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OK so I grabbed a Marshall MG30CFX off Reverb for a reasonable amount of euros.  I based my decision largely on my experience with the older, more analog, GR15CD.  I’ve spent about 6 hours with the new amp and put several different instruments through it.  Here are my thoughts.

2.5 out of 5 stars/picks

– Squier Telecaster (stacked humbucker in the neck pocket)
– JBovier EMC-5 solid body 5 string emando
-Arrow G5 5 string hollow body emando made by Paul Lestock with a Kent Armstrong pickup

– Origin Effects Slide Rig (dual preamp/compressor)

The amp has 4 channels.  Each channel has a gain stage and a volume stage separate from the Master volume
There’s on board reverb plus 5 other effects chorus, phase, flange, delay, and octave.
Two 3.5mm jacks: one for audio in, one for headphone out (emulated amp signal).
One footswitch jack
One input jack
Button: channel switch between clean and crunch
Button: channel switch between OD1 and OD2
Button: tap tempo for delay/switch between preset mode and live settings mode
Button: Store (save setting to preset mode)
Knobs: Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, Reverb, Volume (relative to gain), effects, Master volume

On the surface this looks brilliant.  But as it happens, unless you’re a fairly simple minded metal head you’ve got work to do to get decent tone, and you’ll need to add some signal enhancement to get good tone.

The clean channel is very good.  It’s certainly very clean.  You can almost get a bit of overdrive if you crank both the gain and the channel volume ALL THE WAY UP.  I suspect we’re overdriving the power amp here rather than the pre-amp because turning down the Master volume kills the growl.
Upside: Loads of headroom for signal path effects.
Downside: no subtle dirt ala Ry Cooder

The Crunch channel is crunchy.  Hard to clean it up, looking for that ‘just ever so slightly overdriven’ sound if pushed.  Gain all the way down to one little tiny notch this side of too low, Channel volume all the way up.  Serviceable in a pinch.

Do the same for OD1 and you get good overdrive without being stupid.

Forget OD2 entirely.  Not worth your time unless you’re in Sepultura.

There are actually two types of reverb to choose from.  And here Marshall did something well.  You can use spring reverb or plate reverb.  My current favourite is just a touch of plate.

The effects are meh.  If you’re a beginner, they’ll give you a good idea of what they are and how they sound.  But the quality lacks a bit.  For example, the octave has a bit of latency and the chorus is not subtle enough.  Pedals are better.  But I did not buy this amp for the effects.

Being able to store your channel settings is really handy.  It makes the amp useful to me.  I can set the gain controls where they need to be in clean and crunch, and then switch back and forth as I wish.  No need to fiddle the knobs to find that one spot on the gain knob where it engages, but not too much.

My beef is that this amp’s channels are too predefined.  There’s little room for finding your own tone.  The GR15CD is a superior amp in this respect.  You can dial in as much or as little overdrive as you like, though you’ll never get into the metal zone.

Fortunately for me, I have a Slide Rig.  (It cost more than the amp!)  So I can use the Clean channel to get a bit dirty and the Crunch channel for proper distortion.

The 3.5mm jacks are a bit touchy.  You gotta wiggle them to get them to connect properly.  So using the headphone out as a line out is not really an option.

To make it more useful as a gigging amp, I’ll have to have a line out installed.  (To hell with the headphone jack.  Vox make an AC30 headphone specific amplifier that destroys this Marshall.  I own one, and I’ll keep using it.)

Daniel (still looking really)