Marshall amps

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Any Key In The U.K. (Unknown publication 1978)

What amplification do you prefer to use?

Well, I’ve used lots of different amps. The one I use now is a Marshall 50 amp with two 4x12 cabinets. I like to have a lot of speakers and not much amp. I don’t like the speakers to distort.

Allan Holdsworth (Beat Instrumental 1979)

"Recently I was doing a gig with the standard three Marshall setup that I use and the middle one, the one I use for solo lines, packed up. I put the Burman in its place and it sounded really fantastic. I’d have to say that the Burman is one of the best new amps I’ve ever played, certainly better than the Boogie for example. I’ve also used it in the studio and it’s great there too.

From someone who’s as demanding as Allan Holdsworth Greg Burman should be feeling very pleased with himself at a quote like that!

Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1980)

How did you get such a massive sound in your solos on "Hell’s Bells" [from One Of A Kind] and "In The Dead Of Night" [from U.K.].

I used my Strat’s wobble arm [hand vibrato] to get that wobbly kind of sound. I didn’t use any effects at all, but I did crank my 50-watt Marshall pretty hard. Then we used a couple mikes - one close and one distant. What kind of amps are you using now?

I had Marshalls all the way up through U.K. and with Bill Bruford. Since then, I’ve gotten two [Norlin] Lab Series amps and a British amp called a Hartley-Thompson. The trouble with the Marshalls was that they only gave a suitable sound for single-note solo stuff. They always distorted the chords; if I wanted to get a clean sound for chords, I had to push the amps too hard. I often ended up with a horrible square-wave, fuzzbox sound.

Holdsworth & Co. A New Side Of Allan’s Music. (Guitar 1980)

What sort of equipment will you be using live with the trio?

Well I’ve got a really good set-up at the moment. I’ve had a lot of trouble finding it, and started experimenting with it in UK, although that was stone-age compared to how it is now. I was using one 50 watt Marshall amp and a couple of 4X12 cabinets, and that was alright for solos but every time I played a chord it just wouldn’t hack it. I tried a couple of other amps, to switch between for chords and solos, and that didn’t work either, and it really began to worry me. If I played on my own at home could play all the things I liked. but it just wouldn’t work when it was loud, the chords would disintegrate. So I’ve just been experimenting and getting closer and closer to what I want. I’m still looking, but what I’ve got at the moment is two of the Lab Series L5 amps for chords, because I found they were very clean and strong sounding. Rather than have a 200 watt amp I though [sic] I’d have two 100’s and have a little more spread, and there’s a close delay between them to give a stereo effect. I really like the L5’s, although I find they’re not quite up to it for the single line sound I’m used to, but then I’ve never found a transistor amp that is, except for a new amp, which I’ll describe in a minute. My set-up is basically the two L5’s linked with the close delay, and I plug my guitar into a little routing box which sends the signal between what was originally the Marshall 50 watt and the two Labs. I then found I could get a more controllable sound by using a Burman 50 watt amp, a Pro 501. It was originally a combo but Mr. Burman kindly made me a head which I used with the Marshall cabs, and that worked really well. And then came the killer of all time. Two guys from Sheffield, Pete Hartley and Pete Thompson, turned up while I was on tour with Bill, and they said they liked the sound that I made and that if they could make a transistor amp that satisfied me then they might be able to convince a few other people. So, I tried it and it was really excellent, but still fell a little bit short for me. They took it away, worked on it and brought it back, and it was getting better and better every time. Their standard model is a 2X12 combo but with an unusual shape, like a cheese-wedge. It has one input, is all transistor, and has two volume controls, a red channel and a green channel, and you can set them for a clean or dirty sound, the usual thing. With valve amps, like Boogies, I’ve always found in that situation that they don’t work, because to get a sound out of the amp anyway I find I have to push the output, and if you turn the pre-amp up and the master down you just get that horrible distorted fuzz-box sound. To get any sort of sound out of it you had to turn it right up, which completely defeated the object of having two inputs on it - if you wanted to play chords you couldn’t play loud. lt would be just like having two 50 watt amps and setting one up for a dirty sound and one for a clean sound, and I couldn’t do that because I’d be driving the amp for single notes so hard the other one would never compete with it at all. So the Boogie was a total waste of time for me. Although the amp these guys have made is transistorised, they’ve found a way somehow, using magic parts or something, to make it sound fantastic, and it’s absolutely incredible to me that I’m now using a completely transistorised set-up. That Hartley-Thompson transistor amp sounds as good as if not better than any valve amp I’ve ever played, honestly, and that’s an incredible achievement. It doesn’t have a conventional pre-amp and master volume; you produce the sound with the first volume and all the second one does is turn it up or down, without any tonal distortion or anything. There’s no conventional overdriving system. It’s the same on the red channel and the green channel, and you can set the master volume controls for chords and single lines, and it really does work, with very clean chords. Since then they’ve improved it with two separate devices for the red and green channels, and it’s really amazing. The only reason I’m not using just that one package is because I’ve really got hooked on the multiple amp system and the spaciousness of it all. The Hartley-Thompson amp that I’m using is set for two different lead sounds, so I can switch between them. If I change pickups, like from the front to the back, I like to change the tone settings on the amp, which you can’t do normally, but I can do that with this amp and switch between the two lead sounds, and then with the routing box I can switch to the Lab amps. It’s got me reeling in a way because I always thought I understood a little bit about amps, and I’m completely baffled now as to why I like this one so much. It’s got me worried in a way too, because I always like to know how a thing works, even if it’s only very basically. I’ve messed about with practically every amp I’ve had, and know within 10 or 15 per cent what results I’m going to get, but all this transistorised solid-state is totally alien to me, I’ve got no understanding of it at all. The fact that I’ve got this transistor amp and am relying on it and not knowing how it works is a bit unsettling. I think I’ll have to go and stay with those guys and get them to do a little number on me. For me the amp is like the body of the guitar, the part of it which speaks. The guitar itself is incredibly important, but not so important as the amp. I could play a pretty gruesome guitar through a reasonable amp and guarantee a better sound than if I played a really good guitar through a duff amp. It’s just an extension of the guitar, although for many players it’s just an afterthought, which is just fine, but it’s not way I feel about it.

Castles Made Of Sand (Guitarist 1987)

One guitar sound I was pretty pleased with was the one I used on 4.15 Bradford Executive. I used two amplifiers on that, a 50 watt Marshall and a 15 watt Gibson and each of them was going into its respective ‘tweak’ box. I had the Marshall panned hard left and the Gibson panned hard right and it worked out really good because each amplifier would reproduce different frequencies, slightly more or slightly less all the time, so you would get this nice fluctuation between left and right. It’s something I’ve never done before and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the boxes. Oh, the other interesting thing which I must tell you is that, you know people always come up and ask about the SynthAxe ‘Can It sound like a guitar?’, and I thought well, let’s have a go. I mean it’s pretty stupid really to want to control a synthesiser and make it sound like a two hundred and fifty buck Strat plugged into an old Marshall or something. It’s kind of weird and I can’t imagine anyone wanting the SynthAxe to do that but I thought I’d have a go. So I waffled about on the Matrix 12 and came up with this patch, stuck it through a fifty watt Marshall and recorded it just like you would a guitar. It’s really clean and controllable and even though the

sound’s distorted, there are no sounds of your hands on the fretboard, like you have on a guitar. So the notes stop in a really neat way; they’re not cluttered with all this white noise crud of your hand moving around, which I hate and try and control on the guitar. But it’s pretty much eliminated with this. Also that track Mac Man was recorded on a sequencer, using the Mackintosh, except for the solo, which I had to record on my Akai, at home. The rest of it, including Chad’s percussion parts, the drum machine and bass, were recorded on the sequencer down at the studio. Mac Man is this chap who has more command of the computer than I’ve seen from most anybody and he was manipulating it while we were waffling.

The melody part is played with the SynthAxe through a Roland digital piano. It’s funny because the first part is like a pseudo acoustic piano and the solo’s like pseudo electric guitar. It’s an interesting track - a fun track. There are no keyboard controlled synthesisers on the album whatsoever, except for the solo on Pud Wud which is Alan Pasqua. The rest of the sounds - the accompaniment sounds behind the guitar - are just the SynthAxe.

Guitar Synths in Jazz (Music Technology 1987)

"That was the SynthAxe through a Marshall. The first track was guitar, but the last track was the SynthAxe. Most of the other sounds I used on the SynthAxe were guitar-like sounds, or horn-like sounds, because that’s the instrument I hear in my head. I’ve always tried to get the guitar to sound like a horn. It’s easier for me to get the SynthAxe to sound like a horn than it was the guitar. “In a way, the SynthAxe has kind of taken over for me, because I can reach what I want to do musically more with the SynthAxe than I could with the guitar. It seems like I’ve been waiting all my life for this instrument, because it allows me to do all the things I could never do with guitar. Like the last track on the album; it sounds pretty much like guitar, and I did that by creating a sound using the Oberheim Matrix 12, and then combining two separate sounds and putting them into a little 15-Watt Marshall.

Allan Holdsworth Remembers - In The Dead Of Night (Guitar and guitar shop 1999)

But as Holdsworth remembers, his gear for the recording of that album and its groundbreaking solo is somewhat pared down compared to the equipment he uses today. "I was using only a single 50-watt Marshall and two 4xl2 cabinets," he mused. "Occasionally, I used a Vox AC30, but not on the UK album-1 used that on Bill’s record, One Of A Kind.

Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 100 Guitar Heroes 2000)

"As far as amps are concerned, well, things are different: because of my touring situation I end up just using whatever I can get. I’ll probably end up with two Marshall 4x12s and two Twin Reverbs, because everybody’s got them! I’ve just started using a Yamaha digital pre-amp, which I really like, and I’ve spoken to Roland a lot and used their V-guitar on the last tour. Since then I’ve used the Yamaha pre-amp, but I still need the other amplifiers provided."

Allan Holdsworth in exclusive LMS interview (tlms.co.uk 2000)

MRJ: You were getting a fantastic clean sound from those Lab Series amps back in the early eighties. Did you use them for quite a while?

AH: I used to play through a Marshall 50W with two 4x12 cabs, but when I would play a chord it was always a ‘crunch’ sound, so I didn’t play a lot of chords back then. When I decided to start my own thing I had an endorsement deal with Lab Series. I really love the clean sound-soft and wide. It was my first stereo set up and the beginning of what I use nowadays. I used to use three amps-a Hartley-Thompson and two Lab Series. It was a very fat sound. (Then) I used a Dual Rectifier. That was probably one of my favourite all time guitar (amp) heads. I used Mesa Boogie amps for years. when I went to Japan a few years ago (someone from Yamaha) brought me the first DG series amp. It blew me away. I now use two of the new DG *0s. I used on the whole of the (new) record.

Allan Holdsworth interview (Music Maker 2003)

The Yamaha amps are waiting for you here when you travel to Europe? Yeah, but according to Patrizzio who’s our agent, he said they don’t make those anymore so he’s gonna try to hang on to them.So keep em for..so when we come on the road again next year I can just use the same stuff that I got this time. When we go to Athens (they would fly there the same evening without the equipment..RH) we don’t know what we’re gonna get. I take my little boxes and cables and wires and stuff but I don’t know what we’re gonna get. I think I get two Twin Reverbs and Two marshall cabinets (laughs)