Marshall Studio JTM ST20C Combo | Review

Published 9 months ago on September 25, 2023

By Guitar Interactive Magazine

Marshall Studio JTM ST20C Combo

MSRP: (UK) £999 / (US) $1945

Marshall's Studio series has long served as a Gi Mag favourite, as it perfectly packs many of the company's iconic amplifier models down into compact, gig-and-studio-ready combos and heads. From the Super Lead to the Silver Jubilee, the Studio series encompasses almost the entirety of Marshall's long history—with the ST20C Studio JTM, it reaches all the way back to the beginning. Nick Jennison reviews.

The JTM45 is the amp that started it all. What do I mean by "it all"? Well, Marshall amps for one thing, and by extension, the sound of rock guitar. That high-gain amp you have sat next to you? It probably traces its lineage back to the JTM. That legendary rock tone from the '60s and '70s that you love so much? Probably recorded using either a JTM or one of its younger siblings (like a 1987, a 1959, or possibly even a 2203).

It's fitting, then, that Marshall should mark a "changing of the guard" in the form of new ownership by Zound (the company that already owned Marshall Headphones) by re-visiting the amp that started it all. The result is the Studio JTM - a 20w take on the classic JTM45, and my word is it good.

Let's start by getting the superficial stuff out of the way. This might be the most handsome amp I've ever seen. I amp prone to hyperbole, but I'm really struggling to think of a more attractive looking amp! I really like the look of a Bogner Shiva. Magnates look super cool. And of course I think my amps of choice (Victory) all look great, but the Studio JTM has Audrey Hepburn levels of timeless elegance and beauty. The non-textured black tolex, the wheat grille cloth, the silver face plate with matching "coffin" logo… even if it sounded a bit rubbish, I'd want one on my shelf just to look at.

As it happens, it sounds fabulous. If you're familiar with the sound of a Super Lead (most commonly referred to as a "Plexi", although that term can refer to a number of amps), you might think of the JTM tone as a less refined, more "raw" version of that tone. It breaks up earlier, with a more blown-out low end and a more aggressive midrange punch. That's if you crank it up of course. It's far from a one trick pony that needs to be cranked to sound good though - the JTM clean is one of my absolute favourites, which makes sense, given it's essentially a Fender Bassman with a British accent.

While the Studio JTM is capable of a a whole range of tones, you probably shouldn't expect channel switching wizardry. While this is a two-channel amp, it comes in the form of two sets of inputs - "normal" and "high treble", each with high and low sensitivity inputs. You can of course use a patch cable to "jump" the channels and blend the two to your heart's content, but each channel's voice is useful all on it's own. The "normal" channel has a very warm, rolled off high end that's super flattering for aggressive fuzzes and amp-in-a-box pedals, while the "high treble" channel will add sparkle and clarity to both congested, mid-heavy overdrive pedals and muddy humbucker guitars alike.

Other features include a very useful emulated DI, which is very convenient for both recording and going direct to FOH (although you'll still need to run a speaker on stage), and a slightly less useful FX loop. Why less useful? Well, the charm of the JTM's overdrive is the way the power amp breaks up so quickly, and the FX loop is, by its very nature, between the preamp and power amp. If you're hoping for clean reverb and delay sounds while cranking the Studio JTM, you'll likely be disappointed - and if you run the amp clean, you're just as well running these effects in front. Still, it doesn't do any harm having it there.

The Studio JTM is available in both head form (with matching 1x12 and 2x12 cabs), or as a compact combo like the one we're looking at today. The first thing that should be noted is that this combo sports a 12 inch Creamback M, and not a 10 inch speaker like some recent Marshall combos. While there's nothing wrong with 10s, they have a tone all of their own, and one that's maybe not what we associate with the Marshall "thing", which is part of why some of these combos have been a little disappointing. Kudos to Marshall for including a legit 12 inch driver here, and a very good one at that!

If I'm being honest, I despaired a little when Marshall were bought by a headphone company earlier this year, but my word was I mistaken. If the Studio JTM is anything to go by, Marshall are back with a vengeance. It's an fabulous sounding amp that honours the legacy of the legendary amp that it's based on, instead of just cashing in on it.

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