Phase I: Simple Plexi conversion | Phase II: Post-PI master volume | Phase III: TBA...!
Inside every Marshall Artiste
IntroductionThis must be Marshall’s most unloved amp. For starters, Doyle’s “History of Marshall” book gives the Artiste a pretty bad write up. And almost all of the mentions you find on the Internet slag them off, too. They’re also cheap – even when 10Wers are fetching big money. So they must be really bad.
Of course, the main thing that the Artiste combo has going for it is that it looks a bit like a Bluesbreaker. Which is why I bought mine - as a shortcut to getting a cab for a Marshall 18W clone (aka “mini Bluesbreaker”, see www.18watt.com). When this '71 Artiste (2894C) showed up cheap on Ebay – complete with a full-on Bluesbreaker recovering job by Marshall, I pulled the trigger. I figured I’d get a genuine Marshall cab with two early ‘70s G12Hs for the 18Wer project and an Artiste chassis for free.
Unwanted chassisThe amp’s worth trying out, of course... but Doyle is right. Tonally, it’s uninspiring – sounding like neither Marshall nor Fender. Even the reverb – and I like reverb – fails to give the sound any extra depth. There’s not enough sparkle and not enough crunch. I did an Internet search for mods that might make it sound better but drew a blank.
So maybe all I’ve got is a donor chassis to raid for parts - it uses standard 50W iron (1202-324 PT and 784-139 OT) and it’s got lots of old components. There’s no schematic for the Artiste in the Doyle book, but a call to Marshall gets me a print out by post. Hmmm... when you look at the schematic, the Artiste looks like some half-hearted attempt at a cleaner, sort-of-BF-Fendery valve amp. The front end has two channels, with a Baxandall tone stack immediately after the first stage of one channel and a Fenderish tone stack (minus a Middle control) after the first stage of the other.
Then there’s the reverb send and recovery, and it’s all mixed together before being fed into a bog-standard Marshall power amp... a bog-standard 50W Marshall power amp... and a point-to-point wired board... Well, stab my vitals - with about half a day’s work (for a slowcoach homebrewer like me) this amp could sound like a Plexi... Duh, where’s my soldering iron?
A note about Artiste modelsThere are combo and head versions of the Artiste. I've only ever seen 50W versions of the combos, but the heads also came in 100W versions. The modifications shown on the following pages are for the 50W combo version described above. The 100W version ought to be similarly easy to modify, but I've never seen inside one.
Being made in '71, my Artiste has a point-to-point circuit board, but I've a sneaking feeling that some of the later Artiste amps had a PCB (Marshall made the main switch to PCB during '73). A PCB version would be a nightmare to modify - I'd probably not have bothered. So, if you're looking for an Artiste to plexify bear, please this issue in mind.
Next - Phase I: Simple Plexi conversion