THe story behind the infamous marshall stack

Posted: 12 November 2019

You've seen them, there's absolutely no doubt about it. 

Read time - 4 mins

The Marshall stack can be seen all across the globe on some of the biggest stages in the world. Chances are, if you’ve been out to see a band perform somewhere, you’ve seen a Marshall stack in the background. We’re going to dive into how the first ever Marshall stack came to be.

The 4x12" cabs

We can’t talk about the Marshall stack without first telling the story of the 4x12" amp cabinets, so called becuase they comprise of four 12" speakers, that first made the stack up. This is the story of the 1960A&B’s.

The first 1960 cab was created towards the end of 1962, as business was really picking up for Jim and his shop. It came along shortly after the 50W lead amps were created. After bass cabs and PA columns Jim decided that we needed something to better complement the sound of the 50W. Having initially tried the 50W with a 2x12” extension cab, the team realised that it lacked the right sound and power, not to mention that they kept blowing it up.

The stack

It wasn’t until three years later in 1965 that the first Marshall stack was created. Since Jim had released the JTM45 in 1962 customers were constantly demanding more power, with one of these vocal customers being the legendary guitarist Pete Townshend, a regular of Jim’s shop. Pete came into Jim’s shop  shortly after the release of Jim’s first 100W amps and demanded a bigger cabinet to go with it, suggesting an 8x12”. Jim knew that this cabinet would be incredibly heavy and told Pete that his roadies would not be happy having to carry it from stage to stage. Instead he suggested a straight-fronted 4x12” cabinet that the angled 4x12” cabinet could sit atop of. This fell on deaf ears and Pete was insistent on having his big cab.

It only took a couple of weeks for Pete to return to the shop with his tail between his legs, stating that his roadies had found it very difficult to move the 8x12” cabinet and when he tried to help them out, he too found it almost impossible to move. Pete’s suggestion was to simply cut the cab in half however due to the structure this was an impossible task. Jim went away to build his original idea and thus the Marshall stack was born. The Who became some of the biggest purchasers of Marshall stacks, with legendary bassist John Entwistle saying that he bought the 2nd, 4th, 7th, and 8th stacks and Pete bought every one in between.

So, what’s the difference between the two 1960’s?

The difference between the 1960A and the 1960B is simply their placement in the stack. The 1960A is the top cab featuring the slightly angled front and the 1960B is the bottom cab with a straight front. Depending on who you ask, people will tell you that because of these slight design differences, the cabs do sound slightly different to one another, with the 1960A being clearer and more balanced, due to the angle of the speaker being aimed more towards the players ear, while the 1960B has much more bass presence. In actual fact, while you may hear a minute difference, both cabs use the same internal parts and are built in the exact same way, so the differences between the two are almost unnoticeable, especially if they are both mic’d up.

Of course, like all Marshall products, the 1960 cabs were subject to a few experiments based on customer requests. The 1960a and b's on sale today stay true to their original sound however we do also have some of the more popular variations from over the years available as the AX/BX, AV/BV, and AHW, BHW cabs.