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Marshall Haze 40 Combo Amp Review

Marshall''s Haze 40 is a low-gain amp with classic tones at a manageable price

Download Example 1
Haze Clean channel: Treb 1 o'clock, Mid noon, Bass 1 o'clock, Presence 2 o'clock, Vol 9:30, Bright switch engaged; Delay Depth 1 o'clock, Adjust 12:30. Gibson Les Paul Studio.
Download Example 2
Haze OD channel: Treb noon; Mid 11 o'clock, Bass 11 o'clock, Presence 2 o'clock, Gain 11 o'clock, Volume 10:30, boost engaged; Fender Road Worn Tele; AQDI ZeroCap cable.

Recorded in Sound Studio on a Mac using Digidesign MBox2.
Never a company to be behind the cutting edge, Marshall’s two newest lower-powered amplifiers are all-tube little monsters that have been designed to satiate fans of the current trend toward “smaller is better”—or rather, the demand for lower wattage tube amps that can roar with the best of them at a reasonable volume. To boot, Marshall’s new Haze Series—with a 15-watt mini stack and 40-watt combo as its inaugural members—come complete with built-in effects. The look of the new Haze 40 shares a lot in common with JMP combos of yesteryear. The salt-and-pepper grille cloth is classy, and is set off quite well by the smaller dimensions of the amplifier. It utilizes a pair of EL34 tubes for power, and a specially-voiced Celestion G12T-66 12" speaker strapped into a closed-back enclosure with four portholes in the lower portion of the rear panel. Its two channels share a common three-band EQ section, each with its own dedicated switchable volume boost. It also has a Presence control, which the Haze 15 head lacks. Figuring that players would like to spice up their experience with a few effects, Marshall also included three different built-in effects, which are selectable from a momentary button on the faceplate. These are: Echo, Chorus and Vibrato. Each can be adjusted with the Effect Depth and Adjust controls, which are located next to the Reverb Level knob.

Plugging In
With a name like Marshall on the grille cloth, I figured a good Les Paul would be the right tool for this job. I used a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom with Tom Anderson pickups to put the amp through its paces. Starting with a basic clean (and all of the tone knobs at noon) and just a hint of reverb, the Haze 40 produced a great clean tone right off of the bat. It’s not that I had any doubt it would sound good, but I was startled at how easy it was to achieve a great shimmering tone. Some more tweaking and a 2008 Fender American Stratocaster helped even more. The amp has a generous bass response (probably due to the closed-back construction), so I had to be careful not to go overboard with that control. The portholes, which are a common design addition in bass cabinets, give the Haze combo an extended bass response, allowing the tone a wider, more focused low end instead of a boomy one. For such a small combo, the Haze 40 had an unexpectedly three-dimensional feel to it, especially with the boost engaged. The boost raised the volume, of course, but it also caused all of the right frequencies to shine through without any sort of ice-pick highs (or the dreaded “jump out of the chair” effect).

Since a good clean tone is essential to testing effects, I left the Haze still set in this glistening, transparent clean to give the built-in ones a listen to hear how detailed and useful they could be. Easily the most impressive was the Echo effect. I’ve always liked Marshall’s delay pedals (I think they’re highly underrated), and the Haze’s Echo effect shares a lot of the common traits of those effects; smooth top end, clear but not harsh repeats and great decay. The Vibe effect performed admirably well, but had a very digital edge to it. It’s certainly usable, but no replacement for a good dedicated pedal. Lastly, I found that the Chorus is a little too shallow for me. Even with liberal settings of the Effect Depth and Adjust knobs, it still seems to only affect the upper registers of the tone. Marshall had the foresight to include an effects loop in the Haze 40 (another difference between it and the Haze 15 head), so if the effects don’t gel with you, external ones can be added.

Plugging back in with the Les Paul, I eagerly moved to the overdrive channel, excited to see what Marshall had cooked up in this model. Starting with a basic low-gain tone with the mids boosted to the 3 o’clock position, the Haze 40 poured forth a great ’70s classic rock tone a’ la AC/DC. The classic Marshall attack and upper-mid punch was all there, as it should have been. However, as I started to push the gain even higher, the tone became more congested. I had hoped it was because of my guitar’s hot pickups, so I switched to a Gibson Les Paul Studio with ’57 Classics. While the congestion was lessened, it was still noticeable. The channel just seems to lose some definition and bite as the preamp gain is set higher. It really started to exhibit this when set past 12 o’clock. Players looking for a Marshall combo that can cover higher-gain modern tones might want to look at Marshall’s newer Vintage Modern series, or the fantastic new JVM line. While those amps can definitely be turned into fire-breathing monsters, the Haze 40 really excels at low gain tones, and it serves those up with ease.

I’m also a firm believer in the idea behind the saying, “Don’t throw a riff away,” which I would here I would modify to, “Don’t throw a tone away.” One player’s throwaway tone is another player’s Live At The Fillmore East. With that in mind, I’ll say that the Haze’s higher gain settings really lend themselves to Billy Gibbons-esque double stops, with a lot of meat and grind on single notes as well. In retrospect, I can’t help but wonder how well the Haze 40’s preamp would handle a first-stage preamp tube with a lower gain factor, such as an ECC81. A simple preamp tube change might’ve helped tame the higher preamp gain congestion I experienced.

The Final Mojo
The Haze 40 is a great low-gain amplifier. For those players looking for a great gigging and recording tool that’s portable and affordable, the Haze 40 is certainly a great option. Some players might not feel that the built-in effects are up to snuff, but they’re definitely usable for a quick jam session or pick-up gig. High-gain modern players might want to look at other options, such as the Marshall JVM215C or Vintage Modern 2266C, but for blues and old-school rockers, the Haze is a future classic.
Buy if...
you’re looking for a smaller Marshall with classy looks and great low-gain tone.
Skip if...
you need a crisp, clear modern high-gain tone.

Street $699 - Marshall Amplification -