The little Marshall Lead 12 was born with Jim Marshall’s intention to recreate the sound of his legendary tube heads (beautiful but very expensive and practically impossible to manage at home) in an affordable and small size amp.

The idea was to recreate the circuit of the legendary JCM 800 (with practically the same inputs, high and low, and controls, except for the presence) by simulating the tubes with mosfet-type transistors.

The result was excellent, in my opinion: the Marshall Lead 12, perhaps one of the most underrated amps in history. You want for the price, you want the mosfets instead of the tubes, you want the cones (cheap), it has never been appreciated enough.

Yet with just a few euros (actually not too few, the prices are going up) you could take home a truly extraordinary amp …

The Marshall Lead 12 3005 stack

The Marshall Lead 12 3005 is a small 12W mosfet amplifier manufactured in the 1980s. There are several models of Lead 12, but mainly they are divided into stack (3005) or combo (5005). This is the 3005 version, consisting of a head and two speakers, both with a 10-inch Celestion G10D-25 cone.

The inputs are the purest Marshall ones: two inputs, high and low and adjustments for gain, volume, treble, mid and bass, plus a headphone output on the front and lineout behind. Stop. Here there are no reverbs, sends and returns, or even various digital effects.

They have made different models, both combo and stack, and you want to learn more in this article on Accordo they are described in an exhaustive way: In the end, however, the basic circuit should be the same, the outputs change and the presence or absence of reverb. Ah, obviously the fact that it is a combo with only one cone or as with two separate speakers. In this article we will just talk about the 3005. Know that I love it! Point! ????


Marshall Lead 12 3005: warhead

The Marshall Lead 12 3005 is a raw, direct, no frills amp, even in sound. The attack is very strong and the dynamics are truly remarkable. The sound is from Marshall, more driven on the mid-highs than on the bass. needless to say, the more you push the volume the more the amp improves. But be careful, don’t think that with only 12 W you can still take it to the limit at home! Not at all, it has volume to sell !!!

When I bought it, the guy who sold it to me used it in an underground garage used as a rehearsal room, in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. And it was enough to be played without problems. At high volumes the Marshall Lead 12 3005 is beautifully direct and rough, an amp that forgives you nothing when you make a mistake.

Distorted? Of course, it’s a Marshall, small but thoroughbred!

Marshall Lead 12 3005

If you turn up the volume along with the gain you get a true Marshall roar, with a natural compression that truly resembles tubes. The timbre, when pushed with the gain, is pure crunch, even well pushed, albeit not reaching the distortions of modern metal (however, you get there to 80s metal).

The distortion therefore has a nice texture, but it must be said that, although it is not a tube, it remembers it well in this too: the volume must be raised at the same time as the gain, otherwise if you want a nice roar from gain at 8/10 at bedroom volumes , you might be disappointed. not that it’s not nice, let’s understand, but keep the gain at 8 and open the volume well and you’ll understand what I mean. Wow!

The dynamics are all there, along with the punch and natural compression. Turn the volume down from your guitar and the little Lead 12 reacts like a textbook, giving you a really nice, slightly crisp clean sound.

The problem, if we want to find a fault, is that it does not have a soft sound and the reverb is not present, so the sound that comes out is nice dry. Unfortunately, not having a send and return it is not even possible to put a reverb before the distorted section. So if you want a reverb it should be put on the input, so either avoid distorting it, or… well, you know what sound comes out if you put a reverb or a delay in the signal chain before the overdrives.

Clean? Spectacular…

Marshall Lead 12 3005

But let’s talk about the clean: yes, because although I believe anyone who gets their hands on a Marshall turns up the gain first, it also has a beautiful clean. Personally I use it clean, both because in front of the chain I put pedals that I love, and because I don’t like the dry sound that comes out without reverb and I prefer to insert a delay set low in the chain, to give more airiness to the sound.

The clean has a remarkable sparkle, capable of making even a Gibson twang (tested with both a Les Paul and an SG). The sound of the Marshall Lead 12 3005 clean, at chamber levels (trust me: gain at 3 and volume at 1 is enough, volume has to sell) with an SG Standard is stuff to fall in love with.

Then you can always dirty it with a good pedal, it accepts them without problems. Slash? Hendrix? Gary Moore? Without problems. I tried it with a Strat, a light chain overdrive and… wow, here’s Hendrix! Okay, the basic sound, then the hand is another thing ???? ????

The cones of 10? Maybe a limitation… Attach it to a 4×12 and let me know!

Marshall Lead 12 3005: back

Don’t expect the warmth and smoothness of a bass-favored amp. If you want a warm amp, always small and light, to use in the room (but also in the living room !!) then you have to get the DV Mark Little Jazz. The Marshall Lead 12’s timbre has a dry and direct sparkle like a true English thoroughbred. To tell the truth at the beginning it left me a bit stunned, I thought the bass was a mirage, to the point that I put it at 10. But nothing. Strange.

Then I tried to attach it to the Marshall 1960a 4×12 and… eh! That’s where all the low and the uncertainties that had come to me had gone. In one word: spectacular. In one concept: all problems solved. Aside from the reverb, clear. With the 4 × 12 it is a bomb, it has a depth of sound that with the single 10 cones it simply cannot achieve.

For the record, I replaced the original cones with two Celestion G10 Vintage, more devoted to clean sounds than drive. With a power of 60W per cone they have a remarkable headroom. In many posts it is said that with the 10 Greenbacks it goes even better. I don’t know, it will be worth trying. In addition, the space for the 12-inch ones is objectively not lacking, even if the hole to let out the sound remains at 10.

Comparison with His Majesty JCM 800

Can a small (and cheap) mosfet amplifier stand up (not in volume, clear, but in sound) to their majesty JCM 800 2203 and 2204? I’ve never tried them in a direct A / B comparison, but there are those who absolutely assert yes, even pointing out that the feeling is exactly that of a tube. The author of this article on Agreement he says yes, he has both a 2204 and a Lead 12 combo (5005). The same posted a video in which he compares the 2204 with the 5005, taking the sound from the lineout, throwing it into the sound card and modeling it with the same IR (Amplitube 4) for both amps: a 4 × 12 Greenback plus a very light reverb. .

Marshall Lead 12 3005: rear head

Any other doubts? I think by now only the stones do not know Johan Segeborn, a true fan of amplifiers, and of the Marshall / Gibson combination in particular. On his youtube channel there are countless tests and comparisons with all types of Marshalls, and not even to say it does it seem that Segeborn has a certain fondness for Lead 12, in all its forms.

Ok, it must also be said that the video on youtube does not return the depth of sound that you would have in front of real speakers, and moreover the IR do not replace a real speaker! Parenthesis: the trick of using a simulated kick also made it possible to interpose a reverb between the distorted sound and the kick drum, which otherwise would have had to be positioned before the distortion. Going back, the similarity is truly remarkable! I don’t have a 2204 or a 2203, so I can’t repeat the experiment ???? Too bad! We will have to equip ourselves… ????

Nice idea of ​​using it as input to a sound card to record, with the modeling of the speaker via software the problem of modulation effects is overcome. Here the author of t also provides many useful tips on how to use the lineout.


A thoroughbred Marshall, but small, affordable and at home. Plus it’s beautiful, it’s like having a miniature full stack, but perfectly functional, which at home volumes doesn’t make you regret too much a big tube. In the living room or in the studio it makes an incredible figure !!!

Used is a bit ‘hard to find, it is rare and does not cost a lot, so those who have it, in my opinion, keep it rather than earn little. However, despite the fact that it is gaining some consideration and the price is rising slightly as a result, some bargains still exist, both onStreet market than on or

I paid 120 euros for mine, but whoever had it used it (and left it) in an underground garage and the bottom case had all the rusty screws (who knows the humidity). Fortunately, apart from the four fingers of dirt (I completely disassembled it, cleaned and repainted the front grilles, including the headboard) the tolex was perfect, and polished well it was a show!

Published on on: 03/05/2020.