Marshall is a great brand when it comes to tube amps. You can see a Marshall in any music systems and audio production setups. Of its amplifiers, the JCM 800 vs 900 models are always the talk in different forums. In this article, the 100-Watt tube heads for both models will be compared.
Marshall Amps and the JCM Family
Even though you are not a guitarist or a musician, you’ve surely had seen a Marshall amplifier. You can go wrong because most of their cabs and amps have a big Marshall logo at the center of the front face. Marshall Amplification has been producing different musical equipment since 1962.
The JCM models were launched shortly after the Rose-Morris deal (15-year distribution deal) ended. Marshall repackaged two of its Master Volume amps and named them 2203 (100-Watt) and 2204 (50-Watt), which are now collectively referred to as the JCM 800 series.
JCM was named after his initials (Jim C. Marshall) and the numerals are the registration plate of his car. Since then, Marshall has made several amps under the JCM 800. Aside from 2203 and 2204, additional two models, 2205 and 2210, were also included in this series. Each of them is unique and has features of its own.
During the 1990s, Marshall upgraded the product line and named them JCM 900 series. You can find two variants for this series, including the 4100 (100-Watt) and the 4500 (50-Watt) “Dual Reverb” models.
After the release of the JCM 800, Marshall seems to offer a new line of JCM amplifiers every decade. The JCM 900 was released in the 1990s, while the JCM2000 series were introduced in the 2000s. Thus, these series of amps is informally called as the JCM family.
JCM 800 vs 900: Specs Comparison
Though it seems that these models only differ in the numbers, they are different. Here’s a table showing a side-by-side comparison of their specifications and features.
|Specifications||JCM 800||JCM 900|
|Channel (s)||1||2 (Split)|
|Preamp valves||(2) ECC83, (1) ECC83 (phase splitter)||(2) ECC83, (1) ECC83 (phase splitter)|
|Power amp valves||(4) EL34||(4) 5881|
|Inputs||2 (high, low)||(1) 1/4″ jack instrument input|
|Outputs||(2) 1/4″ jack speaker outputs, selectable 16Ω/ 8Ω / 4Ω load||(2) 1/4″ jack speaker outputs, (1 x 16Ω / 2 x 8Ω / 2 x 4Ω load selectable)|
|Effects loop||Yes, with one serial switchable||Yes, with level control|
|Controls||Presence, bass, middle, treble, master volume, preamp volume||Channel B (volume, reverb), channel A (volume, reverb), presence, bass, middle, treble, channel B lead gain, Channel A gain|
Now, you can see that these two are different. The JCM 800 is the first amp to offer a master volume for better control of your sound. On the other hand, the JCM 900 has two reverb options, which makes it roadworthy and stage-ready. Other than that, these two are 100W powerhouses that help you deliver a one-of-a-kind performance.
JCM 800 vs 900: Performance and Sound
Made of Black Tolex, these amps are waterproof and have sturdy construction. They are of the same size, yet the JCM 800 is a little heavier than the JCM 900. The former has fewer knobs, while the latter has more, given that Reverb and Gain options and the fact that it’s a 2-channel unit.
Extra power is given to you by the Master Volume of the JCM 800 allowing you to make wonderful solos. The Gain options of the JCM 900 (separate for each channel) help you crank up the gain and the volume to get that Marshall tone and crunch.
Though the JCM 800 has only one channel, it has high and low sensitivity inputs that work for different types of guitar pickups. Also, the Effects loop will help you add effects in between the preamp and power amp to achieve better clarity, perfect for cranking up. So, this fella is not just for rock and heavy metal, but for nearly any kind of music you want to play.
The advantages of having two channels in the JCM 900 allows you to get clean and distorted outputs. In addition, you’ll also get to explore the Reverb and how it can influence your performance. Like the JCM 800, it also has Effects loop that lets you add effects easily.
In general, if you want to have a clean tone, you can effortlessly get it from the single-channel JCM 800, while the JCM 900 is when you need both clean and dirty channels. The former is an awesome amp with great tonal output, while the latter seems harsh, but it has a killer lead sound, though. For better performance and sound, the JCM 800 is in the lead. Here’s a YouTube video comparing the sound output of each amplifier using the same guitar:
JCM 800 vs 900: Price
There’s a $500 difference between these two, the JCM 800 being on the more expensive side. And, from the review above, it deserves its price. But, these amps are not for anyone as they are very expensive. So, it’s up to you if you include a Marshall in your rig. But, keep in mind what kind of output you want to achieve so you can easily pick the one that’ll serve you better.
At the end of the day, it’s your time to decide whether you need JCM 800 vs 900 in your rig. Both are expensive models, so you need time to think. However, if you want a clean output with a better tone, stick to the JCM 800. Yet, if you want a cheaper alternative, which offers you both clean and dirty outputs, JCM 900 will be your choice. If the budget is not a problem for you, then, the JCM 800 is more recommendable over the JCM 900.