Marshall AS50D amp review
Type: Solid State
Excellent set of features in a classic looking amp.
coustic guitar amps are usually those found languishing in the corner of guitar shops, often gathering dust and rarely in a prime location to grab your attention. In the case of the Marshall AS50D, that’s a real shame, because it is a well built, retro styled acoustic amp with a few neat tricks that would suit small performance situations, recording or even busking. Recently we looked at exactly why there are specific amps for acoustic guitars, so please read our recent post to come up to speed with why you might need an amp like this.
When it comes to acoustic amplification, I am definitely a fan of PAs as opposed to specific amps that will add their own voice, after all, we just want to hear the sound of the guitar without ANY interference. However, PAs can be cumbersome, and do not feature some of the specs and add ons that an amp like the AS50D does. This is a 50W solid state amp with 2 x 8″ Celestion speakers and a “high fidelity polymer dome tweeter” to deliver a full range of frequencies. There are two channels, volume and master volume, chorus and reverb, bass and treble as well as something call anti feedback frequency, which we’ll get into. As far as inputs, you have 2 regular inputs, 1 per channel and an XLR input for a microphone on channel 2. As for outputs, there is a lineout and a DI Out via an XLR socket. There is also an optional footswitch and an effects loop. It’s a pretty nice ensemble of features I reckon, nothing overly flashy, but some genuinely useful toys to add flexibility to your playing. Marshall also offer the AS100D, a 100W variant offering more on board effects and 4 channels.
Looking at the main features, the 2 channels allow you to cater for multiple instruments or a guitar and a microphone. Both channels offer volume and tone controls, meaning you can get the right mix between guitar and voice, or 2 instruments. Channel 2 also offers an RCA input (maybe for a backing track) and a phantom powered XLR input, perfect for a microphone. Channel 2 also has a standard jack input, so you have a lot of bases covered.
Chorus is offered with speed and depth controls, as well as the ability to assign the effect to either or both channels. This is pretty cool, as many amps don’t offer this flexibility. Similarly, the reverb can be mixed between the channels so you can get the desired effect. If you wanted a lot of reverb on your guitar, but only a little on the voice channel, then dial the control into about 2 o’clock and you’re sorted.
The effects loop is also controlled with the same control as the reverb, meaning that any additional effects you have running through the loop can be mixed between channels. I experimented a bit with this and found that if I wanted reverb on both channels, but a delay only on the guitar channel, then I needed to take the delay pedal out of the effects loop. It was ok, but I’d have liked to have a separate mixer for the loop, rather than having it combined with the reverb level.
Say goodbye to feedback
One really neat feature on the AS50D is the anti feedback controls. As anyone who has amplified acoustic instruments and voice knows, feedback can be a killer to control. Marshall have a few tricks on the AS50D to help combat this. There are is a frequency sweep dial which you can use to try to locate the offending frequency, as well as a phase reverse button and notch button, both designed to help you find the frequencies that are causing the feedback. My testing of this was fairly limited, as for whatever reason, I wasn’t getting a huge amount of feedback when testing the AS50D, but from experience, the location, instrument and environment can play havoc and having a few ways to help control feedback is a nice fallback option.
As I said at the start of this review, I am a fan of pure amplification for acoustic instruments. If I’ve spent money on a nice semi-acoustic guitar, I want the amplified tone to simply be a louder version of the acoustic tone. I can add effects if need be, but the tone itself should be as natural as possible, in my opinion. This view tends to result in a PA being the preferred choice for an amplifier. However, I can truly say that the features, looks and portability of the Marshall AS50D really offers a great package. The tone is very good, I won’t say amazing, but this is not a hugely expensive amp, so I’m not expecting amazing. The two 8″ Celestions and single tweeter produce a nice tone, in fact more than a nice tone, it’s absolutely capable of gigging and won’t colour the instrument beyond recognition.
The chorus and reverb are both above average offerings. I found the reverb a lot more useful than the chorus, and both were more effective on fairly low settings, though that is probably more to my taste in these specific effects. If I had to describe the overall tone of the AS50D, I’d say it is warmer than a lot of other similarly priced amps I’ve heard, which I think is a good thing, as so many value acoustic amps can make your guitar sound metallic and harsh.
Aside from the pure tone itself, what you’re really getting with the AS50D is a combination of very very useful features. Two individually controlled channels, effects loop, anti-feedback controls, chorus and reverb. This covers a lot of bases, from small giggs, to busking to home practice.
The Marshall AS50D is a well appointed, classic looking acoustic guitar amp that will appeal to a wide range of players thanks to the throughtful list of inclusions. The pure tone is very good, but add the flexibility with 2 channels, the effects loop and onboard effects and you have a very very good amp. I think you’ll struggle to find a better amp in the same price range.
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