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This article was originally published in issue #18
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If we told you a mere 1 Watt amp shook the mighty Frankfurt Messe show, you might think we were exaggerating. But if we then told you it was a Marshall Custom Shop that is possibly the most retro-looking retro amp yet... well, like Michael Casswell, your eyes might start to light-up like a pair of EL34s!
Now this is a very cool offering indeed from the Marshall Custom Shop and, indeed, caused a sensation at the recent Frankfurt Messe show, where it was unveiled. The story behind the amp is that Marshall offered the Offset to all their distributors around the world for one month only. How many were ordered in that month is how many were made - and then they closed the order book. So I have no idea how many there might be out there, but essentially it's a limited run and I would say these things are going to be quite rare and future collectible items.
Inspired by the original look of the fabled JTM45 from the early '60s, the Offset head and matching cab simply look fantastic. I'm a sucker for old Marshalls, and even though this is a new Marshall, the ethos behind it is firmly placed back to the days when your average guitar amplifier had military spec transformers, and a man (or woman) with a soldering iron wired it point A to point B by hand. I own two JTM 45 amps from 1965, and they work and sound just as good today as they did in 1965. I wonder how many of today's amps will be working in 40 or 50 years time?!
So the Offset has definitely been touched by human hands in its construction. The chassis is made from hand formed aluminium and that retro tone comes from single 12ax7 and 12at7 (aka ECC83 and ECC82) valves. Your EQ is a single pot on the front, labelled 'Tone' and your gain and volume come from the pot next door, called 'Loudness'. In days gone by we had 'Loudness' rather than 'Volume'. If you want a clean sound then you keep the Loudness down and if you want some bluesy break up then you crank it up. This brings you into another world of dynamics and the volume pot on your guitar, which sadly seems to be overlooked by many young players, or just players in general (amen to that! - Ed).
Cranking the amp full blast and then backing off your guitar volume gives you all the sounds you need. Sticking an overdrive pedal to push the front end will give you any amount of gain you would need. This is old school stuff, but this amp teaches you how to manipulate tone from your hands, rather than rely on characterless mega distortion from a modern amp or processor. Even though the amp only delivers one Watt, it is surprisingly loud and would easily get the neighbours complaining. Marshall has kindly included a low power switch to take the overall volume down to what reads like a ridiculously low 0.1 Watt - but you won't think it's ridiculous if you try it! It will handily stop complaints, without changing the great tone.
The matching cab is a closed back design that contains a Celestion G10F speaker which is a 10 inch driver and sounds like it's voiced about right for what the amp does. Straight away, I could hear a purity and depth to the tone as soon as I fired it up. I am very glad the tone matches the cool looks, because looks alone are not enough for this growing boy! Check out the video!
The Offset is a great product and Marshall has been smart by making limited numbers, because this guarantees every single one will sell at the fairly reasonable asking price. Once they are all sold by the shops, then lack of availability will eventually push prices up on the second hand market, making the Marshall Offset a product you probably will not lose money on. So if you see one, I would advise you to try it. And then buy it. Yes, it is that good.