Marshall vs Blackstar Amps: Which One Should You Choose?

Marshall amplifiers are among the most recognizable in the whole world. Beginning as a small builder chasing tone, to becoming a major manufacturer of equipment used by many famous musicians.

Blackstar is another British guitar amp maker creating a good reputation in the industry. They are a newcomer when compared to brands like Marshall, but Blackstar’s offerings provide a magnificent line of products that can handle any style of music.

This makes it tough when comparing Marshall vs Blackstar amps.

Though many guitarists like both, Marshall amps are more popular than Blackstar. The Marshall sound comes from a classic circuit design inspired by the tweed Bassman; however, Blackstar amps are famous for their patented innovations. Both brands have similar price ranges, but Blackstar generally has more affordable options.

marshall vs blackstar amps

History of Marshall and Blackstar Amps

Marshall Amplification

Jim Marshall, the namesake of the company and a longtime road musician, opened a shop in London that specialized in guitars and amplifiers.

After hearing many guitarists complain that they couldn’t get the sound in their heads to come through their speakers, Jim decided to build his own amplifier. Jim tinkered with circuits and components to create something the world had never heard before.

Marshall’s first amplifier, JTM45, quickly became famous in the guitar community. Word spread so much that it didn’t take long for Marshall to open its first factory. Eventually, Marshall became one of the most recognizable names in music equipment, especially for guitarists who wanted an authentic rock sound.

Read our article on “Are Marshall Amps Good?”

Blackstar Amplification

In 2007, Blackstar Amplification was created by Paul Hayhoe, Bruce Keir, Ian Robinson, and Richard Frost. The four founders worked together at Marshall Amplification for years before they finally decided to join forces to create their own company.

Blackstar was conceptualized around 2004 and took 3.5 years of technical research and development to bring to market. The company launched at the Musikmesse Frankfurt trade fair in March 2007, quickly becoming a very popular manufacturer of guitar amplifiers.

Read our article on “Are Blackstar Amps Good?”

Differences Between Marshall vs Blackstar Amps

Summary:

  • Marshall amplifiers are more popular than Blackstar offerings.
  • Although Blackstar amps are made by former Marshall designers, they are not knock offs and sound very different.
  • Marshall amps suit the classic rock genre, while Blackstar offerings are better for modern metal and other heavier music styles.
  • Marshall amps are made with a classic circuit design inspired by the tweed Bassman. Blackstar amplification are famous for patented innovation.
  • Both companies have similar price ranges, but Blackstar generally has more affordable options.

Popularity

Marshall amps are more popular than Blackstar and for a good reason. They have been around for decades, and their sound is very recognizable. They are also well-built, with durable components that can withstand the test of time.

Blackstar amps are newer than Marshall, but they have begun to make a name for themselves as a reliable brand. They also have more features and are known as suitable alternatives to Marshall amps.

Signature Sound

Marshall is known for its signature British tone. Its crunchy, beefy, and creamy tone is perfect for rock and metal music. The brand has been producing high-quality amplifiers since 1964, and countless rock stars have used their offerings over the years.

On the other hand, Blackstar amps were designed to be versatile and flexible, so you can get any tone you want. Although Blackstar amps were made by former Marshall designers, they don’t have the same signature British sound.

Instead, Blackstar amps are more geared toward musicians who want dark tones.

Music Style

Marshall amplifiers tend to be more suited toward classic rock, while Blackstar models are better for modern metal and heavier styles. But still, there are many examples where both amplifiers can cover multiple genres well.

Marshall amps have become popular for their high gain tone, when turned up loud, they become very crunchy. It’s a sound desired in many music styles, but especially among rock ‘n’ roll players. 

Blackstar amps are good for any genre, and they’re popular among musicians with different styles. However, they’re best known for their take on metal and hard rock because of their darker tones and more compressed sound.

Build

Marshall amps are made with a classic circuit based on the tweed Bassman, and the company has used versions of it for many years. Recently, however, Marshall has begun to offer smaller tube amps that are quite different from their high-powered models.

The circuitry inside a Marshall gives it a specific sound that’s unlike anything else out there.

Blackstar amps are renowned for patented innovation. The first is the ISF (Infinite Shape Feature), that lets guitar players choose between a British or American voice. Next is the Dynamic Power Reduction, this allows a player to get a cranked amplifier tone by scaling the power down to 10%.

Price Range

While both companies have similar price ranges, Blackstar generally has more affordable options available than Marshall does. Blackstar amps are also a good choice if you’re looking for the Marshall tone at a lower price.

Solid State Model Comparison

ModelWattagePrice
Marshall MG10G10W$139.99
Blackstar Debut 15E 15W$109.99
Marshall MG15G 15W$169.99
Blackstar ID:Core 20 V320W (2 x 10W) $209.99
Marshall MG30GFX 30W$299.99
Blackstar ID:Core 40 V340W (2 x 20W) $229.99
Marshall Code 5050W$399.99
Marshall ORI50C 50W$899.99

Tube Model Comparison

ModelWattagePrice
Blackstar HT5R MKII 5W$549.99
Marshall DSL5CR5W$799.99
Blackstar HT20RH MKII20W$649.99
Marshall ORI20C20W$749.99
Marshall 2525C20W$1,949.99

Check out our guide for Best Guitar Amps under $500 here.

Marshall vs Blackstar Amps: Which One Is Better?

Both Marshall and Blackstar are great options for beginners or intermediate players looking for a quality amplifier. While there are many similarities between these two brands, it ultimately comes down to preference when deciding which one you should purchase.

Why Choose Marshall Amps?

What do you get when you buy a Marshall? A well-known brand in the music industry and one that’s been around for decades. The company has a large variety of products available, from budget-friendly practice amps to high-end models meant for professionals.

They also have excellent reputations for quality and reliability, two important factors to consider if you’re buying an amp that will be your companion on stage or in the studio for years to come (or even if it’s just going to sit on your desk at home).

Check out the Marshall vs Vox comparison we made here.

Why Choose Blackstar Amps?

Blackstar amps are more versatile and have more modern features than Marshall. Blackstar amps also have more tone options, which means you can fine-tune your sound from mild to wild with just one model.

They also have a reputation for being on the more affordable side of the market. Offering great value for money, especially when considering that former Marshall experts designed them.

Check out our Marshall vs Orange comparison here.

Conclusion

Even if you were to consider the sound of Marshall and Blackstar amps as unique and exclusive to each other, you must be careful to remember that this doesn’t mean one company is “better” than the other just because their tone is superior. 

After all, tone and quality are subjective terms, what sounds good to you might not to another guitar player. Besides tones, you should also look at features and build quality, reliability, and reputation.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear.I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!