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Digital guitar amps aren’t a new thing—modeling offerings have been around for the best part of a decade and are now a dime-a-dozen. While such units have earned huge popularity at the low end of the price spectrum, seeing one as part of a professional touring rig or hearing one on a best-selling hard-rock CD is as rare as rocking-horse droppings . . . until now. Enter Marshall’s JMD:1 . . . a pro level family of amps, all boasting EL34 tube-driven power-stages that deliver that world-renowned, 3-dimensional, powerful Marshall punch. The four JMD:1 variants are a 100W head (JMD100), a 50W head (JMD50), a 100W 2x12” combo (JMD102), and a 50W 1x12” combo (JMD501).
First and foremost, let’s get one thing straight—these bad boys aren’t modeling amps, they’re Marshalls—end of story. They don’t pretend or claim to be anything other than what that famous white script logo tells you. Sure, they all offer up 16 very different-sounding preamp options but each and every one is 100% Marshall. They’re not “close but no carrot” wannabes either, they’re the real deal, a fact that’s reflected in both their tone and, yes, their price. Like it or not, you ultimately get what you pay for, be it a burger from the dollar menu or a beautifully aged and prepared prime-cut fillet steak.
For all intents and purposes you can liken digital amps to digital cameras. Granted, your phone probably has a camera built in, but the pictures that appear in Guitar World or Rolling Stone aren’t taken with a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none device that costs $49.99 after mail-in rebate. They’re taken by serious pros, using digital cameras that cost as much as a Gibson Les Paul! To that end, when Marshall decided to enter the digital arena, they decided to take the high road and partnered with globally respected amp software experts Softube, utilizing their groundbreaking and patented “Natural Harmonic Technology.”
Two years of intense R&D later, the Marshall JMD emerged—a hybrid amp with a sophisticated digital preamp stage that not only sounds and feels like its analog version but reacts to playing dynamics in exactly the same way. Add to this built-in, studio quality Reverb, Modulation, and Delay effects; a mighty EL34 valve power amp; plus the ability to store and instantly recall 128 settings and you’ve got a fire-breathing, tonal monster with literally 128 heads!
Reviews have been stellar, awards have been won but, more important, the JMD has already been granted the golden seal of approval by two top-level rock guitar gods—Doug Aldrich of Whitesnake and Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big, a pair of players who are not only revered for their world-class chops but also their stellar tone.
“The JMD has enormous tonal variety,” Gilbert explains enthusiastically. “From fire-breathing distortion to operating-table clean, plus a big, beefy, all-tube power amp. It has served me well onstage and in the studio.” That exact sentiment is shared by David Coverdale’s six-string partner in crime, Doug Aldrich, who is not only currently touring with the JMD100 head, but also used it on Whitesnake’s new CD, Forevermore. “I own a load of vintage and classic Marshalls,” Aldrich admits. “I never thought it possible to get all those tones in one amp, but the JMD1 nails ’em all! I used to have a crazy amount of gear on tour, but now the JMD makes everything simple and I love it. It's effectively a ‘Best Of’ from the originators of Tone.”
Life is short so the question is: do you want burger or steak? If you’re thinking digital, do your tonal palette a favor and order a JMD! Your ears and fingers will thank you—and so will your fans.