Price paid: $ 999
Purchased from: AMS - Internet
Sound — 10
The unit comes with many patches already programed at Marshall and most are usable examples of many of the Iconic Amps they have produced over the years. A list of all the amps and patches can be located at the Marshall Official Web Site. How does it sound, lets forget the digital thing and once you do it sounds really nice on every patch and for those who refuse to play it because of the digital connection your making a poor decision not allowing yourself to play through this amp. Of all the effects (which are usable) I found the Reverb and Noise Gate to be the most usable on this head. The gate is a welcomed feature that all higher gain amps should have. The only real issue with the modulation is that you really can not fine tune your settings like many really want to do; the ability to control modulation is delegated to two rotary dials. One dial controls the type of modulation and the other controls the level of the effect; since only one modulation can be used at a time. I personally try to run dry but many may find they need to use the effects loop for their off-board effects which this amp has built into it and it also has a variable gain controller in the rear of the amp.
Overall Impression — 10
Over all I am very impressed with the amp; and one would have to ask Jim why it took his company so long to finally get into this niche of guitar amps. If I was to purchase only one amp and had to cover music styles from Jazz, Country, Rock and Metal this amp would be able to cover all that and so much more. The effects while are OK they are very usable if you do not have pedals or rack mount effects units. What I would consider a design flaw with the unit has to do with the pedal or foot controller, to change to one of the two modes it operates in you have to remove the 1/4 cable from the unit and plug it back in (while the amp is turned on) and hold down the #1 button. With technology as advanced as it is I find it hard to believe that the unit was unable to be programmed to switch functions by holding down a button for a few seconds or even holding down two buttons at the same time. I do gig and I do see this as a issue that could cause issues at a gig if you need to switch between modes at a show. I would easily compare this to any other modeling amp on the market today that also has tubes as preamp and the power stages. Other amps out there in this niche come from Line6, Peavey, Fender, and many others. I have owned the Line6 150HD Spider 3 and I sold it within a month due to its difficulty in programming and moving patches around. The Marshall shares the same trait although the tones are (IMO) better sounding since it only tried to copy their own equipment rather than copy other companies. The supplied foot controller is also a nice thing to have since other companies like Line6, and Peavey have controllers but they have to be purchased in addition to the amp. I would highly recommend those reading this to at the very least test Drive the amp; go to your local Marshall dealer and bring your guitar with ya and plug into the JMD. IMO its a amp thats worth playing through at the very least or you might end up being like me and taking one home and putting it next to your other half stacks. Sadly I think the 5150 (First edition) might not get as much gig time this year once I do become more knowledgeable about this unit and its abilities.
Reliability & Durability — 5
This amp is British designed (with Softtube assistance) but actually constructed in China with the MA Series along with many of their offerings now. A easy way to tell where the new releases are being made is a British made Marshall still has the red led rocker switch; the Chinese amps do not. Of course this does not include the Vintage re-issue amps thats are also made in the UK; only new offerings. So as for the durability its to be scene but there is visible differences in construction. I have observed very small gaps between joints and other areas of attachments and other minor flaws but I am really picky and thats just me; being picky and most would not notice this unless really looking for the flaws. I rated only a 5 because I just do not know the future of this product
Features — 9
Mfg in 2010 and this is a new venture from Marshall; tired of others basically modeling their maps they have partnered with Softtube and now have their own modeling amp. Softtube is not new to this line of work and have actually done a real good job with the models in this amp. Covering amps from 1959 to the latest releases like the Haze; so there are 16 different Pre-Amp to choose from. There is a 12ax7 inside the amp and good ole EL34's are also stuffed inside. I purchased the 50 watt head so I do not have any knowledge about the combo's except they are the same sans the speakers. From the 16 different preamps you have a 4 channel amp that can store up to 128 total patches. There is also modulation abilities with chorus, phaser, flanger and tremolo. This unit also has a built in Noise gate; delay and reverb and everything is switchable via the supplied foot controller to a extent.