Every guitar player knows Marshall and its cult amp series that has been manufactured for over 40 years now. Sometimes praised, sometimes criticized – everyone has certainly heard about the Marshall Plexi, JMP and JCM800, some of which even became reference products. After the launch of a new all-tube series (JVM), a solid-state series (MGFX) and a tube/solid-state hybrid series (Valvestate), Marshall only lacked a tube/digital hybrid product range. Thanks to its cooperation with Softube (well-known for its software amp simulations), Marshall has now launched the new JMD:1 series entering the semi-digital area. Today, we’ll take a deeper look inside the JMD501…
The JMD501 is the 50-watt combo version of the JMD:1 product family. As soon as you take it out of the box, you’ll immediately recognize the typical Marshall look: golden front, classic knobs, logo, typography… Nothing new on this amp! The dimensions are standard for a 50-watt combo (25″ x 20.7″ x 10″) and it weights 50 lb. It features a 12″ speaker, two EL34 power tubes and one ECC83 preamp tube.
On the front panel, you’ll find an input for connecting your guitar and a knob for selecting one of the 16 amp models available. You’ll have to read the user’s manual in order to know which hardware is being emulated: there are no “I’m a JCM800” or “I’m a JMP-1 with a Guv’nor” labels. You’ll have to settle for ambiguous descriptions like “Clean natural” and “Lead Classic”! Perhaps Marshall didn’t want to push it too far. Just read the user’s manual to find out the topology of each model.
The front panel also includes a standard gain control, a 3-band EQ (bass, middle, treble) and a channel volume knob. All five controls work in different ways depending on the selected preamp model.
You have four channels to which you can assign any setting. And it also features a manual mode, which is very convenient to get an overview of the amps’ sound possibilities. There is also a foot switch included that allows you to toggle between channels/presets.
Like on Line 6 amps, a single control allows you to select and adjust one of the modulation effects. You can choose between gate, chorus, phaser, flanger, and a tremolo controlled by the Mod Depth setting; the speed rate is defined by the position of the Mod Adjust knob. Unfortunately, it is impossible to mix two effects. The amp also provides a delay effect with tap tempo and different modelings that affect repetitions (Hi-fi, Analogue, Tape and Multi). Apart from that, the JMD501 includes a digital reverb. All in all, thanks to its effects and control possibilities, the amp proves to be a very comprehensive tool. The presence knob is placed at the end of the signal path, just before the master volume control. Finally, also notice that the amp is equipped with power and standby switches.
The JMD501 is generous when it comes to connections! You have additional speaker outs at your disposal: one 16 ohm out, one 8 ohm out and two 16 ohm outs, plus an effect loop with send/return connectors, a +4dB/-10dB level selector and a mix control.
The preamp output allows you to connect the JMD501 preamp to an external power amp. This connector also works when the amp is in standby mode (Silent Recording mode). The same applies to the phones output which allows you to play guitar with the sound of your amp without disturbing your whole neighborhood (in standby mode the speaker output is muted).
A line input adds the possibility to connect a line-level source (MP3 or CD player) to play along with your favorite songs. The amp also features an Emulated Line Out on XLR that emulates the miking of a 4×12″ speaker cabinet. Just like the headphones and preamp outputs, you can use it silently in standby mode.
The Footcontroller input is dedicated to the supplied foot switch, but the amp can also be controlled via its MIDI in and out. By the way, using the foot controller is somewhat complex in the beginning. I had already tested the foot controller of the Marshall JVM210H, which is a bit unpractical (pressing a switch for the second time allows you to change mode — green, orange or red — without changing channel). The JMD501 foot controller includes six switches and allows you to store up to 28 presets directly in the Preset Store mode. You can also assign some switches of the front panel to the foot controller: manual, channel 1-4, modulation on/off, delay on/off, tap tempo, FX loop, and compare.
Now, the time has come to experience the sound of this unique amp!
Marshall promised to revolutionize amp technology by offering a sort of summary of their legendary amps in a single combo – and everything for just under $1,200. Reality looks very different: the price is a bit high compared to it competitors and the amp is not very versatile because the modelings are limited to Marshall amps. The cheap character of some presets disappointed me a bit (especially the clean sound), although the crunch presets sound very good and the modulation effects are quite convincing.
- Crunch sound!
- Good modulation effects
- Comprehensive rear-panel connections
- Supplied with a foot controller
- 16 different simulations
- Clean sound a bit too cheap
- The “war-machine” foot controller
To read the full detailed article with sound samples see: Marshall JMD501 Review