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About 3 years ago, I was lucky enough to purchase a ’69 JMP50 from a friend of mine. It’s an early “metal panel” lead spec 1987 model, but is essentially the ’68 Plexi spec that has become the holy grail of tone for many. Just prior to that, I had completed a high-end Brown Deluxe 6G3 build, which ultimately spawned the Down Brownie. Two of my all-time favorites circuits for sure.
Many of us have heard the story of how Jim Marshall, Ken Bran and Dudley Craven used the legendary 5F6-A Tweed Bassman as the basis for what was to become the JTM45. So I got to thinking; what if Jim, Ken and Dudley had used the 6G3 Brown Deluxe as “inspiration” when they set about developing what were to become the model 1958/1974 18 watt combos? According to The History of Marshall by Michael Doyle, they used an amalgamation of Vox, Selmer, Fender and Watkins Dominator circuits. But…what if?
So based on this intriguing (albeit historically revisionist) scenario, the 6G3 circuit was “Marshall-ized” using capacitor and resistor values in key locations, SoZo mustard caps, “stiffer” power filtering as well as a custom wound power transformer and a Radio Spares 18 watt output transformer from Mercury Magnetics. The amp was voiced with two separate channels, ’65 & ‘’68. The ’65 channel preamp has JTM45 voicing, while the ’68 has JMP50 voicing.
Of course, all of the popular features of the Down Brownie would need to be included. Rich II Mod PPIMV, switchable SS/tube rectifier, and internal channel jumpering are all there. In addition there is fully adjustable negative feedback (NFB) that goes from JTM45 levels to JMP50 Plexi to the later metal panel and to no basically NFB at all (think 5E3 Tweed Deluxe). Finally, there is a very “British” presence control added to the circuit which lets you fine tune things even further.
Package all of this in a custom-built Bluesbreaker Series I 18 watt combo cab, make it purple and what do you get? Down Brownie’s sister-from-a-different-mister, Francene™, that’s what. Available as a 2×10, 1×12 combo or a head cab, Francene lets you summon decidedly “M” flavored classic rock tones. A top-mount head cab version is also now available. It will have you exploring all of your favorite Clapton, Hendrix, Page, Kossoff and BFG licks, riffs and “Bob’s your uncle”, as Austin Powers once said.
For those of you who say skip the superlatives, just give me the 411, here are the specs:
- ‘65 channel JTM45 voiced preamp with Pull/Jump and Pull/Lean features on the Volume and Tone controls
- ‘68 channel JMP50 voiced preamp with Pull/Warm and Pull/Fat features on the Volume and Tone controls
- Rich Mod II PPIMV Master Volume
- Switchable tube/solid state rectifier; tube for “sag” and SS for “tight”
- Variable negative feedback control; choose between heavy (’65 JTM45), medium (’68 JMP50), light (’72 JMP50) and off levels of NFB (and all points in between)
- British styled Presence control for adding just the right amount of “cut”
- Bias-vary tremolo and Marshall style single button footswitch
- Adjustable bias pot inside of chassis
- 4/8/16 ohm selector switch; speaker swaps no problem
- Metropoulos “Zero-Loss” FX Loop upgrade available (+ $195)
Francene ™ Components & Specifications:
- Mercury Magnetics P-Francene power transformer (custom wound for us by MM)
- Mercury Magnetics O18RS-L output transformer based on the legendary Radio Spares units from the early-to-mid-60’s
- Heavy Duty 14AWG 10′ power cord
- SoZo NextGen Yellow Mustard Vintage and Mallory 150 capacitors
- Sprague, F&T electrolytic capacitors
- Carbon composition, carbon film and metal film resistors used in key locations for vintage tone and maximum reliability
- Belton sockets, Carling switches, Cliff jacks
- CTS, Bourns and PEC potentiometers
- Custom lightweight aluminum chassis
- Bluesbreaker Series I style custom head cab made to our specs by BFG Cabs. Purple & Black levant tolex (other colors also available) with Marshall grey check grill cloth. The EC Collins pinstripe cloth shown above is available as a $175 option.
- Old-school hand wired construction with our custom-made G10FR ‘glass turret boards.
- 20 watts, (2) matched EH 6V6GT’s; (1) JJ GZ34; (1) Mullard RI CV4004/12AX7, (1) JJ 12AX7 & (1) Sovtek 12AX7-LPS