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  • Marshall Class 5 1X10 All-Tube 5W Guitar Amp

    By Phil O'Keefe |

    Marshall Class 5 1X10 all-tube combo amp ($399 street)


    Classic Marshall sound from a small, all-tube 5W amp.



    By Phil O'Keefe


    A lot of people have been asking for a small Marshall tube combo that offered the classic Marshall attitude in a smaller, lower wattage version; something that would be better suited for small gigs, recording use and home practice than their larger combos and stacks are. Marshall has delivered with the new Class 5. (Fig. 1) Let's take a closer look.




    Fig. 1 The Marshall Class 5 5W all-tube 1X10 combo amp.




    Housed in a "Bluesbreaker" styled combo, the Class 5 sports a familiar vintage look. Controls are on the top of the amp, and consist of only the basics - volume, treble, middle and bass. There is no master volume control (Fig. 2), which some people may miss; despite its relatively small size (19.5"W x 16.33"H x 9"D) and 5W Class A power rating, this puppy can get loud enough when cranked to get apartment dwellers with cranky neighbors evicted. The speaker is a Celestion branded G10F-15 (Fig. 3) that was developed specifically for this amplifier, and is rated at 15W RMS with an efficiency rating of 96.5 dB @ 1W / 1m.  The rear panel includes a headphone output with selector switch and a 16 Ohm external speaker output - using either the headphone output or external speaker jack mutes the onboard speaker.




    Fig. 2 The Class 5's control panel is simple yet effective, but lacks a master volume control.



     Fig. 3 The Celestion G10F-15 speaker.




    Some owners complained about rattling issues with a few early examples of this amp. Rest assured - Marshall has addressed this, and current Class 5's are completely rattle free. I got a good look at the construction quality of the amp when I disassembled it (Fig. 4) to check out the tube access, which requires the removal of 11 bolts and screws and pulling the amp chassis from the enclosure; don't expect to do this in five minutes at a gig. On the positive side, the construction quality is solid - the steel chassis and vented back panel are heavy gauge, and rubber gaskets and stoppers / standoffs at critical locations assure rattle free operation. The Sovtek EL84 output tube is held in place in its ceramic tube socket with a simple but effective spring loaded wire retainer, and the tube sockets for the two (Marshall branded) ECC83 (12AX7) preamp tubes hold the tubes tight and secure. I have had no reliability or noise issues with the amp, and was generally pleased with the sound of the stock tubes.




    Fig. 4: Replacing the tubes requires the removal of 11 screws and bolts and partial disassembly of the amp.




    While the clean tones are fine for recording and practice purposes, you can't expect an amp in this wattage range to stay clean at loud enough levels to hang with a full band. If that's what you're after, you should look elsewhere. What this amp excels at is grit and dirt. The amp stays clean up to about 9 o'clock on the volume knob; hitting about 85-90dB SPL (measured at two meters) in the process. You'll start to notice it getting some grit in the tone by 10 o'clock. Turn the volume control up to about 1 o'clock, and it is nearly as loud as it will get - moving it beyond that point tends to add more distortion than volume. Cranked to the max, it will hit about 105-107dB SPL at two meters from the amp, which is loud enough to cause hearing damage if you play without hearing protection for extended periods. The Class 5 interacts very well with guitar control adjustments. I like to set the amp's volume knob to about the 1 o'clock position; this allowed me to use my guitar's volume knob to quickly adjust from clean to slightly overdriven to all out distorted tones.


    The basic sound of the Class 5 is somewhat reminiscent of a Bluesbreaker combo, with hints of JCM800 thrown into the mix. It's aggressive and meaty, thick and full sounding, with a touch of snarl and spit, depending on how you dial up the controls and whether you're using single coils or humbuckers. Unless you add a dirt pedal, the distortion sound is more classic rock than "metal", but since it takes pedals so well (the Catalinbread DLS is a standout with this amp), you can get it sounding considerably heavier in the dirt department when desired. Frankly, as long as you're in a situation where you don't have to worry about anyone complaining about the noise, it's a blast to just plug in, crank up and wail through this amp. And if you really want to move some air, plugging it into a 16 Ohm 4X12 cabinet will give you extra push and thump. The stock speaker benefits from a bit of a break-in period before it sounds its best, but don't underestimate it - it sounds bigger and fuller than you'd expect from a 10" speaker in a relatively small combo amp.




    This is a great amp for recording. It has plenty of grit and punch, and a surprisingly full sound, despite its relatively diminutive size. It takes pedals extremely well, and if you're looking for classic all-tube Marshall crunch at moderate volume levels and are on a tight budget, this will definitely get you there. The lack of a master volume control is really my only complaint, and apartment dwellers may want to use a good overdrive or distortion pedal instead of cranking the volume, because it can definitely get loud. But that's OK for me - I have a well isolated studio, and this Class 5 is staying right where it is - I purchased the review unit.


    Class 5 Specs:


    Power Output: 5W RMS Class A
    Preamp Tubes: ECC83 (X2)
    Power Amp Tube: EL84
    Internal Speaker: 1X10" Celestion G10F-15 15W, 16 Ohm
    Channels: One
    Controls: Volume, Treble, Middle Bass, Power switch, Power lamp
    Inputs: One, 1/4"
    Headphone Output with selector switch; bypasses internal speaker
    16 Ohm Extension Speaker output (bypasses internal speaker)
    Dimensions: 19.5"W x 16.33" H x 9" D
    Weight: 26.5 lb.


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