REVIEW: Marshall JVM410HJS Joe Satriani amp

JVM410HJSB

Joe Satriani needs his amps to cover a lot of ground during the course of a single gig, from vintage bluesy sweetness to chunky rock to screaming harmonically overstimulated lead. For years he’s (generally) used clean amps and distortion pedals for his tone, but when it came time to lay down some riffage with his supergroup Chickenfoot, Joe realised only Marshall would do. So they worked together on an amp based on the JVM410. Let’s let Joe explain: “It’s got four channels and three modes per channel, and we just set the thing up in the control room when we were doing overdubs (for Chickenfoot III) and we went from channel to channel, and I think the only time we used a different amp was when we plugged in a ’59 Fender Twin amp to add a little something to a ballad. Everything else was done through that amp. I never felt like I wasn’t punching enough or I never had enough gain or I wasn’t clean enough. It’s really an outstanding amp.”

On the surface, the 100 watt JVM410HJS looks like tricked-out four channel amp, but it’s actually a tricked-out 12-channel beast. Each channel (Clean, Crunch, OD1 and OD2) features a full layout of Gain, Treble, Middle, Bass and Volume controls, although in contrast to the original JVM410, the Satriani version replaces the four reverb controls with four independent noise gates. Joe tends to get his ambience from pedals anyway, and any serious guitarist with a similar tone obsession is probably likely to do the same. Joe’s version also includes a new mid shift button on OD1 and OD2 which moves the midrange frequency from 650kHz to around 500kHz, and the overall gain level of the OD channels has been reduced a little bit.

Around the back you’ll find five speaker output jacks, a programmable series effects loop with a return level control (simplified a bit from the more flexible but fiddly original amp), and a pair of non-programmable insert jacks with a bypass switch. There’s also a speaker-emulated balanced line out which uses a regular 1/4″ jack, instead of the more common XLR (and therefore will probably be used by more home recordists), and a 1/4″ jack for the programmable foot controller. There’s also MIDI In and Thru sockets.

The tubes are five ECC83/12AX7s in the preamp and four EL34s in the power amp. The rectifier is solid state, and the output is a beefy 100 watts.

If you wanted you could even use the green Clean channel and the three different Crunch modes and have a very usable amp right there, with clean, crunch, chunk and lead sounds, but the JVM410HJS offers a lot more. Because it has, in effect, 12 channels, you can use it as a completely different amp in completely different situations. For instance, with single coils I set up a sparkling Clean orange channel sound, a warm orange Crunch rhythm tone with reduced treble, a chunky green OD1 rock rhythm tone and a screaming orange OD2 lead tone, taking advantage of the mid shift buttons to alter the character of the structurally identical OD1 and OD2 channels in relation to each other. Each tone sounded like it was ‘meant to be,’ rather than just a byproduct of moving the knobs, if you know what I mean.

Plugging in my Ibanez RG550 with DiMarzio Gravity Storm humbuckers (the new Steve Vai set, which is surprisingly Satch-like compared to Vai’s other DiMarzios), I called up OD2, cranked up the mids, set the mid shift for 500Hz mode, dialled back the treble and maxed out the gain for a smooth, compressed, almost flute-like solo tone which cleaned up nicely thanks to the guitar’s high-pass filter on the volume knob. Then on OD1 I set up a crunchy ‘The Extremist’ style rhythm tone with the mids shifted to 650Hz, which emphasised the attack and growl a little more, and reigned in the gain. Perfect heavy rock tone. Then the Crunch channel served as a great AC/DC power chord springboard, with the Clean channel reserved for those ‘Rubina’ like sparkly tones.

Push the gain far enough and you’ll reach saturation point, and everything after that just becomes more compressed and mushy, which is great for those ‘The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing’ legato parts, but will sap some of the attack out of your rhythm work, so don’t just set everything on ten and then chunk away: you’ll be rewarded for experimenting with gain control placement. It’s also a very midrangey amp, so you’ll find some rather middy tones even at lower settings on the midrange controls.

Check out this great demo by Rob ‘Chappers’ Chapman…

This is an intuitive amp which responds organically despite its huge range of control and power. It’s not just for Satriani fans either: it covers almost any style convincingly, from the cleanest of cleans to some pretty extreme metal distortions. And it’s configured to be road-ready and stage friendly too. So even if you’re not a Satriani fan, check it out. It’s not quite as aggressive and top-endy as the standard JVM410, so if you were one of the players who felt that the original amp was close but not quite there, you may just find exactly what you were looking for in Satriani’s version. Personally I’m still getting everything I need from my DSL50, but if I ever find myself in a situation where I need more channels and more automation than I’m currently using, I’d head straight for this baby right here.

Marshall JVM410HJS