Marshall MG50FX 1x12 Combo
Marshall Amplification, PLC., marshallamps.com
Originally published in Guitar World, December 2009
All the hallmarks of a great Marshall’s tone are in this amp.
Diehard Marshall fans are quick to say that the amps’ singing sustain, visceral presence and intense crunch can be produced only with tubes. In their defense, Marshall’s early solid-state MG Series amps bolstered the belief that tubes are necessary to achieving Marshall’s characteristic tones. The company’s revamped MG line may change those perceptions. Each model in the line features a brand-new preamp designed specifically for that model. I took a look at the Marshall MG50 FX, which has four channels of real Marshall tone and feel, integrated digital effects and a price point that’s hard to beat for an amp that performs this well.
All of Marshall's classic styling cues are present in the MG50FX: black tolex, black plastic corner protectors, a brushed golden-metal faceplate and black grille cloth. The amp has four channels, which are accessed by two mode buttons whose functions can be selected on the front panel or with the supplied two-button footswitch. The first button has Clean and Crunch modes, while the second button has two overdrive modes: one that is a boosted version of the Crunch mode and the other an intensely saturated solo stage. All modes share gain, bass, middle, treble, volume and master controls as well as the effect section controls. Before you let the shared control set frighten you off, take note that this setup does not limit the amp’s versatility. Thanks to the Store switch, you can save each of the amp’s mode settings (minus the master volume), giving you, in effect, four programmable channels. The saved settings are recalled when the desired channel is engaged via the front panel mode button or footswitch.
In the effect section, you’ll find digital reverb, digital delay with a tap tempo button, and a chorus, flanger and phaser. The modulation effects are located on a single dial—each has its own range of settings on a third of a dial’s travel. Marshall’s proprietary FDD (Frequency Dependent Damping) switch further enhances control over the amp’s response. When activated, it changes the power amp’s control over the speakers from a loose and classic response to a tight and hammering punch. Additional features include a line-out jack that doubles as a headphone jack, send and return jacks for the effect loop, and an MP3 line-in jack. Although the included footswitch only selects between the four channel modes, the optional StompWare foot controller provides more programmability and access to a tuner.
As a devotee of tube technology, I count myself among those players who scoff at solid-state’s potential to produce organic tone and feel. The MG50FX isn’t going to make me sell my beloved valve amps, but it certainly convinced me that tubes aren’t the only way to create Marshall’s signature tone character. The key to experiencing this amp’s full potential rests with the equalization and damping settings. I preferred to set the FDD switch for tight and fast response, and found that turning the treble, middle and bass controls beyond three o’clock seriously improved the amp’s projection, detail and depth.
The amp’s Clean mode is actually more pristine than I’ve heard in most tube-driven Marshalls, and the all-important Crunch mode surpassed my expectations for dimensionality and touch-response. The softer of the two Overdrive modes provided a smooth transition from the crunch, offering more sustain while still sounding very open. As for the high-gain Overdrive mode, it was true metal bliss—slightly dark, full of sustain and layered with harmonics. It’s probably all the distortion anyone could ever need.
All of Marshall’s digital effects are respectable and useable, but I was most impressed with the delay. It’s so well-integrated and suited to the amp that it makes an outboard delay unnecessary.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Marshall's new MG50FX is a shining example of the company’s moxie and dedication. All the hallmarks of a great Marshall’s tone are in this amp. It’s affordable, programmable, essentially maintenance free and loaded with enough effects to inspire endless creativity.
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