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Most popular backline Rock amp for a good reason - Reviews Marshall DSL100

The Marshall JCM 2000 DSL 100 is a 100 Watt, EL34 based tube amp head with two channels and a comfortable variety of tones and features. Introduced in 1997, it was hailed as the next step to Marshall's famed JCM 800 and JCM 900 series. It offered clean tones, classic, plexi-style crunch, and searing high gain previously only available in modified JCM models.

The DSL 100 features two channels with two modes each, a mid scoop switch, deep switch, shared 3 band EQ along with a global master volume and presence. The DSL also features an FX loop and footswitchable spring reverb, which is controlled independantly on each channel by Reverb A and Reverb B controls.


Channel 1 offers two modes-clean or classic crunch- at the flip of a switch.
Channel 2 is the Ultra channel, dishing up two savage levels of hotrod Marshall high gain.

In addition to the two channels and mode switches, there's also a Deep switch, which is essentially a pre-set resonance control, to add clean lowend punch. There's also a Mid scoop switch, which does exactly what it says, and creates a huge dip in the midrange curve, perfect for that scooped tone Dimebag enthusiasts love so much.

The channels are switchable via a single Marshall-style footswitch. The channels as well as the reverb can be switched with a Dual footswitch, or two single footswitches.

Obviously, with both channels sharing an EQ, some tweaking is required to get a good tone from both channels if you will be using them both. Otherwise, what might sound great on the clean channel might be too dark or boomy on the lead channel... you get the picture.


Great tones are considerably easy to dial in on the DSL. With all controls at 12 O'clock, the clean channel produces a nice, workable clean that isn't too flat or bright. It's one of the best clean tones Marshall has ever produced, but it's still a Marshall clean, and it won't sparkle and shimmer like a Fender. Turning up the gain pushes the clean tone into low-volume JTM45 territory. Engaging the crunch switch brings about the signature Marshall Plexi crunch, and does it in convincing fashion.

The Ultra Channel aims to produce and surpass levels of gain that players had already getting by hacking up their JCM 800's for years. And in this regard they succeeded quite well, though in more recent years tastes in high gain may have shifted away from what the DSL brings to the table.

That being said, there are a tremendous variety of tones available simply by altering the gain, and using different guitars. An overdrive pedal also helps to cut some of the muddier lowend frequencies and peak the treble response.

The major issue with the DSL was lowend response. It was indeed muddy for a high gain amp, and the deep switch made the lowend very boomy.

Treble response on the high gain channel is also an issue, as it can be a bit tinny and fizzy with most EQ settings.


The DSL 100 can be had on the used market for well under $1000, and for this price point its a great investment.

The tones available in the DSL and many and varied, although its not without its issues, as mentioned above. The FX loop and reverb (which is solid-state driven) also leave something to be desired, though not altogether unusable.

There are some reliability issues with certain runs of the DSL 100, and these are all well documented on various forums, but fortunately there is also a wealth of information on how to address these issues.

Overall the DSL 100 is almost a mandatory piece to have in your collection if you're a hired gun who plays everything. It approximates many classic Marshall tones without hauling out your vintage JMP's or JCM 800's, and it also covers a variety of tonal ground.

I'm very excited to see what the new 2012 Marshall DSL 100H brings to the table.