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Marshall DSL5C amp review – 1×10 tube combo

Marsall DSL5C front
Marsall DSL5C front
Marsall DSL5C front


Speaker: Celestion Ten 30
Output (RMS): 5 Watts
Channels: 2
Valves: 3 x ECC83 1 x ECC99
Weight: 12.7
Dimensions: 455 x 430 x 240 (H x W x D)
Reverb: No
Onboard effects: No
Other features: Effects loop, Emulated line out, Tone Shift, Output power adjustment
MSRP: $499
Buy: Buy from Amazon


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Gain tone, build quality, simplicity


No reverb


Affordable Marshall tone in a compact body.

Posted May 1, 2017 by

Full review

The small combo amp market is full of amazing choice for guitarists. Basically any budget and taste is catered for – from $50 to $1500. Whether you want effects on board, USB ports, total simplicity, modern or classic looks…there are so many choices, almost too many. Before we get into this Marshall DSLC amp review, let’s take a little bit more of a look at Marshall itself.

Marshall Amplification

Marshall is arguably the biggest name in amps. Hundred of models have graced the stages of great acts across the globe, and in the studios or bedrooms of recreational guitarists. Their current range has something for everyone, from budget beginners to arena megastars. But where did Marshall start it all?

Marshall Amplification was founded by Jim Marshall in 1962 in England. Marshall is most known for it’s rich and crunchy gain (distortion). Jim Marshall developed this sound by request from artists at the time who couldn’t find enough volume or tone from their existing rigs. The result was a turning point for the industry and the creation of one of the most iconic brands in music.

Marsall DSL5C frontMarshall DSL5C summary

Our review amp is a 1×10″ combo amp.  “Combo” means that all the circuitry and speaker are in one unit, unlike a head and cabinet, which you might see on a stage. The amp offers 5 watts of tube power, which can be dropped down to 1 watt for small room usage, which we’ll talk about a bit later. There are two channels, an effects loop, footswitch, emulated output and Marshall’s classic tone.


All Valve

Unlike some hybrid valve amps, the Marshall DSL5C is all valve. This means that the pre-amp valves (where the tone comes from) and the power amp valves (where the power comes from) are valve technology, not solid state. I’m not knocking hybrid or solid state amps, but if you want a valve amp, this is an important distinction.

Switchable Channels

For me, this is a must have feature in a practice amp. The 2 channels (1 clean and 1 gain) can be switched using the included footswitch. There is also a button to do this on the face panel, but 99 times out of 100, you’ll use the footswitch. Without this feature, quickly changing the tone from clean to gain is impossible without pausing or using an effects pedal.

definitely loud enough for practice and light jamming

Wattage & Power switch

I don’t want to get into a debate about valve and solid state wattage, or peak vs rms ratings. I’m just going to say that nowadays, when you see wattage on a valve amp – don’t compare it to wattage on a solid state amp. This 5 watt amp is definitely loud enough for practice and light jamming.

The power switch on the back allows you to operate the amp in full 5 watt mode, or a lower 1 watt mode. The 1 watt mode means that you can push the volume and gain up, getting the tone you want – but at bedroom friendly levels. It’s a terrific feature that is found on lots of amps now.


Marshall DSL5C controlsI really love the classic control knobs that Marshall put on the DSL5C. The traditional look will appeal to those familiar with the brand and are high quality and work perfectly. The volume and gain controls are straight forward and don’t require any explanation. If you’re not familiar with gain, it simply adds more distortion and crunch to your sound. Down low it will add a light crunch, whereas on 10 it will give you a saturated lead tone.  Treble, Middle and Bass all work fine..nothing to see here.

Tone Shift & Deep

Two controls that might not be so obvious are Tone Shift and Deep. Tone Shift gives you another range of sounds with less mids. I experimented with this and found that with high gain, this made the tone suit metal. It’s not a feature I can see people changing a lot. I expect most will find their tone and leave it.

Pressing Deep just boosts that low end and make the tone richer. Once again, it depends on the style and tone that you’re after. I think the Deep feature is more noticeable than Tone Shift, and both are welcome additions in helping to find the best tone for your style.

Marshall DSL5C BackEffects Loop

We’ll be covering effects loops in another blog post, but in short, an effects Loop allows you to add effects to your setup with more control over the resulting tone. If you have single effects pedals, like this Joyo Sweet Baby or a multi effects unit like the Zoom G3X, then you’ll be able to connect it to the DSL5C  via the effects loop and have more flexibility and control in the end result.

It’s definitely a bonus feature to have on a small amp. For those who don’t use many effects, or aren’t that fussed about squeezing the most from your effects, you won’t really need one. However, if you have lots of effects, or plan to go down that path, an effects loop is really a great feature.

Emulated Line Out

Marshall DSL5C back controlsThis output actually has two functions. When the amp is set to full 5 watt power, this emulated line out sends a line level signature, which could be sent to a mixing desk, recording equipment or external speakers. The amp speaker will still operate in this mode.

In 1 watt mode, the emulated line out becomes a headphone jack, turning the speaker off and making late home use a breeze. The audio input only works in this mode, and is designed to let you plug in your phone and play along with headphones. It’s a nice feature that works really well.


I did find something pretty obvious missing from this amp. Reverb. Thankfully, Marshall also offer a variant that has reverb, the DSL5CR. The other features are exactly the same, though Marshall added some additional equalisation for the reverb and moved the power output switch to the front (a logical touch). You can buy it below.

it put a smile on my face when I hit that first power chord


It’s a simple list of features that ticks basically every box (except the one I just highlighted above). But what about tone? How does it sound? Well, to be frank, it sounds like a Marshall! I was blown away by just how great that Marshall tone is from such a small unit. Of course, that’s what Marshall do – so in a sense I shouldn’t be surprised, but it put a smile on my face when I hit that first power chord.

Marshall tend to get a bit of grief when it comes to clean tones. Many guitarists claim that other amps, such as Fender provide a better clean tone. I definitely love Fender amps and agree that they do deliver beautiful clean tones. However, to say that Marshall can’t do clean is just rubbish. It’s just different. The Marshall DSL5C uses the Tone Shift and Deep modes to help this situation, giving you more control in getting the clean tones you want.

Marshall DSL5C AngleClean

The clean tone, as I mentioned, is a Marshall clean tone. I really like it, and by playing with the Deep and Tone Shift controls, you’ll find a nice result. I think most players will just leave the Deep setting on, unless your setup already has a deep tone. For example, if you have a Les Paul or similar heavy and thick sounding guitar, you might like to brighten up the tone by turning off the Deep setting.

One thing I did notice with the clean tone is that it did start to break up nicely at volume. So if you want ultra clean tones at high volume, you might need to look elsewhere.


Let’s be honest, this is what it’s all about. This is why people buy Marshall…and you won’t be disappointed. With the gain control, you’ll be able to get tones anywhere from a boosted crunch, to blues, to rock and to metal. It’s the highlight of the amp and will not disappoint.

Some Marshall amps offer multiple gain channels, but even though the DSL5C just has a single gain channel, it is setup to deliver the classic Marshall sound.

I found that when playing with the emulated line out through headphones, the gain is obviously not as nice. This is kind of obvious when you consider that you’re removing the whole speaker from the equation, but it’s worth noting.

Build Quality

The quality of the unit itself is a real highlight of he Marshall DSL5C. It is a solidly built case, with the classic Marshall look. You won’t be disappointed in this area. The closed back adds a to the weight and solid feel of the casing. Whilst the amp itself isn’t overly heavy, the strap feels as though it will never break and could hold twice the weight.

The footswitch is fairly small, but is simple, solid and high quality…no plastic in sight.


The Marshall DSL5C amp is a cheap way to access Marshall tube power in a no-frills, traditional way. It will suit guitarists looking for an amp that excels in it’s gain tone. The compact size means it is very portable, but doesn’t mean it isn’t loud. It will be perfect for home or studio practice, and is capable of light jamming, though would struggle to get over heavy drums and bass. The lack of reverb is a slight annoyance, but there’s so much to love about this amp, I doubt it will turn too many people off adding to their setup.



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