Marshall 1959 ‘Plexi’ Su­per Lead

Loved by Page and Hen­drix this leg­endary amp set the tone for 80s rock and metal

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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.

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