Before we get into our Marshall Code 50W Review, we would just like to say that we read an article quite recently written by someone with a bit of a xenophobic problem. He went on about that he didn’t know what all the fuss with ‘these Marshall amps and speakers’ was all about?
They weren’t the first British amps. True, there were Selmer and a few others before them. They weren’t the first to use an amp on top of a speaker cabinet, piggyback style. True, Fender did that. But that was the basis of his argument.
One, they were louder than the competition, two they were better than them. But three, within a few years, anybody who was anyone was rushing to England to buy them.
They became a symbol of rock music like no other amp did or ever will. They still are. The name still sends shivers through musicians all over the world. And all from a little shop in Uxbridge Road, Hanwell, West London. Nothing more to say, my friend, the name speaks for itself and still does.
In 1967 there was a party at the Ealing Club just down the road from the Hanwell Marshall shop. Some invited guests and the biggest, and we mean the biggest names in rock music came to reminisce.
The shop in Hanwell, a part of so much of our young lives, was closing. Jim was moving to a bigger factory in Milton Keynes, and it was a farewell to those halcyon days of hanging out listening and sometimes joining in.
They moved away, but the bandwagon rolled inexorably on. Today they are still doing it. Moving on with the times, of course. The ‘Loud’ is still there, though Pete Townshend has stopped smashing them up.
We thought, though, that the days of the JTM45 Bluesbreaker and the JCM800 had gone forever. Then we find an amp that has simulations of them in a little box. Only Marshall can produce it, only they know-how. That’s what we’ll be discussing in this Marshall Code 50W Review.
Sound modeling amps using digital techniques have been around a while now. Almost twenty years, unbelievable as it sounds. Marshall didn’t join the rush to get a product on the market. Why should they, they were still producing the sounds that everyone was trying to copy.
Or, were they just biding their time and waiting for the moment?
Maybe they were waiting for the technology to reach such a stage where they knew they could do the job properly. In 2016 they launched the Code series. Packed with years of Marshall greatness. Dozens of amps, cabinets, and a plethora of sounds to go with them. And you can carry it around with you.
So, let’s take a look at the Marshall Code 50 Combo…
One thing that has always been important to Marshall, especially with their speaker cabinets. They have to be built tough. This cabinet is made from 11-ply Baltic birch wood as all their cabinets are. The backs, though, are made from fiberboard. This is because they found the original plywood used had a boom in the sound. The deadened fibreboard cut that out.
It is not particularly big at 17.8 by 10.7 by 17 inches. It weighs twenty-seven pounds, though, which for its size is heavy. The cabinet is quite a bit bigger than a lot of its 50-watt competitors. This is mainly due to the 12” speaker that it has to carry.
The design is nothing to write home or get excited about, That is not the Marshall style. The cabinet is actually one big plain box with a tough black vinyl finish. The only colors you will see are the white Marshall logo on the front. The controls are located on the top.
As a design, you won’t get much more minimalist than this.
Let’s return briefly to the speaker. The single speaker is a Marshall design, especially for their Code series amps. It handles 50 watts of power without a problem. Having such a sizeable speaker onboard does make the unit heavier than most 50 watt combos. It also makes it larger, but this amp is still small enough to keep at home as a practice amp. It is also loud enough for smaller venues for live stage work and rehearsals.
Anyone familiar with Marshall amps will know that this is not the usual layout for a control panel. Normally they are straight across the front. Here they are on top. Much more convenient, of course, so you don’t have to bend over to use it.
It is divided up into two sections that you might call an upper and lower. The lower section contains the standard controls: Bass, Mid and Treble, a Gain and Master Volume. There is also the jack input and the power switch. Sockets are provided for headphones, and there are a USB port and Aux input.
The other section consists of the button controls for the digital effects, cabinet and amp simulations, and presets. There is also a digital screen to let you know where you are what you are doing.
We are moving into uncharted waters. All you normally do is plug it in, turn it on, get your sound, and adjust the presence and wallop.
This is going to take a little investment of your time to get to know it. And of course to get the best out of it. If you are looking for an app that you just turn on and play, then this might not be for you. However, it will be time well spent.
The Onboard Effects
You get such a choice that it is difficult to know where to start. You get a total of 14 preamps and another 14 power amps and eight speaker cabinets. They include the Bluesbreaker and the JCM800 amps. Speaker options range from a single 12 inch to the iconic 4 x 12 inch.
You can mix and match any of them to get just what you want. You can move easily between a sharp, sparkling clean sound packed with presence, to that famous Marshall 100 watt crunch. If you want to push on, you end up with some serious metal sounds.
So having decided exactly what amp and cabinet you want, then you can start applying effects. Any of the 24 available or mix and match a selection.
You have onboard plain and simple distortion units and Wah, Chorus’s Flangers, and Phasers. They have added a 60s style tremolo, compressor, and a pitch shifter, delays, and reverbs. Plus, there is a tap tempo facility built-in.
The range is almost endless in terms of the sounds you can make. We will deal with the sound soon, so more on this later.
They have added a few additions as extras. Bluetooth via the USB will allow you to control it remotely. There is an Aux input that allows you to play along with your favorite songs. Plus, there is a headphone socket that lets you do that in silence if you wish.
Via the USB, you can link up to the Marshall Gateway software for further adjustments. Bluetooth has iOS and Android capability. Once your phone or device is connected, you can use your own playlists, iTunes, or any other music site.
What Does It Sound Like?
If there is one thing you can always rely on Marshall, it is the performance. You always get a great sound. It isn’t one of the great tube amps on its own, but they have modeled in like sounds and features. It is as close as you are going to get without owning an original.
If you are a Marshall fan, then this is a must-have Amp. If you just love the Marshall sound, then likewise. It brings the best that the ‘Father of Loud’ created over 50 years together in one unit. And with that powerful 12-inch speaker, you are going to make some noise in a smaller venue.
There are enough on board to create the perfect sound. It hasn’t got to be ear-shattering. One of the presets offers one of the greatest clean tones you might ever hear. Couple that up with some delay and reverb, and it shimmers. The options are endless, and the sound options offer so much.
Or of course, you could just keep it simple. You could invoke the spirit of ‘66 and just create your perfect match. A JTM45 100 watt with two 4 x 12 cabinets and then let rip. It would be the Ealing Club all over again. Jim would love it if you did.
Marshall Code 50W Pros & Cons
- Legendary heritage.
- High build quality.
- Massive range of modeled amps and cabinets.
- Lots of quality effects.
- Bluetooth connectivity.
- Access to Marshall Gateway software.
- None for the price, to be honest, it’s not a ‘real’ tube Marshall obviously, but what it delivers is incredible for the price.
It may also be worth taking a look at our in-depth Fender Champion 40 review.
When you consider that this is a marshall code 50 guitar amplifier we are talking about. When you consider what is inside this rather plain box, the price point is ridiculous. All of this just blows the competition out of the water,
It is versatile and brings a great range of potential sound modeling to your fingertips. It’s all inside; you just have to take the time to find it,
Do you get an exact replica of that Marshall tube sound? Of course, you don’t. It isn’t possible to do that yet. The tech isn’t that far advanced. It’s very close, though, and you can almost feel it.
Be it for practice, studio, or live, there is unlikely to be an amp that gives you so much at this price point.
This Marshall Code 50W Review has demonstrated to us just how good this amp is.
It’s a Marshall. We don’t need to say anymore.