My Marshall DSL40CR Amplifier Review
I have been looking forward to writing this particular article for quite some time. If you follow my YouTube channel you all know how much I like this amplifier. Today I’m going to explain why I like it so much in much further detail than explained on one of my videos. This article is my in-depth review of the Marshall DSL40CR amplifier.
I’ve owned the Marshall DSL40CR amplifier for 12 months now and it has become my main amplifier for loud gigs. I say “for loud gigs” because the amplifier really shines at 40 Watts of power. Running the Marshall DSL40 on 20-watts is fine for home but in the context of a live mix, it really doesn’t sound as good as a 20-watt amp. Is the Marshall DSL40CR a Good Amplifier? I think so and I will explain why.
Channel Options and Sound Type
What attracted me to this amplifier was the fact of the drive channels sounded so musical. I typically play blues and classic rock and for what I do it really works well. The amplifier has essentially 4 different channels.
- Channel 1: Clean Channel. People always rave about how Fender is the best clean channel amplifier out there. I’m pretty sure that Marshall never comes up in the conversation but maybe it should. The clean channel is clean, warm, and also has a nice top end (think RHCP). The clean channel handles pedals really well also. While you can run dirt pedals into it the two crunch channels are where I live.
- Crunch Channel 1 (green): This is one of my favorite channels on the amplifier. I run it with an off-clean tone that works well for Rhythm guitar and the first gain stage of my solos. This will cover anything from blues to classic rock in terms of it’s voicing.
- Crunch Channel 2 (red): This channel is where I live for soloing. Tone-wise to my ear, it’s the same as the other Crunch channel so I usually run it with more gain and more volume. This makes for a very consistent guitar tone. I don’t know why more amp companies do this!
- Ultragain Channel: I don’t use this channel much. I have been known to use when I am doing a Santana cover where I want thick, fat distortion and lead tones. This channel is also good if you like an “80’s Chug” sound. It can be used for those folks who enjoy Djenting but for what I like the crunch channels rock.
The preamp tubes/valves in this amp are 12AX7 and the power tubes are a set of EL34’s. One of the fantastic things about EL34’s is they have a huge full sound very reminiscent of 6L6’s. We have two master volumes as well as independent channel volumes. This means you can run the overall output however you like. One thing I need to point out is the fact that the amp sounds way better with the Master volumes all the way up.
The reverb on the Marshall DSL 40 CR amplifier is digital but it sounds great. I almost feel like to reverb on this amplifier doesn’t go far up enough. The way I like to run it is to have the classic all the way up and the ultra three-quarters of the way up. That might sound kind of crazy but it actually sounds great. It’s the equivalent of having a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe amplifier reverb on about three on the dial.
There’s also a two-button Footswitch included. Once you pick the two channels on the amplifier you want to use the left side button switches between those two. The right button in gauges or disengages the FX loop. Being able to run a delay in the fracture loop is one of my favorite things about this amplifier. I also noticed that running a delay pedal in the effects loop maybe and slightly darker which is a great thing when soloing. I find the Marshall DSL to be a very bright amplifier inherently. Running the delay in the effects loop just kind of soothes it out a little bit.
The stock speaker in the Marshall DSL40CR amplifier is a Celestion V-Type speaker. These are really solid speakers no doubt about it. I’ve now tried three different speakers in this amplifier and the V-Type is overall a good choice. Once you get the amplifier up louder it doesn’t seem quite as spiky in the top and as it would be normally. Inherently turning a valve/tube amplifier up is the best way to gauge the top end. Things change at louder volumes that most home players won’t know about.
What speakers have I tried in this amp?
- Eminence Tonker: This particular speaker sounded really good but it made the amplifier way to heavy and also way too loud. After carrying the Marshall DSL amplifier with this particular speaker up some steps I knew it wouldn’t last long. That said if you do want the amplifier to be louder the Eminence Tonker speaker is a great option. This particular speaker will also give the amplifier even more clean headroom. I did find this speaker to be a tad too-bright as well.
- Eminence Texas Heat: The Texas heat is the current speaker I have in this amplifier. There were two reasons I ended up choosing this one and it’s staying in the amp. The first reason is it’s a lot lighter than the Eminence Tonker speaker. The second reason is it shaves off the top end and gives me a smoother tone. I really like this for my particular sound.
- Celestion V-Type: This is the stock speaker that comes with the amplifier. It is a lighter speaker than both the other speakers I’ve listed above. It also sounds arguably as good as the Tonker but without the back-breaking experience. A lot of classic-rock players will no doubt like this speaker. I usually find myself running the treble on the amplifier most of the way down with this speaker. The louder the amp is the better this speaker sounds.
One of the great things about this Marshall amplifier is the fact you can switch it down from 40 Watt to 20 Watt. In theory, this is really cool but in reality, the tone is very different. After using this amplifier live a number of times there is no comparison between 40 and 20 watts. 40-watt mode sounds so much fuller, fatter and rounder than the 20 W counterpart. I’ve tried running 20 Watts at a lower key gig and I just couldn’t get the sound I wanted. I opted to run the 40 W mode with the volume down as opposed to cranking up the amp on 20 Watts. If you want the best time possible with this amplifier running on 40 Watts. With that in mind if you’re playing at home 20 W will be more than enough. Is this a good home amplifier? This is complete overkill for a home player I would suggest maybe the DSL5 watt amplifier.
How well does the Marshall DSL40CR handle Pedals?
As I mentioned earlier, the FX loop handles pedals with no problems at all. I’ve tried it now with a number of different delay pedals and had great results each and every time. I’m not sure why you would want to run an overdrive or distortion into an amplifier with three gain channels but the option is there if you so choose. For me personally, running and overdrive into the clean channel on an app like this is not required. There are only two pedals I have on the floor when I use this amplifier.
The first pedal I use is a volume boost pedal. By having a volume boost on the floor I can opt to use it in the channel if I have nowhere else to go for big solos. This is something I don’t often do when I play live. The majority of my button-pushing is just using the channel selection switch on the floor. The other pedal I have on the floor is my Wah pedal going straight into the front end of the amplifier. Unlike a lot of other amplifiers I have wet petals are required this particular amplifier doesn’t really feel like it needs any. This is a certain freedom that comes with playing live and not having to worry about a pedalboard.
The Tone Shift Button and When To Use it
The time shift button is something very unique to this particular series of amplifiers. What it is essentially doing is playing it safe in terms of EQ. With the tone shift button in your hear less top and a tighter low end. Like I mentioned earlier, the louder you have the amplifier up the less top and you will get due to tube compression.
Playing at lower volumes the Tone Shift button will be a great option. It will also be good if you feel like the amplifier or speaker is too bright. Thanks to the Texas heat speaker I don’t find any use for this particular button. When I had the Tonker speaker fitted in the amplifier, it helped a lot!
How to run a Marshall DSL40 for the best tone?
Everybody likes different sounds. What I’m going to share with you on my personal settings that I used when I use this amplifier out playing live. These settings are to reflect the amplifier left to right on the control plate. The settings below relate to the “clock scale“. These are old things we used to hang on the wall to tell the time.
- Gain 1: 11
- Volume 1: 11-12
- Gain 2: 1
- Volume 2: 1-2
- Treble: 10
- Middle: 2
- Bass: 12-1
- Tone Shift (off/out)
- Reverb Classic: Full
- Reverb Ultra: 4
- Master 1: Full
- Master 2: Full
These settings sound great with almost any guitar you plug into it. You may need to adjust the top end or bass depending on the room you are playing in. Remember, with guitar amps each room will give you a different sound. This is how I personally run the amplifier with both the stock speaker and the Texas Heat speaker.
Is the new Marshall DSL40 better than previous versions?
To be honest I haven’t played every series of these amplifiers in the history of their existence. What I can tell you is they sound so much better than the prior series which will also super unreliable. I had a chance to try the prior version of this amplifier and it was nowhere near as good in terms of tone because it had a very fizzy sound. What also let prior versions of this amplifier down was the speaker’s choice. They came with a Celestion 70/80 which aren’t bad speakers but they are just very generic.
Any other speaker will generally sound better in a 1×12″ speaker combo than a seventy 80. 70/80 speakers do sound great when you’ve got more than one of them in a cabinet. In a 2×12, those speakers sound fine. I was convinced I was going to buy a Marshall a few years prior to getting the DSL40CR and after testing those amps I went home thankful I didn’t buy it online without testing it.
Just to be clear we’re talking about the Indonesian or Chinese made Marshall amplifiers as opposed to vintage English made amplifiers. I haven’t had a chance to test out English made Marshall DSL 40 amplifiers in a direct comparison with these new ones so I can’t comment on how they all stack up tone-wise. Comparing this new amp with the prior Indonesian made versions it is not even close.
How reliable is the Marshall DSL40CR?
I have used this Marshall amplifier on probably 60 or 70 videos on YouTube and also taking it out and played live maybe 30 times. There’s not been one gig where I’ve ever been concerned about its reliability. The stock valves have worked extremely well and it is great to see Marshall putting in quality tubes/vales to start with. This saves having to upgrade them because they put in junk right from the get-go. Just a few weeks ago I played a festival gig.
As I was wheeling the amplifier to my car, my knee gave way and the amplifier fell forward on the road. To be fair this is because I am waiting to get my knee operated on and I was walking down a slippery slope. I was devastated that it fell but I got it home, turned it on and it worked. These are built like tanks and something like this proves my point.
Advantages of the Marshall DSL40 over the DSL20
The Marshall DSL 20 is a very solid amplifier as well. There are a few benefits though that going for the DSL 40 over the DSL 20. Here I will list the advantages of both the Marshall DSL 40 and then the DSL 20.
- The Marshall DSL 40 has more tonal options.
- You can switch the Marshall back to 20 W or still having more channels to choose from.
- The speaker in the Marshall DSL 40 is better than the stock speaker in the DSL 20.
- The cabinet size of the Marshall DSL 40 is much larger which equals a bigger sound.
Advantages of the Marshall DSL20 over the DSL40
- The Marshall DSL 20 is a lot lighter.
- The Marshall DSL 20 is less complicated because it has fewer options.
- If you want an amplifier for a small room may be the DSL20 is a better option
- The only overdrive channel on this amplifier is the ultra gain channel. If you don’t plan on ever using the cross channels then this is the amplifier for you
Marshall DSL or Origin Series?
I wrote a detailed article with videos regarding the Marshall DSL vs Origin amplifiers.
Where is the Marshall DSL40CR made?
The amplifier is now made in Indonesia.
Is the Marshall DSL40CR a Good amplifier live and how does it sound?
This is how the Marshall DSL sounds in the context of a live mix. I am using a PRS SE electric guitar and the speaker is the stock Celestion V-Type. I have the amplifier very loud in this clip and it sounds great for blues.
I can foresee myself having this amplifier for quite some time. I’ve purchased and sold so many guitar amplifiers over the years and not have given me such a great sound without any pedals as this particular amplifier has. This has become my main loud gig amp and something I will take to play festivals with when setup time is important. The fewer effects you have on the floor the easier it is to set up. In loud rooms, this is my go-to amplifier. I haven’t been as satisfied with any other amp purchase this much with the exception of my Fender Blues Deluxe. The great thing is, I now have both and they are apples and oranges in terms of what they give me. If you haven’t tried a Marshall DSL40CR give it a shot but remember – TURN IT UP! I hope this review of the Marshall DSL40CR guitar amplifier has been helpful. Feel free to share it if it has been, thank you.