Review of my Voodoo Amps Modded TSL-100
I purchased a bone stock used TSL-100 Head a few months back and shipped to Voodoo Amps in NY for some modifications and I thought I should post the result here so you folks could get a feel for what this shop can and cannot do.
The TSL is a 3 channel amp with tons of features and that is why I chose it as a platform to build from, plus they are cheap used. In stock form the clean channel is the best thing going for this amp, which is surprising from a newer Marshall design. The crunch and lead channels were very buzzy and fizzy, no balls to the distorted tone. When cranked that did improve but it just wasn't good enough. After a lot of research and thinking, I sent the amp to Trace at Voodoo Amps.
Voodoo Amps policy is that you send them some songs that approximate the tones you are looking for and he does his best to match them. For my three channels I chose the following tones: Clean = Eric Johnson's Clean tone from "East Wes"; Crunch = Blues Saraceno's tone from "Girth" (Plaid); Lead = Petrucci's live tone on the SDOIT tour or the heaviest thing you can think of while still maintaining some character and depth.
In addition to these tone targets, I wanted the amp to be able to clean up at any gain setting by using my volume knob. Trace recommended that I also replace the Output Transformer with an Obsolete Electronics Transformer that is wound to different specs. With the circuit board modifications required and the new output transformer, my mods totalled $515 plus shipping to and from the shop.
After getting the amp back and sorting out some shipping damage issues (tubes and reverb pan) I've had it for several weeks now and have run it through its paces enough to share my opinion of the mods. The character of each tone I requested is present in each channel.
with a strat it is just glorious. This channel now breaks up a lot smoother than it did before when the gain is pegged and the mid shift is engaged...SRV all day long. Kind of a mix between a Fender Deluxe and Marshall JTM, bell like...it sounds magnificent. This channel was good before but now it is simply glorious. It is very open and smooth, not jangly at all unless you want it to be. Enormous amounts of low end available.
This channel was really buzzy before, I didn't like it at all. Part of my decision to have Trace mod this was that my situation is such that we can't play at really high volumes. This channel sounded like poo at any volume other than ear-bleeding-loud. Additionally there was not enough gain available. Those problems are long gone and the tone was improved ten fold. Gone is the buzziness and it has been replaced with some serious butt kicking wallop. More gain is available than before, so much that I normally leave it at about 2 o'clock. The tone is thick and with good pickups it just sings. The best part is that even with the gain pegged, just roll back the volume knob on the guitar and I've got a crystaline clean sound again. The sensitivity to playing dynamics is just astounding. The low end was tightened up significantly per my request because I use 7 string guitars. I have to be careful with the treble as it is pretty bright, but with the new tubes this improved considerably. It can go from clean to warm to punishing distortion all on this channel and by only using the volume knob on my guitar....amazing.
Very similar to the Crunch channel, cleans up at any gain setting with the guitar volume being rolled back. Same tone and dynamic sensitivity, just more gain overall, which is a good thing. Tons of gain, tons. Harmonics are everywhere. For thick metal chording, this is mecca...every note can be heard. Amazingly for a Marshall, it sounds decent at even bedroom volumes. Turn the master up to 1 (VPR off) and it really opens up. Again, very thick and warm....no buzz to be found, no fizz. THe louder you go, the warmer it gets.
Just thought it was worth reviewing. I see a lot of folks here that give up on amps, Marshalls and Carvins in particular. For not a lot of jack, you can have Trace work out the kinks and get you just what you need. He mods other amps too, as well as makes his own. All together, I've put $1350 into this head, less than a new TSL in stock form, and it just slays everything I've either owned or played.