The Youngs, Marshall Clank, ‘Sin City’

November 1, 2011 | By | 7 Replies More

And More on Angus’ Gear, Settings

What’s the best AC/DC song? If you ask Joe Perry, he’ll apparently say “Sin City.” Bold, Joe, bold – because I’m completely unable to pick a favorite AC/DC tune – because so many are THAT freakin’ good. But “Sin City” is awesome, no doubt. It sounds great.

Once again, though, you can say that about many, many AC/DC tunes. So what is it about this one? Guess if I had to run one attribute down – one standout attribute tone-wise – it’s that immediately apparent “clank” (aka, “kerranng”) of the geetars through the Marshalls.

You ain’t gettin’ that kinda clank from a 15-watter or a 100-watter at ear-safe levels. That’s volume, my bruthas! Or should I say: VOLUME.

I’m sure you know that, but in the current era of small amps (and large PAs), thought I’d reinforce that the best guitar tones still come from moving air. Proof:

First just listen to the studio version – which doesn’t sound as good as it would from a CD or even an iWhatever:

Now live – awesome! And sounds surprisingly like the album….

Gear Stuff

Angus’ studio gear – well, you know about the vintage SG with original pickups. And you know he (and Mal) uses a Marshall amp. But which model? Seems like you can’t ever say for sure.

The Angus devotee/researcher who goes by SoloDallas feels (I believe) on Powerage it was a 2203, aka a 100w Super Lead. Then again, Angus says in a ’96 interview in the defunct Guitar Shop magazine that his usual studio amp is “an old JTM45.”

On the other other hand, that was a ’96 interview, Powerage (“Sin City” album) was out in ’78 and the few studio shots from over the years show Angus and Mal using various Marshalls, including 50-watters (especially Angus). So WTF.

Only thing we know for sure is the boys played ’em loud, through at least one 4×12, and if there was a Master Vol (probably not), they didn’t use it.

As for amp settings, various interwebz folks say something like this for Ganus – for some reason Mal doesn’t get interviewed as often:

Presence = 0
Bass = 3
Treble = 6-8
Mids = 5-6
Vol I = 7-8
Vol II = 0

Who knows, though. I’m sure they adjust to taste in various studios and live venues.

Definitely used Celestion speakers, probably Greenbacks.

Also, they probably didn’t have their guitar volume knobs all the way up. So if you attempt to replicate: turn amp up, turn guitar down, adjust to taste.


From a 1984 Guitar Player interview of Angus:

Do you work your tone and volume controls much?

Mainly the volume. I usually stick to the one sort of tone, and that’s more or less flat-out.

What kind of picks do you use?

It varies. I recently got a bundle of Dean Markleys or something. I use Fender ones, heavy gauge. The thicker the better.

How do you hold a pick?

With me fingers [laughs]! I just hold it anywhere it fits-between my thumb, index, or middle fingers. Sometimes it slips, and then you’re playing it with your thumb and pinky.

From a more recent interview with Angus:

The amp settings will vary a bit in different venues. We do a little bit of juggling before we go out on tour and just try to get things as consistent as possible. I’ll take four 100-watt amps [Marshall or Wizard] and try them out individually. I’ll get a couple together and go through them to try to line up four that are pretty much the same in terms of tone and character.

Then I just crank up a little bit of Bass and put a little bit of Middle in. If it’s too bassy, I’ll cut it back.

Usually, all the controls are set about halfway, never full up. A lot of people think it sounds best when you drive the amps to death, but I never do it that way. I think that when you turn things up too much, the sound sort of goes a bit mushy.

The amp is set very clean. A lot of people who have picked up my guitar and tried it through my amp have been shocked at how clean it is. They think it’s a very small sound when they play it and wonder how it sounds so much bigger when I’m playing.

I just like enough gain so that it will still cut when you hit a lead lick without getting that sort of false Tonebender-type sound. I like to get a natural sustain from the guitar and amp.

[Typical studio rig:] I take in a 100-watt top, a Marshall JTM45, and two 4×12 cabinets. Sometimes I’ll use the double cabinets or just a single 4×12. It usually depends on what I’m doing. If I’m doing rhythm work with my brother, then I’ll use the twin cabinets. But if it’s a guitar lick that I’m recording, then I might use the JTM45 and just one cabinet.


> When Powerage came out, AC/DC opened for…Thin Lizzy. Holy crap! What a show!

More clank!


Category: AC/DC, Marshall, SG

Comments (7)

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  1. jh says:

    2203 is not a super lead. The 2203 became the jcm 800.

  2. Ace Steele says:

    A bit more info on Mal & Angus Young’s Marshalls.
    NOT 2203’s… More often than not, 4 input 1959’s & their 50 counterparts.

    But the most important bit of info missing here, is that the AC/DC boy’s don’t use either of the usual standard power tubes in their Marshalls. No El-34’s or 6550’s for those boys. They’re die-hard users of KT-88 power tubes.

    • admin says:

      You sure you don’t mean KT66s?

      • SoloDallas says:

        Hi Woody, no he really meant KT88s. The thing with all of this – likewise for EVH tone in those lack-of-info-years – is that we have to really capture all visual and sonic evidence as much as possible.
        I truly think that in the early years – up to at least mid ’80s – they were not SO sophisticated with the gear. At all. Money wasn’t there yet, not until early to mid 1980s. I think until them, it was mainly 1959s, 2203s and maybe some 50 watter, but hardly a JTM45. Angus has also been known to not remember exactly what he used (smiles). But I think it was mainly 100 watters in the early years and definitely not JTM45s, or not for the norm (as in, the standard procedure neither live nor in the studio). I’m always ready to stand corrected, but my studies, demos, photographic evidence and the like has until now brought me to come to the above conclusions.
        Great work, Woody!

  3. SoloDallas says:

    PS so in fact, I think KT88s (which were indeed used) only came many years later (late ’80s, ’90s etc.) so as with the JTM45 thing. Additionally, especially from late 1977 onward, Angus was ALWAYS using the Schaffer-Vega Diversity System (his wireless unit with compressor and clean boost), so the sound of his amps – whatever he used – was always boosted, especially on the solos that he would supposedly play with 50 watters.

  4. SoloDallas says:

    PS feel free to add this and others. All pertaining info on
    The research always goes on!

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