The new Marshall DSL40CR is a real winner for the company and working musicians who want a versatile rock/blues amplifier at a fair price.
If there’s any amplifier company that’s an iconic part of rock and blues history, it’s Marshall. Even non-musicians recognize the white script logo against a black background and associate it with loud, powerful guitar sounds. While the classic Marshall 4×12 stack helped define rock and blues guitar, it’s not always the most practical solution, even for gigging guitarists (trust me – owning a 4×12 cabinet isn’t as awesome as you might think, unless you’ve got the transportation and strong back to transport it). Thankfully, the fine folks at Marshall recognize this and have long made more portable combo amplifiers that balance size, weight, power, and – in the case of the DSL series – versatility. I recently checked out the newest version of the DSL40, the DSL40CR.
The DSL40CR is a 40W all tube combo amplifier with four 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL34 power amp tubes. It is a two channel single input amp with “Classica Gain” and “Ultra Gain” channels. The speaker is a 1×12″ Celestion V-Type. Marshall opted for a built-in digital reverb rather than a traditional reverb tank, and the amp features a Softube emulated output (1/4″). The rear of the amplifier sports numerous speak output options as well as an effects loop, footswitch jack, MIDI in, and a 1/8″ audio in jack. A two-button footswitch is included.
The front panel controls from left to right are as follows and will help give you a sense of the versatility of this combo: classic gain channel (gain, volume, clean/crunch switch), ultra gain channel (gain, volume, OD1/OD2 switch), treble, middle, bass, tone shift switch, presence, resonance, reverb (classic gain channel), reverb (ultra gain channel), master select switch, master volume I, master volume II, loop on/off switch, power output switch, and power switch. Though the amp includes a two button switch, with Marshall’s 6-button switch (the 91016) you can access all four tones (Clean, Crunch, OD1, & OD2).
As a longtime fan of smaller Marshall combos, I have many years of experience to draw upon that help frame my initial experience. My assumption was that the amp would have very nice overdrive and distortion tones, so I wanted to give the clean tones a quick run through first. After all, Marshall isn’t exactly a name that we associate with pristine clean tones.
The clean sounds in this Marshall amp are incredible.
There. I just had to say it. Don’t get me wrong. We’re not talking about Roland JC-120 tones, and no one will confuse this with a vintage Deluxe Reverb anytime, but man – these clean tones are good. This is possibly the most “pedal-friendly” Marshall combo I’ve ever come across. The cleans are clear and have a great deal of depth. It was a good fit with a wide array of overdrive and distortion pedals. With dedicated master volume knobs for each channel, you can dial in just the right amount of balance between the clean and overdrive channels.
And the overdrive channel is typical Marshall – classic rock, metal, and blues tones live here! From classic overdrive to more modern high gain the sounds available on the ultra gain channel are all high quality, full of depth, and actually usable. Though the amp takes pedals really well, you could easily leave your overdrive and distortion pedals at home. Given the versatile sounds, it’s not unrealistic to say that this amp is sort of an all-in-one homage to various Marshall sounds. I also appreciate the built-in power options. It’s easy to go from 40W to 20W, so you can maintain that “cranked” sound without disturbing the neighbors (or the club owner).
Finally, some of the “little things” that Marshall included here help round out an already great amplifier. Some purists might be opposed to digital reverb, but I’m a fan. Properly implemented, it ups an amp’s reliability and sonic versatility. That said, the reverb here is pretty subtle. You have to crank it to get much of an effect, but it sounds good and is quiet. I preferred micing the amp, but the included emulated output sounds really good. tHe people at Softube know their stuff, so I’m glad to see that Marshall incorporated their input into that output.
With a list price of around $750 the new Marshall DSL40CR is a real winner for the company and working musicians who want a versatile rock/blues amplifier at a fair price. The previous DSL40C was already a well-regarded amplifier, and the DSL40CR ups the ante nicely.
Name of Gear: Marshall DSL40CR
List Price: $749.99
Manufacturer Info: Marshall Amplification; marshall.com
Pros: Incredibly versatile; excellent range of tones
Cons: Reverb a bit weak