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This article was originally published in issue #12
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So you thought Marshall only made iconic Rock screamers? If so, it's time you met the Marshall AS50D - designed for electro-acoustic instruments and with a very special claim to fame in the Marshall story, as Michael Casswell explains.
So would you believe it? Marshall's best selling product ever turns out to be an acoustic amp! I can see why, having tried this AS50D. It's a 50 Watt combo with two eight inch drivers, a tweeter, two channels, auxiliary input, mix input, reverb, chorus, all wrapped up in a very portable package that won't hurt your back or your pocket. There are more expensive, complex, purist acoustic amps out there, but really, for the money, this is very hard to beat!
I used my cheap Yamaha nylon string to get a gauge on what this amp is like. The Mammy has generally always sounded good in studio situations, sometimes mic'd, sometimes DI'd, and for best results, a combination of the two, but for live work, having a good acoustic amp gives you control of things, and stacks the odds of a good on-stage sound in your favour. Yes, you can use the house PA, but then you are at the mercy of the on-stage monitor guy, who probably will not have the same idea of EQ as you, and will not be able notch or cancel out any feedback issues you might encounter at volume, or even be bothered to give you a nice reverb to monitor with! The AS50D deals with it all for you.
If you play bigger professional gigs, then you could plug into the AS50D, set your EQ with the onboard bass and treble (separate on both channels), set the amount of onboard digital reverb you fancy, which is voiced very nicely for acoustic use, cancel out any frequencies that might feedback with the onboard anti-feedback pot, or even reverse the phase with the phase button, and DI out of the back of the amp to the PA. Then tilt the amp up facing you and away from the audience for your own monitoring. The sound guy is happy, you're happy, and the world is a nicer place.
Equally, supposing you go out solo, just you and your acoustic, playing to backing tracks anywhere that will have you. The AS50D will let you plug your guitar into channel one, set your level, EQ and reverb, then you could plug your mp3 or CD player with your backing tracks in to the aux in, and plug your vocal microphone in to the mic input on channel two, which will then allow you set another EQ, reverb, and level, effectively turning the AS50D into a mini PA system. What more do you need?
The 50 Watts in this amp seems more than adequate, but headroom is always a good thing, so there is a 100 Watt version if you think you will need that little extra in reserve. Don't forget that this amp amplifies the sound and tone from your electro-acoustic, so if the sound coming from your guitar is a bit rubbish, then the AS50D will do its best, but don't expect miracles!
I haven't mentioned the onboard chorus which has depth and rate and is capable of quite extreme warbles, but I'm not a fan of chorus on acoustics. Personally, I think it can cheapen a really good tone. Reverb is always welcome, but you have to be careful with your chorus taste meter! There is an effects send and return around the back if you want to add extra toys, which is a nice inclusion.
Some of the competition include compression as a feature on an acoustic amp, but I don't think this amp lacks anything for not having it, and the sound and features you do get for the money simply makes the AS50D a 'no-brainer'. Yes, there are more expensive - much more expensive! - acoustic amps out there, but this delivers all the working musician could ask for and does so at a fantastic price. Well done again Marshall.