Have Marshall managed to break the code of amp modelling? Get it? I’m so witty!
One advantage in being an old bloke is to see how technology has developed over the years. Go back 30 years and the Rockman promised big stack tones in a tiny box, and it worked pretty well too. And as tech has developed, we got fancy digital modelling too, and then modelling amps as well. And now, a little late to the party, amp legends Marshall have introduced the all-new CODE range, combining modelled amps and effects under that iconic badge.
From the start there are some interesting features in the range (that go from a 25-watt 1×10 combo to a monster 100-watt 2×12 combo and head), not only have you got a classic range of Marshall amps from the past half century to play with, but Marshall have developed the modelling with legendary amp software designers Softube. I’ve played Softube software for years, and these guys really know their stuff.
I’ve spent a bit of time with the 50 watt version, and you get all the classic Marshall amps you would hope for, Bluesbreaker any one? JTM45, 1959? JCM800 all the way to the newest Marshall stuff. Add this to 24 effects and of course all the generic but essential amp tones that every modeller has. Fenders, Boogies, Voxs, you know the score.
It’s a handsome beast too, with a big LCD display, USB socket, tuner and a very solid iOS app called Gateway that allows wireless editing and selecting of tones. This worked very well on both iPhone and iPad and makes tone shaping a doddle.
But, I hear you cry, this is not new, Line 6 have had a similar package for a couple of years, how does it sound?
Well, you will be pleased to hear, it sounds most pleasant. The key of course is the Marshall sound and the modelled JTM sounds like a JTM, the Bluesbreaker sounds astonishingly close to a reissued Bluesbreaker that I played last year (and which weighed more than Australia), in fact the cleaner and mild breakup tones were very satisfying to play, with a liquid transparency that was, dare I say? Valve like?
Go into more extreme territory and the JCMs and JVMs will rock your world with a very pleasing depth and weight to the sound. The effects work well with a discretion that makes the presets genuinely usable rather than just a demonstration of processing power.
I loved Line 6’s Amplifi, I loved it’s usability and the innovation of it’s speaker technology. I think it is still a more innovative product than the Code.
But the Code sounds better, and I think would be easier to use in a live setting. The basic quality of the modelling (especially of the Marshalls) is the best I’ve heard in a modelling amp at this price range.
Have Marshall broken the Code? I think so, if you are a Marshall fan, hell, even if you are not, even if you hate the idea of modelling full stop. Play it, you might love it.