Cool Preamps They Don’t Make Any More

 

In the late 80s and early 90s, preamps and power amps were where it was at. Amp heads? Pfft. Sure, you put them on top of your dummy stacks on stage, but you didn’t actually use them. In the 90s that all changed and players rediscovered the glories of stacks, half stacks and combos, so everyone sold off their preamps. Now you can’t take a stroll on eBay or through a secondhand guitar store without tripping over a stack of the damn things. That’s very bad news for the clumsy of footfall, but great news for those of us who can’t get enough guitar gear. So I present to you, dear reader, Cool Preamps They Don’t Make Any More.

Marshall 9001

This preamp holds a special place in my heart because it was advertised on the back page of the very first guitar magazine I ever got – the March 1991 Guitar World with ZZ Top on the cover. Part of the 9000 range that also included a few different power amp options, the 9001 rocked three channels of 12AX7 goodness. It also had a cabinet emulation switch for direct recording applications. It’s not the most well-known and full-featured Marshall preamp – that honour goes to the JMP-1 – and it seemed to be favoured more for its medium overdrive tones than its clean and screaming settings. But it’s still a cool piece of kit. 
CLICK HERE to see the Marshall 9001 on eBay

Marshall JMP-1


This preamp is an undisputed classic. Real tube operation with the flexibility of MIDI control, this one is still the heart of Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen’s rack, and Iron Maiden has been known to use it pretty extensively. This beast packs four channels into a single rack space: Clean 1, the edgier Clean 2, Plexi-ish OD1 and high gain OD2. I’ve used a few of these in various situations over the years – usually in combination with a Marshall EL34 power amp – and I’ve never been anything less than completely blown away by the clarity and harmonic complexity, especially for fat-ass lead sounds and crunchy humbucker rhythm work. IK Multimedia has a great emulation of this in AmpliTube 4 which does an incredible job of capturing the spirit of the original.
CLICK HERE to see the Marshall JMP-1 on eBay.

ART Powerplant

Designed by N.S.”Buck” Brundage, this unit was manufactured from 1990 to 1997 and it was a favourite of producer Max Norman – yes, he who worked with Megadeth on Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia, not to mention Ozzy Osbourne in the Randy Rhoads era. Back in the day, ART said: “Power Plant combines the finest elements and saturation curves of 12AX7s into 6L6 tubes giving the user the thickest, heaviest crunch of classic tube amps without diction and articulation of notes! The Power Plant is one of the most versatile studio and live sound production tools available. It has totally separate clean and overdrive channels, master volume control, a switchable effects loop, and a +20 dB output for a power amp feed (this output has a unique equalization and pre-emphasis circuit that reflects the curve of a guitar amplification section).”
CLICK HERE to see the ART Power Plant on eBay

A/DA MP-1


This little beauty was popular among many players in the early 90s, especially when paired with a Marshall JCM 900 amp head. The typical trick was to bypass the JCM 900’s preamp section entirely by plugging into the MP-1 then sending its output directly into the Marshall’s effect loop return. Players who were big on the MP-1 included Nuno Bettencourt, Paul Gilbert, Kirk Hammett and White Lion’s Vito Bratta. Believe it or not, even Billy Corgan used one in Smashing Pumpkins. You get 128 programmable user patches, plus a chorus effect. ADA made an amp called the Quadtube which featured a rather MP-1-looking control section. They also released the MP-2 and the MB-1 bass preamp. Awesome. Now A/DA is back, and you can get the A/DA MP-1-Channel, a pedal version of the MP-1 rack preamp which employs the 4-stage vacuum tube design to achieve the same rich tone that made it the staple for most of the touring bands in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
CLICK HERE to see the ADA MP-1 on eBay.

Soldano/Caswell X99


Another tube-driven preamp with 128 presets and MIDI control, part of the X99’s cool charm is that the passive control knobs are moved by little MIDI-driven motors. The idea is that if the pots themselves were motorised, an additional gain stage would have been introduced, and you’d get all sorts of additional noise. When I was 16 I played in a band with a few older dudes. The singer/guitarist had one of these and an Alesis Quadraverb. I thought it was the coolest damn rig I’d ever seen, and the warmly overdriven sounds were godlike. The X99 is a great choice for rock styles, and although I don’t know if I’d use it for metal, it’s one powerful piece of kit with a killer pedigree. Great colour too.
CLICK HERE to see the Soldano/Caswell X99 on eBay.

Bogner Fish


This all-tube four-channel blue behemoth is one of the most lusted-after pieces of guitar kit around. Forgive me for going back to Megadeth but if you dig the tones of the Rust In Peace era, they burst forth from this piscatorial pulveriser. It’s also all over a lot of early 90s work by Alice In Chains and Anthrax. The Fish is exceedingly hard to find today, so if you see one, snap the damn thing up.
CLICK HERE to see the Bogner Fish on eBay.

Hafler Triple Giant

The Bogner you buy when you can’t afford a Bogner, the Triple Giant was indeed designed by Reinhold Bogner himself. It’s not quite in the same league as the Fish, but it’s certainly not without its charms. There’s a pleasing depth to the midrange and bass. Just know that if you cover up the Hafler logo with black tape so people think you have a real Bogner, we’re onto you. *cough* Hi Simon.
CLICK HERE to see the Hafler Triple Giant on eBay.

Fascinating Facts About Steve Vai’s Passion And Warfare

vai

Steve Vai’s Passion & Warfare turned 25 years old this past July, and the guitar has never been the same. Part hard rock, part psychedelia filtered through 80s neon, part Looney Toons soundtrack, part Zappa, Passion & Warfare found Vai breaking out on his own with an incredible level of focus and determination. Read More …

IK Multimedia announces AmpliTube 4!

amplitube_4_cs
For many years now I’ve been a huge fan of IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube range of amp/effect/cabinet simulators. AmpliTube 3 is still my go-to plug-in even after years of reviewing anything and everything. In fact, at this very moment I’m getting to know AmpliTube: MESA/Boogie for a review, and it’s once again demonstrating how incredibly flexible and detailed the AmpliTube universe is. And now IK Multimedia has announced AmpliTube 4, with some really advanced new features and a suite of new British-inspired amplifiers, including one based on the legendary Marshall JMP-1 tube MIDI preamp! And something I’ve been hoping for for quite a while: an effects loop insert point between the preamp and power amp. Awesome. Below is the video and press release.

Read More …

REVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen @ 170 Russell

Yngwie

There’s no question that Yngwie Malmsteen is one of the greatest, fastest and most excessive rock guitarists of all time. But you don’t really get an appreciation for just how good he is until you experience it in person. Yngwie just continues to get better and better, which is no mean feat when you consider how great he was right out of the gate. So, having missed his last Australian tour and his clinic tour, I was really excited to catch Yngwie this time around. Read More …

Universal Audio Marshall Plexi Super Lead Plug-In

UA Marshall Plexi

PRESS RELEASE: Universal Audio and Softube are proud to announce the Marshall “Plexi” Super Lead plug-in — the only Marshall-branded amplifier plug-in on the market — coming exclusively to Apollo audio interfaces and the UAD Powered Plug-Ins platform in May 2015. The 100-watt Marshall Super Lead Model 1959, commonly referred to as the “Plexi,” is one of the world’s most celebrated guitar amps. Softube worked with Marshall and recording engineer Tony Platt (AC/DC’s Highway to Hell and Back in Black) to craft a stunningly faithful emulation of Marshall’s own reference Super Lead Model 1959 amp, built in 1967 and captured using an era-correct 1960BHW speaker cabinet in Kore Studios, London. Read More …

Zakk Wylde Introduces Wylde Audio

zakk1

Zakk Wylde has long been one of Gibson and Marshall’s most popular artists. The very idea of Zakk leaving either for another company at this stage seems utterly unbelievable. But that’s what’s happened: it’s just that Zakk hasn’t taken his considerable endorsement weight to other guitar and amp brands. He’s created his own instead. Wylde Audio will make guitars, amps, effects and all sorts of accessories. I caught up with Zakk to find out what’s what. Read More …

NAMM: Marshall Woburn Bluetooth Music Speakers

PRESS RELEASE: Named for locations in London that are significant to the history of Marshall Amplification, Marshall Headphones has produced a range of portable music speakers with high quality audio reproduction and the classic look of Marshall amps. Just like the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll the Woburn signifies freedom – the freedom to play your music wherever you want, in multiple ways. The largest in the Marshall music speaker series, the Woburn can really rock the place. It’s built to thrill. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Yngwie J Malmsteen

Yngwie

Yngwie Malmsteen is the undisputed master of neoclassical guitar. Other players like Richie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth had explored elements of the style but none pushed it to quite the extremes that Yngwie did. A million guitarists arose in his wake to try to copy what he was doing but none have managed to capture Yngwie’s pure power and dazzling technique. As Yngwie himself puts it when discussing the various Yngwie clones who sprung up over the years, “And that’s why I call myself Yngwie J Malmsteen, not to be confused with all the other Yngwie Malmsteens.” And Yngwie is about to hit Australia for his first concert tour since 2006 (tickets here). Read More …