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Carlsbro's Marlin 150 PA Amp

Mixer amps form the basis of most semi-pro P.A.s - and, traditionally, Carlsbro's Marlin series have been the market leaders. So how good is their latest 6 channel 150 watt Marlin for the average band? IN TUNE investigates.

For most semi-pro bands the cost of owning a mixing desk, power amps, crossovers and speaker cabs (in short, a full P.A. system) is way beyond their means (not to mention their needs). Reality dictates that, while you can probably afford a hire system for your occasional bigger gigs, the sort of work you're most likely to be doing regularly (clubs, pubs etc) will call for your own P.A. - almost certainly beginning with a small mixer amp and as many full-range speakers as you can afford.

In this league what you must have, before anything else, is reliability: not for you the luxury of a vanful of spare gear, nor (probably) the kindly attentions of a mixing engineer.

For the smaller pub and club gigs which most bands depend on, what you're probably looking for (reliability taken for granted) is a readily expandable mixer/amp, delivering around 150 watts and taking as many individual input channels as you can get. There are, literally, dozens on the market to choose from, ranging from the products of some of the biggest makers around to smaller, often local, equipment manufacturers; but when you visit your local music shop you're very likely to be offered one of the latest series of Carlsbro Marlin units - the Marlins being almost certainly Britain's best-selling mixer amp range. IT has recently been testing a Marlin 6-150 (ie six inputs and 150 watts output) to see whether Carlsbro can hold their reputation in the face of increasingly strong competition from other makers.

Like all Carlsbro's current products, the Marlin looks both neat and very tough. A slim yet sturdy unit, it's light and easy to carry but doesn't seem to have sacrificed any strength in getting it into a compact frame. The external engineering (using ABS extensively) is first rate.

The Marlin 6-150, as the name suggests, has 6 individual channels, each of which will accept either low or high impedance mikes, but only those terminating in jack plugs. The low impedance inputs, however, do take 'balanced line' inputs - a major plus point as it enables pro-standard mikes to be used, thus helping eliminate unwanted noises and letting you use long mike leads.

Channels 1-6 offer individual gain, bass and treble controls. Treble runs from +12dB to -16dB at 10 kHz, bass operates +10dB -12dB at 100Hz, a sensibly chosen Eq range which we found very useful in practice, both for eliminating unwanted frequencies and getting the sounds 'shaped' correctly.

In addition to its tone controls, each of the Marlin's channels also features two push buttons, one controlling outboard FX, the other to activate switching via the internally fitted Accutronics (aka Hammond) spring reverb which, as they always seem to, worked very well.

At the right hand end of the front panel, the Marlin features its main controls. These comprise reverb depth, master presence (+10dB at 8kHz) plus master volume, along with jack sockets for a remote footswitch controlling reverb on/off - the latter being very useful if you are having to use your P.A. amp with no assistance from a mixing engineer, as you can govern reverb from the stage.

Finally on the front are jack sockets for send/return of outboard effects (useful for delays, graphics, etc) and there is a second effects loop provided on the back of the Marlin too.

Rear panel speaker connections are via two standard jack sockets, along with a pre-amp output and twin slave amp jacks (which can be used as a second FX loop, of course).

Although we accept that jack sockets are easy to use, we're not over-keen on their employment as P.A. speaker outputs - they're too easily disconnected, we feel. However, Carlsbro certainly aren't alone in using them in this market. We just wish that manufacturers generally would standardise on something more permanently fastened - maybe locking XLRs?

Output level of the Marlin is rated at 150 watts into 4 ohms, 105 into 8 ohms and, in use, we certainly felt that we were getting our money's worth when the Marlin was linked-up through a pair of decently speakered enclosures. Actual volume from any amp (in sound pressure level terms) depends to a very large extent on the efficiency of the speakers you are using (rather than on the amp itself) and our test enclosures (Celestion loaded) worked well, producing a healthily loud sound. Use crumby speakers and, however good your amp, you'll hear rubbish!

Certainly powerful enough for smaller gigs, we felt that the overall excellent performance of the Marlin, its robustness and good facilities more than justified the asking price. In our experience, Carlsbro's basic solid state power amp module is extremely reliable - it's protected against shorts, mismatches, open circuits, reactive loads and H.F. burnouts - and (especially as the unit has a 2 year guarantee) we felt very secure using it and can strongly recommend it for even the hardest users.

Each channel offers plenty to satisfy the average band's needs, for both Eq and outboard effects use, and, given that you use good speakers and don't overdrive the Marlin beyond its intended rating, it certainly delivers a clear, crisp sound with good tonal variability.

There may be less costly (apparently similar) amps on the market, but we'd have to say that Carlsbro's reputation for reliability would sway us quite a way in their direction.

If the Marlin 150 was to be a band's first mixer/amp purchase, expanding its power later would be easy. Both 150 watt and 300 watt slave amps are offered (not to mention a very suitable speaker enclosure range). If 150 watts seems too low a starting point for you, again, there's a 6-channel 300 watt model on the market too, and we'd be equally happy to endorse that.

The Carlsbro Marlin 150 passed all our tests and performed very well indeed. For the average working band it represents perhaps the ideal buy and seems very likely to keep this maker at the top of the mixer/amp tree in the U.K.

RRP £308.81 inc. VAT

More details from Carslbro (Sales) Ltd., (Contact Details).

Also featuring gear in this article

Previous Article in this issue

Fostex MN-15 Mixer/Compressor

Next article in this issue

Akai MG1212 Multitrack

In Tune - Copyright: Moving Music Ltd.


In Tune - Jan 1985

Donated by: Gordon Reid

Gear in this article:

Amplifier > Carlsbro > Marlin 6-150


Previous article in this issue:

> Fostex MN-15 Mixer/Compresso...

Next article in this issue:

> Akai MG1212 Multitrack

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