"We've been behind and now we want to catch up": It sounds like Marshall's CEO wants to make up for lost time with modelling amps – but is he too late?

Marshall gRoup CEO Jeremy de Maillard
(Image credit: Adam Gasson / Future)

Marshall is a legendary name in guitar amps – surely that's something all guitarists can agree on. But has the brand's focus drifted too far in the last decade? Bluetooth speakers and headphones dominating at the expense of innovation for players? I think the amps side of the Marshall brand has missed chances to do more to appeal to guitar players in recent years but its legacy is such that reissues of past successes still hold significant currency. Meanwhile steps into modelling amps with the CODE series have failed to match its competition. Will this set the script for the next decade?

First, it's important to consider that although the ubiquitous lifestyle audio gear we've seen has been carrying the Marshall brand, it was manufactured by Sweden's Zound Industries. Back in 2010, Marshall Amplification signed a long-term licensing deal with the tech company, introducing the British brand to a whole new market. The innovation with wireless technologies struck a chord with customers, and brought the Marshall name to users in 90 countries around the world. 

Best fathers day gifts: Marshall Monitor II A.N.C

(Image credit: Marshall)

The venture was so successful that in 2023 Zound Industries acquired Milton Keynes-based Marshall Amplification (for an undisclosed sum) to become the Marshall Group, with the former's head Jeremy de Maillard taking on the role of the new venture's CEO. 

This wasn't just a meeting of two product worlds – it includes Natal Drums, Marshall Records and the Marshall Live Agency. But guitar players were watching all this unfold with questioning eyes – would any of this benefit us? In late 2023 de Maillard was quick to assure us guitar players that ambitions and the means to achieve them were in place.

“A lot of times, these acquisitions [involve] cost-cutting," he told The Times. "Here, it’s completely complementary, there’s almost no overlap and, where there is, it’s something we need to grow.

"Manufacturing is the heartbeat of the company. When you walk through [the Marshall factory in Bletchley], you see people who have been here for 35 years. The craftsmanship is so nice and so powerful. We need to do more here, to enhance the legacy.”

Marshall Studio JTM45

(Image credit: Marshall)

“I think it's really big – much bigger than what we have today, let’s put it that way

Players had already seen signs of the legacy being celebrated earlier in 2023 with the release of the Marshall Studio JTM ST20. But what of real innovation and diversification? In a new interview with Guitar World, the Marshall Group CEO has some things to say when it comes to the potential of the amp side of the business that started it all.

“I think it's really big," de Maillard stated. Much bigger than what we have today, let’s put it that way. We have a huge opportunity to elevate our product portfolio – and evolve it, as well. So there are two things that we're very clear on.  

“Number one: we will forever cherish the valve, handmade, analog product that we have – and will continue to over-invest in this, even if it's not the biggest part of the business," he added. "That will be first and foremost. We will never let go of that. That is protected in a way that is really, really strong.”

But then de Maillard addressed the digital elephant that's been in the room for us…

“It's beyond protected," he assured Guitar World of the valve amp side of the business, before looking towards the potential in other areas of the market. "All of the investment we've made here is to make that better. It's all about that at the end of the day. But at the same time, [the second thing we’re clear on is that] we don't have all of the products that the guitarist today expects of us, when it comes to digital amplifiers, or digital products, in general. And here we are over-investing as well, to be fair, to catch up. We've been behind and now we want to catch up.

“Our goal is to provide to guitarists the best possible Marshall experience – no matter what their needs are," he added. "If you're into valve, analog amps, we got you. But if you want a practice amp, or digital, desktop – or whatever [option] this might be – we're going to be there for you as well. Just give us a little bit of time, because I wish we could create products in one month, but it tends to take a year or more."

It's good to hear a CEO being honest and clear about work needing to be done. And because Marshall never really built of evolved CODE after it seemingly failed to find a big enough custom base, it really does have a lot of lost ground to cover. 

You're going to start seeing some things in the next 12 months

In recent years we've seen newer guitar hardware names providing the modelling tones of pros and hobbyists (Universal Audio, Neural DSP and Positive Grid) and UK amp company Blackstar impressively develop both their valve and digital technology. Meanwhile, it seemed to take Marshall an age to just reissue its popular overdrive pedals like the Bluesbreaker

However, it doesn't look like we'll have to wait too long to see Marshall's response hitting the market. “You're going to start seeing some things in the next 12 months," confirmed de Maillard. "But I think in the next 12 to 24, you're really going to start seeing what we're about here. 

"I'm super-excited about this because everything we hear every time we talk to the guitarist community is that they love the brand – and they just wish they could use the brand, in all of the occasions that they have to play guitar. That's really what we’re after.”   

Read the full interview at Guitar World

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.