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  1. #1
    JCF (I have no life)Member jgcable's Avatar
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    Default Marshall 3203 Artist review

    Many of you know what these are but in case you don't. The 3203 Artist was introduced in 1984 and discontinued in 1991. It runs 2 EL34's and one ecc83/12ax7 for the phase inverter. The preamp section is solid state.
    It is a split channel amp which means basically its 2 channel. It has reverb, an effects loop. The reverb and channels are footswitchable.
    I have been through and owned or own a ton of amps. I always lean towards the Marshall tone so I am a little bias'd. My favorite JCM800 is the 2210. To me.. its like a 2203 with 2 channels, reverb and a stomp box in front of it. The only very minor downsides are:

    Its way to friggin loud.
    The clean channel isn't the absolute greatest and it bleeds a little on some amps.
    Its a little light on the bottom end unless you really crank it.
    Besides those minor issues, it kills. Big.
    ENTER THE 3203 ARTIST
    It addresses all the minor issues of the 2210.

    Its the PERFECT amount of power for most home and gigging applications. 30 watts of EL34 power is PERFECT.
    The clean channel is totally useable. Its super clean and a tad on the bright side. It could use a little more warmth and bottom but its good.
    It has a tremendous amount of bottom end chunk at any and all volume levels. It sounds like a 2210 cranked up at an ear splitting volume. Palm mutes, and metal mayhem can all be had with this amp. Dial the gain down to around 7 and you are in AC/DC territory. Dime the gain out and you are shredding big time.
    Here are the minor issues I find with the 3203:
    The reverb is weak.
    The lead (gain) channel only has a tone control. Its basically Volume, Gain, Tone.
    It could use a presence control on the gain channel.
    Thats about it.
    Other great things about the 3203:
    Its only weighs around 20lbs. It weighs about the same as an 8100. It is a little smaller than a JCM800 but it still looks great on a cabinet. Especially a 2 x 12.
    I think it has a ton of bottom because I am using 12" speakers. This amp was designed to be used with 4 x 10" cabinets.
    The clean channel has a full EQ section.
    It is super easy to dial in. Just go with the basic settings and you will be sounding great in no time.
    Now.. to the tone.
    This amp is 100% Marshall. I only had to flick the power switch on and hit 1 chord and I new instantly it was a Marshall. It sounds like a high gain JCM800. It could use a tad more highs on the gain channel. Cabinet selection is critical. I tried it on a 2 x 12 Randall cab with Celestion 75w speakers in it and it sounded outstanding. With my Mesa cabinet it sounded a little to dark.
    Its articulate, great mids and bottom end and super easy to get screaming harmonics and feedback if you hold a note. Lots of guys nowadays ask how an amp reacts to pinch harmonics and Zack Wylde type noises. Well, this one makes all the above simple to achieve. Its also a very forgiving amp to play. This is the type of amp that makes you sound better the second you start playing through it. Thats a good thing IMHO.
    This is a great amp guys. Now I know why they sell for so much used on Ebay. You could score one at a reasonable price. I have seen them for anywhere from $400.00 up to $1000.00 for the stacks or the rare colors.
    This amp would be perfect for the metal head looking for an amp for home, studio or gigging. 30 watts or EL34 power is plenty. To give you an idea, with the master volume on 6-7 and the channel volumes on 5 it is perfect for gigging with a loud drummer. Its awesome to be able to turn a Marshall up that loud!!
    I always wondered what a 3203 Artist sounded like. I have never heard one in person yet every single review I have ever read on one was very positive. It seems that just about everybody gives this amp a great review.
    Me too. I would gig with this amp in a heartbeat.
    Actually, I can't wait to record with it.
    Check one out. You will be very happy you did.

  2. #2
    JCF Member Rupe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    I've been singing the praises of this model on several threads now...I'm glad you like it.
    Do the C13 mod and you'll like the clean channel even more.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    $400 and up? I usually see them for $250 to $300.

    Anyway...have you ever met an amp you didn't like? [img]/images/graemlins/poke.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]

  4. #4

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    Why do I have a sinking feeling I'm going to end up with this head! [img]/images/graemlins/laugh.gif[/img]

    I'm excited to hear it for myself.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    Cause it will be for sale next month maybe? [img]/images/graemlins/crazy.gif[/img]

  6. #6
    JCF (I have no life)Member hippietim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    You got it already?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    [ QUOTE ]
    Cause it will be for sale next month maybe? [img]/images/graemlins/crazy.gif[/img]

    [/ QUOTE ]

    or sooner. [img]/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/laugh.gif[/img]

  8. #8

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    I put a pair of Groove tube 928PR's in mine last week and it tamed the volume down to a very useable home/studio level w/o changing the tonal character of the amp to a drastic perceivable amount. Its still very useable with any band situation and has headroom to spare...now I can run the master on 7-8 no problem. its still loud but comfortable. I've often said the single tone in the lead channel is its biggest drawback,only because I feel it limits the amp somewhat from a std 3-4 band... but outside of that, run a EQ on it and it opens up nicely. i forget how the effects loops was on this, but I seem to recall it was pretty user friendly.. it didn't seem to be a tone sucker extreme.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    I just got one of these myself on Friday. I am running my Pod XT Live into the effects return and loving it.

    I agree that it is a forgiving rig. It also looks great sitting on top of my standard-issue 1960A Marshall 4x12 cab. I was afraid it would look odd, since the head is not full-width, but I think it looks great. I haven't really done much with running the guitar straight into it, as I can't crank it at all at my house (and this thing is plenty loud). I will work with that when I can crank it up, but for now, I am just loving what it does for the Pod XT Live.

    Overall, I'm quite happy with this amp.

  10. #10
    JCF (I have no life)Member jgcable's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    [ QUOTE ]
    $400 and up? I usually see them for $250 to $300.

    Anyway...have you ever met an amp you didn't like? [img]/images/graemlins/poke.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Check Ebay. They don't sell for $250-$300 anymore. $400.00 shipped is on the low side and the last few have sold much higher. Thanks Chuck.
    Regarding amps I don't like:
    I don't like most JCM900's although I tried an SLX that was pretty good. I don't like the Mesa Boogie Nomad series, I don't like most of the newer Fender amps and I had a few Ampegs that sounded like can ass.
    Chuck, most likely the reason I like most of the amps I review is because I do a ton of research before I buy one. I never walk into a store or look at a picture of a pretty amp and buy it. I do the homework first. My rule of thumb if I have never heard an amp in person is this:
    I check Harmony Central. It an amp has a ton of reviews and gets a 9+ on sound and everything else, and its an amp that will suit what I am playing, I will check it out. I would say that at least 85% of the time I will like it. I also don't post bash sessions on the amps that "I" don't like because others here might really dig them.
    BTW.. let me know about the next few $250.00 3203's you see. I'll take them. I could use some positive cash flow lately. This storm has really fugged up my house.
    [img]/images/graemlins/poke.gif[/img]

  11. #11

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    So...what your sayin is I should have grabbed this one?

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Marshall-30-watt-Amp...1QQcmdZViewItem

  12. #12
    JCF (I have no life)Member jgcable's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    I saw that Chuck. It sold for a total of $325.00 including shipping with 13 bids. You should have also posted the one that just sold for $438.00 shipped and the one with the BLOWN TRANSFORMER that just sold for $287.99 shipped or the one that was completely fried inside that sold for $237.50 with $25.00 for shipping. I paid $295.00 for mine shipped and it needed a little work. I watched a few others end on Ebay for the mid 4's and a few in the mid 5's. Occassionally you will see one go cheap but its like that with most gear. It seems that some items slip by on Ebay.
    Bottom line bro.. the cheaper you could get one the better of course but I think if most players paid around $400.00 for a 3203 they would be happy with their purchase.
    I still love ya bro. [img]/images/graemlins/toast.gif[/img]

  13. #13

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    Where you gettin $325 from? $50 shipping? It was 30 miles up the road from me, so shipping would have been free. I was trying to backdoor it for $250, but he wouldn't budge. Musta been a friend of yours. [img]/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img] It would have been $290 to me if I had sniped it, but there's no way in hell I'm paying more than $250 for one of these. Not when you can still snag Laney Protubes for that.

    Whatever John...I'm just sayin...whatever floats your basement.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    BTW, you don't love me. You don't send me flowers, take me for long walks on the beach in the moonlight, or even remember my damn birthday! Bitch. [img]/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

  15. #15

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    I just paid $400 for the 3203 I received on Friday (an eBay purchase).

  16. #16

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    I had what I though was one of the good sounding ones. I bought it about 5 years ago from a local dealer for $239. I had to get rid of it (I forgot why). A few weeks later I found myself buying another one from the same dealer for $239 again. I bought it sight unheard and it sucked. I even tried new tubes, it still sucked. I want another one, but I don't want to gamble sight unheard again. They don't seem to pop up locally in my area much at all.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    Threy are cool for what they are ..a baby 2210 is a nice comparison.

    2210 Marshalls are my favorite grab and go stock Marshall head..you don't need a stomp in front of them..

  18. #18
    JCF (I have no life)Member jgcable's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    [ QUOTE ]
    BTW, you don't love me. You don't send me flowers, take me for long walks on the beach in the moonlight, or even remember my damn birthday! Bitch. [img]/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Good points. I really need to work on my foreplay. [img]/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

  19. #19

    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    I have one that I recently picked up on ebay and I love it. I run it into a 1960a w/ 75watt celestions wired in parallel (4 Ohms). Sometimes I use a pod in the effect loop, sometimes not (more often not lately). I play bluesy stuff like Hendrix and SRV through the clean channel on my LP Custom. The result is very responsive to pick attack with fairly pure clean when going light and a really nice growl when more force is used. Mine has the C13 mod. I switch over to my old Ibanez and the lead channel when I want to play Metallica or AC/DC type stuff (This is the guitar I'm looking to replace with a Jackson). It has a great ballsy crunchy sound and can sing out the leads articulately, by that I mean the leads notes don't run into each other and are clearly distinguishable. Howling (but deliberate and predicable) feedback is right there for the asking (and more importantly not there when you don't). I think the pinch harmonics are more a function of the guitar and pickups than the amp but it screeches fine. I'm a basement player these days but I used to play out with my old one and it had plenty of power for clubs. I never played anything clean back then though. The clean side certainly seems loud enough for club playing in my basement. Actually, I felt a little guilty while reading this thread because I know I've contributed to the somewhat inflated prices. I had been looking for months for one, mostly driven by nostalgia becuase I had a 3203 in the 80's and loved it then so I BIN'ed one for $425 shipped on impulse one night. I wanted to try one out before pulling the trigger to see if they were really as good as I remember them but I never found one in a store. Resale seems to be easy however so I reasoned the risk was low in just buying one and trying it out that way.

  20. #20
    JCF (I have no life)Member jgcable's Avatar
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    Default Re: Marshall 3203 Artist review

    If Marshall had only put a bass and treble control on the lead channel this amp would have been alot more popular.
    I wonder why they decided on just a tone knob? It doesn't even make sense. I am running an EQ in the loop to solve that issue.

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