If you ever assumed that you couldn’t get that Marshall tube sound in an affordable practice amp, we’re about to prove you wrong. Coming in at under $300, the Marshall DSL1HR packs a lot of real tube punch in its pint-sized package, and suggests it may be the perfect solution for practicing or recording at home. Interested? We certainly are…
There’s no sense in splurging on a full-blown Marshall head if you’re just jamming at home – trust us, unless you live in an auditorium, you don’t need that capacity. However, the DSL1HR runs off a nothing more than 1 watt of power (no, we didn’t forget to add some zeros… we really mean one single watt). Plus, this can be adjusted down to as low as 0.1 watts.
The overall package is extremely compact and portable, measuring 14.2” x 8.3” x 8.5” and weighing only 12lbs. The kicker is that the DSL1HR isn’t a combo amp – it’s a head only, so you’ll need either a cabinet or some headphones to get anything out of it. We should note that the same head electronics are available in a combo model with an 8” speaker, but that raises the retail price just above the $300 range.
The DSL1HR is a true tube amp in the sense that it uses ECC tubes for the preamp and power amp stages, but there is also an ‘emulated’ output that helps to squeeze out more of that legendary Marshall tone when using headphones or recording. Note that it also has an effects loop.
Two channels are available (Classic Gain and Ultra Gain) although the only onboard effect is a digital reverb. But let’s get real – when was the last time you craved a Marshall for its effects? It’s all about the gain, baby!
Controls on the DSLHR1 are pretty simple, but very effective. Each of the two channels has its own master volume knob, with the Ultra Gain boasting an additional gain control. The channels are accessible through a channel select pushbutton on the front panel or by using the included footswitch.
Shaping your personal tone is intuitive thanks to a 3-band EQ (treble, middle, and bass) and unique Tone Shift feature. The Tone Shift is activated by a pushbutton as well, and it alters the EQ frequencies for each of the three bands, giving you even more flexibility over your sound.
We know what you’re thinking… ‘There’s no way that a lunchbox amp with just 1 watt could sound even remotely decent’. We’re here to tell you otherwise.
All it takes is hooking this head up to a decent guitar cab and you’ll be blown away by the depth and punch of your first chord. The gain on each channel is extremely responsive, and you’ll find it very easy to mimic all of the classic Marshall sounds – from a Plexi set on overdrive to a full blown JCM 800 (with no OD pedal required).
It appears that the Tone Shift does a bit of a midrange scoop – while it sounds great, it may not deliver the true Marshall tone that you’re looking for. Regardless, it offers a completely different tone palette to work with, and sometimes that can be quite refreshing.
There’s no question that the Marshall DSL1HR is one impressive little package. You may believe you need a Marshall stack with a 100-watt head to land on a truly big and beefy tone, but nothing could be further from the truth. While the DSL1HR will certainly never land in the Marshall hall of fame, it certainly gives its big brothers a run for their money and, at under three hundred bucks, offers huge value.