When you combine the rich variety of blues and rock tones with the Marshall Class5’s portability, you’ve got a contemporary classic from the folks at Marshall.
Portable, low wattage tube amps have become pretty popular in the last few years. Sure, there have been amps like the Fender Champ around for some time. Recently, though, there have been amp manufacturers known for their high powered models who are pushing smaller, lower wattage amps. Marshall is one such company. which is partly surprising given the reputation the company has for their high gain combos and heads.
Still, the company is in the business of making money, and there’s a great demand for quality tube amplifiers that have great sound but don’t break the bank or the wallet. Enter the Marshall Class5, a 5 watt Class A amplifier built in the Marshall Bluesbreaker tradition. It’s got the Marshall look, but does it have the Marshall sound? Read on.
The Marshall Class5 is a 5 watt Class A amplifier built in the UK. It sports two ECC83 (12AX7) preamp tubes and a single EL84 power amp tube. The speaker is a 10″ 16-ohm Celestion G10F-15. A single channel amplifier, the amp features controls for volume, treble, mid, and bass. A headphone out is included. When engaged, the internal speaker is defeated. The headphone mode also doubles as a low-power setting. If no headphones are plugged in, a low power signal is fed to the internal speaker, suitable for low volume practice. It weighs just shy of 27 lbs.
I tested the Class5 with a Gibson Les Paul Standard and a Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster, both stock. I also tested the amp both dry and with an array of overdrive pedals, including an Ibanez TS808, a Keeley modified Blues Driver, a Zendrive, and a Wampler Ecstasy.
The Class5 is based on Marshall’s own classic Bluesbreaker. With that in mind, this isn’t what you would call a “Swiss Army Amp.” That is, it doesn’t have dozens of different sounds. What it does have, however, is that classic Marshall grind at a useable volume. With the volume control set to 3 or lower, you’ve got a clean sound with a bit of punch that can get dirty if you push your guitar. From 4 – 6, you’ve got a great bluesy, classic rock grind. On 7-8, the amp really sings, though I don’t recommend turning it much louder than 8, since I got a little rattle at the highest volumes.
The best feature of the Class5, from my perspective, is that it is incredibly responsive to your guitar’s volume controls. Marshalls aren’t known for killer clean tones, but if you use your guitar’s volume knob judiciously, you can get some great clean tones. It’s probably not good enough for super-clean country or jazz, but as a blues and rock workhouse, I can see this amp being used in a variety of situations. I hooked up a Bogner 2×12 cabinet wired for 16 ohms and was absolutely blown away.
The tone controls were very responsive overall, but I recommend keeping the bass low if you’re using humbuckers. Otherwise, you might get a flabby tone, especially at higher volumes.
I’ve owned and tested more than enough Marshall amps in my day, including a few stacks, and I’ll say it’s refreshing to find Marshall making an amp that won’t make you go screaming for a chiropractor. When you combine the rich variety of blues and rock tones with the amp’s portability, you’ve got a contemporary classic from the folks at Marshall.
Name of Gear: Marshall Class5 5W Combo
List Price: 560.00
Manufacturer Info: Marshall Amplification; marshallamps.com
Pros: Wonderful blues and rock tones; affordable; portable
Cons: Bass can get muddy at higher volumes