Saturday, February 29, 2020

Review: Marshall Valvestate VS65R

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review another legacy piece of gear: the Marshall Valvestate VS65R combo, which came out in the mid '90s!

Marshall is the soul of british rock amplifiers, and from the '60s (Jimi Hendrix) all the way up to the '80s (Guns n'Roses) the sound of its amplifiers has been the absolute standard in most of the rock records ever made (and not only rock, also metal, pop, punk...).

Since the 80s the brand pioneered, besides their classic tube amplifiers, also alternative technologies, trying to recreate a sound that is as similar as possible to the "real one", but without the need of high volume and high production (and sale) costs.

This has led to several series of solid state, hybrid and digital amps which have surfaced the marked, sometimes with success, sometimes not.

The Valvestate serie is part of the "hybrid" ones, meaning that they unite a preamp with a tube (an ECC83) to a solid state power amp, which allows us to play also at bedroom volume without big differences in tone (which are one of the biggest problems with their 100w tube heads like the Jcm800).
The result? It's a very good practice amp, probably in the mid '90s was the best one (and for this reason it wasn't cheap, it was sold at around 500$, and today it can be found at around 100): the build quality was incredibly solid, this was my first amp and I have used it in all the most extreme conditions imaginable, playing it outdoors, cranking it full volume at the school concerts, banging it around in a van, and it never had a problem, a lesson all amp maker of today should learn from, since they all save in build quality today.

The combo is open back, quite heavy (around 15/20kg), and features 2 channels with independent eq, fx loop, spring reverb and headphone out.
It digests very well also external processors, such as multieffect pedal boards and so on, althought in 10years (at least) I had it around I have used it mostly with its own preamp.
The sound is what I would call "typical solid state Marshall", meaning that it has a timbre which is recurrent in this type of Marshall amps: very bright, with a lot of attack and more gain than most of the tube Marshall amps: with it, by scooping the mids it's possible to play thrash metal with good palm mutings without the need of an exteral booster, to the point that also Chuck Schuldiner of Death has used Valvestate amps in his records (even in the legendary In Flames' "Clayman" album there is a layer of Valvestate!).

The tone is somehow clearly colder than its tube counterparts, but it compensates with a lot of presence and bite and a decent volume, which is (barely) enough to stand above a live metal drummer without microphoning it.
Today there are a lot of beginner amps which have more features than this, but if you come across this workhorse for 100 bucks, it can still be a good bedroom practice amp and it will much probably outlast any other cheap combo you might buy today.

Thumbs up!


- 12 inches "Marshall Gold Black" speaker

- 1 x ECC83 tube in the preamp

- 65watt RMS

- spring reverb

- FX Loop

- Headphone out

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