Price paid: $ 750
Purchased from: Online Corporate Vendor
Sound — 8
I use Gibson SG and Les Paul, primarily. Both a P-90 growler-howler, and humbucker equipped SG (currently OEM) and LP. But the amp will take any guitar. If you want to rock out; my preference is the traditional "boring" Gibson/Marshall sound (think 70s hard rock). The noise level of the amp depends on your guitar; my P-90 feeds back like a monster regardless of the amp, and the humbuckers do their phase thing. The clean channel is truly a treat - *whether or not the volume is low, medium, or absurd*. In fact, it's such a beautiful clean channel, I considered growing up and exploring jazz (for like, 5 minutes anyway). Rich, glassy but warm, clear but full... Surprised me, honestly. *THIS is the ONLY way you can pleasantly experience this amp at "bedroom" or apartment volumes!* (More on this in a second). The overdrive channel... Ah, now we are getting to the heart of why this amplifier has a undeservedly maligned reputation (notwithstanding ignorant gear snobs who bash "budget" gear simply because enthusiastic non-professionals will finally have access to decent equipment at a chain store... There is no hope for such narrow-minded dummies; beware of these elitist know-it-alls). Because this is an inexpensive Made in Vietnam amp, many will shun the gear without ever giving it a chance. However, when they *do* give it a chance, some problems arise that might tend to unfairly color & "confirm" their (already negative) impression of a "fake" Marshall. This is a 50w valve Marshall, and a simple one without gimmicks - think about it. The Drive does not open up to its potential without some serious turn on that volume knob. In 90% of places one would try this amplifier - especially a Corporate Guitar store - there is absolutely no way in hell anyone is going to stand for the sheer volume it takes to get this amp's true distortion tone off the ground. I can't get it past "2" in my pad. The common complaint is (e.g., see below), "it sounds like buzzing bees." I think it sounds like shit at low volumes... Like buzzing beetles, indeed. Thin & unimpressive. But, if you can, turn that dial. Something happens around "4-5" and the tone opens up wide; by "6-7" it's growling, and by "8-9" it is full on Marshall rock. This *is* a problem, in a sense. For a "budget" amp, how many folks get to crank it without being hassled for obscene volume? But, if you can, this is not the sh-tty toy people cast it off as. It's a Marshall, and its genetics can be proven the Marshall way - crank it, rock on. Good for you? Probably, you can get these dirt cheap in the coming years... Tender mercies for peoples' stupidity. Screw the snobs... Vietnam? Is that what *you* think about when you're rocking? Not me. And I have other British made Marshalls, come and gone. Find out for yourself. I score an 8, again, because it does the job exactly as advertised. Nothing extraordinary, and -1 for being limited due to crazy volume, but +1 for the clean channel.
Overall Impression — 8
See above. I am not the kind of person to go "experimenting" with gear to find different stuff. The experimentation is all in the music. I want my gear to function, take a hell beating with daily use, and to reliably produce the sounds I need. So, once I find it, I stick with it. There is a reason why Gibson, Fender, Marshalls etc. Continue to be ubiquitous among professionals and hobbyists - because, by and large, the stuff works well. Marshall was my first amp, and I've played and tested countless other rigs/setups (e.g., Fender, Laney, Crate, Peavey, Kustom, Mesa, HiWatt, and on etc.). Only Mesa Boogie really captured my attention beyond the solid Gibson/Marshall setup I rely on. I will likely get one someday. All pro brands are good for a reason. Marshall has *not*, in my opinion, "damaged" their reputation with this MA50C, or the MA line - Marshall delivered. It's the gear snobs who gave the MA line its death sentence. And now, see Marshall? All they did was take their DSL name and put it on the Asian-built amps. The whole thing is ridiculous. If you want a "real Marshall," and the 50w combo has the features you like, GO FOR IT. It's good gear.
Reliability & Durability — 7
Now, this is a different matter. Obviously, corners must be cut somewhere for costs. Mostly, it is obvious that Marshall *cuts most of this cost in LABOR* (hence, Vietnam in Asia). The build quality is fine. The fit and finish, superb - as are most Marshalls. The materials? Well, less quality costs less, but will it last? If you need to treat it a little better, I Imagine so. But, this is the amp I go rockin out with to rooms, clubs, etc. Would it hold up on tour, on the road? I'm not the guy to answer that; I suspect that the maxim holds true in this regard. With Marshall, you get what you pay for. If you're a professional, you'll have a backup anyway. (Maybe *this* would be the backup, come to think. ) I simply don't use it often enough to render a judgment, but all my other Marshalls have stood up for 25+ years... And I'm lazy about maintenance. I rate 7, because, well... It's a $700 amp. It's not gonna be more than a plywood cabinet.
Features — 8
I read many gear reviews on this site. I decided to join *just to make sure my opinion on this gear is heard by a potential prospective buyer*. This piece of equipment (indeed, the entire discontinued Vietnamese MA Marshall line) is generally a poorly regarded amplifier - a "faux" Marshall, a substandard substitute suitable for "poseurs" or "noobs" who "don't know a real Marshall," if you will, generally dismissed as unsuitable for any professional guitarist. I believe the amp's public reputation to be based on ignorant prejudice prompted by shallow judgments and "tone snobbery." This amp certainly *is* a "real" Marshall, in build quality, features, and sound. It's relatively simple: 2-Channel switchable amp (footswitch), with a clean channel & an overdriven gain channel (which also has a footswitchable boost for lead cut-through, and there is a dial-in control to shape the overdrive tone between the overdrive channel and the boosted drive, called "Crunch Balance"... Confusing terminology, but quite clever and useful feature). The footswitch is sturdy, and the cable is plenty long; there is also a channel switching button on the controls, but the footswitch overrides this button. EACH channel has its own *separate* graphic EQ and volume control, with pots for Treble, Mid, & Bass. Also, the amp has a Reverb control with Resonance & Presence pots. The rear of the amp includes an effects loop with send/return jacks, and a true bypass switch - the footswitch engages the effects loop, but this time the Bypass button overrides the footswitch (hence true bypass). The cabinet has one 12" AX-75 speaker, as well as speaker outputs for 8/16ohm auxiliary speakers (e.g., using the the amplifier as a 50w head to Drive a four-speaker cabinet, for instance). The circuitry is all valve, with 3 ECC83 tubes for the preamp, and 2 EL34 tubes for the poweramp; these are a bit tricky for the inexperienced to mod/replace, and seem oriented towards technicians. The cabinet has a top handle, as well as hard plastic "roadie" handles on both sides; it weighs about 23lbs (10kg). The look is "classic" late-Marshall style; elegant, simple, instantly recognizable. Black bumpy textured vinyl, with black screen tolex, and a brushed gold plate on the top front with the controls, from left to right: single jack, clean channel pots, channel button & boost button, and overdrive channel pots, and finally the reverb/resonance/presence pots. The look is as generic as a Marshall could possibly be. Power? It's a 50w Marshall valve amp; don't sit in front of the speaker without earplugs, or frankly, you're dumb. I got this 50w combo because, with a 100w valve head & slant cabinet, you can't really play in a closed room (or even a small club) without overpowering every other sound/player. And even this 50w head can easily annoy other players with its ridiculous volume. Plenty for a small bar/club. MUCH too loud for an apartment, and perhaps most houses. There is a reason why 5/10/15/20watt amps are taking over the scene. 100w or 50w is really overkill in most situations. But then, that's kinda why we love Marshalls in the first place, eh? So, rock on. I give an 8 because it has *everything a rock player needs*, but nothing especially innovative (and therefore nothing exceptional). Probably, it's most useful feature is the fact that you have truly separate clean/overdrive channels, so once you dial in, you can do more rocking and less fiddling - going from clean to distortion instantly, and back. Excellent.