Marshall Triple Super Lead

Marshall's Triple Super Lead
Marshall's  Triple Super Lead

Marshall’s new JCM2000 Series was introduced last year and has been well-received by Marshall fans and amp aficionados in general. The 2000 Series started with the two-channel Dual Super Lead then evolved into the new three-channel Triple Super Lead.

The Triple Super Lead is available as a head (TSL100) or as a 2 X 12 combo (TSL122) that uses the same amplifier and chassis, and includes two different 12″ Marshall Celestion speakers: a Marshall Celestion Vintage and a Marshall Celestion Heritage. Each offers its own particular tonal characteristics and by combining them the amp delivers a more interesting sound with a wider dynamic range. An optional TSLC212 (2 X 12) cabinet with the identical speaker configuration can be added to the combo for further expansion. One or two 2 X 12s can be also be used with the TSL100 head instead of 4 X 12s.

As for the basics, the TSL has three channels – clean, crunch, and lead – which are each voiced with distinct tonal characteristics. Furthermore, each channel has independent controls for EQ, volume and gain, and master controls for reverb, presence and FX mix, and a deep switch. The deep switch can be used to fatten up the bottom-end by adding more low frequencies, making the overall sound bigger. Additionally, the TSL includes two built-in effects loops. Loop A is the master loop that functions for all three channels when it’s used alone. Loop B is effective on the crunch and lead channels only. When both loops are used together, Loop A works with the clean channel so you can separate effects chains between the clean channel and crunch/lead channels. The FX mix control adjusts the dry/wet effects mix as a parallel loop for levels 1-9, then becomes a full series loop when set on 10.

The TSL uses four Marshall Svetlana EL34 power tubes and four 12AX7 preamp tubes. Channel switching can be done manually or with the included TSL Foot Controller, which also can be used to activate the reverb and effects loops. Red LEDs indicate the functions in use.

Marshall amps have never been known for their clean tones, but the TSL’s clean channel has surprisingly clean – dare we say – “Fender-like” tonal qualities. It can get dirty if you set it that way and gets great tones for playing blues and styles where you would want clean sustain or smoother dirt. Along with the standard treble, middle, and bass EQ controls, the clean channel also has a separate switch for mid boost. Activating the mid boost disconnects the middle control and reconfigures the way the treble and bass controls work together.

The lead and crunch channels follow the footsteps of Marshall’s more modern high-gain amps. These two channels share master controls, but have separate controls for EQ, volume, and gain. Both also have tone shift buttons that create that mid-scooped (V) EQ – a favorite sound of metal players, heavy rockers, and those who want that type of a deep, fat sound. The lead channel offers a bit more gain and slightly more edge than the crunch channel. Otherwise, the tonal characteristics of the two channels are nearly identical. When going from a rhythm tone to a lead tone you want to have a bit more gain and sustain, and you typically need a stompbox to get the overdrive for that extra push. Not here – the lead channel on the TSL offers that extra push.

Another area where the TSL shows dramatic improvement is in the reverb. It enhances the depth of the amp’s tone without sounding fake or overpowering. The reverb effect ranges from a subtle shimmer to a deep, rich sound with more intensity.

Additional front panel features include the power and standby switches and a Virtual Power Reduction switch which modifies the power amp circuit to emulate a lower-powered amp (approximately 25 watts, according to Marshall). For techheads, the circuit modification takes place between the phase inverter and output tubes so all four power tubes remain active and operating in pentode mode so the four power tubes wear evenly. There’s also an output mute switch which can be used to instantly mute the output from the speakers without having to put the amp on standby. This is great for quick, silent guitar changes or turning off the speaker while recording.

The amp’s back panel is where you’ll find the main’s input and fuses, three loudspeaker outputs (one for a 16-ohm cabinet and two wired in parallel for four or eight ohms), an impedance switch (four or eight ohms), an emulated line out (uses the same circuitry as Marshall’s JMP-1 preamp, accessed via an XLR connector, and suitable for running direct to a board, DI box or recording console for full Marshall tone with emulated “cabinet” tone), send and return jacks, and loop level switches for each of the two effects loops. The loop level lets you adjust the send and return levels to the optimum setting for the effects you are using. For most rack effects, loop level is set for a high signal level (switch out) and at a lower level for stompboxes and certain rack effects. The manual reminds users that distortion boxes do not belong in an effects loop and should be used in front of the amp.

For our test, we plugged the TSL100 head into two old Marshall 4 X 12 “basketweave” cabinets loaded with original 25-watt Celestions, and used a ’59 Les Paul Historic Reissue and a ’70 Tele. We compared the TSL100 to a 100-watt early-’70s Super Lead and a 100-watt 800 Series model JCM2203. The TSL sounds excellent through the old 4 X 12s and basically does everything the old Marshalls do – and more. The TSL brings the best elements of the older and newer Marshalls together, retaining all the classic Marshall tone and feel. The TSL’s tonal spectrum is far more versatile than any other Marshall out there, offering the widest range of clean-and-sweet to loud-and-nasty sounds. With more features and options for controlling the sound, this new design provides the ultimate in flexibility for the player. The new TSL is truly a winner.

And don’t forget the warranty! Marshall now offers a five-year warranty on parts, three years on speakers and labor, and 90 days on tubes and fuses. The warranty is transferable, so if you sell the amp or buy one used, it may still be covered (provided the warranty is transferred).

Contact: Marshall, 316 South Service Road, Melville, NY 11747, (516) 333-9100, fax (516) 333-9108.

Marshall TSL 100 head Specs
Type of Amp: Tube
Power: 100 watts
Tubes: Four EL34 power tubes, four 12AX7 preamp tubes
Features: Three independent channels with separate EQ, volume and gain, and master controls for reverb, presence, FX mix, and deep switch. Two effects loops with level control, speaker outputs, Emulated Line Out, Virtual Power Reduction and Output Mute switches, five-button footswitch with LEDs for channel selecting, reverb, and FX loop.
Price: TSL100 head $1,999, TSL122 combo $2,399.

This review originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’98 issue.

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