NAD!: Marshall Lead 12

StormJH1

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2012
Messages
1,109
Reaction score
659
Bumping a 14-month old thread because I'm going to look at a used Lead 12 later today, and I found this very informative (especially the posts from Dr. Distortion about the three versions). From the photo I saw, I am 95% sure I have the "Version 1" style, which is the one Dr. Distortion preferred with no output jack and the "fuzz circuit" built in. I'm wondering just how different this sounds from the others - he seemed to prefer it. While it reportedly may be the best of the three, it's a bummer that you can't use it with a line out.

Of course, this isn't really a "need" so I just "reserved" it within minutes of seeing it - if there's anything majorly wrong with the knobs, jacks, etc. - or if I just plain don't like it - I can back out.

I've tried to read everything I could find about this amp, and I'm a little concerned that people are just talking themselves into liking it. Even the positive reviews note that the cleans are pretty anemic sounding. And the Celestion speaker, which should be a major selling point of a $100 amplifier, seems just as often to be cited as a weakness (too thin/harsh high end). It's almost like people are describing a 8" speaker instead of a 10" one. I don't expect it to have the low end presence of a big cabinet with 12" cones, but in a practice amp, a 10" speaker really should have at least passable low end for low-to-moderate volumes. If it doesn't, I have to assume it's the fault of the amp.

Let me know if anyone has had more recent experience playing or owning a Lead 12, and what you thought of it. Really not all that sure what to expect, so I guess I'm looking for guidance, be it positive or negative.
 

NYC LP player

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2012
Messages
4,172
Reaction score
3,089
Bumping a 14-month old thread because I'm going to look at a used Lead 12 later today, and I found this very informative (especially the posts from Dr. Distortion about the three versions). From the photo I saw, I am 95% sure I have the "Version 1" style, which is the one Dr. Distortion preferred with no output jack and the "fuzz circuit" built in. I'm wondering just how different this sounds from the others - he seemed to prefer it. While it reportedly may be the best of the three, it's a bummer that you can't use it with a line out.

Of course, this isn't really a "need" so I just "reserved" it within minutes of seeing it - if there's anything majorly wrong with the knobs, jacks, etc. - or if I just plain don't like it - I can back out.

I've tried to read everything I could find about this amp, and I'm a little concerned that people are just talking themselves into liking it. Even the positive reviews note that the cleans are pretty anemic sounding. And the Celestion speaker, which should be a major selling point of a $100 amplifier, seems just as often to be cited as a weakness (too thin/harsh high end). It's almost like people are describing a 8" speaker instead of a 10" one. I don't expect it to have the low end presence of a big cabinet with 12" cones, but in a practice amp, a 10" speaker really should have at least passable low end for low-to-moderate volumes. If it doesn't, I have to assume it's the fault of the amp.

Let me know if anyone has had more recent experience playing or owning a Lead 12, and what you thought of it. Really not all that sure what to expect, so I guess I'm looking for guidance, be it positive or negative.
There is a Reverb 12 at NJ Guitar and Bass that I almost grabbed for anyone looking. I was going to grab it but went a different way.
 

Apocalyptic

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2015
Messages
286
Reaction score
334
@StormJH1 Heres mine I picked up recently. Had a few problems to start with with some bad input jacks but its in good order now. A 1983 model. I picked it up very cheap and I think I love the retro aspect of it more than the amp itself.



But I do actually like the amp. One thing to note is it is extremely sensitive.
The gain knob may as well be a switch as it does pretty much nothing until around 8.5. The treble and mid has a decent useable range. The bass has very little change throughout the sweep.
The low input I tend to favour. The low input is louder than the high input.
I have a very nice tubesque clean dialled in. So I disagree with the poor clean statement. Sounds very nice at around 6-7 volume.
With the gain kicked in it becomes very loud so i tend to run it under 2 for home use. Or run a pedal through it.
The gain is quite decent though once dialled in. I was after a SS amp with good gain sounds and was recommended the lead 12 by a fellow mlp member.
The speaker seems decent enough and this is a direct comparison to 2 1x8 cabs and 2 1x8 combos i have. Definetly sounds less nasely and deeper than the 8s. Good enough for what is effectively a small combo.
Bass response seems a little off sometimes but running at home levels I don't find it too bad.
Im happy enough with it and enjoying tweaking it to nail down some decent tones, but Im also happy with what I paid for it. Im not so sure i would be as happy if i had paid the 'vintage' premium that people try to slap on these. Cost me £44. If id paid in excess of £100 which I have seen them go for I might be a bit less enthusiastic. Its a keeper though, I have no reason to part with it. Just be prepared to spend some time making very accurate adjusments!
Hope this helps:yesway:

Btw, looking at your amp list in your sig seems we have similar low level requirements! I have a ht1-r combo, a mustang 1, the lead 12, a blackstar fly 3 and a micro terror. All very good useable tone at low volume.
Is the THR10 worth the high asking price? Ive nearly pulled the trigger on one of them numerous times but im not convinced its going to give me anything I havent already got.
 

frankv

I have a new love.
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2011
Messages
14,645
Reaction score
13,330
They are really fun amps and will surprise you at how good they sound.
 

Dr.Distortion

V.I.P. Member
Joined
Dec 6, 2009
Messages
5,283
Reaction score
5,753
Bumping a 14-month old thread because I'm going to look at a used Lead 12 later today, and I found this very informative (especially the posts from Dr. Distortion about the three versions). From the photo I saw, I am 95% sure I have the "Version 1" style, which is the one Dr. Distortion preferred with no output jack and the "fuzz circuit" built in. I'm wondering just how different this sounds from the others - he seemed to prefer it. While it reportedly may be the best of the three, it's a bummer that you can't use it with a line out.

Of course, this isn't really a "need" so I just "reserved" it within minutes of seeing it - if there's anything majorly wrong with the knobs, jacks, etc. - or if I just plain don't like it - I can back out.

I've tried to read everything I could find about this amp, and I'm a little concerned that people are just talking themselves into liking it. Even the positive reviews note that the cleans are pretty anemic sounding. And the Celestion speaker, which should be a major selling point of a $100 amplifier, seems just as often to be cited as a weakness (too thin/harsh high end). It's almost like people are describing a 8" speaker instead of a 10" one. I don't expect it to have the low end presence of a big cabinet with 12" cones, but in a practice amp, a 10" speaker really should have at least passable low end for low-to-moderate volumes. If it doesn't, I have to assume it's the fault of the amp.

Let me know if anyone has had more recent experience playing or owning a Lead 12, and what you thought of it. Really not all that sure what to expect, so I guess I'm looking for guidance, be it positive or negative.
I defiantly like version 1 the best... I like distortion (how I got my name :)). The 1st one sounds a bit like a Big Muff is in front of the amp. More fuzz than OD sounding.

I did make what I called a "Gibboniser" for the 1 and 2 jack versions. It's just a pair of back to back diodes and resistor tied to ground off of the first stage op amp.

I don't use line level stuff or effect loops. I run my pedals out front of my amps, so the line out doesn't matter to me. If you want line out try a "Gibbonizer" on a later amp.
 

StormJH1

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2012
Messages
1,109
Reaction score
659
I headed over at lunch today and picked mine up. I absolutely LOVE it! Despite everything I read here, on TDPRI, and elsewhere, I was prepared to be disappointed. For every person that loved the amp, there seemed to be at least one more review dismissing it as cheap solid state gear with bad cleans. So I glad I read this thread first. I plugged into the high sensitivity jack, cranked the bass, scooped some mids, and put the treble around 2. I think it just sounds fantastic. Amazingly warm and thick - not shrill or thin by any means. Best of all, mine seems in amazing shape for an amp that is probably around 30 years old. Both jacks function, as do the knobs with only the slightest occasional hint of crackling.

Here's two pics:





I'll split the other questions comments into a different post, but thanks again to everyone here for their comments - this amp just has me smiling all day, even when I can't play it!
 

StormJH1

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2012
Messages
1,109
Reaction score
659
@Apocalyptic - Yeah, I agree with most of your assessment. When I tested it, I used a Les Paul because I wanted to see if it had any cleans available with the higher output humbuckers. I was quite surprised when I switched to the "low" jack and it stayed clean for quite awhile. But I think my favorite "clean" tones were using the guitar volume knob on a higher gain settings. Makes sense if it's a "fuzz" circuit, but it cleans up to a nice warm tone.

But while the knobs are "sensitive", I wasn't making it sound "bad" as I changed the settings. And I think the Celestion is actually quite good for the amp. I've read of people trying to change it, and there was no consensus that it made anything better.

Feel free to PM me with anything you want to know about the THR10 - I have complicated feelings on it. Low volume home play is so important to me - I'm a hobbyist, not a gigging musician, and we have a newborn. So I was okay with the price tag as long as I was getting quality in return, and it's definitely a quality device. But like the Lead 12, it requires some strange, non-conventional settings to make it sound best, and I do think that it's more a case of "amazing for its size" rather than "amazing/unique in general". In terms of portability and versatility, however, it's elite. I don't do a lot of desktop recording, but it's a great interface for that, too.

@Dr.Distortion - You did not lead me astray! Fuzz, Overdrive, whatever it is, it definitely exudes Marshall character. Totally love the looks of it too - the over-sized Marshall script was what caught my attention the first time I saw it. I didn't start playing until '95, so I was totally unfamiliar with this amp until I saw it on the forums.

Do you know how to figure out the year the amp was made? Did you say earlier that this model was the oldest of the three? I didn't see a serial number on the back, though there is a number etched in the front below the "Lead 12" text. Perhaps something inside the amp?

Kind of a bummer that this version of the amp lacks the line out - I bet it would sound amazing into a 112 cabinet. People said it was a loud amp - perhaps it is loud for a 12 watt solid state amp, but no way it is louder than my SCX2, or even my solid state Pathfinder 15. I was actually happy to hear that it's a pretty comfortable volume even at the cranked settings - great tones at bedroom levels.
 

StormJH1

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2012
Messages
1,109
Reaction score
659
Thanks, @Dr.Distortion! I zoomed in on that photo from above and it looks like an "R" at the end, which would be 1983 (32 years old!!). But I'll have to check later in person - it was hard to see. But given that @Apocalyptic's amp is a 1983, is identical to mine, and I think they only made that one for a couple of years, that could be dead on. (Yours is in beautiful shape, Apocalyptic!)

Dr. Distortion - any tips for using this thing with pedals? I wasn't actively looking for a Lead 12 - I was going to buy "just one more amp" with an effects loop because somehow NONE of my other amps currently have one. And I'm a giant nerd with pedals, for sure. Tubescreamer into driven Marshall is usually a recipe for success - how about with the solid state Lead 12? Any other dirtboxes you particularly enjoy with the Lead 12? (I probably have a Chinese/cheap version of the popular ones somewhere, haha).

If you'll allow me a short rant about "solid state vs. tube" - I think it's a lie that solid state amplifiers do not work well with pedals. Solid state amplifiers become poor when they are pushed past their limits. Solid state wattage is "quieter" relative to tube wattage, so solid state amps often pump more wattage into the same size speaker. (Example: a Vox AC4 is 4 watts, 1x10"; most 1x8" solid state amps are around 15 watts, 30 watts is 1x10", etc.). Pushing a solid state amp too hard will either cause it to clip unpleasantly, or cause speaker breakup, rattling or something else undesirable. By contrast, tube amps are designed to harness high input levels and convert that into a compressed, saturated sound, which we deem desirable. So yes, used in a certain way, solid state amplifiers can sound very bad compared to tube amplifiers.

But if you are running a Wampler Pinnacle or other pedal designed to function with a clean reference tone, solid state amps are excellent at providing that (in some rare cases, even better). And the irony of it all is that amp snobs use these $1,000 tube amps, and then run boutique pedals into them, probably 99% of which use solid state technology!!! So why is solid state distortion from a $200 boutique pedal awesome, while a solid state gain stage built into a preamp like the Lead 12/5005 supposedly crap? It makes no sense. And, as noted above, the Lead 12 actually sounds better the more it is turned up, and part of that could be owed to the fact that it is lower wattage into a larger (10" instead of 8") capable speaker.
 

Dr.Distortion

V.I.P. Member
Joined
Dec 6, 2009
Messages
5,283
Reaction score
5,753
It seems to take pedals OK...

It's like this, wah in front of fuzz vs. fuss in front of wah kinda' thing. Also less gain more you hear the effect.

Have you ever stacked distortion pedals? Like a TS9 into a Fuzz Face...

You can of course use tone shaping from a pedal to push the tone of the amp.
Set the amp dark and have a TS9 with the treble turned up in front of it for a cutting tone....

Ya know the "old" recordings where you had a harder time telling if the fuss was on or not?
If you ever get the chance...
Plug into a dimed 100 watt plexi... Play it, then hit the fuzz...
It's there, no doubt, but you're not JUST listening to the fuzz...
 

StormJH1

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2012
Messages
1,109
Reaction score
659
It seems to take pedals OK...

It's like this, wah in front of fuzz vs. fuss in front of wah kinda' thing. Also less gain more you hear the effect.

Have you ever stacked distortion pedals? Like a TS9 into a Fuzz Face...
Makes sense. Yes, I have stacked distortion pedals, but I'm not as huge a fan of it as other people are because you tend to get so much compression from the pedals clipping on top of each other that it becomes pretty mushy tone. Of course, for a sustained lead boost, that may be a good thing!

Now that I know what these things are and the differences between them, I'd be curious to play one of the other two versions and see how it compares. This version with the "fuzz" circuit certainly did not disappoint.

The weird thing about it taking pedals, though, is that it's single channel, so even though you can get a pretty clean tone (especially on the Low sensitivity input), that fuzz circuity is probably involved to some degree at all times (unless it only is activate after the gain hits a certain threshold?) I'm talking way over my pay grade...

I'll will try it out with some pedals and see how it does.
 

musicmaniac

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 11, 2012
Messages
9,213
Reaction score
4,616
I'm glad you like it as I feel the same about mine. Congrats!
 

StormJH1

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2012
Messages
1,109
Reaction score
659
I'm glad you like it as I feel the same about mine. Congrats!
Edit: I checked the serial number in person, and it's actually a "P" at the end, which makes this a 1982! I love that this thing is nearly as old as I am and works this well.

I'll let the old thread die now, thanks again to those of you that were on the original thread and helped me with the purchase - it's a great little amp!
 

les_paul_59

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2015
Messages
2
Reaction score
1
Hi Dr. Dist,

thanks a lot for your info. Do you have the schematic of the 1st Lead12 version? The later one is around, but that is obviously the version without clipping diodes. I would love to convert mine into the clipping diode version. Buying another one just to extract the schematic is an option, but not the most convenient one ... ;-)

Thanks a lot in advance !!!
 

StormJH1

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2012
Messages
1,109
Reaction score
659
This amp was one of my favorite "finds" of the year, and the people here were super helpful to me. Thanks again, @Dr_Distortion, @Apocalyptic, and others!

I already had one or two "too many" amps when I came across the Lead 12. Glad I pulled the trigger. About 2 months after my posts, I came across a used "version 2" in a pawn shop...for $49.99! Didn't plug in, and I had to leave it there because gear purchases like that can just pile up ad nauseum.

To that pawn shop, they looked it at like a Marshall MG, Valvestate or any other mass produced, generic 80s/90s era solid state amp. There's a local gear shop here run by a guy who actually knows gear, and he's selling either a version 2 or 3 for $175, so that shows you that some people know the secret.

And I was totally wrong about the lack of clean headroom - the low input does a great bluesy clean, that is more like old school JTM/Plexi than a JCM! Now, there are some in-between gain settings where the amp displays some solid state "fizziness" in the decay, but run it either clean or cranked and it sounds awesome. If I've got 15 minutes to play, I love to just fire this thing up with maybe a reverb pedal in front and nothing else. What a classic little amp.
 

les_paul_59

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2015
Messages
2
Reaction score
1
Hi folks,

as Dr. Distortion already pointed out, there is a significant difference between the Lead 12 early model (1st Version, two front panel input jacks) and the later ones (total three or four front panel jacks).

The schematic for the later model can be found here:
http://www.drtube.com/schematics/marshall/3005.gif


I tried to reverse-engineer the schematic for the early model, see attachements.

Lead12_pre.gif

Lead12_power.gif

Lead12_psu.gif


The early model features
- the diode overdrive circuit, leading to a more tube-alike smooth transition from clean to distortion.
- some frequency response filtering. This makes it sound less harsh, too - probably a good idea for the somewhat trebly 10" speaker.

The later models feature some improvements in the power stage but left out these sound affecting parts of the early model circuit. Hence the later models sound more "transistor" than the early model.

Good news is:
- the later models circuit could be modified towards the early model. With reasonable effort.
- the early model can be equipped with an alternative speaker out, phone out and line out also.


Concerning the speaker some unfortunately claimed that you cannot replace it with a 12". Well, at least the combo: technically you can. I have seen one and the 12" fits in nicely.
Of course, you have to keep in mind that a speaker sounds different in a closed cabinet and an open back combo.
Whether it is worth the effort (some woodwork needed) and invest is a different cup of tea ...

So far my 2c, keep on rocking :)
 

Dr.Distortion

V.I.P. Member
Joined
Dec 6, 2009
Messages
5,283
Reaction score
5,753
The "Gibbonizer" I mentioned was made by putting (2) 1N4007 diodes together "back to back" meaning one flowing opposite of the other. Put a 40K resistor on one side and tack it to pin 7 of the chip. the other side to ground....
 

Telechamp

Senior Member
Joined
May 26, 2008
Messages
2,266
Reaction score
2,050
Just scored a Lead 12 mini stack off Craigslist, and absolutely love the JCM800-style tones coming from these little amps!




 


Latest Threads



Top