How could we run a Slash interview without reviewing some of the great man's gear? Well, we couldn't! A quick phone call to Marshall revealed that though it has now officially sold out (only 2300 were made) they would lend us one of the handful of samples they are holding onto. 24 hours later it was sitting in our studio, bottles gleaming, ready to rock. Which old rocker did we give it to? Step forward Michael Casswell, with Gary Cooper on hand to provide additional details.
For all you Slash fans out there, I have for your delight the rather marvellous Slash AFD signature Marshall 100 Watt head. For my video review I've avoided playing any Slash riffs or licks, because I'm approaching this amp as a Marshall product, rather than something that makes you sound like the man himself. Slash could plug into any amp with ample gain, and still sound like Slash! So even if you are lucky enough to find one of these beauties, it still doesn't mean you are going to nail his vibe, because a large percentage of any good players sound is in the hands, rather than the amp or guitar. I did grab a Les Paul for this review though, so all is not lost Slash tone wise!
We put the amp through a Marshall 4x12 cab loaded with V30 Celestions and we ran the onboard power attenuator at about 10 or 11 o'clock. This is a great feature on this amp, newly developed by Marshall, and it works really well. It basically means you can run the amp anywhere from the super loud 100 Watts right down to a whisper at 0.01% of a Watt. Very cool indeed, because you could happily practice your Slash licks and bends at home without disturbing the neighbours, or even waking the cat. Power attenuators usually seem to impose some compromises on your sound - this one didn't, so full marks again to the Marshall team for some very skilled design work!
Another cool feature is the use of 6550 output valves. Personally, I prefer the smoother, fatter, wider tone they give over an EL34 valve and my two main Marshalls, the 6100 and 4100 from 1994 are from when Marshall were having EL34 supply problems, and therefore briefly used the 6550/6L6 valve. This resulted in the British Marshall amp sounding a bit more American, which though it was something I was into, the purists didn't warm to the idea, and EL34s were back on the menu soon after. Slash obviously is with me on the valve front, however,because 6550s it is! The amp is self-biasing as well, so when you used-up all the goodness in your four output valves and the time comes for a fresh bunch, it's a quick easy job. Even more impressively, you can choose between a range of possible alternative valves, effectively turning Slash;s signature amp into your own! Owners can choose from a range of output tubes including EL34s, KT66s, 77s and 88s, 6l6s and 5881s!
You also get two voicings on this single channel twin input amp, the first dubbed #34. This is based on the sound of the JCM800 that Slash has used since the late 1980s. The is based on that of the legendary amp used on the Appetite For Destruction album, believed to have been a modded '70s vintage 1959 Tremolo head. These two fundamentals are switchable via the back panel, using the supplied footswitch. Both are extremely usable and sound fantastic. I think I prefer the darker and fatter AFD voicing, but if you dared plug something called a Fender Stratocaster into this amp, and experimented between the #34 voicings, then a whole new world of Hendrix, Trower, Clapton and Beck tones can be had, because, essentially, this amp is a really nicely voiced Marshall that is as versatile as you are as a player.
Backing the gain down also opens up a lot of tones too, especially when you get into thinking about boosting your front end with compressors, overdrives and EQ or boost pedals. It also has a series effects send and return, so get your volume pedal delay, modulation and reverb in there and you and this amp could cater for most musical situations. So although this is a single channel amp, with careful guitar volume control and the right guitar, all the clean to in-between tones are there. Then again, you can do what this and any Marshall is really good at, plug in, turn it up and rock out!
Only 2,300 of these AFDs were made, so they are going to be rare. When you could still find them new, they might have seemed a bit expensive - until you worked out what other manufacturers are charging for their amps on the grounds that they are 'boutique'. Well, this AFD is pretty 'boutique' too, if you consider how beautifully it's made and how rare it's likely to be! In fact at the asking price when it was new, it was a steal. Probably by now these are selling for silly money, so if you stumble across one buy it now. We'll say that again. Buy it now!
I have respect for both Slash and Marshall. Slash for what he has accomplished in his career, and Marshall for consistently making quality, industry standard, reliable, well built, great sounding amplifiers. This is one of their very best. Yes, you can get the Slash sound out of it (if you play like him), but really you should also look for what this or any signature product is able to give you, so that you develop as a player, finding your own sound and being able to get your money's worth by using the product beyond what it was originally designed for. If you are a Slash devotee, then this is for you. If you can take or leave Slash, then this is still one of the best Marshalls ever.