Class B 115/230V
2x EL34 Mullard
V1 CV4004 Mullard 2xECC83 Mullard
Gain (from Rock to Metal)
Clean (for Blues to Classic Rock)
Variac, Post-Master, Presence, Bass, Middle, Treble, Pre-Master, Pre Amp Gain
4/8/16 Ohm Selector, 2 Outputs, Effect-Loop Send & Return, Solo Boost Footswitch
orig. Black Levant
2.765,- (Net) / 3.290,- Euros (19%) on order! Incl. Fotswitch!
incl. German VAT w/1year ltd. guarantee + 1year ltd. warranty
The Gladius 2204 is a further development of the 2203 from 1973 and the 2204 from 1981. Unlike the Gladius JTMs, its sound is much more modern and rocking, but with all the features that have made the British sound so unique. The most important feature that modern guitarists are looking for is the solo boost function. However, not as a channel switch, but as a lossless pre-master volume, foot switchable. This enables the player to jump in volume for his solo at any gain level without loss of dynamics, for clean or distortion. Hence the post-master volume, which, like all Gladius amps, enables completely loss-free master volume at any volume. In order to get the full tone at Bedroom Level, the Gladius cabinets are recommended. With the Variac you can set the power tubes of saturation / distortion, which then changes the tone dramatically - like EVH. The pre-gain has enough distortion for metal in hi-input. The Lo input is specially designed for clean sounds and pedals. The difference is powerful and not just a few db as with commercial amps. A lossless effect loop (passive parallel) remains tight even with delays. The Gladius 2204 has the variety of sounds from the 2203 to the JCM 800 with Mullard tubes and aged transformers. Killer tight and fast in attack like the roman sword Gladius.
Review Gitarre & Bass
Marshall's JCM800 2204 50-watt heads are a dime a dozen on the domestic European second-hand market. So why should you take a closer look at a Gladius 2204? Because the Gladius is the better amplifier? We will see ...
Adrian Socnik already has a reputation thanks to his excellent restoration and service work on Thomas Blug's beloved Marshall amps. We have it here
a nerd and an outspoken lover of classic British amps from the sixties and seventies. Socnik, under the brand name Gladius (Gladivs in the ancient Roman spelling), not only copies the most popular Marshall, Trainwreck and Vox amplifier models, but also often incorporates a few very careful optimizations of these circuits into its products.
In the case of our test amplifier, a number of the shortcomings of the original design are actually very easy to correct, but Socnik wants to offer more than just a slightly better JCM800. It seems more like he wants to perfect this amp. The exclusive dealer of these exclusive amps is Ron Mehl or Pro Guitar, who is completely dedicated to the high-end boutique builder amp segment and also works closely with Adrian on product development.
It is no secret that old Marshall Plexis and JMP amps are extremely expensive, as long as they are still in relatively original condition and were born between 1963 and 1973, i.e. they are built in the classic way with large components on solder strips.
However, Marshall never built a JCM800 2203 (100 watts) and the 50 watt version 2204 in this style and were only available as amplifiers with a “printed circuit board” – PCB for short. Large numbers were produced, which also explains the relatively low price of these amps when used.
Now one can certainly argue about whether PCB-based amps sound better or worse than similar amps that are built using the point-to-point method or on soldering terminals, but when it comes to those old Marshalls, the scene seems to agree: that the expensive version also sounds “expensive”. So what if you built a JCM800 like that?
This is exactly where Adrian Socnik's thinking when designing the Gladius 2204 probably began.
We look under the amp's hood and see a technically classic preamp built on a true-to-original Paxolin board and a corresponding power amplifier. This is the almost identical positioning of the component groups as we know from late Plexis and this is probably where the rub lies. Experience with this type of traditional guitar amplifier shows again and again that not only the selection of materials, but also their spatial arrangement in the chassis as well as ground routing and signal progression, have audible influences on the sound and especially on the background noise behavior. Even the PCB was not left out, because the old Marshalls from the 60s had no loop path and no Variac.
The Gladius has these features and therefore there are a few small green circuit boards in the chassis. This isn't really classic, but in technical jargon one would probably speak of "period correct". The Variac controller in particular arouses curiosity, as this feature is one of the two actual innovations in the design of the Gladius 2204. A word must still be said about the three ECC83 and the two EL34 tubes that are operated in the Gladius. The manufacturer really makes an effort here and equips the amplifier with relatively high-priced Mullard tubes that at least sound very similar to the old tubes that were used in early Plexis. This is not the Peking tube that was often supplied in the JCM800 2204 in the eighties, but it is certainly a better choice than simply using any 12AX7 made in China. Details like these show that Socnik is very serious about its product.
On the front, in addition to the potentiometers for gain, treble, middle, bass, volume and presence typical of a JCM800, there is a second volume control that regulates a so-called post-phase inverter master volume, PPIMV for short. In addition to the Variac, this is the second real innovation compared to the old JCM800. In the JCM, the volume is only controlled further up the signal path - you lose some of the typical timbre of the phase shift stage when you turn it down. This means that the amp sounds rather cool, loud and sterile at low volumes. Not so if you adjust according to the phase rotation stage, like with the Gladius 2204.
Like the original, the Gladius also has two input jack sockets that lead into the signal path at different points. The “hot” input receives more gain than the “cold” input through a triode, i.e. half a preamp tube. That was typical for these Marshalls and of course shouldn't be missed.
The back of the Gladius surprises with another innovation. Here, in addition to the tried and tested send and return sockets of the loop path, the IEC socket and the two loudspeaker outputs with impedance selector switch,
a footswitch connection. The corresponding control switches the traditional, first volume control of the 2204 out of the signal path in order to activate a solo boost. This is a very careful and clever intervention in the original layout of the JCM.
If you play the Gladius 2204 with the Variac fully turned up and the post-phase inverter master volume control, the amp actually sounds very similar to an old 50 watt JCM800 2204 from the first series.
The loop path works better than with the old JCM, sounds sober, remains dynamically stable and there is no noticeable hiss. The foot-switchable solo boost is also very quiet when activated and doesn't pop as unpleasantly loud as some channel switches from Petaluma.
With the factory tubes, the Gladius 2204 sounds a little rounder, more centered and more musical than its model, because the Mullard reissue 12AX7s offer a slightly more compressed base than typical Chinese tubes. This means that the Gladius hangs a little more comfortably on the gas and is ideal for blues rock and slightly harder styles. However, for modern metal and technically virtuosic guitarists, it is advisable to swap the Mullard Reissue preamp tubes for normal JJs or TAD tubes and check whether the gain in tightness is pleasing. With TAD-RT010 high-grade 12AX7 preamp tubes, for example, the amp sounds more like the cliché of eighties heavy rock, seems a bit more modern in the mids and more aggressive in the highs, and that's exactly what I subjectively liked very much .
The really interesting option of initially turning the amp down using the second master volume control and then catching up on the overall volume using the first volume control releases further compression and thus the perceived gain. However, you have to be careful here, because the dose makes the poison. In contrast to the ordinary volume pot, a PPIMV volume control tends to make the amp sound a bit fringy and crumbly. Depending on the setting of the amplifier, this can sound a bit like the Vox AC30 and give off the typical JCM800 character. This can be intensified even further using the Variac controller. This feature is also not found in the original JCM, but it still makes sense. Here you can enjoy regulating the tension in the
Preamplifier and power amplifier are reduced without the heating current of the tubes being negatively affected. The Variac does everything that we find good about a rectifier tube in a JTM45, or what Eddie already found good about the external Variac with his old Plexi. It therefore functions as a controllable volume, mud and compression controller.
The interaction between Variac, PPIMV master volume and regular volume control gives the Gladius 2204 its own unique sound character. Here you can set a perfect mix of JCM800, JMP, JTM50 and 1987 Super Lead Plexi with a pinch of JTM45 to your heart's content. In fact, the Gladius 2204 can deliver more than just plausible results with a Tele, Les Paul or a Charvel Superstrat on a 4x12 speaker with Vintage 30, G12M or G12H speakers and is therefore also a tool for studio operators individualistic sound design at the highest level.
For typical Marshall 2204 sounds, you can certainly buy a used 2204 or 2203 and live with the shortcomings of the original.
With the current JVM series, Marshall also offers good-sounding alternatives that deliver quite good results in the rock guitar rhythm sound discipline.
However, if you are looking for that little bit of friendliness in the sound aesthetics and, above all, a workmanship quality that is more typical of a premium product made in Germany, there is currently no alternative to the Gladius 2204.
Even after a long-term test lasting several weeks and in a direct comparison with various real, old JCM800s, it turns out that the Gladius 2204 is always slightly ahead as a British rock rhythm amplifier, as long as you take into account the more classic coloring of the 2204 sound Direction of a JMP, JTM or Plexi
seeks. If money plays a subordinate role and you want to buy the definitive JCM800, this Gladius is a hot candidate for the title.