I'll admit I didn't expect it. When
I learned I would be reviewing a Mesa Boogie, I thought, "here we go, chainsaw guitar." Not
a bad thing, afterall there's nothing quite like that over-the-top,
agro rage of a couple of Triple Rectifiers on eleven. But, I tend
to crave that sweet, thick top end and tight, centered bottom epitomized
by Alexander Dumble. So, I admit it. I'm a tone snob. Worse, I'm
one of those tube snobs that judges amps with single coil pickups
set on 7. Boy was I in for a surprise...
listen and feel for a few basic things in a guitar amp. First,
I want an amp that sounds good. Sure, that seems obvious, but
take a trip to your local music store and walk down a row of
guitar amplifiers playing a big, open G chord on each one (if
they'll let you). Just listen. How many of those amps really
sound good? ...especially if they are all set flat with little
or no distortion and at a moderate listening level. The truth
is most amps sound fine. Maybe fine is okay for most guitarists,
but personally, I'd rather sound great! Let's start with the
standard feature list...
- 50 Watts, Class A/B Power / 2x6L6, 5x12AX7
- Bias Select Switch (6L6/EL34)
- 2 Channels, 5 Modes (Channel 1=Clean or Pushed, Channel 2=Raw,
Vintage High Gain or Modern High Gain)
- Independent Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, Reverb and
Master Controls per Channel
- Spring Reverb
- Output Level Control (over all channels)
- Solo Level Control
- Parallel FX Loop w/Mix Control
- Slave Out
- 3 Button Footswitch (Channel, Solo & Reverb)
- Slip Cover
- Head (Width 25 3/8")
- 1x12 3/4-Back Combo w/Celestion Custom 90
Power Let's dispell a few myths about wattage right
now. First watts don't measure audio volume, decibles do.
So, when you're
trying to judge whether the amp you buy will be loud enough for
your band, it will be prudent to concern yourself with the "decible
to watt ratio" rather than the rated wattage. Second, tube watts
are not louder than solid state watts. Tube amps generally have
a wider dynamic range than transistors which makes them louder,
but a watt is a watt. Finally, yes the 75 watts of a light bulb
or 1200 of a hair dryer are the same watt as an amp.
That stated, the Rectoverb is a 50 watt amp... and it screams! Indoors, outdoors,
big stage, little club... doesn't matter. This amp is seriously loud. My test
amp is the head with the 3 quarter back 2X12 cabinet (which needs to be the subject
of a review in itself). The Rectoverb comes standard loaded with 6L6 power tubes.
They deliver a meaty low end and all the top end sparkle you could want. Push
the gain up and the amp opens up with an edgy overdrive that is thick and warm
from quiet to LOUD. Crank the gain up even more (it has a very hot front end
so, even metal heads won't need to max the gain) for serious grind. Even single
coils get the push they need to deliver full-shred distortion. The amp sounds
big and clear with any pickup configuration and on any setting.
The amp has two channels in the typical "clean/dirty" arrangement. Both
channels can be voiced from to dirty. The clean channel is thick
and chimes with rich
overtones and all the headroom you could need. It has a switch which allows
you to "push" the gain for a bluesy overdrive. Crank the gain and it really rocks.
The "dirty" channel can be set from clean to metal and delivers to warmest,
thickest lead tone I've ever played with. Turn your guitar up to 10 and it
rock with a
pure, overdriven lead tone you can't help but love. Back you guitar volume
off a bit and it cleans up for rhythm without going thin. For most of my gigs,
amp would be fine with just this channel.
Reverb The spring reverb tank is perfectly matched to the
amp. It's my understanding that the Mesa/Boogie Solo 50 is basically
the same amp without the reverb. I can't imagine not having the
Solo A unique feature the Boogie guys are putting into
most amps now is the footswitchable "solo" control. This allows you
to preset a boost level for the overall volume of the amp which
can be enganged using the "solo" button on the standard footswitch.
Very convenient when you need it and in a sense, gives the functionality
of a four channel amp.
On the Gig The reality is that a guitar amplifier that
looks good on paper and sounds great in the store doesn't necessarily
work as expected in a band. One of the problems is that frequency
overtones from the bass and other instruments can collide with
the guitar's fundementals out of phase and cause phase cancellation
problems (called "comb filtering") at certain points in the room.
Regardless of what it's called, we're all familliar with the
result. You turn your amp up to ear splitting levels but you
to punch through the band.
The Rectoverb gets out front when you need it to be there
without making ears bleed (unless you want that). Speaker
choice has a lot to do with that (this
one's a 3-quarter back 2X12), but the major component is that the Rectoverb
is an incredibly dynamic and harmonically rich amplifier. It
doesn't have the tendency
squash out you attack (called "sag") unless you want it to and also, being
so frequency rich, comb filtering is less of an issue.
But, how's it sound? The short answer is GREAT! I took it straight to a cover
gig, no rehearsal or anything. I rolled out the footswitch, dialed in my clean
sound, my dirty sound and solo level which basically meant setting everything
flat with a little boost in the highs. Then, added a Boss delay and a Boss chorus
pedal. For four sets, I played everything from Reggae to Stones covers and never
once stepped on a pedal. By the fourth set, I had yanked out the pedals so they
wouldn't buffer my signal. All of my sounds, clean to screaming solos, came from
the same channel and the same settings on the amp! There are very few amps out
there that let you back down the volume knob on your guitar without the bottom
dropping out of your sound. The Recto just cleans up. It stays thick and warm,
just cleaner. For solos, simply dime the volume. You'll be right out front with
a tone that takes charge. I NEVER expected this from, of all things, a Boogie!
You have got to try this amp!
Conclusion I bought one. You won't find a better sounding
amp for rock, funk, fusion, jazz and probably country. Metal-Heads
will love it, too. This one will be replacing a Rivera S120 (sorry
Paul) which has kept me ignoring Mesa/Boogie for years. Try it...