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Getting hi-gain from a JCM 800
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Metallon
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21st September 2008
Old 21st September 2008
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Getting hi-gain from a JCM 800

How is this achieved? All I know is that the model is a JCM800 4210 (a 50-watt combo) and that the power-amp tubes have been replaced with EL34 Svetlana tubes. I don't know about the pre-amp tubes (I think they could be stock). I've tried playing it through the OD-channel and with a TS-7 on hot mode, but I haven't fiddled around much with the tube screamer, but I still can't get that chuggy, chunky sound from palm muted playing. In other words, I'm not getting the desired thrashy metal tone.

Anyone got any tips on how to make a JCM 800 blast some powerful gain without seriously modding it? Is it better if I settle with something like a DSL401 or some other hi-gain Marshall amp?

If it's virtually impossible with an unmodded JCM 800, let me know, because I can't afford a head + top before October 27th (which is why I'm aiming at a combo right now).

I've tried a DSL100 and I loved its ultra-gain sound. This is basically the sound I want. Can I achieve this without getting a JCM 2000? If so, how?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metallon View Post
How is this achieved? All I know is that the model is a JCM800 4210 (a 50-watt combo) and that the power-amp tubes have been replaced with EL34 Svetlana tubes. I don't know about the pre-amp tubes (I think they could be stock). I've tried playing it through the OD-channel and with a TS-7 on hot mode, but I haven't fiddled around much with the tube screamer, but I still can't get that chuggy, chunky sound from palm muted playing. In other words, I'm not getting the desired thrashy metal tone.

Anyone got any tips on how to make a JCM 800 blast some powerful gain without seriously modding it? Is it better if I settle with something like a DSL401 or some other hi-gain Marshall amp?

If it's virtually impossible with an unmodded JCM 800, let me know, because I can't afford a head + top before October 27th (which is why I'm aiming at a combo right now).

I've tried a DSL100 and I loved its ultra-gain sound. This is basically the sound I want. Can I achieve this without getting a JCM 2000? If so, how?
Have you tried adding a distortion pedal into the mix?
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Distortion? Do you mean a fullblown distortion pedal or something of a boost/overdrive pedal? I don't like distortion pedals. I thought a tube screamer would work (considering it's a boost/overdrive pedal) but it didn't really do anything. I'm also looking for that "marshall" sound, so distorting the sound to something else isn't really an option.
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A pedal will be the idea.. and not a Tube Screamer..for the thrash sound you want. Wrong pedal for the style. You need a pedal with more gain.

I love Marshall's but the JCM800 is not a fav stock. They can be bright and a little harsh...
But you should look at a pedal with higher gain.. We have a few you may dig.. Direct Drive having a very Marshall tone. Or a new Direct Drive SS (with mid and harmonics control).

The other thing to look into is an Attenuator, Like a Weber or Hot plate style.. So you could crank the amp harder making it break up more...then Attenuate it down for normal playing volume.. Will help you get more tone from the 800... You will tend to go through EL34's faster but could be worth it.

My old singer plays a 4 input Marshall 100w with the Weber and it's awesome... I've used that amp tons in my studio and it's been great.. But I have a JCM800 sitting there that I don't use very often. Yes they can be modded to be very cool. I just have not had the time to take that on....
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I was suspecting the very same, that JCM800's need to be modded to get that hi-gain, thrashy sound. Which is a shame, because I found a VERY sweet deal on a 4210. But, like I said, I don't want distortion pedals. Purely boosting gain/overdrive works fine, but I don't really want the actual tone altereed, if you know what I mean?

I'm not necessarily looking for a JCM 800 tone. Just, something like a trademark marshall sound, with as little use of pedals as possible. I like to keep things as simple as I can. So I'm not going to shy away from other alternatives like other JCM models or something like JMP marshalls.

It will probably sting like hell, but is it better if I just wait another month and try to get a JCM 2000, or some other similar Marshall amp that does come with tons of gain?

EDIT: Primarily, I'm going to use these two guitars:

ESP Ltd EC-400VF and Jackson RR3 Rhoads (both with stock pick-ups). I'll probably replace the pick-ups of the Eclipse with EMG 60/81's.
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tubescreamer TS808.

the 800 is not a highgain amp by defintion. it's also a matter of what year it was produced.. and blahblahbhal..

try a tubescreamer, diffrent pickups, your picking technique and finally buy metallamp if you need one

cheers
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To get a heavier sound out of a JCM 800 you have 2 chances. First chance is to mod it and the second chance, which is far better is to use an appropriate boost/OD/Distortion pedal in front of it, because it expands the number of different sounds you can get with a Marshall and it lets your default Marshall tone untouched, for the times when you want to use default Marshall sounds.

I've tried almost all distoriton pedals on the market today with JCM 800 and in my experience the pne that worked the best was and is still Fulltone OCD.

I have A/B/C/D tested Fulltone OCD, Fulldrive 2, Xotic RC, AC, BB, H&K Tube Factor, Tube Man, few T-rex dstortion pedals, different verions of Tubescreamers (Ibanez, Maxon, Keeley and Analogman modded), all sifferent Boss Pedals. But one thing was clear. The pedal that worked the best was OCD because it maintained the punch, clarity and dynamics of the original Marshall tone, but it added saturation, fatness and harmonic richness to the tone. It was usable on all settings (HP/LP) and with different gain, level and tone positions, nothing sounded bad. But it really increased the tone possibilities. With OCD over your overdriven marshall you could get everything from liquid but organic lead tone for shredding to heavy rythm tone, from Van Halen to Gary Moore lead sound and more.

I have also tried different versions of OCD, to be exact: V3 and V4. While V3 was more fat and with a little bit more bottom end, the V4 had more controlled bottom end and better dynamics. It also had more usable and controllable gain.

And one more think. It worked even better if I supplied it with 18V instead 9V. The sound became even bigger.
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Well I'm not saying the mod is something guys do to get high gain.. I think you have the wrong idea.

The mod makes the amp sound much better tone wise but it's not going to make it super high gain. Most mods I've ever seen guy do to make a 800 high gain suck.

Most of the Marshall tone you say you want is of players I'm sure using pedals in front of the their Marshall's. But not saying it can't be done... I believe Scott Ian used a JCM800 without any pedals..

But most anyone I know myself included and records I may have grew up on...Are pedals in front of Marshall's along with a ton of other amps.. Like I love a straight up cranked AC30 with no pedals... BUT!!! for a certain sound... again not the sound your looking for.
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Oh I have just seen that 4210 is a combo version of a 2 channel JCM 800 and not the original one channel. I like the one channel version much more and my tests were made on a one channel JCM 800 50w head.

But I still think that OCD should work the best among all the other pedals, because it really is a terrific pedal for driving british (EL-34) style amps. It is also the best pedal to drive my Bogner Shive EL-34 Head, which is also a Marshall-based amp.
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And to mention one more thing. Tubescreamer style pedals usually emphasize mids and cut the lows. OCD retains the frequency balance of tone.
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Herr Slipperman tells me that a TC Linedriver would work well in this application.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jantex View Post
To get a heavier sound out of a JCM 800 you have 2 chances. First chance is to mod it and the second chance, which is far better is to use an appropriate boost/OD/Distortion pedal in front of it, because it expands the number of different sounds you can get with a Marshall and it lets your default Marshall tone untouched, for the times when you want to use default Marshall sounds.
I've tried almost all distoriton pedals on the market today with JCM 800 and in my experience the pne that worked the best was and is still Fulltone OCD.
Interesting... I suppose I'll try the Fulltone sometime next week, then. But, the versatility of the sound isn't what I'm looking for at the moment. Decent clean, and gain between moderate to really high gain is basically what I'm looking for, nothing else. Thanks a lot for the tip, though!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Faderjockey View Post
Most of the Marshall tone you say you want is of players I'm sure using pedals in front of the their Marshall's. But not saying it can't be done... I believe Scott Ian used a JCM800 without any pedals..
But most anyone I know myself included and records I may have grew up on...Are pedals in front of Marshall's along with a ton of other amps.. Like I love a straight up cranked AC30 with no pedals... BUT!!! for a certain sound... again not the sound your looking for.
Of course. The question is simply... what pedals? And, can I be sure that their modded 800's aren't adding more gain? Even if it's little gain, that little amount could still be the difference I'm looking for. Like I mentioned in my first post, the DSL series provide just the gain I want. Volume at about half-way up, with the overdrive little over halfway, on the ultra gain channel. So, clearly, the sound I want doesn't necesarily need pedals, with the right amp. So the question was: How do I turn the overdrive of the 800 into an ultra-gain similar to the 2000?
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I just wanted to say that I'm really trying to look at things from a practical point of view. If I could, I'd just buy a Marshall JCM 2000 head with a nice 1960 cab and be happy. But, money issues and time constraint are my two enemies right now. That's why I'm trying to look for alternatives. I can't even buy anything off of ebay because I live in Sweden and no one ships overseas.
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A TS-9 will add gain and tighten up the sound o a point. A common trick for getting just what you need out of the 800. I've found that dedicated distortion boxes add too much fixx. YMMV
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hi gain 800

Mike Clark of Clark Amplification modded my 800s for tons of gain and they really sound good, but a cheap fix is a boss turbo distortion.I have used Power Brakes as well to get the power tubes to break up.When you A/B the 800 to the modern hi gain Marshall amps the 800s clearly have a better sound with much more real tone.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamroom View Post
Mike Clark of Clark Amplification modded my 800s for tons of gain and they really sound good, but a cheap fix is a boss turbo distortion.I have used Power Brakes as well to get the power tubes to break up.When you A/B the 800 to the modern hi gain Marshall amps the 800s clearly have a better sound with much more real tone.
A/B? Explain please XD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jantex View Post
To get a heavier sound out of a JCM 800 you have 2 chances. First chance is to mod it and the second chance, which is far better is to use an appropriate boost/OD/Distortion pedal in front of it, because it expands the number of different sounds you can get with a Marshall and it lets your default Marshall tone untouched, for the times when you want to use default Marshall sounds.

I've tried almost all distoriton pedals on the market today with JCM 800 and in my experience the pne that worked the best was and is still Fulltone OCD.

I have A/B/C/D tested Fulltone OCD, Fulldrive 2, Xotic RC, AC, BB, H&K Tube Factor, Tube Man, few T-rex dstortion pedals, different verions of Tubescreamers (Ibanez, Maxon, Keeley and Analogman modded), all sifferent Boss Pedals. But one thing was clear. The pedal that worked the best was OCD because it maintained the punch, clarity and dynamics of the original Marshall tone, but it added saturation, fatness and harmonic richness to the tone. It was usable on all settings (HP/LP) and with different gain, level and tone positions, nothing sounded bad. But it really increased the tone possibilities. With OCD over your overdriven marshall you could get everything from liquid but organic lead tone for shredding to heavy rythm tone, from Van Halen to Gary Moore lead sound and more.

I have also tried different versions of OCD, to be exact: V3 and V4. While V3 was more fat and with a little bit more bottom end, the V4 had more controlled bottom end and better dynamics. It also had more usable and controllable gain.

And one more think. It worked even better if I supplied it with 18V instead 9V. The sound became even bigger.
Cool, You left a few pedals out of that test.....
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First of all, I'd like to thank you all for being so ****ing helpful (pardon the f-word), this really has helped! Originally people were just going "Go JCM 800!!" at me - even though it's been made pretty clear that by itself, the 800 is hardly the amp that I want.

I'm not looking for the perfect sound or anything, just a certain character. Let me ask you - can I, using just a JCM 800, play thrash metal stuff akin to Metallica, Anthrax, Trivium, etc? It seems that I can't. Now, I can do that with the JCM 2000. See where I'm getting at?

Unfortunately, there's no way of me trying any of the pedals you suggested together with the JCM 800, so I need something that's more of a guarantee rather than trial-and-error. I'm not a full-time employee (nor is anyone giving me any money), so everything is coming from my own pocket. I can't afford to buy wrong equipment, it just won't do. This will be the first gig amp I'll be buying, so I'm very positive I'll be upgrading within 12 months. But right now, I need an affordable amp that, with either no pedals or one (boost/overdrive) pedal, will allow me to get the sound I want, take or give a few nuances that I probably won't notice. I think I know what sound I want because neither a Peavey 6505, a Brunetti or an ENGL have appealed to me.

The Fulltone OCD is the only one that is available to me, so I'm going to look further into it.
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21st September 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heyman View Post
Metallon, I think this pedal is right up your alley.

It does not change the tone of the guitar or amp. It just pushes the amp a little harder..
The website says that it's a clean boost pedal? This is probably a silly question, but this will give an amp more gain, right? Because that's exactly what I'm looking for. A pedal that (in the case of the JCM 800) artificially increases the gain.

Has anyone tried the T-Rex Bloody Mary? It's supposed to be used to play some mean metal, but I thought its lack of gain was embarassing. I tried it on my (now sold) MG15 on both the clean and overdriven channel as well as both the clean and overdriven channel of a Peavey 6505, and every time, it sounded like crap.

The Bloody Mary is an example of the sort of pedals I truly shy away from.
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Just use a tube screamer with no overdrive but crank the output way up. Then make sure you play real hard and you should have plenty of gain.
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Metallion... Watch the video at the bottom of the page on the link I posted.. It pushes the preamp section harder (overdrive) without changing the tone of the amp and guitar.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by planet red View Post
Just use a tube screamer with no overdrive but crank the output way up. Then make sure you play real hard and you should have plenty of gain.
How can running it through the clean channel give the amp more gain? Also, how am I supposed to play hard while still playing fast, palm-muted alternative picking on the thicker strings, playing fast, melodic parts, and having sensitive response to guitar play, including pull-ons, hammer-offs, two-handed tapping, etc.

I'm just asking, because, I don't think I could play any thrash metal using your suggestion. I may be wrong, though. Have you tried it yourself?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heyman View Post
Metallion... Watch the video at the bottom of the page on the link I posted.. It pushes the preamp section harder (overdrive) without changing the tone of the amp and guitar.
I watched the video but that was VERY LITTLE gain displayed in the video. Regardless, I can't find it used or in guitar shops in sweden (and the website itself says that they're currently working on getting the product outside the states). But, if the MK.4.23 does increase gain on an overdriven channel to the point where it sounds really metal-ish, then this is really the perfect pedal for me.
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I've had an 800 for a while now .. years, very sought after sound, never modded the preamp section at all.

The only thing I did mod is an effects loop was added.

Awesome Hi Gain!!

Trick is, and this is the best way to retain the Marshall's true tone, get an EQ with lots of gain, I use an old Boss GE-10 like Eddie used to buffer his signal in the old days, and put it in between your guitar and the amp. Crank the marshall's pre-amp volume and boost the level of the EQ all the way up then make a reverse smile (frown?) with the eq.. to taste, but make sure the mids are way up. This will shock your input tube to the point where it screams.

Here's the clincher.. in the FX loop (assuming you have one) I have a dummy cable jumping the in and out (no fx). This allows me to crank the MASTER volume of the amp at about 70% sweeeet mids.. this removes that metal sounding buzzy sound that a marshall can easily achieve but is kinda dated and lacks those in yo face mids that I love. This is driving your fx loop return tube (assuming you guy used a tube) I'm in Montreal, Canada and Richard Onslow did an amazing job installing my fx loop.. he's a genius whan it comes moddin Marshalls..

By the way, if you don't have an FX loop level return, you're probably de-fenestrateingly loud right now. I use my FX return volume (added as part of the FX loop mod) as a master volume at this point.

Hope you can do this cause it simply sounds killer.

P

BTW You can drive the Marshall' preamp with just about anything that has a level out. I use and old EQ cause it allows for a certain sculpting of the lows and highs where I don't like lots of distortion.

I have tried the Fulltone and that's the only pedal that comes close to this.. maybe because it retains the amp's tone more than any other pedal.
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When I owned a JCM800 I had a trick that got the amp to sound bigger, clearer, less fatiguing AND more saturated.

I'd plug my guitar into an overdrive pedal (usually my TS-808 or MXR ZW-44, doesn't really matter, any of the standards or pedals based on them) and put the knobs like this; Gain - 3, Level - 10, Tone - 5 (adjust from there). Then that would go into a Seymour Duncan pickup booster with the level maxed, providing very high levels of clean gain. Then you plug into the LOW input. The high input will become a feedback nightmare, but the low input is perfect.

This was on an English-made '89 2204 model. Other models may not respond like this. But if it works for you, you won't ever do anything else after this.

...

If this doesn't work, try the pedals in the opposite order. It's been a while and I'm not sure of the order anymore.
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I have a JCM800 - the single channel version. If you want the kind of saturation the jcm2000 has, you will need a distortion pedal. I think the OCD would be a good choice. I have a clean boost pedal with 25db of gain, and yes this gives me more gain but not really a more aggressive or saturated sound. It really mostly just increases my sustain. Cool for leads, but removes the punch from my rhythm playing just a bit. Definately not going to make it sound right for thrash. I think with a GOOD dist pedal, you're going to retain the tight low end the JCM800 has which is my favorite thing about that amp.
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The 'classic' pedal that was often used for that 'get the Marshall to overdrive" sound was the Pete Cornish Treble Booster.

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I like booteek stuff but try a Boss pedal: they make many hi gain pedals and one will fit the bill and they can sound pretty damn decent. Don't tell anyone you use it or you may be banned.
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I'm really going to have to try the amp again. I'm going to play around with his TS-7 some more and max whatever gain I can (pre-amp volume, running it through the OD-channel, etc.) and see what I can get. But it really does seem that a DSL is better-suited to my needs than the 4210.

Your suggestions sound interesting, but there's no way I can try them. The amp is at his place, and the only relevant pedal he has is his TS-7. The only JCM experience I have is jamming with that JCM 800 and jamming with a JCM DSL100. Our music shops are fairly crappy so they don't have the stuff I want to try, and they don't offer the same range of pedals and marshalls that UK and US shops usually do (when I went to a big music shop, they had like, 3 tube marshalls in: a JVM, a 2203RR signature, and some Vintage Modern amp). Another nearby shop, also a big one, had only one marshall amp in (I think it was a JMP).

Like I said... I can't go on tips. I need something that works on this amp.

Let me ask this: Will the DSL401 do the trick for me, considering that I fell in love with the DSL100?
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