Price paid: £ 180
Sound — 7
One word - Marshall. Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelicious. I play metal and classic rock (everything from Death to Whitesnake, via Metallica, Black Label Society, Children of Bodom, Danzig, Mr. Big and more) and for my style of music this amp is amazingly versatile - it can handle anything I've yet thrown at it quite comfortably. The 4 channels are all very nice indeed. The Acoustic Sim actually sounds like an Acoustic guitar (rather than a clean w/Chorus tone), the Clean channel is warm and bright, OD1 gives an old-school British fuzzy tone, and OD2 is your standard balls-out Marshall roar. The EQ controls on each channel are nice and sensitive, allowing for great manipulation in tone. This is especially noticable on the OD2 channel, where manipulation of the Mid control in particular can take you from a Tony Iommiesque heavier-than-lead blast to a ferocious scooped-out metalcore shriek, and everything in between. I have to say the OD2 on this is awesome - cutting and clear, but nice and throaty with a tomb-deep but tight bottom end, even at lower tunings (I regularly play in Drop C) and for lead play it simply SHRIEKS. Very little in the way of feedback too unless you're really smashing the guts out of the Gain control. It's quiet when it needs to be and screams when you want it to, which is what all amps should do in my humble opinion. Where this amp falls down in sound is the built-in effects. They're all a bit middle-of-the-road and samey, and don't seem to make an awful lot of difference no matter what's done with them. I use a wide range of guitars through this amp (Gibson LP Custom, Epi Futura Prophecy EX, ESP MII, Ibanez SZ320, and a couple Epi Les Pauls) and what pleases me is that the amp allows the guitars to express their differences - there's a noticable difference between any two given guitars and you can tell which one is which. Which in my experience is quite unusual for a combo. One thing I will recommend to anyone who uses this amp is PUT IT THROUGH A 4x12. The difference is night and day. Seriously. That's not taking away from the off-the-shelf setup at all - this is a cracking amp in its own right. However, when let loose through a 4x12 you could commit war-crimes with this thing. The first time I hooked it up to my 1960B I was AMAZED. So in terms of sound, although the standard sound of the amp is FANTASTIC, it does lose some marks for the digital effects being poor. That said however, when using this amp I don't bother with my pedalboard as I find the sound to be satisfactory, which is a recommendation in itself. The highest prasie I can give this amp is that I hated Marhsalls before I owned this, having never experienced one I liked enough to buy it despite trying any god's amount of them out. This one changed my opinion of Marshall completely.
Overall Impression — 9
In short, I love this amp. I've been playing for a long time (nearly 10 years) and am an inveterate gear-head - I love buying and messing about with amps and guitars so I know my onions. I've been well around the block with amps and have tried just about every brand worth the name, and I'm still to find an amp in this price range that could seriously out-gun it. In terms of combos it's pretty much the top of the shop, and the fact that it unloads 150w of Marhall fury when plugged into a 4x12 means that it's more than gig-worthy. (As stated above I actually use this instead of both my Peavey and Bugera heads, though that will doubtless change when my Diamond Nitro arrives) For the budget-conscious metal or rock player, this amp is a dream. Grab one of these and a cheap 4x12 and you've got a 150w Marshall half-stack for not very much moolah at all! Versatility, tasteful tones and a shocking amount of power at a decent price, this amp is the real deal. In closing, i'll sum up briefly: PROS: - "That" Marhall tone at a budget. - Numerous features and settings allow for full tonal control - 150w of wallop when used with a 4x12 but still plenty big enough for practices on it's own - Very tasty Acoustic Simulator, STUNNING OD2 channel - Reliable as Ol' Faithful and tough as hell. CONS: - Needs a 4x12 to unleash it's full potential - Built-in effects are admittedly poor - Weighs a TON - Number of controls may be daunting for inexperienced/younger users But althogether, this amp is a cracking piece of kit and in it's price range is, in my humble opinion, pretty darn close to the top of the pile.
Reliability & Durability — 10
As above - one word. MARSHALL. This amp is practically bulletproof. Heavy-duty wood for the cabinet covererd in thick black Tolex mean that it's practically impossible to hurt this amp on the outside. I've probably done upwards of 75 gigs with this amp, (in the van Drive to the gig, up the stairs, let whatever crazy support band are there use it, gig, back down the stairs, into the van again) and apart from a tiny rip in the Tolex on the top which was admittedly caused by a spike on one of my boots during some over-enthusiastic soloing posturing there ain't a mark on it. The guts of the thing are solid as hell too, I've been playing it for about 3 years now and never had so much as a peep of trouble out of it. In fact, as a testament to its reliability, it fell off a table it was sitting on at a gig one time, landing face down, and there wasnt the slightest hint of complaint out of it after. That said, I had it serviced and re-valved immediately afterwards, just to err on the side of caution. As regards would I use this amp without a backup, I regularly do as I have complete Faith in it, she ain't let me down yet. Whether on its own in rehearsals or through my 1960B in gigs, this baby can take a licking and keep on kicking. I've had it for 3 years and have it serviced once a year, just to make sure it's in tip-top nick, and it sounds as good today as it did when I bought it. One thing I will say though is this thing is HEAVY. Not just in terms of sound either. If you're going to lug one of these all over the place to gigs, make sure you have a car!
Features — 8
This amp is a Marshall AVT150x Valvestate combo. It has a valve pre-amp and a solid-state powerstage. The amp is rated as 150w but the 150w is only delivered when it's used through a 4x12, as is it delivers considerably less. However, the output through its built-in 12" speaker is still more than sufficient for practices and small-to-medium gigs. 4 channels -Acoustic Simulator, Clean, OD1 and OD2, along with 16 built-in digital effects give a myriad of sound options. Admittedly though the built-in effects ain't that hot. Standard Marshall stage-controller comes with this amp (4 channel selectors and FX on/off for cleans or drives) The amp also features a built-in effects loop and a headphone jack. Interestingly for me, and winning the amp bonus points in this category, is that the head unit is sealed and can be removed from the combo to rack-mount and use with an external 4x12. Also is the very welcome "Presence" control (which governs the amount of treble at the pre-amp,) which can make a significant difference if used correctly. All in, I'd give this amp an 8 for features as although the built-in effects aren't anything to scream about, they ARE there, and as stated above the Presence control and detachable head gain this amp a point apiece for features. For an amp in this price range, it'd take some beating. As a case in point, I actually bought this amp as a practice amp and liked it so much that I rack-mounted the head and use it as my first choice head for gigging (ahead of both my Peavey ValveKing and Bugera 6260) In terms of features offered against purchase price, this amp is very, very good value for money.