There are fewer brands more iconic, or more synonymous with electric guitar playing than Marshall.
Even people who have never picked up a guitar in their life will recognize the name and logo. They’ve been played by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Noel Gallagher.
When I was a college student, it didn’t seem right bringing my beast of a 100 watt Marshall to dorms, so I picked a smaller combo amp from Marshall called an MG30 DFX. It did what I needed, and I’ve since moved it on, but I was curious to see this, its successor, would be like.
There aren’t really an awful lot of surprises here. For what you get in the box, I think it’s a little pricier than competitors. I’m not sure how much of those extra dollars is for quality of the product, or how much is for having a plastic Marshall logo glued to the front.
|What’s its output?||30 watts|
|Valve, solid state or hybrid?||At this price? Solid state baby…|
|What speaker configuration does it have?||One ten inch speaker|
|How many effects does it have?||Six|
|How many channels does it have?||Four|
All of that looks fine.
This amp is all about the cheap and cheerful, and its parts are best described as standard and anonymous.
The wood for the cabinet isn’t specified, but it’s usually MDF. It’s covered in the traditional Marshall vinyl covering, which, to paraphrase Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, could be none more black.
The familiar gold Marshall front panel give an indication of the the kinds of tones that can be achieved with the MG30 CFX. It has your EQ and gain controls, and a master volume. It has the buttons for switching between the channels, as well as for tap tempo and the tuner.
You can also see how the various effects will work. It’s got a dedicated reverb knob, plus a single knob to manage chorus, phaser, flanger, delay, and octave. The unfortunate thing about the latter collection of effects is that with one knob to rule them all, you can only use one of them at a time. But now that I think about the effects involved, that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
There are two jack plugs, one to plug in your guitar, and the other for hooking up a footswitch. There’s as additional mini jack plug input for an auxiliary audio source, like your phone, tablet or MP3 player, and a mini jack plug output for headphone.
I think that front panel covers everything you’d expect or want from an amp of this size and price.
The speaker is a generic Marshall affair. There won’t be any fancy Celestion speaker sat this price.
The good thing about solid state amps is that they’re a little bit more robust than valve amps, mostly due to the absence of valves, which makes them a lot lighter too. In saying all that, the MG30 is far from flimsy. It would be good for musicians using public transport, who need a relatively light but durable amp for getting around.
In saying all of that, you’ll still need to take care of it. A solidly built amp, will only take so much abuse, and its low cost isn’t an excuse to wreck it. Especially stuff like this that relies on digital witchcraft: you still need to have your settings at zero when you’re turning the amp on or off, don’t use it as a coaster or a seat.
Taking a closer look at how the amp has been put together, and the workmanship is spot on. The front and back panel are cleanly fitted. Nothing lopsided, or any gaping holes, or anything that looks forced into place, or and glue residue, or anything implying that the person making this didn’t know what they were doing.
Marshall’s more affordable amps are made in the east, but don’t let that fool you into thinking there’s an absence of quality control. Marshall didn’t become an iconic brand by letting garbage carry their name.
To get the best idea of the tones this produces, and in the interest of delivering a more thorough review, I tried this through both a single coil guitar, and one with humbuckers. There’s not enough space here to go through everything in great detail, so I’ll just pull some key points of things I like and things I didn’t.
With one EQ for everything, I just dialed in my go-to settings: bass at four, middle and treble each at six.
Beginning with the single coil, and I liked where it went to on the clean and crunch channels, a lot. Obviously, it has to do with personal preference, but I’m very much a middle pickup player. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what should deliver the best perspective of the guitar and amp’s tones. And with this set up, I was happy with some of the blue-orientated notes I was getting, especially on the crunch channel.
OD1 sent things a little dirtier, which was OK – heading a bit towards metal, which single coils aren’t really great for. With OD2, I think it was supposed to be even dirtier still, but it gets to a stage where how it gets indistinguishable, and therefore irrelevant.
Introducing the humbucker guitar, favoring the middle setting of both pickups, I enjoyed the full tones of the crunch channel, but I didn’t feel it gelled as well with the clean channel. The humbuckers got on better with the OD1 and OD2 channels. I got some serious metal riff out of that!
With any piece of guitar gear that includes lots of channels and effects, and things that will generally allow you to vary your tone as much as possible, there’s always going to be plenty of playability to tease out of it.
The MG30 CFX is no different.
I’ll use this section to run through some of the effects in the amp. The effects are mostly modulation ones – ones that will make your sound ‘wobble’ for want of a better word. I’ll try to explain how it works. On the single knob to control them, you get to an effect, and keep turning the knob, which will increase the intensity of the effect to a certain point; once it crosses that point, it’s moves onto the next effect.
Does that make sense?
In this respect, they might inspire a guitarist to experiment and push their sounds a little more, but let’s not pretend there’s much control over these effects.
Marshall’s MG30 CFX is certainly a great amp, definitely for progressing beginners or early intermediate level players.
There’s a good selection of tones to keep people busy, which is good if they’re interested in playing a variety of styles, or if they’re still experimenting in what they’re doing, and trying to refine their playing into a sound they can call their own.
In saying that, there’s a chance you can find an amp with similar properties at a lower price, but that depends on how much of a brand aficionado you are, and want to have a Marshall logo amongst your gear.