Mesa Boogie Mark V Combo in Tasmanian Blackwood with the Wicker Grille
After waiting more than 25 years and going thru several different amplifiers, mostly new or vintage model Fenders and a modeling amp by Peavey, I’ve finally landed my dream amp. A custom-built, Mesa Boogie Mark V Combo in Tasmanian Blackwood with the Wicker Grille (absolutely beautiful, like a piece of fine furniture). However, that’s only part of it, the amp sounds incredible. Overall, it’s much richer and fatter sounding than I could of hoped for and has more to offer that allows me to get as clean as I need or that thicker, throatier, “Texas Crunch” for the blues-rock songs all the way up to that “blistering overdrive” found on the heavy metal rock played by Steve Vai and others.
I purchased my amp direct from Mesa Boogie's Hollywood Store in Hollywood, CA and worked directly with John T. who was very helpful and courteous through the whole process. Since this was a major purchase, I wanted to deal directly with someone from Mesa Boogie, I felt more comfortable doing that. I guess if I wasn’t special ordering the amp, then maybe I would have dealt with my local music store, the Guitar Center in Glenn Burnie, MD.
Premium tones from Mesa/Boogie!
Far more than a single amplifier, the Mark V is a journey through Mesa/Boogie's illustrious history. The Mark V houses multiple circuits and sounds spanning the lifespan of the Mark series — from the high-gain cascading pre amp of the Mark I all the way to the amazing power and control of the Mark IV. The preamp offers numerous sounds, ranging from tweed-like tones to British crunch to blistering trademark Boogie overdrive. If you're looking for an amp with an amazing of history and tone to match, it's the Mark V from Mesa/Boogie.
Mesa/Boogie Mark V 40th Anniversary Combo at a Glance:
- Multi-channel mayhem
- Multi-Watt power
- Simul-Class Power
- Keeping it cool
- Choose your bias
The Mark V is loaded with a slew of sonic possibilities.
Channel 1 contains the lowest gain sounds of the three channels and can be thought of as the rhythm or clean channel. The other two channels contain modes that work better for soft clip, medium crunch and high gain rhythm work. There is a tight, skinny Clean (toggle up), a warm, rich Fat clean sound with added lower fundamental (toggle center) and a higher gain pushed version of this architecture found in Tweed (toggle down). A channel-global Bold voicing switch adds punch and cut starting in the high mids to help you stand out in a dense mix and give you an increase in headroom.
Channel 2 is the transitional channel between the low gain sounds of Channel 1 and the high gain fury of Channel 3. This channel contains the biggest differences between modes and there is definitely dialing required as you toggle through the voicing modes. A stripped, British-inspired Edge (switch up) unleashes low to mid gain aggression.
Low mids are added for a thicker, throatier "Crunch" sound that travels up the gain scale while retaining a tight attack. And finally, Mark I flips the architecture to arrive at the iconic high gain voice that put Mesa on the map back in 1970 with the little Boogie amp. This creamy voice is infused with thick bottom end and works great for fattening up single note solo sounds. You may want to run the BASS control very low (off to 10:00) when the gain is high in this mode to retain the best attack characteristic and avoid flabbiness. There is also a Normal/Thick switch that affects the Mark I Mode only to add extra gain in the mids for added single note focus.
Channel 3 goes on from there to encompass the best of the Mark Series overdrive sounds. Beginning with the MK II C+ (switch up) the sound is pure, blistering focus and this is the classic Boogie voice of the 80's that became the foundation for players like John Petrucci, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, as well as a staple for L.A.'s first call session players of the day Steve Lukather, Mike Landau, Dean Parks, and many more.
The onboard 5-band graphic EQ has been an iconic trademark of Mark series Boogies since they first appeared on the Mark I back in 1970. The shaping power of this feature can't be denied, especially when combined with the Mark II's tight, focused gain sound. In the '80's the classic "V" setting of the EQ on Mark II and III models became a new sound in heavy rock and etched the on-board graphic a place in rock history.
While the Mark V tone controls are accurate and effective over a wide range, they come earlier in the signal chain and can only achieve so much shaping before they produce possible imbalances in certain modes. The graphic EQ comes at the very end of the signal chain so you can shape the final sound with the only consideration being how much of a certain frequency your speakers, cabinets — and ultimately your ears — can handle. Each Channel is fitted with a mini-toggle to select the 5 Band Graphic EQ, but the fun doesn't stop there. The Mark V gives you the choice of two ways to utilize the power of the graphic EQ for each Channel!
The bottom 3 position mini toggle in each channel is the Multi-Watt Power feature that determines the amount (wattage) and type (configuration) of power each preamp Channel will be coupled with to create a classic sound. Any amplifier's sound is 50% preamp and 50% power, so this switch is responsible for a large part of a given Channel's personality and feel. The choices repeat for all 3 Channels and they are 90 W, 45, and 10 W. Using the switch is simple... just select the power you want for each Channel, keeping in mind that the greatest headroom, focus and authority will always be found in the 90 watt position. That's how to use it, but for those who want the full story, here it is.
There's no denying the sonic difference between Class A and Class A/B — but what if you could have both? Since 1981 Simul-Class Power has been the heart and soul of the Mark series amplifiers, imparting its sweet, musical character onto any sound in the vast library of the now classic Mark legacy. Cleans that shimmer with transparent layers of sweet delicate highs, while the bottom end breathes a warm fundamental under a bed of rich low mid ambience. Never harsh — always fat, the Simul lead tone is the quintessential single-note solo sound.
This patented way of wiring an output section with two (or more) pair of output tubes combines two different styles of wiring configurations to arrive at a blend that showcases the best attributes of both. In Simul-Class, one pair of output tubes is wired in the more efficient, cooler running Class A/B Pentode configuration, which produces the greater portion of power and headroom while running cooler. This was the popular way of wiring amplifiers from about the early '60's forward — chosen for its efficient use of tubes, greater power, and reliability. The only sonic penalty for its greater power (Class A/B Pentode wiring) is that it can have a tendency to bring forward the harsher odd-order harmonic content. The Simul solution — add a pair of tubes running in the less efficient, but infinitely sweeter Class A Triode configuration. This style of wiring produces far less power out of a pair of tubes while creating more heat, but it emphasizes the even- order sweeter harmonics and transitions to clip with a soft, rich purring quality like no other.
Keeping it cool
The cooling fan is fitted with an On/Off switch to allow silent running in the studio or late night practicing in the lower wattage settings. We recommend leaving the fan on whenever possible to increase the toneful life of your power tubes. Basically, if the sound doesn't bother you... leave the cooling fan on all the time.
Choose your bias
Finally a Bias Select switch is included that allows you to run EL34 power tubes in place of the stock compliment of 6L6's. You can run EL34's in just the outside pair or all 4 power tube spots. The EL34 style tubes will produce a brighter, skinnier sound that will clip with a whole different harmonic content that can be nice, especially for recording where you may not need the Channel switching performance of all 3 Channels and can dedicate the amplifier to one specific sound. The 6L6'S will most likely perform better for a wide range of sounds and certainly sound fatter and richer on most all the sounds and produce the greatest clean headroom.
Mesa/Boogie Mark V 40th Anniversary Combo Special Features:
- Simul-Class Power Amp with Multi-Watt and Duo-Class technologies for 3 power and three operating class options
- Wattages are channel assignable via 10/45/90 Watt Power Switches
- Choose 2 power tubes operating in pure vintage Class A (single-ended), producing 10 Watts
- 2 tubes running in time-honored Class A/B producing 45 Watts
- 4 tubes running in Mesa's patented Simul-Class Power that blends the best of Class A and Class A/B simultaneously to produce 90 Watts
Mesa/Boogie Mark V 40th Anniversary Combo Features:
- 10/45/90 Watts
- 4x6L6 (or 4xEL34), 7x12AX7, 1x5U4
- Bias Select Switch (6L6/EL34)
- Fixed Bias for Consistent, Maintenance Free Performance
- Full Power/Variac Power Switch
- 3 Fully Independent Channels with 9 Modes
- Footswitchable, Channel Assignable or True Bypassable All-Tube FX Loop with Send Level Control (over all channels when activated)
- Output Level Control (over all channels when activated)
- Footswitchable Solo Level Control
- True "Hard" Bypass Switch removes FX Loops, Output Level & Solo Level Controls from signal path
- Tuner Output w/Footswitchable Mute
- Slave Out w/Level Control
- Fan Cooled with On/Off Switch
- External Switching Jacks for Channels 2, 3 (channel 1 is default), EQ & Solo
- Aluminum Chassis
- 4x4 — 8 Button Footswitch
- Slip Cover
If you are interested in getting yourself a Mesa Boogie Mark V amp, I strongly suggest that you contact John T. at (323) 883-9090 at Mesa/Boogie Hollywood. You can’t go wrong, he’s a first class salesman who knows everything about the Mesa Boogie product line. Well, my next purchase is going to be a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop; either the Limited Deluxe Edition that is a replica of the 1970’s version with the small humbuckers or else a straight Goldtop Standard model (see photo below) with coil-tapping and standard size humbuckers.
Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Standard with Case
Until next time, remember to “Keep your Boogie Down.”
MUSICIAN by Night
“Help Keep The Blues Alive”