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Marshall's great sleeper amp - the Artist 3203/4203

by vaughn skow November 30, 2010 2 min read

Possibly the best Marshall deal out there?  The Marshall Artist 3203 (head) and 3204 (1x12 Combo). Great Marshall crunch, superb Fenderish cleans, and best of all, they can usually carry a very reasonable price tag.

Photo courtasy of Elderly Instruments

If you’re like me, you love the amazing crunchy power that only a full Marshall stack can deliver, but how often do most of us wind up on a stage where we can crank a JTM 45 through a full stack?  In my case, nearly never!  That, my friends, is why I’m so crazy about the 3203; read on and I’ll make my case for this little sleeper amp.

The Artist 3203, and it’s combo cousin the 4203, were made in the early eighties.  Like Leo Fender’s Music Man amps of that time, they are a hybrid amp with a power section that consists of a pair of EL-34’s with a 12AX7 phase inverter and solid-state rectification.  The pre section is all solid-state, but I gotta tell ya, it sounds friggin awesome.  The amp is rated at 30 watts RMS, which makes it perfect for club gigs, plus the 34’s are running so cool that they last forever in this amp.

The boost channel has only controls for tone, gain, and volume, but that’s all it needs.  This channel produces pure Marshall crunch in spades, and what’s really amazing is that it can do it at any volume.  This is the holy grail of Marshall crunch tone; sounds like a full stack on the bleeding-edge, yet at a volume that is perfect for a club gig, or for recording!

The clean channel is equally surprising.  In addition to a gain control, it sports a full bass-mid-treble tone stack.  I’m a died-in-the-wool Fender amp guy, and I can honestly say that this channel can deliver some very nice Fenderish clean tones.  Bring this amp to your next gig and you will have a single amp that does Yankee clean and British crunch with aplomb. 

The amp is rounded-out with master controls for volume and Reverb, which feeds an actual long-spring Accutronics tank.  There is also an efx loop, a line-out, and multiple output impedance taps come standard; all in all, a well equipped little amp!

I usually run my 3203 through a Marshall 1965B 4-10 cabinet.  I’ve also tried it out in my Burriss 1-12 cab, and I really love it with the Vet 30 in closed-back mode, although open-back is also very nice.  The 4203 1x12 combos came with Celestion G12’s stock, which don’t sound too awful, but I’d say that if you picked one up and put a Vet 30 or Retro 30in it, you would have one very cool little Marshall combo for clubbing!

Let me know if you want me to post some sound-clip vids... otherwise there are already plenty of clips on youtube, check them out!

Here are a few good examples, See ya next week:





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