Marshall DSL15C Review – To Buy or Not To Buy?
The Marshall DSL15C is great if you want an amp with all the features the pros use, but in a small package.
It’s a mini version of the same DSL 100-watt head that is used guitarists like classic rocker Jeff Beck, punk pioneer Steve Jones, and modern metal-head Matt Heafy from Trivium.
If you are considering purchasing one of these, we’ll cover the pros and cons of this amplifier in this review, as well as compare it to some of the other 15W amps made by the major amplifier companies like the Fender Blues Jr. or the VOX AC15C1.
Table of Contents
The DSL15C is the smaller version of the DSL series from Marshall, all-tubes amplifiers that are great for heavy tones.
Let’s get deep into what makes the Marshall DSL15C so special and it will solve your amplification needs.
DSL stands for “Dual Super Lead”.
The DSL15C has 2 Channels, Deep Switch, Tone Shift and Digital Reverb. It’s enclosing is solid and rugged. It weighs exactly 37.04 lbs (or 16.8 kg) so you won’t have problems carrying it with one hand. It is also built like a tank so it’s quite practical to take along to rehearsals and even small gigs. It does cut through a live drummer, if cranked to about 50%. But if you need it louder without getting feedback, you can always microphone it to the PA.
In case you really need more juice, it’s got outputs for external speakers. With 15W and a single Celestion 12’’ speaker, you’re really only getting so much power out of it, so an additional speaker would be the way to get the even more from this amplifier. I really don’t think it’s that necessary though. This little thing is surprisingly loud and many users confirm not having to crank it up past 12:00 o’clock on the dial. For home use, for example, some people mention just 2 for the master volume being an ok sound.
Get the full picture on what features you’ll find on the DSL15C and see if it’s the right amp for you.
The amp has 2 channels. “Classic Gain” and “Ultra Gain”. You can alternate between these channels either via the channel select button or the included foot switch. There is of course a shared EQ for both channels consisting of Treble, Middle, Bass and Presence.
A Tone shift button is located on the left of the EQ. When engaged, it scoops out the mid-range to give you a more modern metal tone.
A Deep button is located on the right of the EQ and this gives a warm bass boost to your guitar tone. For a fatter sound that really enhances the lows, I would recommend leaving it engaged most of the time.
It also comes with an integrated, studio-grade digital reverb that sounds quite nice and spacey. The 2-way footswitch can also be used to select between reverb on and reverb off.
On the back we have a classic kettle cord for power and a Pentode/Triode switch which halves the output to 7.5 watts. This is quite useful when practicing at home without upsetting people around you. There are also, of course, the footswitch socket and output jacks 2 x 8 ohm outputs for connecting to a PA system and 1 x 16 ohm output for the built-in speaker or connecting to a cabinet.
The Settings and Sound
Find out what the DSL15C actually sounds like and how to tweak it to your liking.
There are so many different great classic tones that you can get out of this amp. I will go through just a few of these settings and their sound characteristics to get you started.
With all settings at noon you get a bluesy tone reminiscent of B.B.King and Eric Clapton.
Turn the gain up a bit and you will get a fuzzy crunch like that of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.
Switch to Ultra gain with all settings at noon and you will have solid metal sound that compares to some of the guitar tones from Metallica and Iron Maiden.
Crank the gain some more and you will be riding on a Slayer/Megadeth tone, then engage the deep tone shift for some Lamb of God/Bring me the Horizon metalcore action.
You can check out some of its sounds for yourself here:
So overall, it’s a very versatile amp that could potentially cover your practicing, full-band rehearsing and small-gigging situations. But of course, the guys at Marshall aren’t the first ones to come up with something like this. Let’s now take a look at other great 15W combo amps and how the Marshall DSL15C stacks up against them.
Marshall DSL15C vs Fender Blues JR III
Fender has its own small-packaged version of an all-tube classic. How does it compare to the Marshall?
Thankfully, the guys at Fender have some great amplifier lineage to draw from as well. The Hot Rod is one of the most popular all-tube amp series of all time. It’s flagship is the Hot Rod Deville and this amp is used by professional guitarists like Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. from The Strokes, Paul Banks from Interpol, and even Robby Krieger from The Doors has been using one lately.
Why am I telling you this? Well, the Blues Jr is to the Hot Rod Deville what the DSL15C is to the DSL100. It’s basically a shrunken version of the same amp. So if you want a portable thing that can provide you with a similar tone to those indie-rockers, the Blues Jr might be just the thing. As you probably imagine, the Blues JR is much more inclined towards warm, bluesy colorful tones, and not so much towards heavy and aggressive like the Marshall is often associated to.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get aggression and heaviness from the Blues Jr though. It all depends on how you play, and of course, what other equipment you connect to it. Namely, your guitar and your pedals. But it’s always better if you can have a listen yourself:
As far as specs go, the Blues Jr carries most of the same features as the DSL15C with a few subtle differences. With the Blues Jr, you get only one volume knob instead of a volume and a gain like with its Marshall counterpart.
I believe Fender likes to keep things simple, so there’s only one channel. It’s also got a “Fat Switch” which is a similar feature to the “Deep” switch on the DSL15C. Enhanced lows and a thicker sound.
Of course, it’s packed with its treble, bass and middle equalizer, a master volume knob and a reverb knob. The reverb on the Blues Jr is a “spring” as opposed to digital. This means it’s more natural sounding since the effect is created by the sound of actual springs interacting with the original signal. It’s got its pros and cons of course. Like no reverb switch and thus less control. More like, pick a reverb setting and stick with it for a whole song. Make no mistake though, the sound of an actual spring reverb can do wonders for your tone.
Finally, the Blues Jr III is also 15W with a 12’’ eminence speaker. It can also be hooked up to an external speaker via an output jack and it’s got a nice little window on the back panel from where you can see the actual tubes. It weighs a total of 31 lbs (or 14kg).
So which one among the two is the best amp? That’s really hard to say. It’s more about what you’re looking for out of a particular amp. Fender and Marshall can have very different sounds, so I would advise listening to several demos of each amp, or demoing yourself if you have the chance and then taking your pick.
But! Before you get all Marshall vs. Fender, let’s take a look at another fantastic 15W amp from another British Company.
Marshall DSL15C vs Vox AC15C1
Another 15W version of a highly-coveted classic amplifier. It’s pricier and heavier, but it makes up for it with a distinctively bright tone.
Same as with the previous two amps, the AC15C1 is a shrunken down version of a true legend in guitar amplification. That is the Vox AC30. That amplifier is a hallmark of the sound of British Rock&Roll and it has been used by notable players such as Alex Turner, The Edge and Jonny Greenwood, among many, many others.
So the AC15C1 is the 15W version of an iconic piece of equipment. Among the amps reviewed here, it’s the most expensiveand also the heaviest, with 56.06 lbs to carry (or 25.42 kg).
It’s 15w of power go to a 25w 12’’ Greenback speaker. This speaker really helps define the high frequencies without making them obnoxiously bright. Vox amplifiers are specially famous for how they perform on the high end, so make sure you’re comfortable with that before settling on this one.
Volume-wise, it’s every bit as loud as the previous two amps. That means you won’t have a problem at rehearsal or sitting above the band (frequency-wise) at small gigs. However, some users have reported it as being a bit too loud for home use. You can still use it at low volumes, but it really needs to be kicked up a bit in order to reach its “sweet spot”. It doesn’t feature anything like the Pentode/Triode that halves the power on the Marshall.
The AC15C1 has got two channels, normal and top boost, with an equalizer for the top boost channel. This amplifier is also all-tube and features a built a built-in tremolo effect with depth and speed controls as well as its own spring reverb. These effects can be activated through Vox’s VFS-2A dual footswitch. This one, unfortunately, is sold separately.
Is the DSL15C the right choice then? That depends on who is it for.
Coming from a trusted brand in guitar amplifiers, and with a lineage that goes back to one of the most sought-after tube amplifier lines of the turn of the century, the Marshall DSL15C shows great versatility, durability and sound quality in a comfortably small package.
This amp has shown itself to be perfect for any musician starting on guitar or seeking to upgrade their equipment. If purchased, this amp should likely become your go to amp for any gigging or recording situations simply because of the great sound and versatility it has to offer.
Although it may seem slightly pricey, remember that this amp is an investment in your sound, one that will likely stick with you for many years to come. It is also priced quite right if you see what other 15w amps from other major companies are going for.
As said before, whether you are a Vox a Fender or a Marshall player, it all depends on what sound you’re looking for. So with hopes that you have found sufficient data to make an informed decision, I recommend you give a serious listen or demo to each one of these fantastic amps and pick what suits you best. Let me know on the comments section which one was the final choice!
Where to buy
Amazon sells Marshall products and sells worldwide: