The Marshall MG15CFX is a 15-watt solid-state combo amp with built-in digital effects. It has four channels (more properly: four gain stages), two reverbs (studio and spring) and five effects: chorus, flanger, phaser, delay (with tap tempo!) and octaver. Naturally it has a line in for jamming along to an MP3 player or the like, and there is also a headphone output for silent practicing. There is no USB port, so you cannot control it via software, this is an old-school amp with new-school accouterments.
The MG15CFX has few controls, but utilize them well. The channels/presets are accessed via two buttons: one switches between clean and crunch, the other between OD1 and OD2. It remembers the last setting, so you can switch back and forth between, say, crunch and OD2 without having to click excessively. There is also a footswitch jack for when your hands are otherwise engaged. A button switches the amp between manual mode (the sound reflects the current amp settings) and preset mode (one saved preset per gain stage, including gain, volume, EQ settings, reverb and effect). There are no real surprises with the controls: gain, volume, 3-band EQ and master volume work as they would on any other amp. The reverb and effects controls are a combination of effect selector and intensity adjustment. (No effect – twist – some chorus – twist – more chorus – twist – some phaser, etc.) This also means that you can only combine reverb and effect – no chorus and delay combination, for instance.
The dry sounds are standard fare for Marshall amps: a solid clean tone, good crunch sounds and a nice, fluid lead tone. With judicious use of the channel selector, gain knob and EQ, you can dial in anything from ballad clean to death metal, from the Bluesbreakers to Iron Maiden. As I’ve remarked in another review of another amp from another British manufacturer, it’s very nice to see (hear?) that solid state amps nowadays can also make some pretty convincing crunch-type sounds, it’s not just clean and full-on distortion. It’s just a pity that the unit doesn’t come with a noise gate, because you get quite a bit of annoying hiss on the OD channels. The effects are good enough for home practice and simple demoing, but I’d probably look elsewhere for delays and phasers.
It is difficult to make a proper recommendation of this unit, since it so much depends on your point of view. If you’re a Marshall aficionado and want something that sounds good at very low volume levels, where even a 1-watt tube amp would be too much, it is an obvious choice. Whether you would want this amp or its simpler sisters (the CFR comes with spring reverb only, the CF is sans effects) comes down to a matter of budget and applicability. If you are a traditionalist and/or prefer adding effects in post when recording, then obviously you’ll want the bone-dry CF. Comparing it to other brands at the same price point inevitably brings up the apples-versus-apples debate. This Marshall only ever strives to sound like a Marshall. Fenders, Voxes, Line6:s, Blackstars – all those model other amp types as well. If it were me, I’d spend the extra cash on a Blackstar ID:15, just for the flexibility and the extra power and control (via the software).