Used by rock royalty, the 100-watt Marshall Model 1959 Super Lead unleashed hellacious tones. Problem was, it was ridiculously loud and lacked a master volume.
Rob Pierce of Valvetech Amplifiers may have the solution. Based on the Model 1959, his four-input, all tube 50-watt Suplex head was built to produce an array of tones, from vintage plexi to modern rock savagery – without the ridiculous volume.
Pierce’s amps are known for high quality and point-to-point construction. The Suplex features a foot-switchable overdrive circuit, two EL34s, three 12AX7s, and a GZ34 rectifier tube. The front of this handsome head, wrapped in pristine black tolex, sports chicken knobs that include a Master Volume, Mid, Lo, and Hi EQ controls, not to mention two Volume controls, four Inputs, an AC on/off switch, a DC on/off switch (Standby), and a Ground switch. The rear of the head has a Presence dial as well as two external speaker inputs that can be adjusted to 4, 8, and 16 ohms. The top inputs for each channel are for high sensitivity, the lower inputs for low sensitivity.
Once you discover that the boost works only when your guitar is plugged into the inputs on Channel 2, waves of beautiful fizz-free gain can be heard. With or without the boost, the amp provides classic glassy upper midrange honk or clean edgy rock with warmth or bite. Lowering the master and maxing the Volume controls yields lustrous burn. The Presence dial works in concert with the Volume controls to add more highs and subtle gain.
The Suplex absolutely nails classic Brit rock, ’80s metal, and modern hard rock. It also enables the creation of a variety of signature flavors – Humble Pie, Hendrix, Thin Lizzy, The Who, or Van Halen’s cherry period – all within a comfortable volume.
The Suplex can cut, and might seem to provide too much of it – that is until you use it in the proper context for which it was intended: performing with a band. In testing it chopped a laser-sharp swath through a bottom-heavy mix, unveiling articulate British supremacy. Retaining some of the old-school functionality for live situations, you’ll be stuck with a certain amount of grit. After all this is no smooth jazz amp. The Suplex is all about the rawk, but with the help of your guitar’s Volume control, you can achieve malleable levels of clean before pulverizing your audience with cantankerous mayhem.
The Valvetech Suplex is the perfect blend of British splendor and American ingenuity – and guitarists are the beneficiaries.
This article originally appeared in VG December 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.