Updated by Bobby
Updated on March 21st, 2022
Added help and how-to sections for the CODE 50. Added information about the sound quality and control. Also added compare buttons for product table.
Marshall CODe 50 Review
Our Verdict and Review Summary
With algorithms developed by engineers at Softube, the CODE 50 employs a wider range of amp models and sounds better than past Marshall modeling attempts, and does so with a far better tone quality, despite some style limitations.
You can get a lot of the feel and sound of a true Marshall tube amp with the CODE 50, which has no tubes in it.
Even that small amount of clean breakup that's so appealing in tube amps can be easily mimicked in this amp, simply by picking harder. It's even hard to distinguish between the CODE 50 and some of the models it emulates, particular the Marshall brand models.
Here's how I graded the CODE 50 in Guitar Chalk's weighted amp rating system:
Point Value (%)
Code 50 Score
2. Multiple Channels
3. Tone/Style Diversity
4. Three-Band EQ
6. Trem/Vibrato (additional effects)
7. High Wattage
8. Gain at Preamp
9. Effects Loop
10. Headphone out
12. AUX input (MP3)
13. Multiple Speaker Jacks
Tone Quality Bump
Compare the Marshall CODE 50 to Similar Products
Marshall Code 50
Boss Katana 50
Boss Nextone 40
Sweetwater's Video Demo of the Marshall CODE
Marshall's demo does a good job of giving you a quick rundown of the sounds. For instructions on dialing in specific sounds, scrolling down below the table of contents for this page.
IDEAL FOR: Beginners or intermediate players looking for an all-in-one amp solution that's versatile and easy to transport.
Curation of reviews from Sweetwater, Musicians Friend, and Amazon
Of 297 total reviews, 23 were negative and 274 were positive.
How to Get Started with the CODE 50
Once you unbox the Marshall CODE 50, here's how to get started.
1. Set the power to OFF and plug in the amp
2. Plug your guitar cable (instrument cable) into the CODE 50's input jack
3. Set the MASTER volume level to zero
4. Turn the amp on and gradually turn up MASTER volume
5. Turn the PRESET knob to explore sounds
How to Get Different Sounds out of the Marshall CODE 50
In this section we'll explore some of the basic processes for getting different sounds out of the Marshall CODE 50. We'll start with a dead simple clean sound, which is surprisingly easy to dial in.
How to get just a simple clean sound
The simplest way to start with a basic clean sound is to dial to PRESET 0, which is based on a simple Marshall clean tone. From a tone quality perspecitve, it's surprisingly good and doesn't really sound digitized at all. While it's not JCM800 level, it does a good job of emulating the bright, sparkling quality of a Marshall tube amp.
What if I want to edit and re-save the 00 preset?
Once you've selected the 00 preset - or any other preset - you can easily tweak the EQ knobs (bass, treble, and mid) or any other controls, and then hold down the STORE button to quickly bank the preset.
How to get a classic rock distortion
Preset 03 titled "Purple Plexi" is sort of the CODE 50's default classic rock sound, which could serve as a rhythm or lead channel. Just as we saw with the clean sound, you can make tweaks to your liking and save them with the STORE button.
How to Access the Tuner
The guitar tuner function on the CODE 50 can be accessed by pressing the PRE FX and AMP buttons at the same time, per the following screenshot from the user manual:
Connecting the CODE to Your Computer to Record
The included USB cable can be used to connect the CODE 50 to a computer. Once you do, you can start recording by selecting the CODE as your "input source" through your recording software or DAW. It's an incredibly simple process and great for quick recording or even more serious studio projects.
Most modeling amps tend to be really strong in regards to their versatility, meaning they provide a lot of different options and varying sounds to play with.
What they're not known for is providing a high-quality base tone that can compete with the sound you get out of real tube amps.
While we wouldn't say the CODE 50 is as good as Marshall's tube options, it sounds appreciably similar. The algorithms built into the CODE's models and presets by Softube engineers are excellent and do a more than an admirable job of mimicking analog amplifiers in a distinctly modern flavor.
In particular, the Purple Plexi preset - the default clean tone I mentioned earlier - does a good job of capturing the brightness and chime that we get in vintage Marshall tube amps.
Even the behavior of the sound reminds us of a tube amp. For example, playing heavy on your clean channel will give you a slight amount of bluesy breakup and distortion, just like you'd expect on a heavy tube amp.
Here are some other tone characteristics we noticed:
CODE 50 Tone Highlights
- Wide range of modeling and preamp options
- Tight, closed-back clean tone
- Breakup can be subtle or a heavy saturation
- Cleans have a bluesy edge to them
- Effects feel and sound similar to the Boss algorithms
The compatible footwswitch (that unfortunately is not included in your CODE 50 purchase) can control presets, effects usage, or channel switching.
There's also an app that's free to download that can control almost every aspect of the amplifier via a Bluetooth connection. Whenever you choose an amp model, you can customize any of the following aspects:
- Preamp model
- Power amp model
- Speaker cab model
In other words, you could have one preamp variety paired with a different power amp and a completely different cab. When testing the CODE 50, we noticed that unconventional combinations tended to sound a bit ambiguous, which lead us to stick with more expected preamp and power amp combinations.
Still, it's a massive amount of versatility to work with, on top of the fact that the out-of-the-box tone is still really good.
- 99 available presets
- Model amps and speakers
- Four power amp models
- Eight speaker cab models
- 24 effects (use up to five at once)
All of the 24 effects come with the expected controllable parameters.
With delay, for example, you can choose delay models, set the time, and set repeats from your phone or from the amp itself.
We noted that the effects seem like less of a priority for the CODE series than the amp models did. Because while the onboard effects do sound really good (similar to having a bunch of Boss pedals available to you), it seemed to make less of an impact than the wide range of amp models did.
Yet, the effects do sound really pristine and meld particularly well with the clean bluesier amp models.
Value of the Marshall Code 50
One of the biggest selling points of the CODE 50 is the price, at only $299.
Currently, I just had to move a desk into a corner in our bedroom, which has made me want to grab one of these for the headphone playing and easy computer hook up. I'd say any guitar player wanting more digital options or to play without running a loud tube amp, should consider the Marshall CODE series.
In all likelihood it's going to be really good fit.
I totally understand people's hesitation with solid state modeling amps. All the digital features and the "bells and whistles" seem to run counter-intuitive to the pure tube-driven tone many of us grew up with. But I'd be willing to say that the CODE series by Marshall represents a significant step towards a world where modeling amps are more reliable and "true" to the original sound and can be used in a wider range of contexts.
After playing one myself and writing this review, I want to buy one for my home, especially since I have small kids that go to sleep early.
In situations like that, the Code will get you a fantastic balance of digital convenience and tube-like sound quality.
Other Marshall Code 50 Review Resources
Your Questions and Comments
Do you have questions about our Marshall CODE 50 review?
Are your curious about a different amp we didn't mention here? If so, leave a question in the comments section below and I'll answer there as best I can.