Marshall’s Luke Green on the future of amps: “There’s still a way to go before the feeling of a valve amp can be faithfully replicated digitally”
The Product Director for the world’s most famous amp brand on the trends and innovations that will fuel the evolution guitar sound into the next decade.
The 2010s was a whirlwind decade for Marshall, with the iconic amp brand rediscovering its heritage, taking its first steps into modelling and expanding significantly as a lifestyle brand.
With the recent Origin and Studio Series hitting all the right notes for Marshall devotees, we asked Product Director Luke Green to give his thoughts on the future of those famous black and gold boxes as we move into a new decade.
When looking at the trends over the last 10 years, how do you think that amps are likely to evolve in the 2020s?
“The last 10 years have seen some seismic shifts in the demands of players. Most notably the need for smaller, lower-powered amps. This is due to the change in venue sizes and volume restrictions placed on venues. This has resulted in wattage demands shrinking for a lot of players with 50-watt and 20-watt amps becoming more popular.
“Even lower-wattage products have been growing in demand. The quality of digital sound has also increased dramatically and become much more popular and so the likelihood is that low-power portable amps and products with more digital technology will become even more popular in the future.”
High-end digital amps have become widely accepted in recent years, do you think the onus will be on the big amp brands to move into this sphere to compete?
“Marshall partners with Softube for our digital sounds, so there are already Marshall plugin products that are aimed at the high-end market. Plugins for studio and home use are now commonplace, so we are really pleased to be able to say that the official ones for Marshall amps and cabs are available for players.
“Guitarists using digital amps for live performance is definitely now a thing and the technology and tones produced in this manner has become widely accepted. I think you will see all amp companies moving into this arena over time, but only when the technology represents the tone they are trying to produce.”
There’s no doubt that digital is better than ever at emulating tube tone – do you think we’ll ever get all the way there?
“It’s difficult to say because what makes valve products special is the feel they give a player: it’s more than just tone. Achieving great tone is already possible from digital, but to get the feeling is not quite there – for example, distortion is only just replicating the valve distortion we are used to. There’s still a way to go before the feeling of a valve amp can be faithfully replicated digitally.”
Do you think that valve amps will remain popular with guitar players as digital becomes more advanced?
“The challenge will be integrating newer technologies and delivering valve amps with a lower power output that tailor the sound and feel players are looking for in a format that can be used today. The uniquely flawed way that valves behave mean that the organic nature of a valve amp is something familiar and pleasant musically. Technological advances will become more popular but like the guitar itself sometimes the traditional ways of achieving good tone just work.”
How do you think the way that guitarists use their gear will evolve in the context of modern popular music?
“Guitar players are always experimenting with different ways of integrating their sound into music, and while a lot of modern music styles emerging today are not guitar-driven the familiar sound of the guitar always seems to find its place in the repertoire. I think through experimentation and mixing both classic equipment and more modern technologies together guitarists will continue to push the boundaries of what can be achieved.
“As a company that designs equipment for guitar players, it is our responsibility to provide both of those product types for players to enable them to create their own outcomes. Whether it’s guitars, effects or amps, companies need to offer a broad range of ingredients for players to choose from. Sometimes these new ideas come from the players themselves and sometimes they are driven by advances in technology but ultimately it’s the guitar player themselves who will dictate what equipment will be used when the rehearse or perform.
Marshall has been very successful in expanding as a lifestyle brand in the last decade – how do you plan to keep ahead of the curve in that field?
“Lifestyle products are just one part of what makes the Marshall brand. Ultimately we are a music brand and everything we do is designed to provide people who love music with something they can enjoy, from our amps for players, headphones and speakers for people who want to listen to great music, through to our record label for those players looking to get their music to the masses. We want to make sure everyone who enjoys music in some way can get something they want from the brand.
“Other brands have already begun to branch out in similar ways to Marshall, but that just re-enforces the point that as a company we are a trendsetter – we realised that there were people who loved the brand but couldn’t play, so we delivered something for them. That’s part of our DNA and goes back to the founding principle of the company, listen to what people want.”
What trend or innovation in the guitar world has you most excited for the next decade?
“That’s always the trickiest question to answer. Obviously, across our offering, we are always looking to improve and innovate. We have a full-time team of really talented engineers and designers who constantly design and develop products at our UK offices and we are not afraid to experiment and test new ideas. Sometimes though delivering them in a way that will stand up to the rigours of everyday use can be a challenge.
“Overall we are looking at ways to integrate functionality and technology into new products, but only where there is a benefit for the end-user. So without being too specific, I suppose the best answer I can offer is that we are looking at combining the best elements of what is available to players today with products which can perform and last.”
What lays in store for guitar in 2020? Find out from other industry leaders.
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