History of the

Vintage Modern

Posted: 18th April 2023

We sat down with former design engineer Steve Dawson and product specialist Steve Smith for this Live for Music article to learn more about the Vintage Modern; 100-watt head and one 50-watt head, as well as the 50-watt combo.

Read time: 2 mins

History and specifications

First released in 2007, the idea of the Vintage Modern was to create an amp that can produce vintage sounds but with modern features. Given the emergence of more gain and more features, Steve Dawson explained that the JTM45 never evolved into what he had hoped it would do. This pushed him to create a modern version of the JTM45 with new features including a master volume and effects loop. Initially, Steve had expressed that he wasn’t interested in putting the reverb feature on the Vintage Modern - he argued that it wasn’t necessary - however, it was ultimately included to give people the option if they wanted to use it or not.


Like the very early JTM45 100W, the Vintage Modern uses KT66 power amp tubes. As a guitar player himself, Steve Dawson wanted to produce an amp that would suit any guitar from humbuckers to single coils and decided that the gain control was split in two. One control for the high frequency part of your sound and the other for the low frequencies. These controls give the Vintage Modern tonal flexibility and allows the player to fine tune the amp to their guitar. If you’re a strat player wanting a bit more oomph then you can add more body and if you're playing a humbucker wanting a more edge you can add more detail.

Commonly mistaken as a two-channel amp, the Vintage Modern also has two dynamic ranges which activate a gain boost for increased distortion, both of which are selectable by a footswitch. Playing on the low dynamic range setting gives you full access to all the clean tones and using the high dynamic range setting adds an extra preamp valve into the signal chain. However, if you’re using the high dynamic range setting but want a clean sound, you may have to adjust the volume on your guitar to achieve this. The Vintage Modern is considered to be old-school in its approach to tone, relying on the player to find their preferred response and sweet spot from their own playing and their choice of guitar.

Finish and further features

All with gold handles, the Vintage Modern was available in the standard black which Marshall is known for, but also in a black levant with purple rolled on top of it giving it a marbling effect which most people associate with this particular amp. This unusual aesthetic was inspired by old Superman comics where you could see blue flecks in his hair, Steve Dawson wanted the Vintage Modern to look regal.

Hear it for yourself

Listen to Steve Smith play through the Vintage Modern below in our From The Museum series on YouTube. In the series we look back at original Marshall amps in our archives and discuss how these amps came to be. Hear them for yourself as product specialist Steve Smith plays these iconic amps that have shaped Marshall Amplification into what it is now.