Marshall vs Blackstar Amps: Which are the Best?


Marshall and Blackstar are well known for making high quality amplifiers, but who makes the best models? In this article, I’ll be comparing the signature tones of Marshall and Blackstar and the features and specifications of pretty much every model in each range to help decide which is the best option for you.

The Quick Answer

Marshall amps sound more crunchy and have a more vintage-style saturated tone compared to Blackstar amps which produce a more modern and darker sound. Both Blackstar and Marshall produce a wide range amplifiers to suit different budgets, however Marshall has a larger range of high-end valve amps.

Comparing the Tones

Both Blackstar and Marshall produce valve and solid state amplifiers. Although the tones of each amp depend on the exact model and type (valve/ tube or solid state), I wanted to try and pin down what the signature tone of each brand is.

  • Marshall amps sound crunchy and gritty and can produced a very saturated sound. The mid-range is very pronounced, giving them a punchy sound.
  • Blackstar amps sound heavy and favour bass and treble frequencies, instead of the mid-range, giving them a more scooped and warmer tone.

Clean Tones

  • Blackstar amps sound warmer than Marshall amps when played clean.

Distorted Tones

  • Marshall amps sound crunchier than Blackstar amps which sound darker and heavier.

Marshall amps are often associated with crunchy, classic rock tones whilst Blackstar amps are more associated with heavy metal due to their darker tones. However, both Blackstar and Marshall amps can be used for a wide variety of music styles.

Of course, it’s hard to talk about the difference in tone between these two brands without actually hearing it. So here is a video comparing the tone of the Marshall DSL and Blackstar HT.

Blackstar ID Core VS Marshall CODE vs Marshall MG Series

If you’re in the market for a solid state amp, then Marshall and Blackstar are great options to go for. The Blackstar ID Core, Marshall CODE and Marshall MG Series have various options for beginner guitarists, and players looking to gig.

The Blackstar ID Core is the best option for beginners looking for a range of built-in effects, as the Core ID range starts at a lower price than the Marshall CODE and has more effects than the Marshall MG Series. The Marshall CODE is the most expensive, but has more modes and the most built-in effects.

Here is a quick comparison of the Blackstar ID Core, Marshall CODE, Marshall MG and Marshall MG GFX series.

FeatureBlackstar ID CoreMarshall CODEMarshall MGMarshall MG GFX
Combo Sizes10W, 20W, 40W, 100W25W, 50W, 100W10W, 15W15W, 30W, 50W
Modes61524
Effects12241 (only on MG15)6
Price Range$130-$380$270-$450$100-$150$180-$420
Blackstar ID Core vs Marshall CODE vs Marshall MG vs Marshall MG GFX series.

Models/ Channels

  • The Blackstar ID Core range has 6 channels: clean warm, clean bright, crunch 1, crunch 2, overdrive 1 and overdrive 2.
  • The Marshall CODE range has 14 built-in models for electric guitar: 4 clean, 5 crunch, 4 overdrive, natural, and one for acoustic guitar.
  • The Marshall MG GFX has 4 modes: clean, crunch, overdrive 1 and overdrive 2.
  • The Marshall MG Series has 2 channels: clean and overdrive.

Effects

  • The Blackstar ID Core range has 12 built-in effects: phaser, chorus/ flanger, envelope, tremolo, 4 delay effects and 4 reverb effects.
  • The Marshall Code has 24 built-in effects including reverb, delay and modulation effects.
  • The Marshall MG GFX has 6 built-in effects: reverb, delay, flanger , octaver, tremolo and phaser.
  • The Marshall MG10 has very limited EQ controls and no built-in effects. The MG15 has a reverb effect, and more EQ controls.

Blackstar ID Core (image links to Amazon)

Marshall CODE (image links to Amazon)

Marshall MG30GFX (image links to Amazon)

Blackstar HT vs Marshall DSL

The Blackstar HT series and Marshall DSL series are good options for players looking for a mid-range valve amplifiers that they can either use for practice at home, or gigging, depending on the size.

Here is a quick table comparing the Blackstar HT series and Marshall DSL series.

FeatureBlackstar HTMarshall DSL
Controls2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, ISF reverb2 channels, 3 band EQ, gain, presence, resonance, reverb
Price Range$280-$1000$350-$950
Combo Wattage1W, 5W, 20W, 40W, 60W1W, 5W, 20W, 40W
Head Wattage1W, 5W, 20W, 50W, 100W1W, 20W, 100W
Blackstar HT vs Marshall DSL

The Blackstar HT series sounds more modern distorted tone compared to the Marshall DSL which has a crunchier classic rock tone. Both amps come in a variety of sizes ranging from 1W to 100W and has a 3-band EQ and reverb control. The Blackstar HT also has an ISF control which switches the tone from British to American by adjusting the EQ.

The Marshall DSL20HR and Blackstar HT20 are two of the most compared valve amps in this price bracket. Here is a video comparing the clean, crunch and distorted tones on each amplifier.

Comparing the Ranges

As well as just looking at some popular amps in more detail, I also wanted to take a look at the full ranges produced by both brands. I have created the following tables to compare the main features of pretty much every currently available Marshall and Blackstar amp on the market. The prices are all based on Guitar Center at the time of writing this article.

The tables are split into three categories of amp type, and are ordered from the lowest to highest price in each category, so you can see what options are available to you based on your budget.

  • Solid state combo amps: $100-$680
  • Valve combo amps: $500-$2600
  • Head units: $400-$2850

Solid State Combo Amps

AmplifierWattagePriceSettings
Marshall MG10G10W$1002 channels, gain, contour
Marshall MG1515W$1202 channels, gain, 3 band EQ
Blackstar ID: CORE 1010W$1306 voices, gain, single EQ, reverb, delay, 4 modulation effects
Marshall MG15DFX15W$1802 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, flanger
Blackstar ID: CORE 2020W$1806 voices, gain, single EQ, reverb, delay, 4 modulation effects
Blackstar ID: CORE 4040W$2006 channels, gain, single EQ, reverb, delay, 4 modulation effects
Marshall MG30GFX30W$2402 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, flanger, octave
Marshall CODE 50W50W$32014 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects
Blackstar ID: CORE 100100W$3806 voices, gain, single EQ, reverb, delay, looper, octaver, 4 modulation effects
Marshall MG50GFX50W$4202 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, flanger, octave
Blackstar Silverline Standard20W$4306 voices, gain, 2 band EQ, ISF reverb, delay, 4 modulation effects
Marshall CODE100W100W$45014 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects
Blackstar Silverline Deluxe100W$6806 voices, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, delay, resonance, presence, 4 modulation effects
Blackstar vs Marshall solid state combo amplifiers.

Key Points:

  • Marshall amps start at a lower price than Blackstar amps
  • Blackstar produce the cheapest 100W solid state combo amp

Valve Combo Amps

AmplifierWattagePriceSettings
Blackstar HT-5RH5W$5002 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, ISF reverb
Marshall Origin20C20W$550Gain, 3 band EQ, boost, tilt, presence
Marshall DSL5CR5W$5502 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb
Blackstar Studio 10 6L610W$600Gain, tone, reverb
Blackstar Studio 10 EL3410W$600Gain, tone, reverb
Marshall DSL20CR20W$6502 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance
Blackstar HT-20R20W$6802 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, ISF, reverb
Marshall Origin50C50W$700Gain, 3 band EQ, boost, tilt, presence
Marshall DSL40CR40W$8002 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance
Blackstar HT Club 4040W$8002 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, ISF, reverb
Blackstar HT Venue Series Club 4040W$8002 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, ISF, reverb
Blackstar HT Venue Series Stage60W$10002 channels, 2 voice switches, Gain, 3 band EQ, ISF, reverb, presence
Blackstar CV3030W$10002 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, ISF, reverb
Blackstar Artist 3030W$11502 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, ISF reverb
Marshall Mini Silver Jubilee20W$1600Gain, 3 band EQ
Blackstar Artisan 3030W$16702 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, voice
Marshall Studio Classic 20W20W$17003 band EQ, presence
Marshall Studio Vintage 20W20W$1700Presence, 3 band EQ, high treb
Marshall JMV215C50W$26002 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance
Blackstar vs Marshall valve Combo amplifiers compared.

Key Points:

  • Blackstar have the highest wattage valve combo amp (60W)
  • Blackstar produce the cheapest valve combo amp

Head Units

AmplifierWattageTypePriceSettings
Marshall CODE 100W100WSolid State$40014 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects
Marshall Origin20H20WTube$450Gain, 3 band EQ, tilt, boost, presence
Blackstar HT-5RH5WTube$4802 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb
Blackstar Silverline Deluxe100WSolid State$5306 voices, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, delay, resonance, presence, 4 modulation effects
Marshall Origin50H50WTube$550Gain, 3 band EQ, tilt, boost, presence
Marshall DSL20HR20WTube$5502 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb
Blackstar HT20RH20WTube$6002 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb
Blackstar HT Venue Series Club 5050WTube$7802 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, ISF reverb
Marshall DSL100HR120WTube$9502 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance
Blackstar HT Venue Series Stage 100100WTube$10002 channels, 2 voice switches, Gain, 3 band EQ, ISF, reverb, presence, resonance
Marshall Studio Classic20WTube$1400Presence, 3 band EQ
Marshall Mini Silver Jubilee20WTube$1400Gain, presence, 3 band EQ
Marshall Vintage Studio20WTube$1500Presence, 3 band EQ, high treb
Marshall Studio Classic20WTube$1500Presence, 3 band EQ
Marshall JMV205H50WTube$20002 channels, 3 band EQ, resonance, presence, reverb
Marshall JMV210H100WTube$22002 channels, 3 band EQ, resonance, presence, reverb
Marshall JMT4545WTube$2600Presence, 3 band EQ, high treb
Marshall JMV410H100WTube$28502 channels, 3 band EQ, resonance, presence, reverb
Blackstar vs Marshall head unit amplifiers.

Key Points:

  • Marshall produce the cheapest head unit
  • Marshall have the highest wattage tube (120W) option

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

Recent Posts