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RIP, Electric Amplifier Inventor Jim Marshall, 'Father of Loud' 166

asavin writes "The founder of Marshall Amplification, Jim Marshall OBE, has died at the age of 88. A tribute to the man known as the Father of Loud was posted on his official website, praising the man whose name became iconic for electric guitarists." Reader LizardKing points to the Guardian's coverage of Marshall's passing, and adds : "A former drummer, Jim Marshall initially became involved with guitar amplification as an importer of Fender equipment, until he eventually decided to branch out and make his own amps. The trademark Marshall sound evolved alongside the requirements of such luminaries as Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton. The Marshall stack has since become a ubiquitous symbol of live rock music in particular — so much so that some bands perform in front of veritable walls of Marshall branded speakers. In addition to his lead guitar amplifiers, Jim will also be remembered for his great bass amps (as used by Lemmy Kilmister in particular) and the much sought after Guv'nor distortion pedal."
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RIP, Electric Amplifier Inventor Jim Marshall, 'Father of Loud'

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  • by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:49AM (#39585991)
    Never met a Marshall amp I didn't like. Met many I couldn't afford, but none that I didn't like.
    • I love my Ampeg SVT, but would quite eagerly swap it for a valve based Marshall bass head. They even do an 8x10" speaker now, so you can get the best of both Ampeg and Marshall worlds. Sigh. Anyway, so long Jim, and thanks for all the tinnitus.
      • I'm a Trace Elliot man myself (pre-Peavey of course) but I always respected the Marshall Major. I got to play through one a few times and while it was damned near impossible to get a true clean sound out of those tubes (one of the reasons i love my solid state trace, satanically loud while staying truly clean) the Major had this "growl" to it, really hard to describe if you haven't played one. Paired with a Fender P-Bass they were monsters, back breakers and a bitch to move (tubes are naturally fussy) but m

  • RIP??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sribe ( 304414 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:51AM (#39586029)

    I'm not sure "Rest In Peace" is appropriate here ;-)

    • Yeah, I'd go for something like "REST IN HIGH VOLUME!" followed by several hours of ears ringing like crazy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ROCK in Peace....

  • Some marshal stacks are big enough one COULD be buried in one..... just sayin'
    • That's a thought. Must amend my will:

      .. to be cremated in the chassis of a Marshall 8x10" cab ...

      To go along with the music requests that include Killed By Death by Motorhead, And no, I'm not joking about the music, as that's what my will really does insist on being played.

  • Should've used Gamemaker. For shame...

  • In my opinion, loudness was the worst thing that ever happened to music.
    Pretty much destroyed all good music, and retroactively made many recordings of old music worse. Now that is not all this man's fault and music had to be digital eventually (and with digital comes a volume control). But he seems like the first step in a staircase of inept musical decisions.

    • by PIBM ( 588930 )

      They weren't talking about the loudness war in the raw data of the file, but rather in the final output. Anyway, just saying..

      • Yes but they are absolutely related. Different techniques that both similarly diminished the art-form of music by making it louder.

        • Yes but they are absolutely related. Different techniques that both similarly diminished the art-form of music by making it louder.

          You haven't got the faintest idea what you're talking about. The criticism of the loudness war is concerned with clipping and a lack of dynamic variation thanks to over use of compression, not increased volume per se.

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          Yeah, the Who, Stones, Clapton...their loudness just ruined music~

          At least we have idiots like you to tell us what music is, and apparently you have defined art. Well done.


    • by Anonymous Coward

      In my opinion, loudness was the worst thing that ever happened to music.
      Pretty much destroyed all good music, and retroactively made many recordings of old music worse. Now that is not all this man's fault and music had to be digital eventually (and with digital comes a volume control). But he seems like the first step in a staircase of inept musical decisions.

      This is completely irrelevant to this discussion. We're not talking about the loudness war here, we're talking about rock music you twit.

    • So... electric guitars bad? What, you think if it's not written for harpsichord it's not music?

      Amazing that one would even attempt to attribute the travesties of the Loudness Wars to one of the pioneers of modern music... I assume you exhibit a similar disdain for the late Les Paul?
    • by uqbar ( 102695 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @12:22PM (#39586547)

      ...and don't get me started on equal temperament!

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      In my opinion, loudness was the worst thing that ever happened to music.
      Pretty much destroyed all good music, and retroactively made many recordings of old music worse. Now that is not all this man's fault and music had to be digital eventually (and with digital comes a volume control). But he seems like the first step in a staircase of inept musical decisions.

      Wrong loudness.

      The "loudness war" is really a "compression" war. And not data compression, but dynamic range compression (the difference between loud

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        Indeed, you are correct. If you look at the signals on an oscilloscope, an overdriven solid state amp will have a square wave with sharp corners, while the corners of a tube amp's distortion (clipped and overdriven) are rounded. This is what people mean when they say it sounds "warmer".

        Many guitar players will play through a low power tube amp with a microphone in front of the tube amp that feeds a high power, not overdriven solid state amp. You get the sound of the tube amp without the higher cost of a Mar

      • by spitzak ( 4019 )

        I suspect that if you turn an amplifier up a lot you will also get distortion, which is what the OP is probably trying to say. But bands could easily avoid this, they would spend more money on more expensive amplifiers (such as made by Marshall) and thus get the desired loudness with less distortion.

        For the CD "loudness wars" it is too late. You can't improve the result by buying a more expensive CD player. That is a big difference.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        Don't, he is a troll. He complain about 'loudness', and when direct confronted he changes the subject slightly. I mean, think abiout this: the crux of his argument* is that loud equals bad music.

        He clearly doesn't understand distortion, or compression artifacts, or any technical aspect. Of course in spite of the clear evidence of hios ignorance, he gfoes on as if he know what he is talking about..
        SO he is a troll.

        *I use that term very loosely regarding his stupid statements.

      • One thing is for sure, calling it a "compression" war is dead wrong. More like an "expansion" or "removal of headroom" war.
    • by petsounds ( 593538 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @02:13PM (#39588543)

      His amps weren't just about being louder. The tone of Marshall amps is stellar.

      But in his defense, Pete Townsend of The Who is the one who demanded louder amps for their concerts. Most amplification systems at concert halls back then were seriously lacking for rock n roll, so you had to have a loud amp. Pete begged Jim to make a louder amp, and he came up with the 100-watt Marshall. Then of course every band wanted one, and I guess you could say there was a concert loudness war for a while (parodied by Spinal Tap's moniker "England's Loudest Band"), but as others have said that had nothing to do with the loudness war of the recorded music (which was indeed detrimental to the music itself).

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        Most people don't realise that to double the db you have to increase the amp's power by 10x. A 100 watt amp is twice as loud as a 10 watt amp, all other things being equal. A high efficiency speaker being driven by a 50 watt amp is louder than a low efficiency speaker being driven by a 100 watt amp. The amp output impedance and speaker impedance matter, too. Because of impedance mismatches, you can easily blow a solid state amp by running several speakers in series from it. You might even see the magic smok

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday April 05, 2012 @02:37PM (#39588859) Homepage Journal

      Dad? Is that you? I didn't know you had a computer! Gees, I'm 60 and have been listening to rock and roll since the '60s. If it ain't loud, it ain't rock. If it's too loud, you're too old.

      Have you ever been to a Mozart concert? Have you ever heard Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture, with cannons? have you never in your life been to a parade? Loud music has been around for centuries. GOOD loud music. A live acoustic guitar playing with a live drumset is subaudible. Most non-amplified musical instruments, especially horns and drums, are DAMNED loud.

      Hell, try listening to Zepplin's "Immigrant Song" at low volume, it's like drinking watered down beer. You've been listening to WAY too much canned music and WAY too little live music.

      • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @03:13PM (#39589371) Homepage

        Classical music has to be loud, at least sometimes. What makes it difference is that is equality loud and quiet. The classical song writers understood the significance and beauty of a whisper as much as that of the bang of the cannon. Modern music is the exact opposite, it is 1 volume (loud).

        And considering that you where alive, let alone going to concerts in the 60s you are orders of magnitude older then I am. Good taste is ageless.

        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

          But the subject was amplification, not dynamics. It isn't Marshall's fault that today's sound engineers seem to all be less than competent.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        He's a troll. Ignore him.

    • Shows how much you know. Not much.
  • ...and playing "Too Rolling Stoned" all the way through.

    Rock on, Jim...rock on.
    • That's nothing - if you want to do something really fun, try plugging the output of one amp into the input of another. (*note - keep a fire extinguisher handy)

      • I've experienced someone running the power amp output of one Marshall amp into the power amp input of another, then into a 4x12". The sound was a phenomenally throaty roar, but I doubt it would do much for the longevity of the second amp.
  • The "father of loud" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @12:10PM (#39586301) Homepage

    By the end of the 1960s, rock amps had achieved enough power to reach the threshold of pain. From then on, much of the "wall of amps" thing was fake. [] You just didn't need that much speaker area to hit the threshold of pain.

    A friend of mine was a roadie for metal groups years ago, and she discovered this when setting up for Metallica. Most of the "amps" were empty boxes. At least they were enclosed boxes. In the picture above, the low-budget metal band just used fake fronts.

    • There's also a reason why the Dead's "Wall of Sound" didn't last long. Two semi-trailer loads of audio equipment leap frogging across the nation, and a mixing board and wiring so cantankerous that a short in a single portion would render the entire system inoperative? Yeah.

    • by jafo ( 11982 )

      A friend of mine was a roadie for metal groups years ago, and she discovered this when setting up for Metallica.

      Speed of Sound tour? Let me guess, they were a bunch of assholes?

  • Huh? No mention of Hendrix? Seriously Sad.

  • Can anybody tell me what the "Marshall Sound" was, and how this would compare to a guitar played through something like a Yamaha?
    • It would sound a hell of a lot better than a Yamaha if the sound you were after was a heavy rock'n'roll sound. I've had Marshalls, and I've had a Yamaha, it was godawful nasal sounding. Not bad for clean, great for jazz, but it didn't distort well at all.
      If you like the sound of early Van Halen, that was a 100watt Plexi model (albeit run through a variac and -possibly (though it's contested) modded some).

      RIP Jim Marshall, rock would not have been the same without you. I give you a moment of ... scre
    • by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:27PM (#39587805)
      An amplifier's "signature sound" is a combination of many things; circuit design, component selection, even cabinet design, material, and construction has a role. As has been posted above, a big part of "the Marshall sound" came for the unique characteristics of the tubes, or "valves" as they're commonly referred to over there. As any "hollow state" aficionado can tell you, different types of tubes all operate on same basic principle, the way they perform varies greatly from one design to the next, and to a certain extent, from one manufacturers implementation to another on any given design.
      Yeah, fine, but what is that (Marshall) sound? That's tough to pin down. It's like trying to describe the difference between "red" and "blue". They're both colors but they are decidedly different. FWIW, the Fender amps of that era were prone to a certain kind of distortion when driven at all hard. This the very characteristic that is prized to this day by blues guitarists who use it as just another part of their style. The problem Marshall solved was that there were limits on how loud you could make an amp with those characteristics before that distortion lost it's unique charm. To be sure, the Marshall gear had it's own type of "crunch" but it could be delivered at much higher levels before turning ugly.
    • No, not really. You need to play guitar and hear and feel the way your music comes out of a Marshall vs. a VOX or a Yamaha.

      Much like the great Gretch sound, you can't really explain it to someone in words they'll understand.

      I can tell you that a Marshall is richer and has that classic tube sound where the peaks and valleys don't seem chopped off which makes your brighter tones a lot brighter and your bass notes a lot darker and fuller, but what does that even mean?

      You just have to listen.

    • I feel almost ashamed to say that as a 30 year old man, music teacher, and classically trained musician, it wasn't until just last weekend that I heard REAL live guitar amps, performed in a hall by expert musicians, without any other sound reinforcement.

      I had been to many, many rock concerts, but they all fed the sound through the PA system, and though it sounded good, it was nothing like I heard in the hall last weekend. Just two small floor guitar amps, one on each side of the hall. The stereo effect was

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        I don't even know where I'm going to find more performances like that.

        Most bars I listen to live music in don't have PA systems, so every band is like that. Of course, they have to have the settings right and actually be good musicians.

        You're 30 so you're a child of the digital era. You simply can NOT get very high fidelity from a CD. Few LPs would anyone confuse with a live performance, either, but there were some, Van halen's first album comes to mind.

        When they have insanely high sampling rates and much h

    • A minor addition to the previous responses: most of the not-electric-guitarist (normal?) kind of people I talk to don't realize that most of us are getting our overdrive or distortion by overdriving the pre-amp, and the differences among the main amplifier types are much more obvious when they are lightly distorted from slight overdrive than when they are clean or in full metal mode. Many of the better distortion pedals are designed to emulate a particular type of amplifier's distortion, e.g., Rothwell Hell
      • by mvdwege ( 243851 )

        Actually, just pre-amp distortion is an anonymous fuzzy sound that sounds the same in almost all amps. It doesn't help that just about anyone uses the ubiquitous 12AX7 preamp tube.

        It's the poweramp distortion that creates the unique character. The 6L6 tubes in Fender amps deliver a different sound than EL34 tubes (which, if I'm not mistaken, are still the power tubes in Marshalls).

        And then there is the electrical feedback from the output transformer and the speakers that influence the poweramp distortion, w

  • Loudspeakers are all and well, but no-one under the age of 30 should be allowed to own one. Especially not my neighbors.

  • He finally went up to 11..

    • by unitron ( 5733 )

      The next time they give me 15 mod points, I'll just let them expire and we'll pretend your comment got all of them (in a good way).

  • Bad title. (Score:5, Informative)

    by JohnnyBigodes ( 609498 ) <morphine@PLANCKd ... minus physicist> on Thursday April 05, 2012 @12:47PM (#39587089)
    Fix the title please. Jim Marshall based his designs on Fender amps (basically "hotrodding" them). He didn't invent them. Having said that, I have no wish to diminish the impact of the Marshall amps, much the contrary. Music wouldn't be the same today without him/them.
  • The guitar player in my band just got this: []
    A 50 watt PRS amp that is amazing. He had played Marshalls and Mesas for years, but this PRS is incredible.
  • I play the pedal steel guitar, one of the few electrics that doesn't sound better through a Marshall. Steel guitarists mostly rely on Peaveys like the Nashville, Session, and Vegas models. Peavey is a privately owned company, and Hartley, its founder, is now in his 70s. Maybe because he's a Mississippi boy, his company has produced amps for us since the '60s, even though we're very much a niche market.

    When he's gone, I will mourn Hartley Peavey as much as I do Les Paul, Leo Fender, and Jim Marshall.
  • Check this. Horrible recording. An unrehearsed jam. I'm not a hot shit guitar player but I still get a kick from listening to this: [] (give it 35 seconds for the guitar to kick in!) Relevance: The Marshall amp in question (unfortunately I don't own it and not sure which model it is) can cut through drums bass and everything - and it is not just about loud - it's getting the tones and sounds through all of that '

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