Marshall DSL 100H Tube Amp Head

Hands-On Review: Marshall DSL 100H

Posted on .

This all-tube monster merges tried-and-true Marshall crunch with newfound high-gain intensity.

In a lot of ways, working at Marshall must suck. Oh sure, you're safe in the knowledge that you're employed by a company whose wares are synonymous with rock and roll, whose roaring amplifiers have supplied guitarists with four decades of blissed-out, high-decibel tomfoolery, and whose long list of proponents includes Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Van Halen and Slash (to name but a notable few)—and that's all well and good. But what do you do when it's time to stop resting on your laurels and revamp the product line? First, you panic.

Then you panic some more.

Finally, when you're all panicked out, you put your nose to the grindstone and tackle the daunting task of designing a new amp worthy of the Marshall name. The recipe? When it came to creating the DSL 100H, a dab of the old, a pinch of the new, and two channels liberally basted with lovin' spoonfuls of heart-stopping crunch.

Being a Marshall aficionado, I've bought, sold, borrowed and stolen pretty much every type of amp the company has ever concocted, and I can say without reservation that short of Edward Van Halen's magical Super Lead, this is one of the best damn Marshalls I've ever had the pleasure of assaulting my ears with.

The 100-watt DSL's two channels, Classic Gain and Ultra Gain, capture a wide variety of useful tones thanks to two separate voicings per channel; Classic Gain can be set to Clean or Crunch, Ultra Gain to Lead 1 or Lead 2. Classic Gain can deliver anything from crystalline clean tones that will make you think this amp was designed by a guy named Leo to shimmering plexi snarl to a thick overdrive worthy of the best JCM 800.

Ultra Gain is crunch heaven: engaging the "smooth" voicing delivers enough saturation to make all your fancy fuzz boxes obsolete. In fact, one of the most impressive things about the Dual Super Lead is not how it sounds cranked to high heavens (the second "l" in Marshall stands for "loud") but how good it sounds at bedroom volumes as well. Thanks to the extremely musical, four 12ax7 preamp design, it's really not necessary to slam the power section (four Svetlana EL34s) to achieve smooth, satisfying tones. Add to that an extremely effective “deep” switch that boosts the lows, the obligatory "thrash" button (a.k.a., Mid Shift) for cleft-footed rockers who are convinced that Satan is good and midrange is evil, and a dual-reverb design that allows you to dial in a different level of the effect for each channel, and you've got yourself a winner.

Marshall DSL 100H and MX412A Half Stack

Looking for a seriously hard-rockin’ rig? The Marshall DSL 100H and MX412A Half Stack delivers classic roar plus the face-melting high-gain tones of modern rock and extreme metal.

The Bottom Line

The best new Marshall in years. Well done.

Features & Specs

  • Two footswitchable channels - Classic Gain & Ultra Gain
  • Two Modes per channel for extra flexibility
  • Footswitchable, studio-quality, digital Reverb with Level control for each channel
  • Shared 5-way EQ - Treble, Middle, Bass, Presence & Resonance
  • Mid-Shift button adds to the amp's tonal flexibility
  • Pentode/Triode switch to drop power down from 100W to 50W
  • Bypassable series FX loop
  • 2-way footswitch supplied

You’ll find the entire Marshall DSL Series lineup along with a complete selection of other Marshall guitar combos, guitar heads and speaker cabinets here.

Tags: Electric Guitars Amplifiers

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