Price paid: £ 750
Purchased from: GAK Brighton
Features — 10
Mine was bought in 2011, but I had the identical head with a 1960AV cab beforehand. I moved to England so had to sell the halfstack :(
- 2 main channels with 3 gain modes (cascading I believe), Green, Yellow and Red.
- MIDI capability and programmable footswitch.
- 2 Master volumes, 2 Reverbs and separate EQ's on both channels.
- Effects loop with level control.
- Pre in, Post out inputs.
Sound — 7
I'll run through each mode and feature, but in general, the combo seems tighter and more focused than the head.
- Reverbs - Very nice when used sparingly.
- Presence/resonance - I think they made more difference on the head.
- Master volumes - Very useful for balancing channels or as a solo boost. Sweep can be tetchy when trying to get a low volume sound between 0-2.
- Channel volume - Turning up seems to drive the power amp section harder but can get fizzy if you don't dime the master as well.
- Gain - Useful up to around 5. After that, the combo tends to lose focus.
- Parametric EQ - Easy to get a great sound, especially at a low volume. The knobs however, don't seem to make much of a difference beyond 5-6.
- Clean green - Very clean. Channel volume removed from the signal path. Takes pedals well. I had the 50w version of both amps and headroom was great up to about 7 on master volume
- Clean yellow - Light and crunchy. A bit like a plexi but a bit stiffer and more useful as a breakup clean ranging to a light growl.
- Clean red - Lovely for blues sounds, and a bit more open sounding than yellow.
- OD green - Great 800 style sound, but for me lacks a little gain. Great with an OD/boost pedal for 80's work. Very quiet channel as well.
- OD yellow - The best sound. Gain is punchy but cleans up nicely with the volume knob on your guitar. For some reason the combo version was noisy and much more compressed than the head. Modern sounding on the combo, but much better when pushing air though a 4X12 cab.
- OD red - Smoother and more flubbery than yellow with a bit more saturation. Useful as a lead channel up to around 5 on the gain knob.
This amp can make wonderful sounds, especially at low volume. It is easy to dial in if not particularly accurate.
Reliability & Durability — 7
Head was perfect. The combo not so great, but I blame Fedex for that. It was DOA when I shipped from UK to Australia. I made sure the box was full of packing and even removed the tubes but it was handled very rough and the output transformer was damaged. Everything feels solid except for the knobs. They are plastic, so easy to replace, but are easy to break and feel quite flimsy. I only lost one gigging, but metal knobs would have been nice.
Fit and finish is acceptable but not as good as more expensive amps.
I never had any issues with reliability in gigging with it. Always had a Boss ME50 just in case a tube went bad. The gold finish gets dirty but I used jewellery wipes or cleaning fluid to polish it. I ripped the tolex, but you haven't been a Marshall owner until you've done it!
Overall Impression — 8
This amp is a great all rounder and is quintessentially "Marshall" in its voicing. I was very surprised at the quality of the cleans and the programmable foot switch is great. I never used the headphone jack, MIDI or PRE in POST out controls.
The effects loop is lovely. The twin master volume is a godsend. I have to be honest though, I found it frustrating in the end. I seemed to want more gain here and less gain there and my tastes have become much simpler. This is not the amps fault, but 2 good channels and an FX loop are enough more me now.
In the US, I think a Splawn Quickrod/Streetrod makes more sense because of the prices.
I now have a DSL40c with a creamback speaker. It suits me fine for that Marshall sound. I'd love a Soldano hot rod 25 or a Quickrod but can't justify the price in the UK as I'm not currently gigging. The features are great on the JVM but I don't think It's worth twice the price of a DSL40c.
I would most recommend it as a 2nd hand buy if you need the features and a great plug and play Marshall sound.