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Fractal Audio AMP models: 1987X (Marshall 1987 Vintage Re-issue)

yek

Moderator
Moderator
* EDIT: Up-to-date information is available in Yek's Guide to the Fractal Audio Amplifier Models *


1987X: based on Marshall 1987 Plexi

The world’s greatest rock amp is a Marshall “Plexi”. These came to the market in the mid ‘60s, when Marshall and Fender started to make loud amps. These amps are referred to as “Plexi” amps because of the gold Plexiglass front panel, later replaced with gold aluminum. Plexis with 4x12 cabinets gave rise to the "Marshall stack". The Plexi was built for almost 20 years, and was then replaced by the JCM 800. Even today amp builders still design amps based on the Plexi, such as the Bogner Helios. And its looks are being copied for all kinds of guitar amps.

So why has the Plexi become such a popular amp? According to Legendary Tones:

“Many things. First and most important perhaps is the sense of dynamics and rich harmonics. No large-production amp created before or since the early Marshall plexi series has been able to capture the feel of the player through varying degrees of dynamics and coloration from the (mostly) EL34-based tube circuits of these Marshalls. Call it a lucky accident with the folks at Marshall, but they were able to create amplifiers that really responded well to the guitars that played through them. A wide palette of distortion color that is rich and full and just powerful and timeless in tone is what these amps deliver. It takes some time to really get used to playing a basic amp such as a Marshall plexi. No multi channels or reverb or effects and no master volume controls. Turn up the amp and play – play hard and the amp rewards you with fullness of tone and smooth distortion. Back off your playing and the amp will respond, and move into lighter shades of overdrive. Roll down your guitar volume a touch and you’ve got a warmed up clean sound. There just isn’t anything like the ability to feel a set of power and preamp tubes overdriving together musically.”​

A Plexi is raw, unrefined, honest and touch sensitive. Hit a chord on a Plexi and feel that explosion of sound in your face and body...

Numerous guitar heroes played some kind of Plexi: Pete Townsend, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jeff Beck and of course Eddie Van Halen.

The Plexi came in various incarnations. Some of these are modeled by Fractal Audio. Many (but not all) Plexis have a JMP logo.

The 1987X is a re-issue of the original ’67 50 watts JMP Marshall, model number 1987. The original is no. 11 on Vintage Guitar's list of valuable amps. The 1987X re-issue, made in the ‘90s, is part of Marshall’s Vintage Re-issue series. Our respected forum veteran @javajunkie owns a real 1987X, if I'm not mistaken.

Not only do we have the model of the 1987X re-issue in our Fractal Audio, we also have a model of the original: the Plexi 50W.

So in what aspect is a 50 watts Plexi different from a 100 watts Plexi? Not a lot in volume (the 50-watter is also a very loud amp) and not a lot in gain either. The 50 watts Plexi maybe is a little more aggressive and compressed, while a 100 watts Plexi sounds more open and bigger with more “kerrang”. IMHO the 1987X sounds and feels really juicy. It’s a versatile amp, that can handle anything between ballads and hard rock.

Marshall:
“While the 50 Watt 1987X head shares the same ‘Plexi’ front and rear panel features as the 1959SLP, it has its own distinctive sonic personality. More aggressive than the ’60s ‘Plexis’, the 1987X is much more of the ’72 period, with a heady, sweet/aggressive tone. These tonal characteristics are what define this much respected all-valve head."​

Cliff:
"The 1987x doesn't have the 0.68uF cap on the last triode. Gives it a smoother distortion.”​

The re-issue has two EL34 tubes and blasts 50 watts through (preferably) a 4x12 cabinet. It provides two channels: Normal and Treble, and two inputs per channel. Both channels are modeled by Fractal Audio.

The Treble channel is not as bright as the one in the 1959SLP. In the model the Bright switch is turned off by default.

Apart from the Volume controls for both channels, the amp has Bass, Middle, Treble and Presence controls.

Some players of a real Plexi use patch cables to “jumper” the inputs (2nd input of channel 1 goes into 1st input of channel 2). This enables them to have the benefits of both channels at once. This is modeled in the “Jumpered” model of the 1987X in the Axe-Fx II and AX8. That’s why this specific model has two Drive controls. Set them at the same position, or keep Normal Drive lower than Treble Drive.

Like an original Plexi, the 1987X doesn’t have a Master Volume, so keep the Master control in the model dimed. Without a Master Volume control, Plexi amps rely on power amp distortion. To achieve a nice overdriven rock tone, you need to turn up the 100 watts Plexi a lot. This makes it a very loud amp in real life.

If you like to experiment, turn up Supply Sag in the model for more compression. Note that high Sag settings may cause "ghosts notes". Exactly like on the real amp at high volume. If you don't want ghosts notes, switch Supply Type to "DC".

Another tweak is to turn on Boost on the Advanced page, to slam the model's input stage for more gain.

You can’t discuss Marshall Plexi amps and leave out speakers, in particular: greenbacks. Early Marshall amps were used with 4x12” cabinets with Celestion G12M speakers. Greenbacks have a sweet midrange and good bass reproduction. The rear of those speakers was green, and the nickname “greenbacks” was born. They are the reason that 4x12 cabinets were designed: the G12M was only 20 of 25 watts, so you needed four of them to prevent blowing them up.

Another popular speaker in those days (and it still is): the G12H. A 30 watts Celestion speaker that compresses less than a greenback and has a flatter response. It’s the “Jimi Hendrix” speaker.

You check this page for the stock "greenbacks" cabs, suitable for the Marshall models. Personal favorites among the stock cabs are: 54 and 55 (Cab Pack 20), 58 and 59 (Cab Pack 8), 103 (Cab Pack 2), 131 and 132 (Cab Pack 14, I think…).

Click to open the 1987X’s handbook.

A selection of YouTube videos:





 
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Mate this product is useless without the knowledge, 300 amps with the diversity and quality is why nothing touches the Axe. But without knowing what a Plexi is from a Jubilee it is a minefield of tedium. Can't thank you enough for these product knowledge posts. Don't worry mate, people might say you're an unsung hero..but far as I'm concerned your posts are as important as the Axe itself. Salute ya Yek, can't thank you enough...gush...gush some more lol!
 

Rocket Brother

Power User
Yek - love this serie of amp threads, but in writing them you are reminding me how many great amps I've foolishly sold in my life :)

After my "Tweed Bassman period" I was heavily into Plexi's - I owned several Plexi's, often a couple at a time.
My "final" personal favorite arsenal of Plexi's consisted of a '68 50 W Plexi, a '69 100 W Plexi, a '73 and a '74 Superbass.
I loved all of them for their unique flavor within the Plexi family sound, but my clear favorite was the '68 50 W due to the reasons you mention, more juicy and compressed sounding, the '73 Superbass was a close second.
All these amps were foolishly sold along time ago - I still regret especially the 50W Plexi, I fact it's the only piece of gear that I've ever sold that really haunts me to this day.
Those Plexi's were pure Rock 'N Roll - Cream, Hendrix, Led Zep, Free, Thin Lizzy so many great tones.
 

scottburrow

Fractal Fanatic
I grew up pretty poor, both parents were teachers after my dad retired from the military, so I never could afford a Marshall amp, I sure coveted them growing up, man what I wouldn't have done for a Marshall amp, back then. Fast forward a zillion years and I get a bunch of them in the form of a digital box. I love picking an old Marshall amp and going through my plethora of mp3's and playing as the third guitar player of the best bands in the world. That's where I learned most of what I know, before the Axe-fx it was the pod, and where we have come is just amazing.

Yek, thanks brother, for pushing this forum further. See I feel the modern day forum is what the local guitar store in your town used to provide. I was lucky enough to hang out in the local guitar stores for hours, that's how I learned most everything else growing up. Sadly mom and pop shops are mostly history in my city and state, they are there, but a lot smaller, and not a lot of places to sit and stay out of the way. My goal when I retire was to open a music store for me, I won't really care if I make a ton of money, I figured I would merge a music store with a coffee shop, so there will be plenty of seats to sit in.

Thanks again for educating us. It does take time to put this stuff together, and I know you do this for the love of your craft. Thanks again.
 

barhrecords

Axe-Master
A little regret here too... traded my Bray modded 1959SLP and TV cab loaded with greenbacks. The cab especially I should have kept.
 

yek

Moderator
Moderator
I grew up pretty poor, both parents were teachers after my dad retired from the military, so I never could afford a Marshall amp, I sure coveted them growing up, man what I wouldn't have done for a Marshall amp, back then. Fast forward a zillion years and I get a bunch of them in the form of a digital box. I love picking an old Marshall amp and going through my plethora of mp3's and playing as the third guitar player of the best bands in the world. That's where I learned most of what I know, before the Axe-fx it was the pod, and where we have come is just amazing.

Yek, thanks brother, for pushing this forum further. See I feel the modern day forum is what the local guitar store in your town used to provide. I was lucky enough to hang out in the local guitar stores for hours, that's how I learned most everything else growing up. Sadly mom and pop shops are mostly history in my city and state, they are there, but a lot smaller, and not a lot of places to sit and stay out of the way. My goal when I retire was to open a music store for me, I won't really care if I make a ton of money, I figured I would merge a music store with a coffee shop, so there will be plenty of seats to sit in.

Thanks again for educating us. It does take time to put this stuff together, and I know you do this for the love of your craft. Thanks again.
That's a beautiful story, my friend, thanks for that!
 

lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
Really enjoying these post. If/when they are all said and done for the 200+ amp models in the Axe, I'd love to combine them all into a big PDF file and print it out and bind it, having a really cool "reference" manual for the Axe and all of the amp choices.
 
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VeryBadMan

Experienced
Great tones , and a history lesson too ! I swear I've learned more about amps and how to dial them in since owning the AXEFX and reading the forum and Wiki.
 

Hubi

Experienced
Many thanks for your work, Yek! I´ve learnt here a lot about amps (makes it also easier to make better sound on POD HD, my backup-gear).

At the next to last video - what does the (mad) player after the first playing "Alright now" - the sound is darker, better? What mic did he use at the cab - U87?

The 1987 seems to be the better partner for a strat or Tele, if it sounds darker? I like the last Video a lot - reminds to the early Jimmi Page - although he played Hiwatt amps maybe.
 

Smittefar

Fractal Fanatic
When I got my Ax8, I had to find 'my Marshall' real quick, since I had shows coming up, so I tried all the usual Marshall suspects, and this exact model stood out to me. I love it, the jumpered version fills all my needs for a Marshall amp. It will go from clean to Paradise City at the turn of my volume knob. It is just great.
 

Rocket Brother

Power User
Sorry to cause all this grief... :D
Ha ha - You are forgiven my friend - such is life and it's just gear :)

Luckily I think that we are now through the amps that I regret selling, and I'm super happy with the tones I'm getting from my Axe Fx II and XL+ and the few tube amps I still own - In fact I think that my current tones are the best I've ever had.

I'm not sure I would be able to afford a '59 Bassman or '68 Plexi anymore with the prices that they command now.
I lucked into my Tweed Bassman and old Plexi's from other players at prices that were very different from todays collectors prices, and I too passed the amps on for fair prices to players that I respected and felt would do the amps justice, so really - apart from the 50W Plexi - I'm not really regretting it that much.
At the time that I sold them I needed the money more for other aspects of life, so in the end it's all good.
 

yek

Moderator
Moderator
Many thanks for your work, Yek! I´ve learnt here a lot about amps (makes it also easier to make better sound on POD HD, my backup-gear).

At the next to last video - what does the (mad) player after the first playing "Alright now" - the sound is darker, better? What mic did he use at the cab - U87?

The 1987 seems to be the better partner for a strat or Tele, if it sounds darker? I like the last Video a lot - reminds to the early Jimmi Page - although he played Hiwatt amps maybe.
That's SoloDallas, an avid AC/DC fan and designer of the Schaffer Replica.
 

electronpirate

Moderator
Moderator
Gonna have to come back to this...they tended to be too gainy for my Plexi needs, but some of those vids sound REALLY good.
 

Stratoblaster

Fractal Fanatic
Of the many Marshall variants in the AFX this one has been a long time favorite of mine. For years I've been using this amp for my main preset which I use about 80% of the time.

I like it since it's cleaner than other most Marshalls and is my mid-gain crunchy amp of choice, although the JTM45 in Quantum 2 is really doing it for me as well these days.

Using the two input channel controls I dial this amp in to have a bit more gain then I need and use my guitar volume control a lot to bring it down to where I need it for rhythm tones, but can get enough drive for sweet, sustained leads when opened up.
 
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