Marshall and Fender are two of the leading amp brands and their products are used by countless famous guitar players. In this article, I’ll compare the signature tones as well as the different models in each brand’s ranges, so you can decide which is the best option for you.
The Quick Answer
Fender amps often sound brighter and cleaner compared to Marshall amps. Marshall amplifiers usually have more mid-range compared to Fender amps which often have a scooped mid-range. Fender amps are best known for their clean tones whilst Marshall are well known for their crunchy distortion.
Comparing the Tones
Marshall and Fender both make solid state amplifiers and valve amps which sound different from one another. When trying to pin down the “signature” tone, it’s usually easier to look at the valve amp offerings, since a lot of solid state amp attempt to emulate this tone.
Of course it’s hard to compare the tones of entire brands, particularly when their ranges are so expansive, but I’ll make some key points here.
- Fender clean tones are often described as “sparkly” and are usually scooped meaning that the mid-range is lower compared to the bass and treble.
- Marshall clean tones have more mid-range and less top-end compared to Fender amps which allows the Marshall amps to “cut-through the mix” more when playing with a band.
- Fender amps usually have a lot of “headroom” meaning that you need to crank them quite high to achieve a distorted tone. Again, the tone is more scooped with less mid-range than bass and treble.
- Marshall amps are well known for their crunchy and saturated overdriven tones. Many Marshall amps are described as “high gain” so will typically have less headroom than Fender amps.
Fender amps are more associated with country, surf and blues whilst Marshall amps are more associated with rock and metal, but both brands produce amplifiers that are capable of playing a wide range of music genres. Generally, Fender amps are chosen more for their clean tones and Marshall more for gain tones.
It’s tough to make tone comparisons without actually hearing the amps in action, so here are a few videos where you can listen to Fender and Marshall tones back to back and decide which you prefer the sound of.
#1 Fender Bassbreaker vs Marshall DSL (Valve Combo Amps)
- The Marshall amp had slightly better sustain than the Fender amp
- The Fender amp sounded a bit brighter than the Marshall
- The Marshall amp had a tighter low-end compared to the Fender
Example #2 Fender Hot Rod Deluxe vs Marshall Vintage Modern
- The Marshall amp sounded warmer and fuller than the Fender
- The Fender sounding brighter and cleaner than the Marshall
Example #3 Fender Mustang GT vs Marshall CODE (Solid State Modelling Amps)
- The Fender sounded brighter but the Marshall sounded fuller on the clean channel
- The Fender sounded fuzzier when using gain
Comparing the Ranges
Now let’s take a look at the features and prices of the different amps in the range. I’ve compiled information in the tables below for pretty much every currently available Fender and Marshall amp. The prices are all from Guitar Center at the time of writing but are subject to change.
Both ranges are very extensive so to make things more manageable, I’ve split the tables into categories and ordered them all from the lowest to the highest price within the tables. Here are the categories:
- Starter Amplifiers (solid state amps under $200)
- Solid State Combo Amplifiers (over $200)
- Valve (Tube) Combo Amplifiers
- Head Unit Amplifiers
Don’t get bogged down too much with these tables. I’ve just made them so you can quickly identify which models are available within your price range from each brand.
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.
Starter Amps ($80-$180)
|Fender Frontman 10G||10W||$80||2 channels, gain, treble, bass|
|Marshall MG10G||10W||$100||2 channels, gain, contour|
|Marshall MG15||15W||$120||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ|
|Fender Champion 20||20W||$130||2 channels, gain, treble, bass, reverb, delay, chorus, tremolo, flanger, phaser, vibrato|
|Fender Mustang LT25||25W||$150||30 presets, gain, 3 band EQ|
|Marshall MG15DFX||15W||$180||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, flanger|
- Fender make the cheapest starter amplifier
- The more affordable Fender amps come packed with more effects than the Marshall amps
Solid State Combo Amps ($220-$500)
|Fender Champion 40||40W||$220||2 channels, gain, treble, bass, reverb, delay, chorus, tremolo, flanger, phaser, vibrato|
|Fender Champion 50XL||50W||$230||2 channels, gain, treble, bass, reverb, delay, chorus, tremolo, flanger, phaser, vibrato|
|Marshall MG30GFX||30W||$240||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, flanger, octave|
|Marshall CODE 50W||50W||$320||14 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects|
|Fender Mustang GTX 50||50W||$380||30 presets, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb|
|Fender Champion 100||100W||$400||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, delay, chorus, tremolo, flanger, phaser, vibrato|
|Marshall MG50GFX||50W||$420||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, chorus, phaser, delay, flanger, octave|
|Fender Champion 100XL||100W||$450||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, voice control, reverb, delay, chorus, tremolo, flanger, phaser, vibrato|
|Marshall CODE100W||100W||$450||14 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects|
|Fender Mustang GTX 100||100W||$500||200 presets, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb|
- Fender make more affordable high wattage solid state amps
- Both brands make amps with lots of effects and features
Valve Combo Amps ($400-$2600)
|Fender Super-Champ X2||15W||$400||2 channels, gain, voice, treb, bass|
|Fender Bassbreaker 007||7W||$450||Gain, 3 band EQ, treb boost|
|Marshall Origin20C||20W||$550||Gain, 3 band EQ, boost, tilt, presence|
|Marshall DSL5CR||5W||$550||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb|
|Fender Pro Junior IV||15W||$600||Tone|
|Fender Blues Junior IV||15W||$650||3 band EQ, reverb|
|Marshall DSL20CR||20W||$650||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance|
|Fender Bassbreaker 15W||15W||$650||Gain, structure, 3 band EQ, reverb|
|Marshall Origin50C||50W||$700||Gain, 3 band EQ, boost, tilt, presence|
|Fender ’68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb||5W||$750||3 band EQ, tremolo, reverb|
|Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue||40W||$800||2 channels, drive, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence|
|Marshall DSL40CR||40W||$800||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance|
|Fender George Benson Hot Rod Deluxe||40W||$900||3 band EQ, reverb, presence, various switches|
|Fender Bassbreaker 30R||30W||$900||2 channels, 3 band EQ, gain, reverb|
|Fender Super-Sonic 22||22W||$1050||2 channels, 3 band EQ, gain, reverb|
|Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb||12W||$1100||Treble, bass, reverb, tremolo|
|Fender Tone Master Super Reverb||45W||$1200||2 channels, 3 band EQ, gain, reverb, tremolo|
|Fender 68 Custom Pro Reverb||40W||$1300||3 band EQ, tremolo, reverb, bright switch|
|Fender Vintage Reissue ’65 Deluxe Reverb||22W||$1400||3 band EQ, tremolo, reverb|
|Fender ’68 Custom Twin Reverb||85W||$1500||3 band EQ, tremolo, reverb, bright switch|
|Marshall Mini Silver Jubilee||20W||$1600||Gain, 3 band EQ|
|Fender Vintage Reissue ’65 Twin Reverb||85W||$1700||3 band EQ, tremolo, reverb, bright switch|
|Marshall Studio Classic 20W||20W||$1700||3 band EQ, presence|
|Marshall Studio Vintage 20W||20W||$1700||Presence, 3 band EQ, high treb|
|Fender Vintage Reissue ’65 Super Reverb||45W||$1800||3 band EQ, tremolo, reverb, bright switch|
|Fender ’64 Custom Deluxe Reverb||20W||$2500||3 band EQ, tremolo, reverb, bright switch|
|Marshall JMV215C||50W||$2600||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance|
- Fender make a wider range of valve combo amps compared to Marshall
- Fender make more affordable valve combo amps compared to Marshall
- Fender valve combo amps typically have more controls than Marshall
Head Units ($400-$2850)
|Marshall CODE 100W||100W||Solid State||$400||14 pre-amp models, gain, 3 band EQ, 24 effects|
|Marshall Origin20H||20W||Tube||$450||Gain, 3 band EQ, tilt, boost, presence|
|Marshall Origin50H||50W||Tube||$550||Gain, 3 band EQ, tilt, boost, presence|
|Marshall DSL20HR||20W||Tube||$550||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb|
|Fender Bassbreaker 15W||15W||Tube||$600||Gain, 3 band EQ, structure, reverb, bright switch|
|Marshall DSL100HR||120W||Tube||$950||2 channels, gain, 3 band EQ, reverb, presence, resonance|
|Fender Super-Sonic 22||22W||Tube||$1000||2 channels, 3 band EQ, gain, reverb|
|Marshall Studio Classic||20W||Tube||$1400||Presence, 3 band EQ|
|Marshall Mini Silver Jubilee||20W||Tube||$1400||Gain, presence, 3 band EQ|
|Marshall Vintage Studio||20W||Tube||$1500||Presence, 3 band EQ, high treb|
|Marshall Studio Classic||20W||Tube||$1500||Presence, 3 band EQ|
|Marshall JMV205H||50W||Tube||$2000||2 channels, 3 band EQ, resonance, presence, reverb|
|Marshall JMV210H||100W||Tube||$2200||2 channels, 3 band EQ, resonance, presence, reverb|
|Marshall JMT45||45W||Tube||$2600||Presence, 3 band EQ, high treb|
|Marshall JMV410H||100W||Tube||$2850||2 channels, 3 band EQ, resonance, presence, reverb|
- Marshall make a much wider range of head units compared to Fender
- Marshall offer the highest wattage head units
- Marshall head units start at a lower price than Fender head units
I’ve also written more amplifier brand comparison guides so make sure to check them out if you’re still narrowing down your list:
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.