Many companies brag about being the first to introduce a new type of product, but Marshall is the kind of company that prefers to do things better.
For example, Marshall may not have been the first British amp company (Vox, Watkins, Selmer and several others came before them), nor were they the first company to introduce a piggyback amp head/speaker cabinet configuration (Standel and Fender beat them there), yet Marshall is the first company that most guitarists think of when it comes to British amps and high-power stack amps.
While digital modeling amps have been on the market for about two decades now, Marshall took their sweet time developing their first digital modeling amps, called the Code Series. This was a wise move, as not only has the technology improved dramatically over recent years, but Marshall also developed a product with a set of features and ease of use that are sure to please both tech heads and traditionalists alike.
We took a look at Marshall’s first two Code Series products, the Code50 and Code25 combos.
With the exception of the speaker size, wattage and slightly different front panel control configurations, the Marshall Code50 and Code25 are otherwise identical. The Code50 is a 50-watt combo with a single custom 12-inch speaker, while the Code 25 is a 25-watt combo with a single custom 10-inch speaker. The Code50 also has separate Preset and Edit control knobs, while both of these functions are accessed via the Preset knob on the Code25.
Both models provide four power amp models, 14 preamp models, eight speaker models and 24 effects (up to five effects can be used simultaneously), and store 100 presets. Standard front panel controls include Volume, Gain, Master, and Bass, Middle and Treble EQ.
PreFX (stomp box), Amp (preamp), Modulation, Delay, Reverb, Power Amp and Cab buttons make it easy to quickly select models and edit presets to create or modify sounds. The front panel also provides a mini USB jack (for playing music or downloading updates), a dedicated MP3 player mini jack input, a mini headphone output and a single 1/4-inch instrument input.
The preamp and power amp models are comprised mostly of Marshall’s most popular tones, including JTM45, Bluesbreaker, Plexi, JCM800, Silver Jubilee, DSL and JVM models. American clean and overdrive models and an acoustic simulator provide just the right amount of tonal contrast and variety.
The cabinet models are based on various types and configurations of Celestion 12-inch speakers. The effects provide a solid “meat and potatoes” selection of essential processing such as overdrive, compression, pitch shifting, chorus, phaser, flanger, tremolo, auto wah, and various reverbs and delays. A tuner, tap tempo function and Bluetooth connectivity (for the free Marshall Gateway app) are easily accessible by holding down two-button combinations.
While both the Code50 and Code25 are very easy to use and program via the front panel controls alone, I highly recommend using the Marshall Gateway for even greater ease of use (such as being able to edit the power amp’s presence and resonance controls simultaneously instead of toggling between the two settings). The app also provides a playback section where you can access music on your iOS or Android device and loop sections you want to learn or practice over. The Gateway app will also let you load sounds into any Marshall Code amp (like one owned by a friend or at a studio) without overwriting that amp’s internal presets, so you can take your sounds anywhere you go.
Whereas most digital modeling amps try to be everything to everybody, Marshall’s Code amps mainly focus on their greatest strength—genuine Marshall tones. Right off the bat you get a great collection of classic and modern tones that will satisfy Marshall connoisseurs. The distortion delivers that desirable Marshall crunch, and the EQ nails the characteristic Marshall treble sparkle, midrange growl and bass thump. The American clean and overdrive tones provide enough variety to satisfy most players’ needs, and the effects cover all the essentials extremely well.
The Code50 is the best choice for gigging (until Marshall introduces the head version), while the Code25 is better for studio recording and jamming at home. Both are great choices if you love Marshall tones but also desire the convenience, versatility and power of a modern digital modeling amp.
LIST PRICES: $285 (Code25), $375 (Code50)
MANUFACTURER: Marshall Amplification, marshallamps.com
• The 14 preamp models include Marshall’s greatest classics, modern favorites, American clean and overdrive and acoustic simulation.
• Effects consist of all the essentials like compression, overdrive, modulation, reverb and delay, and up to five effects can be used at once.
• The free Marshall Gateway app allows users to control all functions with an iOS or Android device via Bluetooth.
• With its 12-inch speaker and 50-watt output, the Code50 is ideal for gigging, while the Code25, with its 10-inch speaker and 25-watt output is ideal for the studio.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Providing a history of Marshall’s greatest amps, a full selection of essential effects, awesome speaker cab models and powerful app-based operation, Marshall’s new Code Series amps offer an incredible bargain looking for a Marshall for the modern age.