The Ultimate Marshall
1959 Super Lead Plexi, JMP, Clones, JCM 800, JCM 900 Upgrade!
The Bugera 1960 is a clone of
sorts of the Marshall 1959 Super Lead amplifier made famous by Jimi Hendrix at
Woodstock in 1969. However, the 1959 which is still re-issued today in stock and
hand wired versions, is rated at 100 Watts RMS while Bugera states that the 1960
is 150 watts "peak power" which is somewhat confusing since most amp
makers no longer list peak power since peak power is to my understanding, is a
measurement of burstable sound with the amp at maximum volume, while Marshall
rates their amps at RMS turned to 4 when there is still clean headroom with no
breakup. This, a Marshall 100 watt amp is probably more like 180 watts peak
The Bugera is part of a whole new line of amps and they will not give out specs supposedly
due to arrangement between them and their service center repair locations around
the U.S. So there really isn't sufficient specs or literature available to
indicate the true RMS output, though I can say with certainty that it is very
loud! It's at least twice as loud as my Marshall 2466 100 watt Vintage Modern
head. In comparison to a JCM 800 50 watt combo I recently sold that was beefed
up with KT88 output tubes, the Bugera, even with 2 tubes pulled to reduce output
by 50% still seems much louder than the 50 watt Marshall. Bugera claims this is
due in part to their own brand of over-sized EL34B brand of output tubes vs the
traditional EL34s found in most EL34 based amps and their beefed up transformers.
The amp head sounds great
into Celestion Vintage 30 speakers or Greenbacks, but overall, it kind of has a
hi-fi stereo type sound. Someone on youtube said he thought the output
transformers to be a
clone of Soldano's extended frequency range output transformers which he stated
have a 20Hz to 20Khz frequency response. While it sounded
kind of stereophonic, it also did not seem to have the kind of low end
chunk or definition or Marshall type "roar" that I'm accustomed to
hearing, or that you would traditionally associate with the Marshall sound in
general. Apparently, Bugera is able to cut
costs by producing the Power and Output Transformers en masse and for use in
several amps ranging from the super hi-gain Peavey 5150 (6260 their name(XXX) down the line to a
Marshall JCM 900 called the Bugera 1990 and finally the 1960 you see here (1959
Super Lead). So
for $450 you really can't go wrong in that the head case is probably worth
around $200, circuit board
components $150, power transformer which really doesn't have much to do with how the
amp sounds and tubes $150,
tubes $150. For another less than $100 investment, you can get the Marshall
sound by upgrading the output transformer to a Marshall or good Marshall clone
for around $70 which is the route I chose.
So being the uber tweaker and knowing that the 2 main things you can do to
improve an amp's tone is the output transformer and signal caps, I decided to go
Magnetic Components, Inc. Marshall 100 watt Output Transformer replacement.
After studying all the rest I found their manufacturing processes second to none,
far advanced and truest to vintage spec from even the costliest ones available.
Don't believe it? Here's a little proof from the
Granger Amps sound clip comparisons between theirs against Weber, Heyboer,
Mercury Magnets and Magnetic Components was clear that Magnetic Components had
the best tone and upper mid harmonics.
after I had already decided. I called my amp tech and he said he was already
familiar with this Magnetc Components and had put one in
a JCM 900, and 800 and transformed them from weaker and anemic sounding to roaring beasts.
Then he put the same OT into a Fender Super Reverb and said it did the same with
that amp. This is probably because 900s and any Marshall late 70s on for that
matter, began using
plastic bobbins instead of the original paper ones as told to me by Joe Janisch,
President at Magnetic Components, who I believe learned it from one of the top
clone amp kit sellers online. By the way, Joe is an amazingly personal guy I
found, who is passionate about his
transformers being built to exact specs of old school Marshalls from the 60s
with machinery and processes that precision re-create these heavy iron behemoths to
exacting old school standards.
When it arrived yesterday, I thought it was a
dumb bell because it weighed 9.5 pounds in this rather small box about the size
of a gallon of milk. I peaked inside the outside bells from the base and saw this beautiful
brown varnished paper while the outside iron plates were precision machined to
perfection and the whole unit dipped in a special varnish-resin formulation and
then vacuum sealed with an air bubble sucking machine, probably to eliminate microphonics, but rather than listen to my take, check out everything they do to
make these bad boys
Clips Below setup
The clips below were made using the Bugera 1960 Head into a 2x12 Cabinet loaded
with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers, a Fender Strat with custom 50s neck pickup,
custom 60s Middle and AmStd Bridge pup, Reverse 60s Strat headstock. Amp is
using 2 power tubes instead of 4 as 150 watts was too powerful to record so
output is cut in half to 75 watts. On the clean clip, the amp volume is on 10 as
this is the only way to get an overdriven sound from this type circuit. The clip
on the right with OCD is all the same settings with some added overdrive. The EQ
Bass, Middle Treble half way up at 5 and presence on 0. Guitar volume 7-10. Even
at 10 it doesn't really break up all that much. Reacts well to pedals. Recorded
through Shure SM48 Mic into Boss BR864 Digital Recorder with a touch of delay
from a MXR Carbon Copy. Mistakes not edited out and this is not a playing skills
demo so no flamers please. Just trying to demo the amp for those interested in
hearing what it sounds like before and after the transformer upgrade. The amp is
on the bright side through the spikey Vintage 30 speakers, sounds great with
Greenbacks. At home it sounds a bit too bright and I probably should have dialed
in some warmth for the demo but wanted to set everything flat for demo purposes.
At a gig it really cuts through the mix nicely and even at half power can blow
the roof off, much louder than my old JCM 800 50 watt combo with KT88s and V30
speaker. Doesn't quite sound like a roaring low end Plexi but has nice mids and
clean power that can be shaped beautifully with pedals. Much different and more
raw sounding than the Bugera 1990. Inside, the components are top notch like you'd
find in a hand wired but is a hybrid of modern and vintage which is a good
thing, Very little noise on 10 due to good layout design and internal shielding
with single coils and no noise in humbucking mode which is nice!
We shall see
how it sounds with the transformer upgrade as soon as it comes back from the
shop with all the same settings!
Upon return of the upgraded Bugera 1960 using the
Magnetic Components, Inc.
100 watt Output Transformer
installed by my amp tech, I flipped on the switch and instantly I was carried
back to the late 60's to mid 70's. The bottom end Marshall Roar was there in
spades and the overall character of lead tones, singing highs, fat, honey sweet
dripping mids and transparent highs that sustain like endlessly and sing like a
If someone had told me to close my
eyes and listen to someone playing the amp, I would have immediately said it is
a 1976 JMP Master Volume but at times it sounded just like a 1959 Super Lead as
Jimi used at Woodstock. The cleans are just beautiful, chimey, pristine and
transparent with a fat "Wind Cries Mary" low end. Crank up the volume and you're
in Purple Haze territory with all the raging dynamics, nothing missing.
In summary, I can't say enough about this upgrade
and for those who know me on the forums as a straight shooter and well versed in
tone overall, I do not make this statement lightly. If your Bugera 1960, 1990,
JMP clone, 800, 900 or Fender sounds anemic, don't hesitate to get one of these.
There's lot of comments on the below youtube clips from guys who did that are
floored as well. Most there is to lose is your old anemic tone because it
definitely will only sound much better!