My amp collection - Mesa/Boogie


After I changed jobs mid 2008, I decided to commemorate the occasion by buying some new gear. What else is new? Not much, but this amp needed to be special, especially in the department of esthetics. And I wanted it as kind of a ‘replacement’ for the Mesa/Boogie Subway Blues which implied that it had to be low wattage. I decided on a Mesa Express 5:25 head with 2 Express 19” wide extension cabinets, all in bubinga with wicker cane grills. The cabs however are each loaded with a single 12” Celestion Black Shadow MC-90 90W speaker (specially built for Mesa) instead of the 60W Celestion Vintage 30 that would come standard. After an 8 month wait it finally arrived. As you can judge from the photos, it is indeed a beauty; very much so in the ‘old’ Mesa/Boogie sense where many of their Mark series amps also had hardwood cabinets and wicker grills.

As can be concluded from the model name, this amp can run with 2 different output stages: the 2 EL-84 tubes either run in Class A/B push-pull for 25W with larger head room, or a single tube runs in single-ended Class A for a deliciously clipping 5W. It has 2 channels: channel A can be set to Clean or Crunch (hence should the channel have been called ‘C’?), whereas channel B can either be set to Blues or Burn. The amount of gain increases from Clean to Blues to Crunch to Burn. Each channel has a gain, treble, mid, bass, reverb, master, and contour controls. The channel, reverb, and contour can be switched using the foot controller. The contour is a single control version of Mesa’s famous graphic equalizer which is frequently set to the well known mid-scooping V-shape. More information can be obtained from this archived link to the Express Series Manuals.

The outboard gear has been expanded over the years. I use a Peterson Virtual Strobe II tuner (out of production) which is not hooked up in the signal path, since that proved to be sucking major tone. So it is just sitting on top of the head and I pull the cable out of the guitar and use a separate cable permanently connected to the tuner. Talk about silent tuning! All the effects I use, beyond the built-in reverb, are either provided by Carl Martin (built in Denmark) or BBE; the latter by providing the long standing Lunch Report (LR) tradition on the Guitars by Leo (GbL) website. The Carl Martin Quattro [sic] is an incredibly straightforward unit contains a compressor, 2 distortion effects (crunch and high-gain), a great sounding chorus, and an even better sounding echo that mimics some of the warmth and sonic deficiencies intrinsic to tape echo and other vintage echo effects. Carl Martin also build one of the best tremolo/vibrato units around, the luscious TremO’Vibe which sounds great in the amps effects loop as well as on the floor, as well as ‘The Fuzz’, an amazingly versatile distortion/overdrive/fuzz pedal. The BBE effects include a (non-mini) Sonic Stomp sonic maximizer (which is hardly needed with Mesa amps), Soul Vibe (a wonderful Univibe like rotary cabinet emulator), Green Screamer (think Tubedriver), and Wah (beautifully voice like) pedals. To power it all, I use a simple Furman SS-6B Pro Surge Protector, which does the job just fine!

The cabinets are open back and, as stated before, 90W. This serves me two purposes: beyond using them in my mini-stack, I can also use them in my rack-gear to replace or augment the closed-back Thiele extension cabinets for different sounds in that department too! In any case, I am extremely pleased with the sound and the looks of this stack.