Nothing wrong with a Paul through a Marshall Stack, it's kinda the Staple
I'm a Mesa Fan
I love my Mesa Express. But the Marshall just had that iconic tone.
Speaking of which, I was playing around with the Mesa this weekend because the Marshall is just too damn loud to play unless it's the middle of the day on a weekday (when the neighbors are at work). I can get a passable imitation of the Marshall on channel 1 on the "crunch" setting. Especially if I run it through the same cabinet or speaker. But it's lacking something the Marshall has. No one at a gig would notice it, but you can hear it in the room with the amp. And I'm pretty sure I know what it is (no, it's not "mojo").
The Mesa has a huge tonestack and makes most of its gain from the preamp. In fact, diming the master volume on the Mesa makes it sound worse. You really have to keep all the controls on that amp between 10:00 and about 4:00 for it to sound its best. So you have multiple gain stages, bass, middle treble, master, gain, reverb and contour. That's a lot of signal path lost on pots and switches. And that's not to mention the ability to switch "modes" on each channel, or to switch the channels themselves, or the effects loop, or any of that stuff. The Marshall, by contrast, has volume and tone. That's it. And the more you turn it up, the more character it gets. The sweet spot (as with most older Marshalls) is on 7. Joe Perry once told a reporter that he dials in his Marshalls by putting "everything on 7." If this amp had "everything" to put on 7, I'd guess that's about right. As it is, the volume is on 7 and the tone is a 5-way switch on 3, so maybe on 5?
Anyway, it's absolutely amazing the palate of tones you can get with this amp just using the volume and tone knobs on the guitar. I'm confident this is the secret to killer tone. It's why Joe Walsh used Champs to record most of his famous stuff. It's why most of the greats don't have a ton of pedals or a ridiculously complicated signal path. It's why recordings from the 70's sound SOOOO much better than recordings from the 80's, and why the best bands of the 90's were the ones using simpler and cheaper gear to approximate the sounds from the 70's. It's why Billy Gibbons' tone went to shit starting with Eliminator, which not coincidentally is around the same time he started mucking up his signal path. Hell, even Stevie Ray, as complicated as his rig was, was using multiple AMPS instead of a ton of pedals and effects loops and the like. His tone was complex, but it was pure.
There is really only one guitar player I love who plays with all that fairy dust on his tone and still sounds great to me, and that's David Gilmour. Every other guitar player I like has a simple tube amp and a few pedals, and manages to get a great tone from that rig. I think I'm eventually going to get one of those 1-knob amps and use the guitar's controls to get my tones. Purity is a beautiful thing.