As a guitar player, I have always been fascinated by the evolution of guitar amplifiers.
Over the years, there have been countless different amp designs and technologies, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses.
And one of the most interesting and influential amplifier series of all time is the Marshall Valvestate.
In this blog, I want to take a closer look at the Valvestate and its place in the history of guitar amplification. We’ll explore what made the Valvestate special, how it sounded, and why it was so popular among guitarists.
What Was Marshall Valvestate?
Marshall Valvestate was a series of guitar amplifiers that was first introduced at the beginning of the 1990s. It was a hybrid amp, meaning that it used both solid-state and valve technology to create its sound.
The power amp section was solid state but the preamp section used a single 12AX7 preamp tube.
The Valvestate was designed to offer the best of both worlds – the reliability and affordability of solid-state technology, combined with the warmth and richness of valve amplification.
The basic idea behind the Valvestate was to create an amp that sounded as close as possible to a vintage all-tube amp, but without the drawbacks of tubes – high cost, maintenance, and fragility.
The Valvestate series was a huge success for Marshall. It quickly became one of their most popular lines of amplifiers and for example, Chuck Schuldiner from Death was using Marshall Valvestate.
However, there were critics too who didn’t like the hi-gain sound because it was not as good as a real tube amp and had one-dimensional sound.
In 1996 Marshall Valvestate mark II was introduced that included combos and on NAMM 2001 they introduced Valvestate 2000.
In this iteration, they added various digital effects, a new guitar speaker, and fan cooling.
Valvestate amps were succeeded by the Marshall MG series of amps and if you want to buy an original Valvestate amp, you can find it on Reverb or similar marketplaces.
Marshall Valvestate Amp Types
One of the things that made the Valvestate series so popular was the variety of amp types that were available.
There were combos, heads, and amp cabs in a range of different wattages, making it easy for guitarists to find the perfect match for their playing style and needs.
Some of the most notable Valvestate models included the VS100, the VS265, and the VS8080. Each of these amps had its own unique sound and characteristics, but they all shared the same basic design and technology.
The VS100 was one of the first Valvestate models to be released. It was a 100-watt head that featured a solid-state preamp and a 12AX7 valve power amp.
The VS265 was a 2×12 combo that was designed for gigging guitarists. It featured two Celestion speakers, a solid-state preamp, and a 12AX7 valve power amp.
The VS8080 was a smaller combo amp that was perfect for home practice and recording. It featured an 8-inch Celestion speaker, a solid-state preamp, and a 12AX7 valve power amp.
How Did Marshall Valvestate Sound?
When it comes to the sound of the Valvestate, opinions are divided. Some guitarists love the warm, vintage-inspired tone that the amps produce, while others feel that they lack the richness and complexity of tube amps.
Personally, I have always been a big fan of the Valvestate sound. To my ears, it offers the perfect balance between solid-state clarity and valve warmth.
The Valvestate amps have a smooth and creamy overdrive that is perfect for classic rock and blues playing. They also have a dynamic response that makes them feel alive and responsive under your fingers.
One of the most impressive things about the Valvestate amps is their ability to stay clean and articulate even at high volumes. This is thanks to the solid-state preamp, which provides a clean and consistent signal to the power amp.
Of course, the sound of the Valvestate amps is also influenced by the speakers that they are paired with.
Celestion speakers that were commonly used in Valvestate combos and cabs are known for their classic rock tone, with plenty of midranges and a smooth top end.
These speakers complement the Valvestate sound perfectly, creating a tone that is both vintage-inspired and modern at the same time.
Marshall Valvestate is an important chapter in the history of guitar amplification. It was a groundbreaking series of amps that combined solid-state and valve technology to create a new sound that was both reliable and rich. The Valvestate amps offered guitarists a wide range of tones and options, from small practice amps to large gigging rigs.