How I arrived at this amp is described here.
When Marshall introduced the Origin at the 2018 winter NAMM show, there was much rejoicing: Marshall seemed to finally deliver what many people had been waiting for: an affordable Plexi-style amp. When the specifications became known and the first videos turned up, there was more than a little disappointment: partly due to strange choices by Marshall (e.g. 10″ speaker for the 20W combo), partly due to expectations that were a bit high-strung.
There are essentially three models: 5W, 20W, and 50W. All three are available as combos (speaker size 8″/5W, 10″/20W, 12″/50W), the 20W and 50W models also as head. I will focus on the 50W combo from here on.
It is a single-channel tube amplifier. Tubes are three 12AX7 (ECC83) pre-amp tubes and two EL34 power-amp tubes. It has no reverb, which met some criticism, but I don’t like reverb very much so it doesn’t matter to me. There is a serial FX loop, which can only be activated with the included two-button footswitch. The other button enables the gain boost that can also be enabled by pulling up the gain knob.
Two features deserve special attention: The traditional treble/mid/bass and presence tone controls are augmented by a tilt control that is supposed to emulate the possibilities you get from jumpering and thus blending the two channels of a Plexi-style amp. You can thus move from dark to bright with the turn of a single knob. And while the amp has a master volume, there is a power switch (Marshall calls it power stem technology) that lets you choose between three power settings. Sounds great in theory, in practise I have found that I prefer leaving the amp at full power and turning down the master volume instead.
The cabinet has a lovely vintage look to it. Those who want to carry it around much may miss corner protectors. And it’s not exactly a lightweight amp, either: 50W require a decently sized output transformer. The speaker is a Celestion G12N-60 Midnight 60. It’s a budget speaker with Neodymium magnet (probably chosen since the amp is already quite heavy – if you were planning on adding e.g. a Neo Creamback to save some weight, you’re out of luck) that is also used by Peavey and Fender. Talking about budget, while I’ve not pulled them out yet, they seem to be Chinese. This is certainly not unexpected considering the price point of the amp.
Let’s get this out of the way first: This amp does not have a lot of gain. At lower volume levels, even with gain on 10 and the gain boost active, you are nowhere near a good classic rock overdrive. But this headroom has its advantages: it’s a good pedal platform amp, and that’s what I was looking for. Gain on 5, boost off, master volume and tone controls set to taste gives you a decent clean tone. Add the overdrive pedal(s) of your choice for dirt. The clean headroom, 50W output transformer, large cabinet and 12″ speaker give you a good platform that never sounds muffled or boxy. It being a Marshall, it leans more towards mid-rangy and hence Tubescreamers aren’t great with it, but I really like both my MXR ’78 Custom Badass and my Plexi Drive clone with it.
At the low volume levels that I use, I don’t think a different speaker or better tubes would make much difference, but if you want to tune yours, this is where I would start.
I think the biggest competitors are the Marshall DSL20C and DSL40C. Both have two channels and much more gain. The DSL40C has a great feature set for live use, such as two footswitchable master volumes. I liked the sound and the looks of the Origin 50C a bit more, otherwise I would have gone with the DSL40C. Another alternative are the Studio Classic and Studio Vintage. But these are more expensive, the combos only have 10″ speakers (why, Marshall?), and the Studio Vintage has no master volume.