Marshall DSL 40C vs Blackstar HT-40 - My perspective

Discussion in 'Marshall Amps' started by snshami, Feb 24, 2013.

  1. snshami

    snshami Member

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    Hi, I recently placed an order for a Marshall DSL 40C and wanted to share my perspective of why I did it and why I chose it over the Blackstar HT-40

    BACKGROUND: (Skip this section if you are not interested) I am in my fourth year of learning guitar. Its taking me longer than some most probably because I am in my 40s and maybe because I am very much an engineer, used to left brain thinking. I have always had a creative bend but thinking in a structured and linear way initially inhibited me. I have had to let go of that a bit to bring out the music in me. I am now at the stage where I don't feel terribly embarrassed auditioning a bit of gear in a guitar store. I am telling you this so you take my review in the context of my skill level.

    I was the happy owner of two really awesome sounding amps, a Jet City 2112RC and an Ibanez TSA15C (Tubescreamer). Before these I had Blackstar HT-1R, a Vox AC4TV and before that a Roland Cube 30X. I bought the Tubescreamer to replace the Blackstar because the Blackstar had no headroom on clean, the Blackstar replaced the Vox because the Vox was really a one trick pony. It had a nice sound but it was not ultimately me. The Vox in turn replaced the Roland, which was my first amp.

    While I had the Ibanez the Jet City was released which gave me some serious GAS and I bought it to complement the Ibanez, thinking that I would have the whole tone spectrum from a sparkly Fender like clean on the Ibanez to the Marshally overdrive on the Jet City.

    When considered objectively the Tubescreamer is probably a better amp than a Jet City and also more versatile if you take pedals into account because of the effects loop. However I ended up discovering that I was always using the Jet City rather than the Ibanez, mainly because of the type of music I played and also because it made a better connection with me at a visceral level.

    It was during this stage that I realized that the tone that resonated the strongest with me the Marshall sound because even with the Ibanez I would invariably use a Marshall style pedal like an MI Audio Crunchbox. Some of the best tone I ever got was putting the MI Audio and a delay pedal in the effects loop of the Ibanez and then turning the Tubescreamer on. But the Jet City was also convenient, I did not have to use pedals and consider gain stacking and the like to get a good tone. I just switched it on turned a few knobs and bingo I was in tone heaven.

    I began realizing that I had one amp too many. Both of the amps did great Marshall tone, but neither did everything. If there had just been an amp that combined the two. If the Jet City had an effects loop this post would never have been written. If the Ibanez had a gain knob this post also would not have been written. When I was buying the Tubescreamer amp the price of that elusive ideal amp was way outside my price range. But recently two things happened. Sellers have reduced prices of gear in Australia and Marshall and Blackstar released amps in a lower price bracket because of Asian manufacture. So suddenly I realised I could sell both my amps and buy that one ideal amp.

    The specs I was looking at were an amp that could get me my tone, two switchable channels and a series effects loop.

    So I started looking, in my journey I briefly considered the Vox AC15, the Vox AC30 but then narrowed it down to the Blackstar HT40 and Marshall DSL 40C

    BLACKSTAR HT-40 vs MARSHALL DSL 40c:
    This was going to be hard. I was determined to choose properly this time, audition it using my own guitar, and then think long and hard. This was something I had not done in the past. The reason why it was hard is because in Melbourne there is no single store that stocked both the Blackstar and the Marshall. Only two stores sold both. One was an online store and the other was so overstocked with other amps that they were not willing to get these in for me to audition.

    Anyway I researched everywhere on the internet, watched all the youtube videos, read all the literature to understand the two amps a bit better. One average both are very popular amps, well respected and loved. Both have had good reviews in the press.

    It was going to be down to my personal preference. I found the Marshall amp first and auditioned it first. I used my Schecter Synyster Gates Custom with Seymour Duncan Invader pickups.

    The Marshall struck me as being very familiar. Its a nice looking amp with controls that are very logical. The two gain channels with two distinct voicings takes from clean all the way to the opposite end in a clear logical way. I was struck with how nice the clean sounded and how much more clean headroom there was, even with my pickups, than I was expecting. The crunch channel was great with those oh so lovely early Marshall tones. Lead 1 was pure heaven and Lead 2 even more so. I was impressed by the articulation, how I could get clear staccato notes without too much noise even on lead 2. Power chords on Lead 1 were the best I have ever heard. I actually got lost for a moment just playing a simple B to C to D sequence. The tone was magical. Then I tried some tapping and again it was awesome. The amp is very bright in a nice way but I could cut the brightness enough using the treble and mid knobs to give me the range of EQ that I would need. The reverb was OK but not out of this world. Maybe a nice pedal would do a better job. The tone shift made a big difference to the sound and together with reducing mids added up to a very scooped sound, something I dont really use. My overwhelming feeling after 30 minutes was happiness. I had a big smile on my face on my way to the Blackstar store.

    The Blackstar immediately struck me as being more modern and nicer looking and slightly better made. Its layout was also less clear and a bit more unfamiliar. I started with the clean and was immediately struck by the greater clarity, the more bell like quality it had over the Marshall. It was Fender like. The second clean channel was dirtier and could be said to be Vox like but without the creaminess so I skipped that. It would have been better to have had volume and gain on the single voice and do it well rather than try to emulate the Vox sound, which is something I have never heard anyone copy very successfully. On the drive side, the distortions were much darker sounding than the Marshall with very tightly controlled, very British HiFi speaker like bass. It all sounded pretty good but it had this of a sound that seemed a bit constrained and a bit tight with a hard edge that was not as nice as the Marshall. It was very hard to put my finger on it. I was trying to like it because the amp looks so great and because it has a feature that would have really worked for me, the emulate out, but it bothered me that the distortion was not sounding the way the Marshall did. On the emulation thing the Blackstar has the nicest sounding sound through headphones of any device I have ever heard.

    One big contrast with the Marshall's distortion is that on the Blackstar the intrinsic sound quality did not really change as I increased the gain, it just became grittier and dirtier. It still sounded like a very modern sound while on the Marshall it seemed to change far more, all the way from old Marshall to new Marshall, as I moved through the various stages of gain. The Blackstar also had this slight sterility to it. I tried moving the ISF knob but that only seemed to move the mids very much like the Tone Shift button on the Marshall does. I could hear Peavey on one side and Marshall on the extreme opposite but not truly authentic rather just a shadow of those sounds. At this point I was beginning to feel a bit underwhelmed. I could tell that on a rational level the sounds were awesome and the dynamics of the amp were really really good but it was just not connecting emotionally; almost as if it was a shade too perfect. I then discovered it had a great reverb. At that time the guitar store person showed me the Blackstar ID range. It was extremely hard and sounded really bad compared to the HT-40 but I realised that it had this overwhelmingly hard edged quality that would only really serve for something like death metal or Motorhead or the like. Strangely it made me realize what was bothering me with the HT-40. It had a degree of that same hardness, something completely absent in the Marshall.

    Anyway my conclusion was that the difference between the Marshall and the Blackstar was like the difference between a beautiful woman and a sexy woman. You like looking at a beautiful woman but would rather be with a sexy one. The Marshall is like a great looking sexy woman, the Blackstar like a cold beauty. On the way home I put a deposit down for the Marshall and resolved to save some money to buy an HT-1R for that headphone sound.

    Would I have bought the Blackstar if I hadn't auditioned the Marshall. Its a hard thing to answer and I am not sure. Did I choose the better amp ? I dont know but I know I chose the amp that connected better with me personally. Would I recommend the Marshall over the Blackstar to anyone. No I would not. I would recommend you go and find out which one resonates better with you and then buy that one regardless of what anyone else says.
     
  2. Risamaru

    Risamaru Well-Known Member

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    I did my amp journey and ended up with a Blackstar HT 40. It was the amp that resonated with me. I bought mine used for 450, it was well broken in and it sounds great.

    You are right about the distortion sound not changing that much with the gain knob, It just adds more saturation. But there's two voice modes on the OD channel the lower gain one will get you more of that older Marshall sound. And its very responsive to the volume knob even with the high gain channel.

    My only issue with the amp is the voice option for each channel isn't foot switchable, because that would be great.

    I Got it because i have a JCM 800 4210 combo and i wanted something that could go farther with the gain without needing pedals.

    In my opinion the HT 40 is a great amp that can cover all grounds, as is the DSL. Im sure you'll be more than happy with your amp.

    Im gassing for the DSL1 combo.:dude:
     
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  3. Dizzyg12

    Dizzyg12 New Member

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    Well written. Great job and congrats!
     
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  4. Rocktane

    Rocktane Well-Known Member

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    As a Marshall and Blackstar owner, I think your findings are right on target. Very thorough and accurate review. The Blackstar Venue series is, compared to Marshall, dark and modern. Congrats on finding the amp that suits your tastes!
     
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  5. snshami

    snshami Member

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    Thanks for the response, mate. I must have missed that button. I wonder if it would have made a difference to my choice. I guess I'll never know. :)
     
  6. HoboMan

    HoboMan Active Member

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    I've played Marshalls for over 30 years.
    When the Blackstars came out they looked GREAT on paper.
    I went to a store ready to buy.

    I brought my guitar with me and tried out the HT40.
    For someone whose used to the older classic Marshall tone it was a big disappointment.
    There was something lacking in the gain dept. I couldn't put my finger on it but something didn't sound good to me .
    I left empty handed.

    Later I read someone else's review of the HT40 and he described exactly what I was hearing.
    Lots of gain but no "Crunch".
     
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  7. Mockingbird

    Mockingbird Active Member

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    We burn Shitstar players at the stake where I come from !
     
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  8. 12barjunkie

    12barjunkie Well-Known Member

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    Nothing can beat a good Marshall "kick in the teeth" !!!
     
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  9. Vmodder

    Vmodder New Member

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    I have two Marshalls and a Blackstar HT-5 stack. The Marshalls have that snarl and bite to them that I love. The Blackstar is very modern and smooth sounding. I took the Sovtek pre tube out of the Blackstar and replaced it with a JJ. It warmed up the amp.
    Enjoy your Marshall bro!!
     
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  10. snshami

    snshami Member

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    You are correct, there is a rawness to the Marshall. I find this rawness to be very musical to my ears. I guess it has a lot to do with how we are all programmed. My 17 year old son hates my Jet City, I love it. He loves the Ibanez Tubescreamer sound better. I wonder what he will make of the Marshall. I'll let you know if you are interested.
     
  11. Vmodder

    Vmodder New Member

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    Keep us posted. I had a JCA20H, and I just didn't bond with it. Enjoy your Marshall!
     
  12. Landshark

    Landshark Well-Known Member

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    I've never played a Blackstar or Tubescreamer, but I do have the Jet City JCA20h and I'm about to sell it to get the JCA 20hv. As soon as I played the hv (darker, less gain, more open and vintage) I knew I had to have it. It just sounded more Marshall to me and had a more pleasant crunch to it to my ears.

    Nothing wrong with going with your ears man. That's the best way to find your tone.
     
  13. Rocktane

    Rocktane Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to get a JCA20h and drive it over to BFG. I like his brown sound mods.
     
  14. snshami

    snshami Member

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    The Jet City is one awesome amp. Probably the best value for money amp out there. I will miss it greatly when it is gone. The only consolation is that the DSL 40C has its tones somewhere within its broader spectrum.
     
  15. Vinsanitizer

    Vinsanitizer 2017 Limited Edition 'Floaties' Promo VIP Member

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    I can't read all that. Who's the winner?
     
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  16. snshami

    snshami Member

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    :). I bought the Marshall.:jam:
     
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  17. Micky

    Micky Well-Known Member VIP Member

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    You should have made him read it.
    You are just enabling him...
     
  18. snshami

    snshami Member

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    Some people have very little time....
     
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  19. SDMarshalldsl40c

    SDMarshalldsl40c New Member

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    I have now owned both. First the Blackstar Ht-club 40. So excited for this amp. But I found the clean very stale and really with little to no character. Did not take OD pedals well at all to my ears. The drive channel was nice sounding, but at gig volumes, very flubby with little to no med range character with my Lonestar Strat.

    Just got the Marshall DSL40c. First thing I noticed, the fit and finish to mine is much better than the blackstar. The cleans are much much more usable without destroying the lead channels with the global EQ. Push in the crunch.. and wham... heaven with my strat. In all 5 way positions, truly what I was looking for. Now the drive channel in both modes is something to my ears too harsh. Way to much treble, mine is set at 1 and pres at 2. It is almost unusable for blues rock to rock. I have been told to try a Scumback speaker or to do the C19 cap mod. Really thinking of both. I love the quality of the amp and channel 1 is to die for. so for me it is a keeper, just looking to ways to make both channels usable for my and my gear.

    That is just my 2 cents.
     
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  20. dcooper830

    dcooper830 Active Member

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    I tried the Blackstar HT20 and HT40 in the store a few weeks ago.

    They sounded really good... I liked the ifinite shape control all the way to the "British" setting.

    But for me, the only way I'd know for sure is to play them on a gig. I just cant tell in a music store setting at low/moderate volume.

    I just love my DSL 100 and JCM 800 2203X so much though... I really don't need anything else!
     

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