When we think of the world of rock music, we think of the bands that have entertained us, their look and their sound.
We instantly think of the guitars that are part of their style, from the classic design of the Fender Stratocaster to the timeless cool of the Gibson Les Paul. Just as important to a band sound, if not more so, are the amplifiers.
When it comes rock music, there’s no name in field of amplification that conjures up the same imagery as Marshall.
Marshall amps are the backbone of rock music, producing audio gear since the 1960s. While founder Jim Marshall found massive success providing amplification for guitars and basses, the guitar was not his speciality instrument.
Marshall had a successful career as a drummer and drum teacher, and opened a shop in the early 60s in London’s Hanwell. His shop specialised in drum kits, cymbals and drumming accessories, however he was often asked about stocking guitars and amps.
The popular amplifier brands at the time were based in the US, and the cost of buying in and importing was to inhibitive. Having had some experience as an electrical engineer, Jim Marshall began to work with a technician from EMI called Dudley Craven and his own shop Mr Fixit, Ken bran. On their sixth prototype, the team finally found the Marshall sound.
The evolution of Marshall amps
The key difference between Marshall’s amplifiers and many other amps of the time was the separation of the pre-amplifier from the speakers. Separating these elements meant that you would have a valve driven head section and separate cabinets with four 10” speakers. The famous Marshall stack was born, becoming an integral part of the stage set of rock bands on both sides of the Atlantic.
Thanks to the gain of these amps, they were a key part in the development of hard rock and heavy metal. As rock’n’roll gained a harder edge toward the late 60s and early 70s, Marshall was leading the way with their powerful amplification. Marshalls were the go to amp for many key performers of the time; Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton were among Marshall’s famous advocates. This continued into the 70’s and 80s with players such as AC-DC’s Angus Young and Guns’n’Roses’ Slash as keen exponents of the brand.
Today, Marshall is still one of the biggest amplifier and audio equipment brands in the world, and one of the UK’s best exporters. The legacy of Marshall amps continues today, giving bands that unmistakable sound.