Tom Bukovac on his favourite guitar amp of all time and why the 100-watt version is better than a 50-watt

(Image credit: Future)

Nashville session ace Tom Bukovac has played a lot of great gear – owned and sold it too. But the guitar amps we presume he won't ever be letting go of are his three Marshall 1968 Plexi Super Bass heads with lay down transformers; "This is probably the best amp I've ever owned in my entire life," he told Premier Guitar's John Bohlinger in a rig tour in the studio a few years ago. But it has to be the 100-watt version. 

"The thing that's great about these 100-watt [Plexis] is when I was younger I was always afraid of these 100-watt amps because I'd say, 'Oh I don't need a 100-watt amp' but then I realised much too late these are so much better than the 50-watts," Tom explains. "And here's why…

These 100-watt heads have a full range of beautiful clean sounds from around 0 to 4 – they're totally awesome

"Because a 50[w]. when you start cracking it open [on the volume dial] it's already distorted. These [100-watt heads] have a full range of beautiful clean sounds from around 0 to 4 – they're totally awesome. You'd never wish you were playing through a Fender when you're playing through these. The clean sounds are so good. Then when you get to five or beyond, it becomes a Marshall."

In a world moving towards smaller tube amps, there's definitely some food for thought here beyond this particular vintage classic. Of course, breakup at lower volume levels is preferred by some players by the range of tones Bukovac's Plexi offers makes it a bit of Swiss Army Knife of amps. 

Bukovac will often use his Plexi for clean parts in sessions as a result. "The other day I literally played on a Burt Bacharach record with this 100-watt Marshall because the clean sounds are so good. And not to namedrop but I've always been a big Eric Johnson fan and I grew up listening to him. I met him the other night at a gig and he's always been a Marshall freak. 

"So at the end of our little conversation I said I wanted to ask him one Marshall question… 'Would you agree that the '68 Lay Down Tranny Super Bass 100 is the greatest Marshall variant every made? Because they made a lot of variants. He said, 'Absolutely' and he went on to say it's amazing how many people don't realise how much better the 100-watt [models] sound that the 50s."

As they're both in good company; as Bukovac points out, Eddie Van Halen also used a '68 Plexi on classic early Van Halen – a Super Lead variant. 

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.