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 a replacement, sort of, 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 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. The foundation is laid by an Aclam L2 SmartTrack aluminum pedalboard on which all pedals are mounted. The first pedal is an Electro-Harmonix unit I fell in love with after I saw a demo. The Cock Fight Plus is a Talking Wah and Fuzz. For the wah, you can either select the ‘Cry’ setting, clearly referring to a CryBaby, or ‘Talk’ which emulates exactly that. The onboard fuzz can be bypassed or placed before or after the wah. My favorite feature of the Cock Fight Plus is the Bias control emulating a dying battery driving the fuzz. Previously I used ‘The Fuzz’, built in Denmark by Carl Martin and also an amazingly versatile distortion/overdrive/fuzz pedal. From the wah, the signal goes into a tuner made by Peterson. The StroboStomp HD has an automatic mute when engaged while also providing a buffered input dealing with whatever length of cable is between the guitar and the effects chain. A nice feature is its display continuously stays on showing the note(s) being played. After the tuner the signal goes into the studio quality Compressor Pro, made by effects guru Robert Keeley, followed by a Soul Vibe, BBE’s wonderful Uni-Vibe like rotary cabinet emulator. Next, two overdrive pedals: a BBE Green Screamer, think Tube Screamer, going into an Ethos Overdrive for some Dumble like tones and clean boost. This Custom Tones LLC unit can also be used as a stand-alone preamp for recording. Chorus, flanger, and phaser (and more if needed) are taken care of by a TC Electronics NM-1 Nova Modulation multi-effect unit. The last unit before going into the amp is the best echo I have ever heard by far, built by Strymon: the Volante Magnetic Echo Machine augmented by the MultiSwitch Plus for easy access to 3 presets. The amp’s effects loop has the luscious Carl Martin TremO’Vibe, which is never disconnected even when all other effects are. It provides these wonderful vintage tones for which another brand of amplifier is so well known. Yes, the NM-1 could also have been used for vibrato and/or tremolo but the TremO’Vibe is just much better at it. As is the amps spring reverb tank compared to the reverb on the Volante. There are some other BBE effects used at times. These, as well as the previously mentioned, have mainly been collected by contribution to the long standing of providing the Lunch Report (LR) on the Guitars by Leo (GbL) website. These include a (non-mini) Sonic Stomp sonic maximizer, which is hardly needed with Mesa amps, and a Two Timer, an analog bucket brigade delay with 2 independent delay times. To power it all, I use a simple Furman SS-6B Pro Surge Protector combined with the TrueTone 1 SPOT Pro CS6 pedal power unit mounted underneath the Aclam pedalboard.

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! In any case, I am extremely pleased with the sound and the looks of this stack.