Jason Tong of Headfirst Amplification spoke up on one of the problems he noticed with Marshall’s 2203X guitar amplifier head. After getting his hands on one of these amps, which was manufactured in 2023, Jason took to his company’s YouTube channel to share his findings, addressing low-quality components which was causing a noticeable hum when turned on.
“This is a video that I didn’t think I’d be making,” the amp builder said while holding this new reissue of the legendary JCM800 model. “This was bought straight from a store here in Australia,” he pointed out.
“Now, I’ve modded this amp, it’s come up fine, sounds great. But what I was totally blown away by were the transformers. I first noticed it when I powered this thing up. And I noticed a hum — a high-pitched 1 kilohertz hum coming from the power transformer.” You can check out the section where Jason shows this issue in the player below at around one minute and eight seconds.
The matter that Jason pointed out seems to have happened in the wake of Marshall’s change of ownership. Earlier this year, the UK-based company was sold to Swedish-based Zound Industries — a move that some of the Marshall fans watched closely.
“We can see that is not normal behavior,” Jason said, adding that it’s “not the kind of thing you would expect from a brand-new amplifier.” He also pointed out that these amps cost $3500 in the United States, questioning whether the price is worth it if potential buyers would be encountering such issues.
A closer inspection revealed transformers that he isn’t used to seeing in high-end Marshall amplifiers. “These are Vietnamese-made transformers. Now, I’ve got nothing against Vietnam. I’ve got nothing against manufacturing in a place like Vietnam. However, this is a JCM800 reissue 2203X, $3,500, which, for all time, has had Dagnall-made transformers.”
In case you’re not familiar, Dagnall Electronics is a United Kingdom-based company that manufactures electronic components and they’re famous for their power transformers used in both instrument and hi-fi amplification. Their manufacturing has moved to Malta, as Jason added, but they’re still famous for their quality components.
“The Dagnall transformers that we know and love have featured on these Marshall amps for decades. So Marshall have changed them.”
Getting more into this issue, he gave a bit of a guide to recognizing the difference between Dagnall and overseas transformers. “One of the things that gave it away was the stickers on these transformers. They have a designation of ‘MAV’ on them. ‘MAV’ means ‘Marshall Vietnam.'”
As he further examined the problem, Jason found out that this seems to be the case with more recent 2203X amplifier heads. “I have another 2203X here,” Jason added, revealing that this one was made around 2017. Looking into transformers on this older amp head, he said:
“The thing that you would notice if you look carefully the way the bell-end caps are bolted to the transformer, to the laminations — they’re bolted through the middle. Some transformers have them bolted at the corners. Dagnall never did that.”
“You also want to pay attention and make note of the model numbers because they match,” he also added. “These Dagnall-made have been swapped out with the Vietnamese transformers. But Marshall have retained the same part codes. So, on the output transformer, it’s TXOP-00032. The power transformer is TXMA-00152.”
For more details on this, make sure to check out the full video embedded above in the article. In conclusion, Jason questioned whether Marshall’s decision to do this was justified. He said:
“So is this really a scandal? I don’t know. I think so. I was blown away, like, shocked that Marshall with one of their flagship vintage reissue amps — which everyone would assume are still ‘made’ in the UK at head office factory.”
“They’ve swapped these transformers out. As I said, I don’t really care where they get these manufactured. However, I think keeping the price point the same and not informing the market that this was happening — I think it’s disappointing and probably says a lot about what’s happening in the company and what’s happening to Marshall in the wake of the sale to their new owners.”
“And this has been done not because they sound better. This has been done because these are cheaper.”
Recently, the new Marshall CEO, Jeremy De Maillard, spoke with The Times, addressing some of the concerns that the manufacturing was going to be moved outside of the UK. He explaind:
“A lot of times, these acquisitions [involve] cost-cutting. Here, it’s completely complementary, there’s almost no overlap and where there is, it’s something we need to grow.”
“Manufacturing is the heartbeat of the company. When you walk through [Bletchley], you see people who have been here for 35 years. The craftsmanship is so nice and so powerful. We need to do more here to enhance the legacy.”