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User Review

Marshall AVT150 - Reviews Marshall AVT150

I bought this almost new - the unit was orignally purchased at Christmas 2003, and was hardly used by a guitarist who decided to emigrate to Australia shortly after his purchase. I bargained with him and paid £180 sterling. Price new in the UK is £395. He was desperate to sell, and I was very nervous as there could be no comeback. I read all the reviews I could get, but none really revealed some important facts - but here they are!

This amplifier is marketed on the basis of its ability to emulate the best of Marshall’s all-valve amps. However, the most obvious feature when you use it is its ability to generate a wide range of guitar sounds, many not available on all-valve models. It is built with four channels and a set of digital effects that are organised into 16 separate ‘programmes’. The channels are 'Acoustic Simulator', 'Clean', OD1 and OD2 (Overdrive channels giving different levels of signal modulation). The Acoustic Simulator is excellent and in my opinion transforms the signal from my Fender Stratocaster into a sound that is indistinguishable from my electro-acoustic (a Tanglewood TW45N-DLX) played through the clean channel of most guitar amplifiers. The clean channel is variable in its own right and reproduces a range of sounds from pop to blues, according to level of gain used. There is a ‘Bright’ setting that is said to reproduce the characteristics of Marshall all-valve amplifiers. It sounds pretty good to me – clearly you must be the judge. The overdrive channels seem to differ most markedly in the degree of distortion, although the more obviously distorted OD2 channel gives unbelievable sustain even at low gain settings, without sounding excessively ‘dirty’. You can get dirt if you need it at higher gain levels. The digital effects are set separately for pairs of channels, and apply to the Acoustic Simulator and Clean channels, or OD1 and OD2. Even so, the range of effect is enormous.

It has to be appreciated that the differences between some settings are subtle! For example, there are 6 ‘Hall’ and ‘Room’ settings - all are discernibly different when you hear them next to one another in your own home, but I am doubtful whether an audience would detect much difference between them during a gig. The differences between effects such as ‘Chorus’, ‘Flange’, and ‘Delay’ are much more audible, and some effects themselves can be drastically modified. The decay time in the ‘Delay’ effect can be varied with radical results. All things considered, the 16 options give tremendous flexibility. Like many digital effects modules, there are more than you will ever use, but you are sure to use some. Even a limited selection of channels coupled with some effects will produce a fantastic palette of sounds. You will need to spend time experimenting with the various combinations, but a little patience will yield results.

These sound features are very easily controlled from the footswitch, which in my view is one of the best things about this amplifier package. It goes without saying that you need to be familiar with the initial set-up of the effects section and the channel settings first, but once this is achieved, the footswitch permits great flexibility of musical tone during a live performance. The footswitch is clearly laid out and allows you to select any of the 4 channels, plus your pre-selected digital effects. Whilst playing any piece of music, you can easily switch between channels, and turn your digital effects on and off. The layout of the switches is so clear that you are unlikely to hit the wrong button, and they respond sweetly to a tap of your toe. They also work if you are heavy-footed!

Somebody should tell you that it is good to buy the additonal speaker cabinet! Here's why:The most important features of this amplifier are its tone and power. It is after all a system that is supposed to emulate the best of the all-valve Marshall amplifiers. But I have to say that in my opinion, these qualities were not really evident until the amplifier was used in conjunction with its additional speaker. This has to be purchased separately. On its own the amplifier is rich and loud, but if you really want to move some air, wait till you hook it up to the matching speaker cabinet! The volume seems to increase to more than twice that of the basic unit, and the tones seem to be much more 3-dimensional and powerful. It then gives evidence of its real Marshall pedigree. I do not know whether this is a real electrical/physical change, or whether it is subjective, due perhaps to something simple like the height of the speaker. But believe me it is very noticeable. It improves the sound a quantum leap, and who cares how it works, it just does!

It looks great with its simple Marshall lines, and is very solid and compact. I haven't had it long enough to know whether it is as robust as it looks, but I have no reason to doubt that it will withstand the rigours of transport to and from gigs, like its Marshall relatives. It feels very strong.

This amplifier is a very good value, and do not take it for an 'entry level' piece of equipment. However, note the importance of the extension speaker cabinet(AVTC112)which enhances the sound considerably, for a price in UK of about £180. It's still good value for such a monster which is a serious piece of kit.

There are other good features such as a headphone socket which will keep your neighbours from throwing missiles through your window, and external effects sockets so that additional modules can be used, such as those you may already employ. This is a serious contender with a lot of features and excellent musical output.

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