By far the most awesome guitar amp I have ever owned
After my Marshall TSL602 died it was time to go amp shopping. The TSL was very unreliable, considering it saw light duty, and overall I was not happy with that amp. For reference I own Fender Twin Reverb, an Egnator Renegade with 2x12 cabinet, the TSL602 combo, and a Mesa Electradyne 1x12 combo. Years ago I played with Line 6 Flextone, POD XT Live through PA, and some older Marshalls and Peaveys. I play cover songs and was looking into a flexible amp that covered clean to mid-gain levels – basically through a single amp to cut down my transportation hassles. I’m 48, been playing 30 years, but only as part time weekend warrior, as I am an engineer by day to pay the bills (if my family depended on my guitar skills we’d starve! Ha ha). I exclusively play a PRS-513 because I hate changing guitars and the PRS pretty much nails a Gibson and Strat tone (even some Telecaster tones!) I cover tunes by The Stones, Brad Paisley, Guns & Roses, AC/DC, Van Morrison, Judas Priest and many others – basically popular wedding and party songs that everybody likes to dance and party to.
So, what about the Mark V? In a word this is the guitar amp to own if you only want to own one guitar amp and need a wide range of tones to play a wide variety of cover songs. I have mine coupled with a 2x12 Rectifier cabinet (but I will eventually get a get a 2x12 Lonestar open-back cabinet to experiment). In hindsight, I feel like a moron for not have invested in this amp sooner – to think that I’ve been missing out on so much tonal flexibility all these years. Anyway, to make a long story short, when by TSL died, I first got a Marshall JVM 410H and 1960AV cabinet, buying into all the hype – big mistake for what I was looking for, so I returned it. I also tried Mesa Roadster and TA-30. I wanted the sparkling cleans of the Fender Twin, the grunt of the Electradyne, the breakup of a Vox, and the scream of the Marshall. The Mark V delivers all these tones and so much more - easily. I’m not going to go into all the features, but with my PRS 513 in the #5 Strat position (neck) I can nail Van Morrison (Brown Eyed Girl) on the Fat Channel with Bold setting and 50% reverb. Same for Jenny-Jenny (Tommy TuTone) and others like it. Switch to Tweed mode and pull off some serious blues. AC/DC is found in Crunch and Mark I modes on channel 2 with PRS 513 in humbucker #1 position (bridge). Gain it up on channel 3 and it easily pulls off Judas Priest and Van Halen tones. Just switching between these channels can cover any tune. All that tone without even getting into the graphic EQ section, which opens this baby up even more. The assignable preset EQ is simply brilliant – talk about getting total control over your sound. I love the 10W setting for cranking at home and I usually play in 45 watt mode – just seems to be really punchy for a small band setting in a live venue.
Everything about this amp screams quality, tone, and flexibility. If you play one genre of music, like 80’s hair-band rock, then you probably want a Marshall for that particular style. But if you want a range of tones that get 95% of any guitar amp tone you can think of, then this is without a doubt the guitar amp to own. Of course the guitar makes a huge impact on tone, so Les Pauls and Strats (e.g., a PRS 513 or Fender Deluxe HSS tone – plus a Tele) will get you any tone you can possibly image. Folks talk about how this amp is difficult to dial in – no way is that true – spend an hour with it to get used to how the switches and knobs work and you will realize this is very easy to dial in. The tube interaction between my fingers and the amp is stunning - it is so addictive because I feel like my fingers are extending from the guitar all the way through the speakers (I know, sounds like corny feel-good stuff, but that is what you get). The modes, gain, and tone controls are extremely responsive – a wee bit alters the tone quite a bit, which is a good thing. If you can’t get a good tone out of the Mark V then you need some serious lessons. Some may say this amp is too flexible – I can’t see how that is possible – on any guitar amp you generally set up your channels and forget it, then use your footswitch to change basic channels and use guitar’s volume and tone to vary the sound in a live situation. I would say to compare this amp to anything it would be that this is like having switchable modules of classic amplifier preamps all in one package (much like a modeling amp (Flextone), but this is the real all-tube deal). With the Mark V’s 3 channels, EFX loop, awesome reverb, switchable EQ, a few time-based effects, and my PRS 513 with a wide range of pickup configurations, this is a cover guitarists dream rig. It just does not get better than this. I learn something new about the guitar everyday, and my equipment far exceeds my abilities. This amp, as others have stated, helped me clean up sloppy playing (that is often hidden in overly saturated tones in a high-gain Marshall, as well as on clean arpeggios in a muddy amp). This amp accentuates my skills (if you want to call it that) and definitely highlights all my weaknesses (of which there are many). Buy this amp - it is the only amp I have ever owned that I would consider to be a “lifelong keeper amp” for sure. Happy jamming!