Marshall vs Boss Amps: Which are the Best?


Marshall and Boss are two big names in the amplifier industry, but which makes the best amps? In this article, I’ll be comparing the classic tones of Marshall and Boss, the controls you typically find on each brand, and pretty much every model in each range head-to-head so you can choose the best option for your budget.

The Quick Answer

Boss produce solid-state modelling amps which can be used to mimic a range of tones, whilst Marshall produce both valve and solid state amps with different tones. Marshall valve amps sound more authentic than Boss amps, whereas solid-state Marshall amps can sound thinner and muddier by comparison.

Comparing the Tones

Boss specialises in solid state modelling amps whereas Marshall produce both solid state and valve (tube) amplifiers. Modelling amps are great if you want to easily be able to access different voices to suit different music styles, whilst valve amps sound more classic and vintage. Valve amps are usually significantly more expensive than solid state amplifiers.

Of course, the best way to demonstrate the difference between Boss and Marshall amps, is to actually hear it! So I’ve included some videos to compare the tones as well as summarising them below. Keep in mind that there is a big difference between solid state and valve amps in the Marshall range in terms of the sound.

This video does a great job at comparing solid state Marshall and Boss amp tones.

Clean Tone

  • Boss clean tones have a lot of low-end whilst Marshall solid-state amps have a more pronounced mid-range.
  • Marshall valve clean tones sound more gritty when the volume is turned up compared to Boss solid state amps which sound smoother.

Distorted Tone

  • Boss solid state amps sound more punchy and aggressive, with more pronounced treble than Marshall solid state amps which sound a bit thinner.
  • Marshall valve amps sound crunchier and clearer than Boss amps which sound darker and heavier.

Here’s a video comparing a Marshall valve amp with the Boss Katana (solid state).

Boss Katana vs Marshall CODE vs Marshall MG

The Boss Katana and Marshall CODE are both modelling amps which use different modes to access to different tones. The Katana has 5 modes, whilst the CODE has 15 built-in. The CODE has 24 built-in effects whilst the Katana has 15 built-in but software can be used to access over 68 effects. Both amps are available in 100W and 50W versions and the CODE is also available in a 25W version.

The Boss Katana and the Marshall MG GFX (e.g. MG30GFX) are solid state amplifiers. The Katana has 5 modes and 15 built-in effects (58 can be accessed using software), whilst the MG GFX has 4 modes and 6 main effects. The Katana comes in 50W and 100W versions and the MG GXF comes in 30W and 50W versions.

FeatureBoss KatanaMarshall CODEMarshall GFX
Wattage50W, 100W25W, 50W, 100W30W/ 50W
Models5154
Effects60+246
Price Range$240-$480$270-$450$240-$420
Comparison of the Boss Katana, Marshall Code and Marshall MG GFX.

Models/ Channels

  • The Boss Katana has 5 modes: acoustic, clean, crunch, lead and brown. Each mode also has a variation built-in which adds brightness to each of the modes.
  • The Marshall CODE has 15 modes: 4 clean, 5 crunch, 4 overdrive, natural, acoustic.
  • The Marshall MG GFX series has 4 modes: clean, crunch, overdrive 1, overdrive 2

Effects

  • The Boss Katana has 58 effects, however you need to plug into a PC/ laptop and use the Boss Tone Studio software to access the full range. 15 effects are available from the amp on its own.
  • The Marshall CODE has 24 effects which are all accessible from the amp itself.
  • The Marshall MG GFX Series has 6 effects built-in.

Wattage

  • The cheapest Boss Katana is the 50W version (approx. $240), which is a similar price to the 25W Marshall CODE (approx. $270) and same price as the 30W Marshall MG30FX.
  • The 50W version of the Marshall CODE is approximately $320 and the 50W version of the Marshall MG50GFX is roughly $420.
  • The 100W Boss Katana is roughly $370 whilst the 100W Marshall Code is around $450.
  • This makes the Boss Katana the cheaper amp if you’re looking for high wattage, followed by the Marshall CODE and finally the Marshall MG series.

The Controls

Here’s a quick insight into the controls commonly found on Marshall and Boss amps.

Marshall Amp Settings

Here are the most popular controls on Marshall amps:

  • Gain
  • Bass
  • Middle
  • Treble
  • Contour
  • Presence
  • Reverb
  • Tilt

Boss Amp Settings

Here are the most popular controls on Boss amps:

  • Gain
  • Bass
  • Middle
  • Treble
  • Reverb

I have some in-depth guides to the controls and settings of both amplifier brands so check them out if you’re looking for some more detail:

Comparing Amp Models

The Boss Katana isn’t the only amp in the Boss range, so I wanted to compare some more models against Marshall amps in this next section. I have collated pretty much every currently available Marshall and Boss amp and compared their specifications and the price (based on the price at Guitar Center at the time of writing). I’ve put all this information into tables to make it clear to read, and split it into three categories. Each table is organised from the lowest to the highest price.

Guitar Center are always the first place I look at when I’m interested in a new amp because have a huge range of amplifiers for sale and always have some excellent deals on. Here’s a link to take you directly to Guitar Center’s amp range so you can see all the offers available at the moment. 

Contents

  • Solid state combo amps: $100-$900
  • Valve (tube) combo amps: $350-$2850
  • Head units: $550-$2600

Solid State and Combo Amps

AmplifierWattagePriceSettings
Marshall MG10G10W$1002 channels, gain, contour
Marshall MG1515W$1202 channels, gain, 3 band EQ
Marshall MG15DFX15W$1802 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, flanger
Boss Katana 5050W$24010 models, gain, 3 band EQ, over 15 effects
Marshall MG30GFX30W$2402 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, flanger, octave
Marshall CODE 25W25W$27014 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects
Marshall CODE 50W50W$32014 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects
Boss Cube Street II10W$3507 guitar models, 3 band EQ, gain, reverb, chorus, delay
Boss Katana 100 1×12100W$37010 models, gain, 3 band EQ, over 15 effects
Marshall MG50GFX50W$4202 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, flanger, octave
Marshall CODE100W100W$45014 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects
Boss Katana 100 2×12100W$48010 models, gain, 3 band EQ, over 15 effects
Boss Nextone Stage40W$5154 models, 3 band EQ, gain, reverb, delay, presence
Boss Katana-Artist100W$60010 models, gain, 3 band EQ, over 15 effects
Boss Nextone Artist80W$7204 models, 3 band EQ, gain, reverb, delay, presence
Boss Nextone Special80W$9002 channels (and 4 models), 3 band EQ, gain, reverb, delay, boost, custom tune, presence
Boss vs Marshall solid state combo amp features compared.

Key Points:

  • Boss amps start at a higher price than Marshall amps which cater for new guitarists.
  • Boss produces the highest wattage (100W) solid-state combo for the lowest price.

Head Units

AmplifierWattageTypePriceSettings
Boss Katana100WSolid State$35010 models, gain, 3 band EQ, over 15 effects
Marshall CODE 100W100WSolid State$40014 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects
Boss Katana-Air Wireless30WSolid State$41210 models, gain, 3 band EQ, over 15 effects
Marshall Origin20H20WTube$450Gain, 3 band EQ, tilt, boost, presence
Marshall Origin50H50WTube$550Gain, 3 band EQ, tilt, boost, presence
Marshall DSL20HR20WTube$5502 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb
Marshall DSL100HR100WTube$9502 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, 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
Boss Waza150WSolid State$27802 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, presence, reverb, FX
Marshall JMV410H100WTube$28502 channels, 3 band EQ, resonance, presence, reverb
Boss vs Marshall Head Unit Amps Compared.
  • Boss only make solid-state head units and Marshall make tube and solid-state head units.
  • Boss make the cheapest 100W head unit.
  • Boss make the highest wattage head unit (150W).

Valve Combo Amps (Marshall Only)

AmplifierWattagePriceSettings
Marshall Origin20C20W$550Gain, 3 band EQ, boost, tilt, presence
Marshall DSL5CR5W$5502 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb
Marshall DSL20CR20W$6502 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance
Marshall Origin50C50W$700Gain, 3 band EQ, boost, tilt, presence
Marshall DSL40CR40W$8002 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance
Marshall Mini Silver Jubilee20W$1600Gain, 3 band EQ
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
Marshall Combo Valve Amp Features.

Key Points:

  • Only Marshall currently produce valve (tube) amps, Boss do not make valve amps.

In the market for a new amplifier? Check out my complete amplifier buyer’s guide to help narrow down your selection and find the perfect amp for you.

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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.

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