Q - Can you get the sound of your favorite artists? / Who are they?
A - The main goal of this preamp was to get the sound of The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. That's not too far fetched since they used one extensively on the record. I finally did flag down the settings for the JMP-1 used on the record - out loud it sounds nothing like it, but stick a mic in front of it and put it to tape, and it's perfect. However the real gem about this preamp is that it's so easy to find your own sound. It's not a one trick pony by any stretch of the imagination. Change one point on any dial and you have a different sound. If you feel creative about guitar tone, this preamp is for you.
Q - What setup (i.e. what guitars and amps) are you using this with?
A - I run the JMP-1 through a Mesa Classic 50/50 preamp through a Crate Excalibur 4x12 (Celestion V30s). It's very important to dime the volume and presence on the power amp because the Marshall is a solid state/tube hybrid. This way you're getting more tube saturation and less solid state op-amp distortion. For guitars, I have several Fender guitars - I love Fenders and it's all I usually play. But be warned that this amp is completely and totally biased for humbucking guitars. Throw a stock Strat or Tele through there and you're bound to be disappointed. In fact you may even want to sell it right away. Right now my main axe has become a Fender Toronado for such reasons (humbucking pickups). I'm going to try a Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster and see if I can get the same sound out of my Strats and Teles without butchering the electronics. Les Pauls and SG's are a dream for this amp.
Q - Is it noisy? On what settings?
A - Ha. My drummer complains that it sounds like a jet plane taking off when you're not playing. If you roll off the volume on your guitar (so it silences the pickups) and still have the volume high on the preamp, a constant hiss occurs and it's by no means a subtle one. The preamp is noisy and is probably due to the solid state circuitry.
Q - Are the effects weak or do they always sound great?
A - Depends on how you tweak it. This pre can sound like a toy, or it can sound monstrous. My general feeling is that the preamp sounds really toy-like and harsh, but it records amazingly well and cuts through like magic. In fact maybe my description is a bit harsh itself; compared to most other amps it kicks their ass all the way to Mars. It's just not as warm as a Plexi or the older Mesa/Boogie amplifiers.
And just like any other amp (I'm amazed at how long it takes some musicians to figure this out - and some never do) the way it sounds by itself will not sound the same once you bring it into a band setting. In order to cut through and stand out, I have to set it to a very very mid-heavy setting. In fact by itself the "band setting" sounds extremely obnoxious and even annoying. However it works great and records even better. And the harmonics! The harmonics! More pinch harmonics than you can imagine. I sound like a professional through this thing.
Half of it seems built really well (the chassis) but the knobs are plastic and one false step while carrying it will result in some broken command parameters. Take extra special care in transporting and while rocking out. No you cannot jump on this thing with the "people's elbow" and expect it to survive. I've always felt Mesa held the upper hand when it comes to construction and build quality.
Q - What style of music do you play? Is this a good match?
A - I have always been an Alternative Rocker at heart. I love grunge, I love 90s rock, and I love psychedelic rock. That pretty much describes our band right there. And it works excellent. I would recommend it to anyone who plays 90s rock. Maybe not as a main unit (but you can certainly use it that way) but perhaps as a side dish for more interesting tones.
Q - How long have you been playing? What other gear do you own?
A - Four years. Wow that's much longer than it feels. I'm not going to boast about my gear but let's just say I have more Fenders than you can shake a stick at and enough pedals to last me through five gigs of stage infernos.
Q - If it were stolen or lost, would you buy it again or get something else?
A - I'm young. I don't have much experience in tube amps YET. While I feel I have found a great sound in this preamplifier, I still have the excitement and motivation to try many more amps. This preamp doesn't shout my name but it sure sounds good. If it were lost, stolen, or broken I would probably end up with another Mesa/Boogie. Those Mesas are great amps and I love them to bits. Marshalls are great too but Mesas have a certain quality to them that cannot be matched.
Q - Anything you wish it had?
A - Better compatability with single coil guitars.
Q - Does it help you make music, or does it get in the way?
A - It's inspiring. When you have good gear that is responsive to your playing, it just helps you write better.
Q - Anything else you'd like to share?
A - For the used price it goes for, it's about fair. I would never consider purchasing it at the catalog price though. Way too much.