The Marshall MS2 Micro Amp Review; Functionality, Features And Sound

Marshall MS-2 AmazonIf you’re following my blog and my YouTube channel, you probably know that I already looked at a bunch of different guitar mini amps. Specifically, I tested and demoed a whole bunch of the Vox amplug headphone amplifiers. Based on the feedback I received and some of the questions that were asked, I thought I’d now share a few thoughts and findings on yet another one of these little guitar ‘noise-cubes’, namely the Marshall MS-2 Micro Amp.

In this review I will go over a number of factors and criteria, including a video demonstration of the features and sound of the MS-2, some of the most frequently asked questions and finally a summary including the pros and cons. Additionally, you will find a link with the most recent pricing and purchasing information. Below is a table of contents that allows you for easy navigation – because I realize it’s a lot of information and you might find some topics more interesting than others.

1. General Introduction
2. Overview Of Features And Functionality
3. Video Review And Demonstration
4. Frequently Asked Questions
5. 4 Mini Amps Compared
6. The Marshall MS-2 Micro Amp Summed-Up
7. Where To Buy The MS2 At The Best Price

1. General Introduction

It’s funny. I mentioned that I did a number of reviews on the Vox amplugs and people keep asking me: what is the best mini guitar amp? There we go, yet another “what’s the best” question that I simply can’t answer. They all have their advantages and disadvantages along with strengths and weaknesses, if you will. I was also specifically asked if would recommend the Marshall MS2 over the Vox amplug, or vice versa. But that’s almost like comparing apples with oranges – well, not quite, however, the point is, there are some main differences between the two devices that make a direct comparison – with the premise of evaluating which one is better – not a meaningful exercise. Therefore, for today we will not do a head-on head between the Marshall and Vox guitar mini amps, but rather just focus on the features and sound of the MS2.

Fortunately for you (and me), I have the best wife in the world. Always concerned about the needs of my readers and viewers, she put a MS-2 Standard Microamp under the Christmas tree. I now had an opportunity to play around with it for a few weeks and I believe I got a pretty good idea of what this little fellow has to offer.

2. Overview Of Features And Functionality

There are a few different versions of the Marshall MS-2:Marshall MS2

MS-2 Standard: traditional black
MS-2C: chrome
MS-2R: red

Further to that, there’s a half-stack and full-full stack model. Here is a photo that gives you an idea of the design and look & feel. In my opinion, they nailed it. It looks great and as far as I can tell, the plastic casing is of very solid built.

Design:

One thing that I really like about the MS2 is the fact that the designers didn’t try to cramp in too many knick-knacks. Everything is straight forward. The front panel features a regular ¼” input jack for your guitar. We will discuss later if you can only use a guitar with the amp, or if it’s also suitable for other instruments (under the FAQ section). Next to it, we have three dials. Volume, Tone and On/Off/OD.

Front Panel Dials:

Let’s start with the Volume. Seemingly straight forward, there is one important point that I need to make. Especially in the regular (clean) channel, the volume is very low. Anything below “3” or “4” is hardly audible. I typically have to set it to “5” at a minimum. That, in and of itself wouldn’t be too big of an issue, however, the problem is that the more you increase the volume, the crunchier the sound. In other words, it is practically impossible – well, at least I wasn’t able to figure it out – to get a clean sound at a decent volume level.

As for the Tone dial, you can scale back and forth between ‘low’ and ‘high’. A good range of sound, perfectly okay for a mini amp, in my opinion. One thing I noticed, though, if the lower you go with the tone, the lower the volume of the MS-2.

The last dial all the way to the right is the Off/ON/OD switch. Before I forget to mention this, the Marshall MS-2 doesn’t have an auto “Power-Off”, so it’s important that you turn the device off after use in order to prevent the battery from dying prematurely.

Sound, Clean vs. Overdrive Channel

In the regular channel (that’s when the dial is in the “On” position), the amp produces a satisfying sound. With the aforementioned caveat regarding the volume control. So if you’re looking for a clean sound at good volume, you might be disappointed. And the more volume you add, the more gain/crunch you get.

The Overdrive Channel, on the other hand, was a very positive surprise to me. Nice, punchy tone, good distortion, not too blurry, earthy and “Marshall-y” (oh boy, now I’m making up words). Well, let’s put it this way, while all this ultimately a matter of perception and personal opinion, having played Marshall amps for 20 years, the MS-2 ‘resembles’ the typical Marshall sound adequately. I think this is a fair statement without over-promising.

When playing in the OD-channel, you get a great range of tone by playing around with the Volume and Tone dials. Anything from gain- and treble laden to doomy-gloomy.

Cabinet and Speaker

The cabinet features a 1-Watt Speaker of decent sound quality. Again, while I have my reservations with the clean channel, in over-drive mode the speaker of the MS-2 does overall a very satisfying job.

Headphone Output:

On the side of the cabinet, you’ll find a ¼” headphone output. Depending on what type of headphones you use, you may need an adapter (See photo). Alternatively, you can also connect another speaker via the headphones output.
In terms of sound, there is a significant difference between using the integrated speaker or headphones. We will cover that in more detail in the video review below.

D/C 9V Input And Battery:

Marshall MS2 Mini AmpThe MS-2 can be powered with a standard 9V adapter which does NOT come with the purchase of the amp. You would have to buy that separately if you don’t already have one.

In lieu of an adapter, a 9V block battery will do. One comes with the device, so you’re good to go. I can’t speak to the battery life just yet. I’ve been using the accessory sporadically over the past three weeks with 1-2 hours of playing at a time – so far so good, the original battery is still working fine. As I had mentioned before, though, it’s important that you always turn the device off after you’re done playing.

Clip:

The metal clip is very solid and allows you to carry MS-2 around by having it attached to your belt or pants. I typically don’t do that, but for the purposes of this review I tried it several times and it works very well. This is also due to the fact that the whole thing is very light and therefore super convenient if you decide to use the clip.

3. Video Review And Demonstration

Below is a comprehensive video review of the Marshall MS-2 Micro Amp. We will go over the features and functionality very quickly and then move on to me just playing in different settings. For those of you who liked it detailed: for this video review I’ve been using a 2005 Gibson SG, a Focusrite Solo Interface, an AT2020 USB mic (for recording the integrated speaker) and Mixcraft.


I hope you found this video helpful, I think we covered some good ground. But I realize that we might not have touched upon all the questions you may have. Therefore, just move on to the next topic, the FAQs where we will get you some additional answers.

4. Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does the Marshall MS-2 Standard weigh?
A: 0.34lbs or 12 ounces. A true light-weight!

Q: What are the measurements of the device?
A: 14 x 11 x 6 centimeters which is 2.4 x 4.3 x 5.5 inches.

Q: Instead of a guitar, can I use a microphone?
A: I haven’t tried it, but in theory, yes, that is possible. The problem you will likely have though is the omnipresent (albeit light) distortion. So, I don’t think this particular mini amp is a good choice for voice amplification. That’s just my opinion.

Q: I have a bunch of guitar pedals. Can I use them in connection with this amp?
A: Yes, you can. I tried it with my pedals and it works like a charm.

Q: Can I use it with a bass-guitar?
A: Yes, that’ll work.

MS-2 micro guitar ampQ: Is the Marshall MS2 loud enough to play in a living room setting?
A: Difficult to answer, because I don’t know what you mean ‘by loud enough’. Let’s put it this way, in the clean channel, you’d like have to crank up the volume pretty much all the way (which will add crunchiness). In the OD channel, you should be fine because it’s just louder and has more punch to it. Keep in mind, though, we are talking about a 1-Watt guitar mini amp, so there are limits to the volume.

Q: Can I use it with an acoustic guitar or electro-acoustic?
A: Yes, you can.

Q: What about using it outside, like for street-playing and busking?
A: Like I said above, there are limits to the volume, but it is absolutely doable. Also, I guess the clip in the back may come in handy for that, too.

Q: Does the Marshall MS-2 micro amp have a real speaker that produces actual sound? Or do I need headphones either way?
A: The MS-2 has an integrated speaker that produces real sound. So, you don’t need a headphone – the headphones are optional. If you don’t use headphones, the sound comes out of the integrated speaker, if you do connect headphones, then the sound comes out of the headphones and the integrated speaker becomes silent. Which is great if you don’t want to terrorize your fellow family members with your string acrobatics…;-).

Q: Can I connect a CD player or other device to the MS-2?
A: You can – as long as you have the right chords/cables – but it’s either or, meaning you cannot connect an external device in addition to a guitar.

MS-2 Clip on ampQ: Does it have a gain or distortion control?
A: No, it doesn’t. The more volume you add, the more gain you get. As far as distortion is concerned, that’s when you would use the overdrive-channel. But there is no additional gain/distortion control.

Q: How do I connect a guitar to this Marshall Mini Amp?
A: Like you would connect a guitar to any other amp, via a regular guitar cable (or a patch cable).

Q: Is there a difference between the Marshall MS-2 Standard, the MS-2R and the MS-2C?
A: Just in color. As mentioned above, the standard version is black, “R” stands for Red and “C” is for Chrome.

Q: Is this a full-stack Marshall mini amp?
A: No, this is a half stack, but you can purchase a full-stack version, too.

5. 4 Mini Amps Compared

I haven’t tested or reviewed all the various mini amps under the sun, but I did try a bunch of them over the years. Below is a table for comparison purposes, where I put a few of those guitar micro amps next to each other. I focused this exercise on four different models that are somewhat comparable. Of course, there are other alternatives, but I wanted to keep things simple and the four candidates below have been consistently rated among the best guitar mini amps by customers.

Item:
Marshall MS2 Micro Amp
Customer Rating:
4.5 Star Rating
Price:
$44.99
Output Wattage:
4
Dimensions:
5.51 inches x 2.36 inches x 4.33 inches
Purchasing Info:
Buy at amazon.com
Item:
Marshall MG10CF MG Series
Customer Rating:
4.5 Star Rating
Price:
$79.99
Output Wattage:
10
Dimensions:
12.36 inches x 11.65 inches x 6.89 inches
Purchasing Info:
Buy at amazon.com
Item:
Fender Mini Tonemaster
Customer Rating:
4 Star Rating
Price:
$39.99
Output Wattage:
1
Dimensions:
7.2 inches x 3.6 inches x 7.5 inches
Purchasing Info:
Buy at amazon.com
Item:
Orange Amplifiers Micro Crush PiX 3
Customer Rating:
4 Star Rating
Price:
$68.95
Output Wattage:
3
Dimensions:
5.91 inches x 3.35 inches x 5.91 inches
Purchasing Info:
Buy at amazon.com

6. The Marshall MS-2 Micro Amp Summed-Up

Alright, let’s sum this up. I think the Marshall MS-2 Mini Amplifier is very solid product at a fair price. The design and built are great. I would give the overall sound a rating of 3.5 out of 5. I don’t like the fact that it’s virtually impossible (at least I couldn’t do it) to play at a decent volume with a clean sound. On the other hand, the quality of tone in the overdrive channel definitely exceeded my expectations.

Marshall Guitar Mini AmpThe integrated speaker is obviously a massive plus. Some of the other popular guitar mini amps don’t have an integrated speaker, meaning you need headphones. With the MS-2, headphones are optional if you prefer to keep your noise to yourself ;-).

The belt-clip, while I practically never use it, is a great additional feature. The device is super light, yet of very sturdy built. The dials are are of great quality, they remind me of what I’m used to on a ‘real’ Marshall amp.

Can I honestly recommend this amp to you? Yes, I can. Because I like the quality of the product. I realize that it’s “Made in Vietnam” but that doesn’t mean that it’s of mediocre quality. I think Marshall would not allow for a sub-standard device on the market. To be clear, I am NOT Marshall disciple. I don’t play Marshall amps anymore, I’m playing Orange because as matter of personal preference in tone. But I sure think highly of the Marshall brand and its products – and that does include the MS-2. Yes, it is not perfect, but as far as I’m concerned, none of the mini amps are. The fact remains though, the MS-2 is a solid product at a very good price.

7. Where To Buy The MS2 At The Best Price

You can certainly browse around for better pricing options, but I have my doubts that you find any vendor that beats the amazon.com price. And at least with them, you know that you can return the item if there’s any issue. We buy all kinds of things through amazon and I never had a problem with them. Also, I do know that my wife bought it from there.

Anyway, let me know if you have any questions regarding the Marshall MS-2 Micro Amp. I hope you found all the information I shared with you helpful, but if there’s anything else you want to ask, please leave a comment below.

Published date: January 12th, 2016 by Ulrich Peise

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