Hey guys, it’s Brian from World Music Supply here again, to bring you another dose of gear and guitar reviews. Today though, I have an awesome treat, I get to review the Marshall DSL series of all tube amplifiers. Surprisingly, this is the first Marshall I have had the privilege to actually review, a fact that I hope to rectify in the coming months. Regardless, the DSL stands for Double Super Lead, because the amp is based around a two channel design. All of the amps in the line have the same overall design and a similar sound, with the only noticeable difference from amp to amp is volume and headroom, as well as the controls layout.
First up on the block today is the 15 Watt head, which is also available in a combo which is equipped with a Celestion 12” speaker. The 15 watt DSL is laid out like the other amplifiers in the family, with a classic gain, an ultra gain, a mid shift button which contours the mids for a much more metal friendly setting, and a deep button, which shifts the resonance frequency to boost the bass up. The amp is also equipped with a Pentode/Triode switch that drops the power down to 7.5 watts as well as shifting the tone to a smoother less aggressive styled sound.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned, is this amp is plenty loud, but I could so see the point behind an amp like this in the studio, as you can crank it, and get that classic Marshall on the brink sound, without being evicted or going deaf. The sound does have everything a great Marshall should have, that great Nashville style clean tone, with just a bit of an edge to help you cut out above the band, a crunch AC/DC style sound, and switching to the Ultra gain side of the amp, you get everything from late 80s hair metal gain, all the way up to mid 90s angry at the world style gain. All of the settings are very, very usable, and voice perfectly for what they are designed for, the classic side ranges from the aforementioned Nashville style clean, and right up to what you recognize as the Marshall sound of the late 70s, with tons of bottom end, mid range cut, and all of the harmonic glory that cemented the Marshall name into the fabric of history.
The Ultra side, is much more aimed at really hard rock, and metal players, as the levels of gain are amazingly high, it is great as a lead boost for solos, and as a rhythm channel for a metal guitarist, as with the tone switch engaged, the mid range chunk that this channel has is perfect for big, brutal rhythm, and just devistating when you play big down tuned chords.
Next up is the 40 Watt combo version of the DSL, which incorporates all of the features of the 100 watt head, into a 40 watt package you could fit in the trunk of your car. The two channels now are split, with a clean/crunch switch on the classic channel, and a lead one and lead two switch on the ultra channel. There is also an expanded EQ with a presence and resonance control taking over for the bass shift button, as well as two different types of reverb on hand.
The division between the channels was cool, and being able to switch from clean to AC/DC style crunch to a metal lead tone was pretty cool. The division of the ultra channel made for an interesting conundrum as I loved everything about the ultra on the 15 watt version, but now being able to switch from that metal grind tone I got before over to an equally amazing Lead two was just great for down tuned glory. It was hard to choose which side of the Lead section I liked more, but the one part that floored me was, it really isn’t all that noisy, you still might need a noise gate, but compared to many other high gain amplifiers, there really isn’t all that much hiss.
Finally there is the matter of the 100watt head, which took everything I liked about the 40 Watt version and pumped it up a lot. What I love about this head though is that it is everything a Marshall should be, versatile, dramatic, roadworthy and loud! As with any 100 Watt amp, you have to handle them with a certain amount of care, as they are amazingly loud, I was able to keep the clean channel clean no matter how loud I turned up, well I should say, as loud as my ear drums would let me turn up. The Crunch channel had a lot more boom to it when it was pushed through a 4×12, and likewise the lead channels had a lot more thump to them, and by that I mean you get a lot more of that punched in the chest feeling when they are coming at you from a Marshall 4×12 cabinet.
All in all , the DSL series are some of the best Marshalls I’ve ever gotten to play through, with a liveliness to them, and a brashness about them that reminds me of the amps of yesteryear, but at the same time retaining all of the power tube punch you need to play modern metal. For all of these reasons the entire DSL family scores a well earned 10 out of 10.