Price paid: $ 350
Purchased from: Online Retailer
Sound — 8
This is what it all comes down to. This thing makes absolutely no noise unless it is plugged into a speaker cab, which I have found is of great importance. When I first heard of the Class 5 I was incredibly intrigued. I personally own two Plexi amps (both reissues) which are the 1962 Bluesbreaker and the 2061X. I used to own a 1987X but 50 watts was beyond overkill. When I heard that there was something that was 5 watts that I could play at home I was really quite excited. I went in and played the Class 5 combo and was absolutely appalled. This was the Version 1 which came equipped with an awesomely loud rattle' which was found on all of the units. Luckily Marshall did the right thing and issued free repair of the issue to all owners. None the less I had a bad taste in my mouth from day one. In addition it just didn't sound right to me. It was far too heavy of a sound to be a Plexi based model. I think it had to have something to do with the 10 speaker they put in. It just didn't breathe' enough. So fast forward about a year and half and my friend and I hear news that there is a Class 5 Head on the way and it will be available with an extension cab. Woohoo! Details are still trickling down and these are very hard to find. The only retailers I know that carry them are Sweetwater and some random music stores who have posted on Ebay. Anyways I was greatly disappointed when I saw that the extension cab was still loaded with the 10 speaker. Now it is a Celestion special design (modeled after a Greenback) but as it is not a 12 speaker it just doesn't handle the power in my humble opinion. I knew that it would have to run through a different speaker cab. From my findings Marshall Plexi's sound amazingly well with Greenbacks (what the Bluesbreaker is loaded with, what the 1960ax cab that I had with the 1987X was loaded with) and with G12H30's which is somewhat of a combination between a Greenback and Vintage 30. Those two speakers just really seem to deliver an honest representation of tone. The setup for the Class 5 I tried was through a custom Mojo cab loaded with 1 - Celestion G12H30 and 1 Celestion Vintage 30. Those two speakers in an awesome looking 2x12 cab sounded amazing. I thought long and hard on how to describe the sound of this beast and it all kept coming back to one word: amazing. I was, and I am still blown away by the sound of this. While playing, I was simply using a Gibson Les Paul Studio with factory specs plugged straight into the amp. If you have read a review of mine before you know that the dials are set one way12 o'clock. That was the perfect setting of volume/breakup for me on this amp. Marshall did a good job of getting a bunch of different tones with simply a volume roll on the amp. The first 1/3 of the range on the volume is a warm Plexi, the 2/3 is a driven Plexi, and the 3/3 has an identity crisis between being somewhere between Plexi and JCM800. Needless to say, when I was playing, it hovered in the 2/3 volume area. This amp was amazingly responsive to how you attacked the guitar, volume roll on the guitar, pickup switching, tone controls, etc. I was thoroughly impressed. I was able to get some dirty sounding Black Crowes rythym tones, some Mick Taylor lead tones, and some early AC/DC rock riffs all by using pick attack and volume roll on the guitar. The amp responded amazingly well and was able to cover a broad spectrum depending on how you play your instrument. There really isn't too much to say in terms of tone. It nailed what it was going after. Those really gritty cleans, the growl of the old Marshalls, the in your face attack, it was all there. It was great and I encourage you to try it but for the love of Jim Marshall play this thing through 12" speakers!
Overall Impression — 8
After absolutely hating the combo version of this amp a little over a year ago I am happy to say how impressed I am with this head unit. If you want to have a Plexi sound and you don't want to buy one of the Marshall's amazingly expensive Plexi's then get this. This amp will satisfy your needs, you will still definitely be able to play it in almost any live setting, and most places you won't even need to mic this. This of course depends on what kind of venues you play but from what I know about most of the venues us Ultimate-Guitarers play this should fit your needs. I do have two main gripes about this amp though. The first is that the speaker cab that is positioned to sell with the head is a 10". It is the same size speaker and same exact speaker as the combo. I personally hated that speaker and I don't understand the logic of selling a 10 in two different forms. If you want the 10 speaker simply buy the combo unit and save yourself some money. You will still have the same circuit Class 5 and 10" speaker that you would have if you buy the Class 5 Head and speaker extension cab. You would still have an extension out or could run the combo on a different cab. This just completely sends my head in a loop. Why would Marshall be so redundant? My second gripe is about the head unit not having a 1 watt switch. The combo does, why doesn't the head unit? Once again it just seems a little odd to leave certain things out. Marshall has come a long way from Version 1 but they still have a little more to go to get it just right. They are incredibly close but not quite there. Overall these two issues do not soil the entire amp for me. In fact I am still amazingly impressed with this thing. I think it is a true Marshall sound for a fraction of the price of one of its big brother Plexi's. If you are a Marshall fan and really like the tones of the 60's and 70's do yourself a favor and plug the Class 5 Head into a 2x12 cab with some nice Celestions in it and tell me what you think.
Reliability & Durability — 7
Brand new amp so this is pretty tough. Looking at it though it seems built very well. It is almost identical in size to my 2061X. Very similar dimensions and seems about just as tough. Nothing looks cheap on it so I foresee good things in terms of reliability. Marshall had some issues with quality on the version 1 combos but they have responded and corrected that problem. If something does arise I would assume they will do the same and fix the issue on these amps. Until anything happens I have to pick any number between 10, seven sounds nice for now.
Features — 7
Specifics are here (as pulled from sweetwater.com): Type: Tube Number of Channels: 1 Power: 5W, Class A Effects: No Reverb: No EQ: Treble, Middle, Bass Amp Modeling: No Number of Models: 0 Number of Tubes: 3 Preamp Tubes: 2 Power Tubes: 1 Inputs: 1 x Instrument Outputs: 2 x TS Footswitch I/O: No Effects Loop: No Height: 7.9" Width: 19.5" Depth: 8.3" Weight: 14.9 lbs. Manufacturer Part Number: C5H Marshall has continued to upgrade the Class 5 since its debut. This model also has a headphone output if you need to keep a happy wife, girlfriend, parents, or H.O.A. Five watts of pure tube can get amazingly loud. Marshall did a great job on the second generation and added a 1 watt switch. The only problem is they didn't put that on the head unit, strictly on the combo. I have no idea why they would not make it a carbon copy of the other unit and not add a great feature for the owners. For that reason alone it gets a 7. Some of you might want to complain that this doesn't have an overdrive channel, model any amps, blah blah blah. This is modeled after a 1962 Bluesbreaker, an amp from back in the day when all those musicians didn't have fancy 6 channel amps. This is classic, it has all the features it needs in its class: bass, middle, treble, volume!