(Note: Some portions have been copied from V1 review but only where applicable to the V2 review)
The Marshall JCM800 has been one of the industry’s best selling amps since 1981. There are many reasons for the amp’s popularity but my personal favorite thing about the amp is its versatility. It truly is an amp that can do anything with a nice legacy of users and albums under its belt. The list of players to have used the famed bare-bones amp is far too big and too long to even touch on. To be honest, it might actually be a shorter endeavor to list the players that haven’t used it. You name the genre, the 800 has been there, done that and has the t-shirt.
Many developers have put out products either completely based on the JCM800 or had it as a feature in a multi-amp or full-amp suite. When another 800-inspired plugin comes out, there is always a % of amp sim users that complain a little because the developer “wasted” time on it instead of doing (insert favorite/hyped amp here). In this case, Nembrini have done two plugins based on the exact same amp and if you are asking why once again, allow us to explain. The plugin has been overhauled so aggressively that it’s no longer an update, it’s a completely new plugin with many upgrades / changes from V1 which is also why V1 is still available for sale.
Nembrini Audio GUIs are always well put together and there’s always been a lot of thought put towards the user experience. The V2 GUI looks really great but Nembrini Audio will want to be careful not to make the desktop plugins look too much like their slightly more boxy looking iOS plugins. The amp, cabinet section and other features all boast a good level of ease-of-use. The navigation and operation in the MRH810 V2 are both very smooth, it’s an endless fun plugin.
One thing you may want to know for Marshall amps and amp sims as well as many other amps is how to use your channel volume, gain and master volume together. When it comes to driving a Marshall amp I usually like to crank the channel volume and use the master to control the overall volume. Experiment but be careful not to crank your master and channel volumes without first adjusting the plugin’s master output volume fader in the cab section. While setting up the first impression, we recommend turning the ambient mic in the mic mixer either all the way down or muting it entirely as it can create a “tubby” feeling to the tone.
Starting with the “clean” channel, I am consistently amazed at what this 3-knob wonder-channel can do. I am not at all familiar with this channel in it’s analog form as I have never tried the 2210 version of the 800 but I can say that this channel is far from an afterthought. Users can go from a nice clean tone to a raw mid-gain type rock tone on one dial. I felt the best way to work this channel is to put the bass on about 4, the treble at around 6 and then use the channel volume as a gain knob while using the plugin master to control your actual volume. The bass and treble settings stayed the same and responded so nicely as I messed around with gain and volume. The plugin always leaves me subtly wishing that all 800s had the same 2-channel set-up.
Moving to the lead channel, you really get a channel that can be tweaked to do anything requiring any amount of gain. Classic rock to modern death metal, you name it, it resides in this channel just waiting to be called upon. From the comparisons I have read and done, the 2210 has more gain on tap than the 2203 and 2204 / more traditional models. For a cranked-standard-800 feel I will run the lead gain around 7ish or so with the amp’s master around 4. The lead channel is very sculptable both with the onboard tools and even more so when adding the use of various pre and post pedals.
The JCM800 has always been a versatile amp and with the 2210 version having a clean channel, it becomes even more of a Swiss Army Amp type solution. That said, one of the things that added to it’s ability to do many things is how many very different pedals work well with the amp. Overdrive, tube screamers, distortion, fuzz, HM2 and other boost/gain/over/dist options can be used so well to shape and sculpt the tone. I put quite literally all of this to work with the MRH810 regularly and the amp always meshes well with every pedal plugin I throw at it. The analog JCM800 has always been well know for its ability to work seamlessly with really any pedal and cab under the sun. Nembrini has ensured this factor is well represented in the plugin.
The clarity in the lead channel even with the channel volume and gain dimed to oblivion is excellent. The picking response is just so damn nice in every possible way. I have sat with the MRH810 plugin for many multi-hour sessions and it fools me considerably worse than any Marshall sim before it. The tone throughout the both channels is so authentic that this plugin has had me sitting in my chair with my jaw dropped or in disbelief that I am playing through a plugin on multiple occasions.
After that I went for everything from Slash’s lead to old school punk and then over to old Sepultura and Metallica and Slayer etc. I have spent hours drenching the plugin with fuzz plugins of all types to create mountains of stoner doom goodness and on the other side of things, I have also spent time trying to get the tones of Zakk, EVH and others with some success. There’s a lot of flexibility in the analog JCM800, you really can get it to do just about anything. I have spent many hours using different pedal plugins, impulses and settings with the MRH810 V1 and V2 attempting to re-create some of my favorite guitar tones in guitar history. The controls are set up with authenticity in mind and also respond as such from 0-10 on every control. It’s easy to hear the benefits of working hand in hand with the analog component in the modeling process in all of Nembrini Audio’s plugins.
Boosts, tube screamers, overdrives, distortion pedals, the HM2, modulation, delay, reverb, pre-FX, post-FX, you name it, the MRH810 meshed well with every pedal plugin I threw at it. So while there are no pedals included in the plugin, they aren’t hard to find out there for anywhere from FREE to affordable for those wanting even more versatility. Nembrini Audio has a great line-up of stomp and effect plugins that all seem to blend up nicely with any of the company’s amp sims. We highly recommend the Analog Rack Bundle and their Marshall Guv’nor plugin known as “The Boss”.
The cabinet section in V1 was nice, it had everything required but it was a slight downside to some that felt the section lacked character. Starting at the Cali Reverb, Nembrini began using an all-new cabinet section and a few other things that motivated the V2 versions of the two plugins that preceded the changes. The cabinet section has more cabinets, even easier operation and provides a generally higher quality feel to the plugin from V1. Also located in the cab section is the access for features like the gate, cleaner effect, master in/out and more. No 3D cabinet section to bog down the process, just a nice selection of optimized positions and mics that truly voices the amp in the best way possible. Users will enjoy a variety of cabs from Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Soldano, Fender, Orange and more. The ambient mic is part of the default tone but I really felt it was only useful blended into lead/solo parts but made rhythm parts more “round” around the edges.
UPS / DOWNS
Nembrini Audio has come a very long way since the company stepped onto the scene. Everything released under the name has been a pleasure. In this situation we have what seems like a simple update to some being sold as a separate plugin but in reality, it’s a completely separate version of the same amp. Some might question the move and say “why bother?” but when Nembrini Audio found a new and better way to represent analog gear with even more precision, the company felt the old plugins needed to be redone. I personally enjoy both immensely but V2 is definitely a superior product and since I would prefer to only recommend one or the other, V2 gets the nod.
The quality here is just so high in every way and I have a lot of fun every time I use the plugin. It’s become my go-to JCM800 plugin for all applications. It really can do anything a standard 800 can do plus a bunch more with the additional gain, reverb and “clean” channel. I use it so often that I can dial in just about anything needed in a few seconds without the help of much more than a pedal or two involved. It’s a true workhorse that I have almost zero negative side to speak of. Highly recommended for any and all players!
If you already use the plugin – check our MRH810 presets in the Preset Vault