I recently bought a Marshall Origin 20C. Nice tube amp, with a beautiful (clean) sound. It's a single-channel amp, with 3-way EQ, volume and gain pots, brightness pot (called 'tilt') and a 3-lever power output, as well as a "boost" setting.

I can get a very nice clean sound out of it, but if I try to overdrive it, I can't seem to.

I don't gig, and I practice in my bedroom, so I use these settings:

  • power output set to "low"
  • "gain" all the way to the max
  • boost enabled
  • "volume" down to 1 or 2 to avoid annoying my neighbours.
  • Using a single-coil strat

Still, the sound is fairly clean, not breaking up much. I have seen several reviews where the amp is overdriven, resulting in a nice crunchy sound.

Is there something else I can try? Or should I just try to replace it with a 5W tube amp instead? The issue is that the Origin 5C does not seem to have a "gain" control.

Edit: I'm aware I can use an overdrive pedal. I want to get the O/D sound from the amp as well!


  • 1
    The volume pot on your guitar acts rather more like an overdrive control than a volume ccontrol per se at times like this. If that's not flat out, overdrive is unobtainable. Neighbours might not appreciate that. Using a good pair of cans is one solution, another is to use an overdrive or distortion pedal, which means you can keep the volume down.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 10:42
  • I know I can use a pedal, thanks. I have a tube screamer. The thing is that I want to hear the TS interact with the tube distortion. What do you mean by "pair of cans"?
    – mkorman
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 11:22
  • A pair of cans is worn over the head. There's a small speaker which goes over each ear. Headphones!!
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 16:15
  • Hey @Tim , why don't you write that as an answer and I'll accept it? It does add some value. I will also edit the title to "tube amp", so the answer will be more generic
    – mkorman
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 8:23
  • Did the suggestion indeed solve the problem?
    – Tim
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 8:36

4 Answers 4


One option is to hook a "power soak" up to the output of your amp. Marshall used to make one, but I haven't heard of anyone using them in years. A friend of mine used one on stage for years and was very pleased with the way it worked. I suppose you might be able to find out about them by googling. I hope this helps.


I think what you are looking for is an amp attenuator or what I think the other answer referred to as a "power soak" It will allow you to crank up the volume on the amp to drive those tubes while 'soaking' up most of the loudness and not getting you evicted while still getting those sweet tube tonez. I know UA came out with a rather pricy 'the ox'. Was also recently looking at 2notes that came out with some that also acts as a DI IIRC.


Marshall Amps are known for good 'gain' sounds. Guitarist Slash is famous for using them for his classic rock sound, a lot of gain there.

Also single coil compared to humbuckers (or even P90's) are more brighter sounds. Have your tried another guitar with this amp?

I think you need to turn your volume up more, sorry neighbours.


Get yourself a set of "YellowJackets" and a pair of EL84 tubes.

Swap out the EL34 tubes for the above configuration. This will reduce the overall power output and might really sound great with the Hi/Med/Low power switch that amp already has. The EL84 tubes will "break-up" or become over-driven sooner, yet still keep that EL34 British tone.


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