched channels, each with a pair of high and low gain input jacks and a volume control, feeding a shared EQ with bass, mid, treble and presence controls. One channel is substantially brighter than the other and players quickly discovered they could blend the preamps and slightly boost the gain by using a short jumper lead to link the channels together. While earlier Marshalls owed more than a little to the 1950s Fender Bassman, the 1959 is generally regarded as the genesis of the true Marshall sound. It was the first Marshall to feature EL34S and the first amplifier head to sit on top of a 4x12 cabinet.
Associated with legendary players, including Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Paul Kossoff to name just three, The Super Lead truly is a product of its time, built before proper PA systems when backline had to reach the whole audience. It’s ferociously loud, characterised by a very fast response, wide dynamic range and sparkling treble, combined with a powerful bass and a low midresponse that’s mostly a product of the cabinet design.