“There’s something about the JCM800 that just feels really good”: Polyphia’s Tim Henson and Scott LePage on why the classic Marshall tube amp has become a mainstay of their backline

Polyphia visit the Marshall Amps HQ
Polyphia visit the Marshall Amps HQ in June 2023. (Image credit: Instagram/Polyphia)

Polyphia’s Tim Henson and Scott LePage are two of guitar’s most digitally literate players, early adopters of the amp modeller and guitar plugin, with LePage telling MusicRadar that discovering the POD Farm was “honestly life changing,” but in a recent interview with the German gear retail giant Thomann, they explained why there’s always a tube amp when they play live – and why, for over a year now, it has to be a Marshall.

“We have gravitated specifically towards the JCM800,” LePage says, which, of course,  would make perfect sense. Not only because a JCM800 is a superlative metal guitar amp, but this is indeed what the pink amp from Henson’s signature Archetype plugin suite from Neural DSP is based on. 

As they explain in the video, they once used Orange, then tried a few different Marshall amps before settling on the JCM800, sending the signal from their Quad Cortex units through the amp’s effects loop, allowing them to run their stage volume loud and give their sound a sense of, well, something physical.

“There’s nothing quite like the warmth of a tube amp, right?” Henson says. “Even though we are still using the modellers, through the power section, the way it pushes air is just another feeling entirely. I’d say it’s a big monitor, ‘cos we’re fuckin’ blasting those, and we have the massive stacks. We love that wall-of-sound sound.”

While they both use in-ear monitors onstage, LePage says running a silent stage was a step too far. There was something missing without the volume being pushed out from the amps.

POLYPHIA's Tim Henson and Scott LePage on Pickups, Tube Amps, Modellers and Writing Music - YouTube POLYPHIA's Tim Henson and Scott LePage on Pickups, Tube Amps, Modellers and Writing Music - YouTube
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“We tried not doing stage sound for a while, and we’re like, ‘Dude, it doesn’t feel right,’” LePage says. “There’s no girth to it,” Henson adds.

Running a hybrid rig like this is definitely a choice for today’s player. There are plenty of options for those looking for a powered FRFR speaker to complement their modeller. But sending the modeller in through the effects loop, bypassing the amp’s preamp section and leaning into that analogue mojo of transformers and power tubes worked hard gives your electric guitar tone a certain heat, presence and body.

“I don’t know what it is about the 800s,” LePage says. “There is something specifically about that one, the JCM800, that just feels really good. We’ve tried other ones and they didn’t feel that good.”

At home, LePage has been known to break out a loud tube amp head and get physical, having bought himself a Fortin signature Meshuggah head. Speaking to MusicRadar in 2022, LePage said it blew his mind.

“When you buy someone’s signature thing, you always have to expect, ‘Okay, it’s not going to sound exactly the same.’ It is not going to sound exactly like Meshuggah,” he said. “They have the equipment, the amp, the guitar, the wood in the guitar, the pickups in the guitar, the room, the speakers, fucking everything, right? Everything is different. But when you plug that thing in, it’s like, ‘Holy shit! I actually sound like Meshuggah!’ [Laughs] It was the first time I plugged something in and it was exactly the fucking sound. They really nailed it.”

In other Polyphia news, LePage recently teased a new signature guitar, an Ibanez seven-string based on the aggressively shaped Xiphus, and they just mooted Zakk Wylde as a potential guest for their next album.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.