The JVM2 range sits quite neatly JVM4's MIDI-powered four-channel flexibility and the organic old-school minimalism of the KT66-powered Vintage Modern, and is likely to provide an ideal blend of features for most modern players.
Like all modern Marshalls, the JVM205 benefits from a tough ply cabinet and a hefty steel chassis, which combines with a pair of Celestion 12-inch drivers to provide a substantial package that's no lightweight. Yet it's still very portable, thanks to the relatively compact dimensions and a pair of side-mounted grab handles that make lifting and carrying so much easier.
The rear of the cabinet looks a little different because of the two perforated grilles, which provide room for the Celestion drivers to breathe and prevent damage to the output valves. We think the JVM205's dimensions are particularly pleasing to the eye – the extra depth of the control panel works well and helps create a blend of appealing visual proportions.
Inside the chassis, modern production dictates that nearly everything is PCB-mounted. Apart from the two Dagnall transformers, the majority of preamp, output stage and power supply components sit on one large high-quality PCB which is fixed to the chassis by sturdy bolted metal standoffs.
"If Marshall was trying to create the ultimate sub-£1,000 guitar amp, it can give itself a pat on the back."
Double-sided and through-plated, this board contains all the high voltage stuff including the valve bases and most of the rear panel components, with a small daughter board attached to it for the JVM's digital reverb.
On the features front, the JVM has practically everything most guitar players could ask for, and then some. There are two channels which both offer three different voicings, accessed from the channel mode switches.
Both channels have the standard complement of gain, bass, mid, treble and master volume, as well as separate level controls for the JVM's digital reverb. There are also front panel controls for presence and resonance, which fine tune the power amp's high and low frequency response, and two master volume controls that can be set to different levels.
On the rear panel, the JVM205C also benefits from two effects loops (one series, the other parallel), a speaker emulated balanced line out, no less than five speaker jacks and MIDI. MIDI means that you can control any switch setting and send/receive program change commands, effectively turning the JVM into a highly versatile six-channel tone machine.
Thankfully, the JVM205C is among the best-sounding new Marshalls we've played in years. The clean/crunch channel can go from pristine sparkling clarity to a pretty aggressive JCM800-inspired crunch, while the lead channel's three modes take over from there and add progressively more gain, taking you from archetypal classic blues/rock to searing, mega-gained solos and practically everything in between.
The reverb is rewarding to use, it's a warm hall type which sounds natural and decays smoothly with no digital clatter.
All of the JVM205C's features make sense and, even though there are two less channels than you'd get in a JVM4, it's still a ferociously versatile tone machine that doesn't force you to understand a lot of technical stuff in order to use it.
That and the sheer quality of the sounds it produces are two very good reasons for getting one. And if that isn't enough, the price should make up your mind. In a market sector with more than its fair share of indifferent, run-of-the-mill black boxes, Marshall has just unleashed a powerhouse of tone that could easily compete with boutique designs costing two or even three times as much.