Why a MESA/Boogie?

by Boogie on January 25, 2013

in Mesa Tones & Tips

Doug West (AKA Tone Boy) & Randy Smith deep in R & D on a Mark V Prototype in 2008 (click to enlarge)

Doug West (AKA Tone Boy) & Randy Smith deep in R & D on a Mark V Prototype in 2008

Why a MESA/Boogie? by Doug West

At dinner with the fellas tonight, after a long day of intense R&D on a developing product, an interesting subject came up… again. Consistency. Being able to play consistently day in and day out. This is absolutely critical in our long journey through the development of a product. How can you know where to go from any given point – if the reference is constantly changing? You have to be able to play the same thing the exact same way time and again as you evaluate parts or sub-circuits for hours, days and even months on end. Otherwise you’re shooting at a constantly moving target. No Good.

This has no less importance to the performing musician. Your fellow bandmates or engineers rely on you to uphold your end and play your part with accuracy and conviction in a variety of environments and changing situations… consistently.

What began as an observation about “play testing” amps – versus “playing music” – ended in a global discussion of the approach, ideology and sometimes handicap – that players of all instruments have to navigate. From the Recorder to Saxophone, Blues Harp to Hammond B-3, Rosewood Dreadnaught to Spruce or Maple Carved-Top, musicians face the challenge of overcoming and adapting to the daily nuances and idiosyncrasies of their chosen instrument in order to make great music.

As electric guitarists and bassists, we definitely face our share of these challenges. Temperature, humidity, gauge/brand/composition and age of strings, wood type/ characteristic and set-up of the instrument (action/frets/intonation), caffeine intake, checking account balance and the current state of a significant other’s happiness level are all factors in daily “freedom” and consistency on your instrument.

Then there’s the amplifier.

That led us to a question we are constantly asked – “Why A MESA/Boogie?” After keeping the patient staff at our favorite restaurant until way too late (as usual) discussing this, we packed it in on another Tone-full day.

On the drive home I was tempted to try and answer this question. So here goes…

The Mark V - One of the ultimate tools for defining your sound

The Mark V – One of the ultimate tools for defining your sound (click to enlarge)

Your amplifier defines YOUR tone

In my three decades here at MESA/Boogie – in a wide array of roles – from Customer Service to Artist Relations, Product Development to Marketing – and in trying to help players ranging from first-time amp buyers to iconic touring Legends… across all styles – I have made the following observation:

Most of the players I’ve encountered – from passionate hobbyist to road-worn professional – fit into one of the following two groups or camps:

An elite few whose talent and skill transcend the medium and are largely unaffected by their gear…

Or, those players who are either partially – or wholly dependent on their gear to play with confidence AND define their sound.

After all, a Tele always sounds like a Tele, but that same guitar can transform into MANY different things depending on the amp you plug it into…

This second group includes both those who are set free when they find that magic rig and those who – once finding that rig – go on to establish a unique and signature sound and style that is built upon the symbiotic exchange between player and gear. Carlos Santana and Larry Carlton with their Mark I Boogies, Duane and his Marshall Stack on “Live At The Fillmore East”, Brad Gillis and his MESA Mark II-B with Ozzy and Night Ranger, Eddy Van Halen and his Jose–modded Marshall, John Petrucci and his bar-raising, journey with Boogie Mark II-C’s and Mark Fives, James’ and Kirk’s II-C’s on Metallica’s Black Album, etc. These iconic players maximized their stylistic impact by crafting a sound all their own. They are their Tone – and their Tone is part of their style. We may never know whether these Greats actually needed this gear, or subconsciously knew how to exploit it to their advantage. Either way… they did, and it worked for them. Big Time.

Your amp is likely the piece of gear that defines your sound more than anything else in your rig.

Once you find it, you’re hooked!

Thankfully – at least for my role in R&D here at MESA – I fall in to the latter group. I’m one of those players that feels like I can’t play at all if I don’t have a great tone and a great feel behind me. Randy has said to me many times over the years – (and I have to remember it hurts for a common good) “you’re the guy for this gig, ‘cause when, your playing sucks… I know we’re going in the wrong direction and when you start to flow and rip, we’re getting close”. All I know is – when it starts sounding and feeling good to me – I’m instantly free.

I don’t feel lonely here either, because my many and diverse guitarist and bassist friends – as well as the vast majority of players I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to and help over the years – share this gear-dependent handicap with me.

MESA and it’s family of users is a world-wide brotherhood of compulsively-obsessed, tone-chasing fanatics locked in a perpetual Tone-Quest. Family, friends and significant others don’t understand us. Musical Instrument companies and creditors love us. But our relentless search goes on to find that which will make us free to play our best. Effortlessly. Uniquely. Consistently.

I know I speak for the entire MESA Family when I say – we are grateful to all of you who have found MESA/Boogie on your musical journey. We sincerely hope we’ve helped you connect to your instrument and your ideas and rise to that player you aspire to be.

I want to encourage you to benefit from all the insane talent we’ve attracted in one building over the decades here at MESA/Boogie. I want to sincerely wish you the same inspiration and ‘hand up’ I’ve received in my playing from my time playing MESAs and help you create a long and gratifying musical journey. You are cordially invited to join the world-wide MESA Family. It may sound hokey – but there’s a lot of Love and Passion here in the little amp shop in Petaluma, CA. Just ask any member. And please – reach out! Call us… Email us. And let us know how we can help you!

Best Wishes For You and Your Music,

Doug West
R & D – MESA/Boogie Ltd.

(L-R) Randall Smith, Doug West & Dan Van Reizen est. 1990

(L-R) Randall Smith, Doug West & Dan Van Reizen est. 1990 (click to enlarge)

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie October 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Excellent article! The pursuit of that perfect tone that inspires one to play as best they can is a relentless pursuit for most, however it is a fun thing to be searching for! And I have to say, I enjoy doing this with Boogies.

I bought my first Mesa in 1993 – a used MKIIB. From there, the Mesa collection grew and shrunk as I searched for that sound that needed nothing else. Over the years, in addition to the MKIIB I have been the proud owner of an F30, F50, Mark IV, Studio Caliber DC-2, Stiletto Trident V2, Dual Rectifier Solo Head, Transatlantic TA15, Nomad 100, Recto preamp and 2:50 power amp, and A Roadster head, not to mention the cabinet collection. My apologies to Mesa Boogie, but most of this gear was bought used :-) Each and every one of these amps had tone and features that I was looking for at the time. However I’ve thinned the herd down to the Recto preamp and the Roadster at this point, and I think I’m set now for some time. The Roadster is a piece of art in my opinion. Adding one more channel, reverb, and a series effects loop to a powerhouse having the signature recto tone was the icing on the cake that I was looking for.

Thanks for the marvels of engineering that you’ve created over the years. I’ve loved every one of them. They are a perfect example of a company that doesn’t settle, and one who stays true to their goal of producing the best tone the world has to offer. Looking forward to what’s in store in the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll part with my Roadster down the road :-)

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Boogie Boogie October 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Thanks so much for the kind words, Charlie! Really appreciate your enthusiasm and glad our stuff has been serving your tonal pursuits. Keep on rockin’ and thanks again!

Boogie

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Bob Olson June 7, 2014 at 11:43 am

Thank you all for your commitment to making the best possible amps for us musicians. I recently got a Mark IV and I love it but it is giving me a test when I need to be set up quickly! You guys sure know how to make options with no end!!!

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Boogie Boogie June 9, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Thanks so much for the kind words, Bob! Glad you’re digging the amp and give yourself some time with it at home and on the gig. You’ll gel with the layout (non-standard but a true spaceship when originally released in 1990) and the tones will get dialed in toy where you won’t need to change em’ much!

Thanks again and let us know if we can help you with anything!

Boogie

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Bryant Hill May 5, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Hi Guys,

Like A LOT of you, I tried them all. I have been blessed in life so I have owned my fair share of so e of the most revered amplifiers in history. I made the decision years ago that I am a Fender Guy with a strong affection of Vox AC line as well. I always had a healthy respect for Mesa products, but the Rectifier Series is almost the polar opposite of what I like so I never really gave Mesa a look. Which, considering I have been playing for 25 years is incomprehensible.

Just last week, I walked into a store and hears a tone form heaven. Turns out it was a local blues guy playing a Strat through a Mesa. Intrigued, when he left ngrabbed the closest Strat to mine as far as electronics plugged in and damn near shed a tear. It was like a life long search ended right there. BAM!!! Done. I fiddled with the controls and then switch to a Tele like mine and loved it even more!! My final test was with a 335 like mine and it was awesome!!

So, without saying a word, I rode home, grabbed my DR Z and rode back to the store. A trade was done and I am the proud owner if an Express 25. I just beat cancer but am permanently disabled and am not angle to play out any longer. So, I needed something low power anyway. Of course, I still have my, original ’65 Vox AC-15, real ’65 Deluxe Reverb, real ’66 Princeton, and my ’65 Concert, and finally my original Fender Unit. Not one has been powered up since the Mesa came home. I have always felt that I deserved (and luckily afford) one boutique amp along with my vintage stuff. I have owned a 3 Monkeys, a Tone King, and a Fuchs. They cannot touch this ENTRY level Mesa. If one considers Mesa no longer boutique because of the numbers made then they are an idiot. This amp is nearly perfect (no amp is perfect). It is so quiet, and “0clean”. But the mail thing it responds and feels like a vintage masterpiece. And the vintage 30 speaker is no where near broken in. I am also a a major tube collector. I have pieces to die for. And I am not going to touch the factory tubes. They are probably Sovtek’s or Electro Harmonic but this amp was build around those tubes….you can tell it.

All in all this is as crowning an achievement (especially given the cost) as the Mark V. Way to go Randall and team. You taught this old dog some very new tricks!!!

Thanks,

Bryant

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Eddie T April 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Monster is the perfect word for the recto series amps. Diverse is another one of it’s many assets. From blues to classic rock to punk or all out metal, these amps can do it all. Even the modern high gain mode is quite diverse as I found out the other day. I was jaming with some friends starting out with a little pop punk (offspring, social d) but our new drummer started in on Lamb of God, so I fiddled around a bit with the controls and it ended up sounding pretty close(maybe a little thicker and boomier). The coolest thing about these high gain monsters is that you don’t have to run the gain, treble and presence all out with the mids and bass scooped to get the desired metal tones. But of course if you choose to (on low volume unless you have noise gate and a bunch of spare preamp tubes on hand) the distortion does not turn into a useless fizzy, flubbery pile of mush !!

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Mattias Johansson April 16, 2013 at 12:27 am

Proud owner of dual rec #127. What a monster! Bought it used in 2002 for absolutely all the money i had. I still use it at every show and it’s never once ler me down. Changed a pot and some tubes over the years and that’s it.

The guy who sold it to me (i don’t know him, but i have the same number) still calls me sometimes trying to buy it back! -No way.

What i love about it is that there’s nothing to hide behind, and once you figure the eq-settings out, there’s no going back. Thanks!

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Eddie T March 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Hi Doug & all at Mesa Boogie
Great article. Right on the mark. We as guitar players seek only tonal perfection. From Fender amps to Randall’s, Line 6 to Orange amps and then Marshall’s, it seemed every path lead me to nowhere. That was until I took home a mini rec paired with a compact recto 212. Predominantly an extreme metal guitarist this little David outclassed the Goliath known as Marshall’s JVM. This was Marshall’s supposed hi gain monster. No disrespect to Marshall or any other manufactures (since some people like this type of sound & there’s an amp for everyone) but beyond the 4:00 mark the JVM just became an unrecognizable ball of mush with uncontrollable feedback. The mini rec however had everything from Alice cooper to Alice in Chains on the vintage channel. But the modern channel is where I really found my tonal bliss. Got everything from (surprisingly enough) Offspring to Killswitchengage. Ran the gain, treble and presence to max (at moderate volume) for about two minutes and was wowed at the minimal feedback and high gain capabilities for class A amp. With ears almost bleeding I promptly rolled treble to 12:00 and almos everything else to 2:00 (returning to tonal bliss and to prevent hearing loss). With pride I say I’m sonically addicted to Boogie tones !! Thanks so much to all at Mesa Boogie!!

All the best!!

PS
Thinking about either a Mark V or a Roadking series 2 to replace the JVM. For all out hi gain metal tones which would you recommend ?
Thanx a bunch !!

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J. van der Zanden March 12, 2013 at 4:04 am

Hi Doug and all the guys at Mesa,

Great article! As you can see in mail mail-adress, I am an addict for Boogie tone. Being able to buy a Cal. 50+ (which I still have), I have made a terrific journey through guitar tone in all these years…Triaxis with the 20/20, the Mk IV and finally, the Mark V.
Everytime, after playing live, people approach me and ask me about my guitar tone.
I just want to say to you all: keep up the good work. Your amps are very inspiring and addictive to play with. It is hard for me to put the guitar down.
Your amps are not just merely amps: for me they are musical instruments, because of the quality of tone, the dynamics, the way they react on your playing style… I cannot stop raving about them and you can see me as an unpaid salesman…(lol).
One day I hope to come over and have a factory tour….
Greetings, Jos.

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Boogie Boogie March 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Hi J. –

Thanks for the kind words and we hope to be able to show you around the factory someday! Please come and visit us.We are always happy to do factory tours!

Cheers,

Boogie

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Marcos André Scheffe Bedin March 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm

hello, I am Brazilian, speak little English, so I will use the google translator to help. Sorry.

Well, I discovered a few years ago that my passion for Mesa boogie is not by chance, I discovered that one of the first guitar sounds crazy and I heard that many years ago there was a Mesa boogie . I did not know it, but when I discovered that almost every guitar sounds that made ??me happy was (Mesas Boogies)!!!! decided to buy the first one (pre amp V-twin, I love this unit).

I’m starting a little, but I’ll get the Triaxis or the mark-v !!!very best!!!

Thanks table because my love is not just for guitar, rock, jazz, blues.
Now I know that, first, I love the tube amps, and, above all, MESA BOOGIE. for which complete my life

THANK YOU.

MARCOS ANDRÉ SCHEFFER BEDIN OF BRAZIL

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Boogie Boogie March 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Hi Marcos –

Thank you for the amazing and kind reply.

We very much appreciate you hearing your guitar sound with Mesa amps.

Hopefully soon the Triaxis or Mark V can find it’s way to you!

All the best!

Boogie

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Paul February 2, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I have owned, played, and enjoyed a 2 channel Dual Rectifier for many years but one day about 3 1/2 years ago, I played the best amplifier ever built for the first time. A couple of weeks ago I was at the local Long and McQuade when a salesperson said the most truthful thing I have ever heard. “In the industry we have a saying, let the ‘tryer’ beware.”
On a fateful day in spring 2010, I tried an Electra Dyne for the first time and my world came crashing down. It was THE crunch sound I had searched for for 10 years that was coming out of that amp. When I switched to the clean mode my jaw once again hit the floor. Absolute perfection.
Now most people would think this a good thing but alas, I was a poor university student with a wife and a newborn baby, there was no way five figures of student debt could afford that marvelous sound. Not willing to part with my beloved Recto, I held out, and held out, and held out, but one day I had enough. In the summer of 2011 I spent **ahem** student loan money on a tan long head! I was supposed to flip the Recto to cover the expense but I couldn’t bring myself to sell the thing so I endured purgatory doing manual labour in the hot sun to repay the lost funds!! The following spring, I ordered a matching tan 2 x 12 and my tone journey was complete.

As my wife says, I am a guitar addict and I hid that from her until we got married AHAHA!! The Electra Dyne is bloody fantastic. Like I’m supposed to be WRITING music and doing research for my music degree but I spent far too much of that time playing guitar. Once I power up the amp, I simply cannot stop playing. The tone, response, feel, are all superb on every mode and with careful EQ settings and pickup adjustments, a perfectly gig-able setup can be had! Just WOW! You guys have outdone yourselves and creates the best guitar amp ever made! (And I still have my Recto)
If I cannot finish my music degree, I’ll hold your company personally responsible ;)

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Boogie Boogie February 4, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Amazing and kind words, Paul.

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and wax poetic on the merits of tone from the Electradyne. We love it and lots of others do as well. So many unique but still Boogie-based tonal aspects of the amp to fall in love with. Glad you’ve found some of them and you will likely continue to drag tone out of there.

As to your music degree, well… stay on course, mate. ;)

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Hunter McDonald January 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Mr. West,
This was such a beautifully accurate discription of us tone seekers! As do the small things influence our tone as much as the bigger pieces of gear in our rigs, the amp is absolutely the cornerstone in our realm. I’d just simply like to extend my gratification and thankfulness to yourself and all of the Mesa Engineering members to your selfless dedication!

-Hunter M.

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Mark Cornwell January 26, 2013 at 9:05 am

I’m a weekend warrior and I’ve been using an mid 80′s 50 caliber plus for 15 years( 900 plus gigs). I’ve tried to find pedals to get by at gigs where back line is supplied, no way i could accept the thinness or buzziness (is that a word?) Used a newer marshall once on a road trip to Savannah, it was was chunky, but the clean sounds and solo sounds were anemic. I’ve tried to find a budget priced amp to use as a back up, couldn’t find anything that can do what my boogie does. I play a unique variety of music, James Brown to Led Zep, to New Orleans funk, to bagpipe rock and my mesa boogie has all the sounds I need. No pedals at my feet except for the Boogie switchbox. Bottom line I believe Mesa Boogies are most addictive substance on earth for a guitarist or guitar player just sayin….

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Jeff January 26, 2013 at 8:34 am

excellent post. I bought a mini rectifier 13 months ago and the last 13 months have been the most defining and expansive in my guitar playing experience. I have learned so much about tone, my playing. It’s boosted my confidence as a guitar player and frankly the best money I’ve spent on guitar gear ever.

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Michael Dee January 25, 2013 at 7:34 pm

This article completely spoke to me. I invested in a Mesa Boogie Roadster just over two years ago and I have never looked back. Worth every cent! Chords sound like a composite of individual notes you can hear through instead of a distorted mush. Everything else I have ever owned has been hit or miss. Constant tweaking and dialing. Some songs hot, some cold, play one way aounds great, switch to a new song, not so much. With my Mesa, I dial it in before the show, set my levels and I hit. I always know what I am going to get, song after song, instrument after instrument, style after style, venue after venue. Thanks Mesa Boogie.

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Mike Paolucci January 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Great article Doug and right on the money. Slot me into camp two as well – when the sound (i.e. “Tone”) is happening a guitarist becomes one with the instrument and magical things happen. When I was a youngster I used to drool over the Boogie ads and promised myself “one day…” Now I’m an oldster and plugging into my MKV or Triaxis & 20/20 rack makes me grin from ear to ear like a kid every time. I’m a Boogie freak for life because no one does capital T “Tone” better. All the efforts of you and the Mesa team Doug are greatly appreciated. :)

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Joe Musolino January 25, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Got my first Boogie (100/60, EQ, 12′) in summer 1974 – it still sounds absolutely inspiring of course – so I’m halfway through my 39th year as a member of the Mesa family. I also have a thiele cab with EVM 12Ls, a Nomad 55, and just picked up a V-Twin pedal. Every last one sounds nothing short of amazing. Back in 1974, I got the first Boogie home (in the day when we ordered, sent payment, got the amp delivered), plugged in, set the controls, and found the perfect tone. Just like that. And all of a sudden my playing just got way better, to the level that I was apparently at. Like Barry said above, the best amps in the world, made and backed by folks who do get it, and are wonderful people. I live on the East Coast, but I’ve toured the factory on two occasions when I found myself in northern California, and Mesa folks are just great. Thanks to evreyone at Mesa/Boogie from the bottom of my heart and the tips of my fingers for 4 decades and counting of the best tone ever, and the countless thousands of hours of pure joy that come from playing with that tone!

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Skyggen January 25, 2013 at 7:08 pm

I became a part of Mesa family the summer the previous year. As I’m mostly into black and death metal I was looking for an amp that would be both versatile and able to power up my guitar with loads, and I mean LOADS, of gain. I got Dual Rectifier which was previously used in a studio for the past few years. Equiped with original Mesa tubes it serves me well despite of age. The Mesa amplifiers are made whole-heartedly which is very uncommon these days as most of companies aim at high sales, while this company in Petaluma stays elite above them all. The amps are very, very high quality, treated rightly they have no chance to fail at any moment.
Once you get sunked in Mesa, you won’t switch to anything different I think.

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Barry Shirley January 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

My 33rd year as part of the Mesa family . My journey started with the Mark IIB and comes full circle with my Mark V . Simply put Mesa amps are inspiring . When I gig I still can’t wait to get the amp set up and start warming up , never gets old . LoneStar and Stiletto owner as well . The best amps in the world backed up by people who really get it . Indeed a family affair !

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Will January 25, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Great article!

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Wayne January 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Every guitarist needs to try a Mesa at least once.

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