A LOT OF EDITORS’ FACES EXPRESSED SHOCK AND AMAZEMENT OVER THIS 100-WATT DIGITAL HEAD. (I probably should have taken photos of all the gaping mouths and posted them online, but then I would have had to sleep with one eye open for the rest of my life.) I mean, this amp offers so much for so little that dark-cloud types might consider it a cruel joke, but, trust me, it’s all for real. You get four channels for $400 bucks, butt-simple programmability, three simultaneous digital effects (reverb, delay, and either chorus, phaser, or flanger), tap-tempo delay, emulated poweramp damping, an onboard tuner, and totally kick-ass, sounds-as-badass-as-tubes tone. Each channel delivers an authentic and ballsy Marshall sound: an edgy, shimmering clean tone with massive headroom; a classic-rock-voiced crunch tone; an ’80s-style distortion with creamy grit and sustain (green OD); and a more black-metal-oriented distortion with super-saturation (red OD). Play with the tone controls and the damping switch (Off for midrange emphasis, or On for boosted lows and highs), and you can pretty much dial in the history of hard-rock guitar sounds.
In Preset mode, the MG100HFX lets you save your favorite sounds for each channel—including effects—and all your tweaks are remembered the next time you power up the amp. No more worrying about control knobs getting bumped around in transit and having your dream tones lost in the mists of memory. (Those lucky enough to have virile synapses can enjoy challenging their total recall by using Manual mode and defeating all programming functions.) The only minor glitch in the system is if you want to use the included two-button footswitch (Clean/Crunch and Overdrive Green/Red) to seamlessly switch between all four channels onstage. While an ingenious space saver, the pedal can be a bit confusing as each switch defaults to the last channel selection, and there are no LEDs to clue you in to where you were. In other words, if you are going Clean for a verse, Crunch for a chorus, and then to Overdrive Green for a solo, you’ll need to hit the Clean/Crunch switch twice to get back to a clean sound for the next verse. Not horrible, but not glorious, either. For home recording, the MG100HFX’s speaker-emulated output lets you rage all over your tracks while monitoring at sleeping-baby volume levels (or over headphones), and the simulation pretty much nails a mic-right-on-the-grille sound.
At just $400, the MG100HFX would be a wicked value, even if it just had four great tones. But when you add the programmability, onboard effects, and home-recording capability, the amp practically becomes a “must buy” proposition. —Michael Molenda
PRICE $570 retail/ $399 street
CONTROLS Gain, Clean/Crunch switch, Bass, Middle, Treble, Overdrive switch, Reverb switch, Reverb, Volume, FX switch, Mod Control (Chorus, Phaser, Flanger), Tap Tempo switch, Delay, External FX switch, Master volume, Damping (Manual) switch, Store switch.
POWER 100 watts
EXTRAS Headphones/line out jack, footswitch jack, two outputs, mp3 line-in jack, series effects loop, tuner.
SPEAKER Marshall 4x12 w/custom-voiced Marshall/Celestion speakers; $449 retail/$299 street
WEIGHT 25 lbs (head)
MAXIMUM MEASURED VOLUME 120dB
KUDOS Tremendous value. Awesome tones. Programmability.
CONCERNS Two-button footswitch a bit wonky for onstage channel changes. Reverb washy at high volumes.