unregistered, on november 30, 2010 15 of 15 people found this review helpful
Price paid: $ 1400
Purchased from: Bob's Guitars, Iowa
Features: Admittedly, I've been avoiding this review for a while. I've wanted to spend as much time as possible exploring the Mark V before expounding on its abilities and features. The problem with the Mark is that it's so sensitive to all of your gear choices and its own settings that it becomes very difficult to know when you've actually heard what it has to offer. Bad reviews of Mark amps are usually met with incredulous fans claiming that the reviewer didn't know how to make the amp work. Sometimes that claim may be true, but on the other hand if an amp is that tricky to operate, it may be at least a tacit admission that the Mark amps could have some design flaws. After all, if someone bought a TV that you had to spend a month adjusting in order to get its 'real' performance, would you really blame the owner getting frustrated and panning it? There is something to be said for user friendly designs, and after experiencing the Mark V, I can say that dialing in other amps is a blessedly short and simple process. And yet, every other amp I've used or auditioned can't do what the Mark V can.
So, like a Diamond in the rough, you've got to get through a lot of useless junk in order to hit pay dirt. Which brings me to my main criticism of the Mark's features: The EQ. Why, oh why would Randall Smith design an EQ section with so much range, but so little utility? Each of the rotary controls of the preamp have a very limited range of good tone because of their interaction with other parts of the EQ. The design is completely counter-intuitive. For instance, if you would like anything approaching an acceptable high gain tone, you must not turn the rotary bass knob above 9 o'clock! This caveat is even written in the user manual (and more than once). This is your first, and certainly not your only, clue that Randall Smith realizes how quickly you can render your Mark a farting mess with a half turn of the bass control. Since this is the case, wouldn't it be a good idea to change the sweep of the knob? After all, wouldn't it be comforting to know that you could use the entire sweep of the knob without destroying your sound? So, naturally, you could ask yourself why a smart guy like Randall Smith would leave such a curious design flaw in place? The only possible answers are that it is somehow necessary to the overall sound of the Mark series, or that the abnormality, being an artifact of the Mark design from the very first of the series, is now the norm for Mark users and can't be tampered with for fear of alienating purists. In either case, it's weakness and folly to perpetuate a feature that should be revamped in favor of utility.
There are other artifacts within the preamp that virtually beg for renovation as well. Another is the odd interactivity in the EQ section. The treble, mid, and bass controls fight for bandwidth within the Mark V in a zero sum fashion that strains at the edges of abuse. If you crank the treble, it changes the way the bass behaves and vice versa. The mid and treble change the way the gain behaves. For all the possibilities the interaction creates, the confusion it generates almost destroys the magic of the sounds you can conjure. This apparently, is another unfortunate artifact of Smith's Mark designs. Now, there are other instances of this, but it would be an act of extreme tedium to list and describe each here as I'm sure you (the reader) would like to be able to digest this review in one sitting.
Suffice it to say, that the Mark V has many useful features that, so long as you are very careful with them, will lead you to good and possibly great tones. But each feature comes at the cost of testing your patience with an irrationally confusing preamp design.
You'll quickly find the graphic EQ built into the Mark V indispensable. Without it, the amp sounds unforgivably boxy. Unfortunately, you can't customize the graphic EQ for one channel without messing up the others. There are presets you can select for each channel to bypass this dilemma, but if you don't like the presets, they're little consolation. The issue I've encountered arises from using an extreme V shape to achieve a good metal tone on channel 3. However, applying this shape to the first channel, yields a less than desirable tone. Switching off the graphic on channel one makes it difficult to balance the volumes between the channels. So I'm stuck with the preset to ease the problem. Unfortunately, the preset is lacking to me. So, although the Mark V is a 3 channel amp, you still end up having to sacrifice one channel's tone for the sake of another. This is a problem that has been present in the Mark series since the Mark II. Why can't it be resolved?
Another problem with channel one is that the reverb becomes a little too subtle in the tweed mode. Also, in answer to the previous reviewer, midi switching, albeit in a half-arsed form, is possible. // 8
Sound: You might be thinking that this review, based on the above rant, is going to be a pan. Weirdly enough though, it isn't. The Mark V sounds amazing! The clean channel alone is worth the price of admission. The second channel will do a very good imitation of a Marshall, and channel three is massive sounding.
I'm a metal player at heart, but I dabble in most styles of music. That said, my setup is specific. I use an all maple US Masters Vector guitar. It is a clear, powerfully voiced instrument, and it pushes the Mark without the need for high output pickups. I also use the head into an avatar 1x12 with a Celestion G12K-100. V30's also sound good with the Mark V. I despised the C-90 in the combo amp, although that could have been due to the open back.
My channel setup is for a metal motif. Channel one is set to be very clean (no grit at all) with a lot of reverb. Channel two is set for as close to an 80's Marshall tone as I can get. Channel three is set to extreme for metal madness. In all channels, I've cranked the midrange. The mid on the parametric EQ adds some gain and saturation. Without this trick, I would have sold the amp. This effect is not as pronounced with the C-90 equipped combo.
I have tried the IIC+ setting on channel three, but found that the fluidity it gave to leads sacrificed metal rhythm accuracy. However, it does sound very, very good.
Both channel two and three suffer from a slight lack of sustain, that sometimes makes it more difficult to get a legato feel when playing solos. I think I may try a boost pedal to fix this.
I can't overstate how clear and precise the high gain channels are. Once dialed, this head is addictive and spoils you. I can't go back to the amps I used before... They sound like garbage in comparison. This head stacks up against any high gain head out there. // 9
Reliability & Durability: The construction of the amp, frankly, worried me. I opened the head up and found that the preamp tubes were mounted to PCB and that the power tubes were mounted to a daughter board. I also saw that there are daughter boards for the controls. These daughter boards are connected to the main board via ribbon cables. It looked like a PC when I opened the Mark V! I've since looked at countless gut shots on amp forums and discovered to my surprise that nearly all of the boutique amps I've revered from afar are constructed in exactly the same way! VHT, Bogner, Diezel, etc, all are guilty of shoddy production techniques! ...Or are they? Mesas have a strong reputation as very reliable amps. Additionally, a three channel amp with all the options of the Mark V would be impossible to construct in any other way. What's more, after drooling over a number of photos of some very well-constructed, hand-made amps, I discovered that PTP wired amps are altogether too temperamental machines! Apparently, changing the orientation of one component wire in such a circuit can totally change the tone of the amp! So you pay a mint to buy an amp that may or may not sound better than a production PCB amp and end up with something that has a variability of tone that could render your massive investment in it fruitless. So, after mulling this over, I've decided it would be unfair to penalize Mesa for design features that, though they are regarded as inferior by purists, apparently have little bearing on tone or reliability. I will say however, that I don't have enough information to make an accurate judgment of the Mark V's durability. This is, after all, an amp that's only been around for little over a year. I've been using mine for about six months and have gigged with it only a few times. I've had no major problems aside from a noisy preamp tube. The jury is out.
There are two design features I'd like to mention here.
1. The preamp tubes are entirely too difficult to change in the head.
2. The tubes are very good in this amp. The preamp tubes are JJ's. I've tried several others (including some NOS) and keep coming back to the JJ's. They are a near perfect blend of tone and stability. The power tubes are Sovteks and also sound very good. I compared these to Groove Tube GE reissues, and the Sovteks are better. Unfortunately, the Mesa warranty requires the use of Mesa tubes, so I'm not too keen on experimenting a lot with power tubes as I would like to.
3. The ability to run both el34's and 6l6's together is discouraged by Mesa on the Mark V. From what I understand, this is due to the 10 Watt setting not being able to send the correct voltages to the tubes if they're mixed. This is a bummer, as many consider the ability to mix the two types a great feature of the Mark amps. I guess so long as you avoid the 10 Watt setting, you'd be okay, but who wants to take chances with melting a $2000 amp? // 8
Overall Impression: I compared this amp to a Marshall JVM, Mesa Rectifier, Orange Rocker 100, Peavey 5150, Carvin x100b, Zinky Superfly, Marshall 900, and several others. Each of those was a great amp in their own right, but none of them sounds like a Mark. And none of them have the clarity I'm hearing in my rig. Overall, the Mark is frustrating beast of an amp, but, if you hang in there, it is undeniably one of the best high gain amps being made. // 8
RocknRory, on april 05, 2010 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Price paid: $ 2000
Purchased from: Haggerty Music
Features: Ok this amp was made in 2009 and it is VERY versatile. It covers every style I play which includes blues, alternative, classic rock, modern rock, oldschool metal, modern metal and much more. This amp has 3 seperate channels and you can Switch channels on the fly with the footswitch, which is well built and solid. There is no loud popping when switching channel and no delay. This amp has a Parallel effects loop and a knob to control the level of the effects send and also has the option to hard bypass the loop and use the seperate channel master volumes to control the volume while disabling the Solo control and output.
The only feature I wish this amp had was midi switching between modes, something that changed the EQ settings along with it because EQ does not translate cross modes very well. I use this amp at home for practicing and also with my band which plays rock, blues, jazz and the such and it keeps up VERY well. This amp is solid. 10w modes are great for home practicing but do not stand up well with a band so kick it to either 45w or 90w. The Variac mode is great for a Vintage breakup sound in a 10w setting, very creamy!
This amp has the Mark Standard Graphic EQ that tailors the sound in any direction you want. It has spring reverb that is alright, but I prefer different kinds of reverb for playing (but I still use it, less hassle!) It has the option to choose between Triode and Diode rectification on channel 3 which makes a HUGE difference. You can also choose to use tube rectification or Diode on channel 1 and 2 depending on your wattage choice. There are so many combinations, It would take me months and possibly years to fully explore this amp. // 9
Sound: I'm currently using a ESP EC-1000 deluxe with this amp with active EMGs. This guitar isnt the best for softer stuff but it opens this amp for modern metal like no other! This amp suits my musical style perfectly. Most of the time I play hard rock and metal when I'm not with my band but I never thought I'd come across an amazing high gain amp with a beautiful clean channel. This amp has a beautiful clean channel, as much as I love Channel 2 and 3, I can stay on this channel for hours on end. 90w with the gain fairly low is best for maximum headroom and no breakup at high volumes and tweed is great for vintage, "tweed" kind of breakup especially at 45w with the gain turned up and Variac on. Channel 2 is great for Carlos Santana and smooth distortion on the verge of breakup in Mark I mode, but on the flip side if you crank the presence and gain it gets very heavy and brutal, usable for metal!
Crunch is my favorite setting on this channel which produces a marshallesque (but very different at the same time) kind of well, "Crunch". I get some great Foo Fighters, MCR, GNR, Velvet Revolver, Skynrd, etc sounds out of this channel and much more. Edge is my least favorite mode on this amp, I guess I don't like its voicing but it sounds very strange, only way I use this mode is if the gain is rolled back for a voxy kind of tone.
On to Channel 3, my favorite channel of them all! Channel 3 offers 3 modes, Mark IIC+, Mark IV, and Extreme. I use Mark IIC+ the least, not because its bad but because I like a more modern sounding grind and the other two modes suit it better. This is a great mode for rock leads and the such with the gain a little lower than "chug" volume. Sure it can get great Metallica MOP tones but I perfer the other modes, just my preference. Mark IV I would say, has more saturation than Extreme and is a lot more "Creamy" It depends what mode I'm in, I Switch between Mark IV and Extreme quite often. Great mode.
Extreme is what I'm using right now. This channel can get Killer modern metal tones such as Killswitch Engage, Death Magnetic Metallica, Bullet for my Valentine, Atreyu, etc. and has the most low end thump out of all the modes, I cry everytime I hit a palm muted chord and hear the area shake. No joke! The clean is crystal, the distortion is brutal and everything else in between is great. No complaints, not one. // 9
Reliability & Durability: This amp looks very durable and is well built. If I HAD to I would probably gig with it without a backup but come on, every tube amp can have some freak accident with tubes and whatnot mid gig so its best to have a backup, even with this beast. This amp has never broken down, but I haven't had it all that long, only 3weeks. // 8
Overall Impression: Overall this amp is a masterpiece. Randall Smith did an amazing job making this amp. I've only been playing 2 years but I know LOTS about gear, trying many different amps before buying this. I tried a few Marshalls, JCM800, and a DSL100 and I must say this amp fits my style better than those two. I love the versatility of this amp. It does EVERYTHING I want, beautifully. I couldn't ask for a better amp. No wonder John Petrucci uses 3 of these live now, all the mode combinations must be insane! Take note, when I first tried this amp, it was the combo which I liked but didn't love. When I bought the head and tried it with my 4x12 cab with V30's it shined, I like it much more, especially for metal.
I plan to keep this amp for a very long time, even when I get new gear in the future, I doubt it will replace this beast, except maybe the Mark 6 if that comes! Haha. Don't compare this amp to a rectifier, if your after the recto sound get that, but I perfer this amp because it can get just as brutal as a rectifier pounding, just in its own way. I perfer the clean channel on this amp over the roadster's also.This amp doesn't get a 10 because I don't believe in perfection, theres always small tweaks that can make something better, but this amp gets a 9 because its as close to perfect as anything I've touched. Great amp. // 9
unregistered, on december 17, 2010 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Features: Please refer to the Mesa web site. There is a lot to say here.
However, here is a quick run down: 1x12 combo amplifier. 90/45/10 watt tube amp with 7 preamp and 4 power amp tubes - 6L6's or (EL-34)with 1 recifying tube. Class A/AB, AB, A circuitry (depending on the setting). Tube, diode, triode, pentode rectifying (depending on setting). Three independent channels with three preamp settings per channel. Eq, reverb, and eight button foot Switch controller. I, also matched this to a 1x12 closed back extension cabinet (great match). // 10
Sound: Having owned many amplifiers since I started playing the guitar in 1964 and a Mesa/Boogie owner for well over twenty years, I felt confident to order this amplifier before it was released. I have one of the first 100 made. I play high end guitars with Humbucking, single coils and p-90 pick ups. Some active, some passive.
Although, it looks a bit overwhelming, and it's loaded with options, knobs, switches, bells and whistles. If you take some time to understand how this thing works, I feel that it's really quite simple. Just take one channel at a time! It is not a plug and play. So, if you're used to that type of thing, you may need a bit more time getting used to this amp.
I have found that this amplifier sounds amazing! I have the 1x12 combo along with a closed back, ported front 1x12 extension cabinet. Having both, the open backed speaker in the combo and the closed back speaker in the ex-cabinet is an excellent matching.
Each setting of this amp has it's own voice and is very usable. I have set this up with a T.C. Electronic G - System with a RJM Mini Amp Gizmo switching unit and two Mission expression pedals. I am very satisfied with it's performance!
There are many good amplifiers on the market and everyone has their favorates. This amp is one of the best made (and sounding) that you will find. // 10
Reliability & Durability: I received shipment of this amplifier on May 8, 2009. I took it out of the shipping box myself. It has never been displayed at a store.
I have never had an issue with my Mesa amps, except once. The covering of the handle of an amp that I had for several years came apart. I called Mesa to order a new one, expecting to pay for it, but didn't know the part number. The Mesa Representative replaced the handle FREE and had it in the mail that day! Never a problem! Great products! // 10
Overall Impression: This is simply a great amplifier! I play very soft "clean tones" to "extremely heavy", high gained material. This amplifier does it all! With a bit of effort on your part to learn the ins and outs of this amp (really, with all equipment!) you will be satisfied.
Please, good tune is subjective! Do your homework! // 10
dusted04, on november 02, 2011 1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Price paid: A$ 4000
Purchased from: pro audio
Features: Mark V made in 2011. I play mostly metal and rock this amp suits those styles and is extrememly versatile.
Features: Simul-Class Power Amp (Patents 4, 532, 476 & 4, 593, 251) featuring Multi-Watt (Patent 7, 602, 927) and Duo-Class (Patent 7, 173, 488) technologies which provide three power and three operating class options that 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 or 4 tubes running in Mesa's legendary, patented Simul-Class Power that blends the best of Class A and Class A/B simultaneously to produce 90 Watts of pure tonal magic / 4x6L6 (or 4xEL-34), 7x12AX7, 1x5U4.
Bias Select Switch (6L6/EL34)
Fixed Bias for Consistent, Maintenance Free Performance
Full Power/Variac Power Switch (Patent 5,091,700)
3 Fully Independent Channels with 9 Modes (Channel 1 = Clean, Fat or Tweed, Channel 2 = Edge, Crunch or Mark I, Channel 3 = Mark IIC+, Mark IV or Extreme)
Normal/Bold Switch on Channel 1, Normal/Thick Switch on Channel 2 (Mark I mode only), Normal/Bright Switch & Pentode/Triode Switch on Channel 3
Each Channel features: Independent Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass, Presence, Master, Footswitchable or Auto-Assignable Contour Depth Control, Footswitchable All-Tube, Long Spring Reverb Control, Rectifier Tracking (Auto-selects Tube for all 10 Watt Modes, Diode for all 90 Watt Modes, selectable Tube or Diode for 45 Watt Modes on Channels 1 and 2, Diode for 45 Watt Mode on Channel 3 - Patents 5,168,438 & 7,193,458)
5 Band Graphic EQ is Footswitchable, Channel Assignable and Selectable between 1 group of 5-Band Sliders or 3 channel specific, variable depth Contour Controls
Footswitchable, Channel Assignable or True Bypassable Fully Buffered FX Loop with Send Level Control (over all channels when activated)
Output Level Control (over all channels when activated)
Footswitchable Solo Level Control Patent 6,724,897 (over all channels when activated)
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 New 4x4 - 8 Button Footswitch (Bottom Row: Channel 1, Channel 2, Channel 3, Solo Top Row: Reverb, FX Loop, EQ & Tuner Mute)
Kitchen Sink, Ice Maker, Beer Cooler (just kidding) but easier to use than this list suggests (not kidding)!
FORMATS: Medium Head (Width 22-7/8 inches) / 1x12 Combo, C90 Speaker,
this amp has pleanty of power and is loud really loud but also sounds awesome at bedroom levels with a minor adjustment of the presence control. // 10
Sound: I use ESP Metallica signature guitars. With EMG pickups 81/60ESP KH-2 neck through ESP KH-3 custom shop neck through ESP MX 250 custom shop and ESP custom made EET FUK Replica. With this amp and those guitars I can achieve any tone you could imagine from nice cleans to searing high gain that will melt your face off, and huge lown also. The amp is very quiet considering the amount of gain and volume. // 10
Reliability & Durability: It's a Mesa its road worth for any world tour. I have had no problems at all with it and I doubt I will. Although I have heard of alot of people tubes blowing. I am guessing this is because they haven't read the manual properly and are running the amps settings to HOT. // 10
Overall Impression: I have been playing for 14 years and this is bye far the best amp I have heard. If it were stolen I would buy another one straight away. I love that this amp sounds good at any volume and the presence knob is the key to this amp at low volumes. Only thing I wish it had was a deep switch for the 2C+ and Mark IV mode as they really lack oomph! But than again I guess that is what the extreme mode is for and that is my fav mode of the amp. Thanks Mesa. // 10
Even Bigger D, on may 11, 2011 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Features: This was one of the first Mark V heads made.
In terms of versatility, the Mark V is unbeatable. There are 3 channels, each with multiple modes, each with a 4 band EQ, power amp control switches, independent reverb, and an independent post-gain graphic EQ. Basically, take all the knobs and switches you would find on a typical multi-channel, multi-preamp rack rig, Jam them all into one front panel, and that's the Mark V. There's a switchable effects loop (on a per-channel basis) too.
On the output side, it's the typical Mesa Simulclass 80-100 watt power section from 4x 6L6s. The power controls allow that to be throttled down to 40 or 5 watts. In a baffling omission thought, there is NO 16ohm speaker tap. Just 1x 8ohm and 2x 4ohm. I know Mesa knows how to make 16ohm transformer secondaries, because they did it on the Tremoverb. But apparently the flagship Mark V doesn't merit one. More on this below. // 8
Sound: OK, here's where it gets weird. The clean channel on this amp is excellent. In "clean" mode it's the highly though of Mark IV cleans. But in "fat" mode it's straight up blackface cleans. I could actually see country players buying these things just to have a 100watt blackface beast in their backline.
But everything goes downhill from there. As far as I'm concerned, the gain sounds just were not up to par. With a total of 7 gain modes spread across three channels I'm not going to review them one by one, you'd think I could find something I liked. Nope. Everything sounded small, thin and nasal compared to other high end high gain amps I used and love (Budda Superdrive 80, CAE, Splawn Quickrod, Soldano, Rivera). I tried a variety of guitars - Les Pauls, an Anderson superstrat, a conventional strat, a frankentele, a Gibson ES-137. Some were OK, but at the end of the day every guitar sounded markedly better through some other amp I owned.
One possible issue is the cab I was using - a Splawn 4x12 wired with Eminence speakers at 16ohms. Great cab, but there's no 16ohm tap on the Mark V. Per the manual, 16ohm cabs should be run from the 8ohm output jack, and that's what I did. But maybe the impedance mismatch contributed to the less than Stellar gain sounds. I tried the head with a Mesa 8ohm closed back 2x12 with V30s, and it was maybe a bit better, but I was still unimpressed. // 6
Reliability & Durability: Randall Smith designs some of the most reliable amps ever produced. If I liked how it sounded, I'd gig the Mark V in a heartbeat. It's a tube amp, so there's always tube related issues of course. // 9
Overall Impression: At the end of the day I sold this amp at a loss and walked away. No matter how seductive all those knobs and switches are, if it doesn't sound right there's no point in keeping it. I'll stick with my CAE preamp and Soldano SM100-R or Rivera Hammer 320 power amps.
I've played professionally for a long time and play whatever style of music people will pay me to play, but I bias towards country and lighter rock styles through 80's type metal. It's possible the "extreme" gain mode is the bees knees for heavier modern styles, but I kind of doubt it. If I had a modern metal gig, I'd take my CAE. // 6
unregistered, on july 15, 2011 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Features: Well after years and years of wanting to own a Mesa, I finally bit the bullet and purchased a Mark V, and I wanted to wait a few weeks to review it as it is not a plug and play amp by any means and I wanted to spend as much time tweaking it and gigging with it as possible to get the full idea of its range. I don't think I need to go into full detail about how many features this thing has if you know anything about this amp or the Mark series in general, however I will say this is probably the most versatile high gain amplifier on the market right now save for an Engl SE or if you're into digital stuff an Axe Fx. There are so many different possibilities with all of the channels having 3 or more voicings, the ability to Switch between pentode and triode, 10 45 and 90w settings, reverb, EQ, etc. Its a bit overwhelming but unlike the Mark IV this amp is much more user friendly to someone who has never owned a Mesa before. It also comes with a footswitch that allows you to Switch between the channels and options to Switch on/off the reverb, FX loop, and EQ. It also has a solo boost and a mute button which are really useful for live scenarios. // 10
Sound: Like I said above this is not a plug and play amp, and for those of you who aren't patient and don't want to spend time with an amp then I wouldn't get this, but once you get this amp dialed in... Oh my god. The clean channel is as good as anything I've ever heard, even Fenders. It's so good that I don't even use effects anymore save for the reverb on the amp. Channel 2 is not something I use much but unlike most 3 channel amps the 2nd channel here actually sounds good! When I use it its usually for a classic rock type sound so I use a lot of gain on it. The Mark I voicing can get you that classic Santana lead tone if you dial it in right.
Channel 3 is where I spend most of my time. I'm primarily a metal player and this amp can and does everything you could possibly want in the metal genre, from Metallica and Dream Theater to death metal and to even fusion. Its very possible to find your own sound on this amp as well, don't let youtube demos fool you. The voicings on this channel all make a huge difference in the tone. The famous IIC+ voicing is actually my least favorite because while it gets some smooth lead sounds, it sacrifices some heaviness and definition in the lower registers. The Mark IV setting is where its at, as it gets an amazing rhythm sound while delivering a searing lead tone as well. You know its heavy when you can literally feel the ground vibrate when you hit an open E. I don't use the Extreme setting much because its well, too extreme. I don't need that much low end, but if you're playing death metal or anything where you want some major chunk, you'll be more than content with extreme mode. Also like a previous reviewer mentioned, the bass knob makes or breaks this amp. Any higher than about 4 and your amp will lose all definition.
The different wattage settings are a godsend because this amp is LOUD as shit on 90w and sounds like total ass unless you turn it up. If you bring it down to 10w you get all the saturation at much lower volumes (even though its still loud as hell on this setting). I never use the 45w setting, but basically the amp sounds good on all wattages, and that goes for all the channels. The clean channel doesn't break up, and the distortion just gets meaner the louder you go. To get an idea for how loud this amp is, I'm running it through a Mesa 2x12 Rectifier cab and I've never turned it up higher than about 5, and that's with the channel masters turned down fairly low as well. Its also fairly quiet for it what it is, it hums a little but there's no annoying uncontrollable feedback like you would get with something digital, totally organic all the way, and the mute button on the footswitch gets rid of all of it if the hum bothers you. Another thing, it cuts through everything in a live situation (even the drums) so if you're worried about getting lost in the mix, then you won't have any problems there. All in all a fantastic sounding amp. // 9
Reliability & Durability: I haven't had this amp long enough to really know how reliable it is, but its built like a tank and its a Mesa so I'm assuming its pretty damn reliable. Mesa is also a wonderful company that provides a warranty on the amp and even on the tubes! I also got cases for the head and the cab when I bought it, so that was nice. // 10
Overall Impression: I'm really starting to love this amp. Its made me a better player because it doesn't hide your mistakes. I upgraded from a rack setup that was very haphazard compared to this and I love how much easier it is to gig now. I play lead guitar in a progressive thrash band so this really covers the whole spectrum of what we do, from pristine cleans to crushing rhythms to soaring leads. Its a wonderful amp and I would recommend it to anyone that has the patience to dial it in, because its not going to sound amazing out of the box, but once you get it dialed right, its totally worth it. I would give it a 9.5 if I could but not a 10 because it still doesn't beat some of the higher end Engls or other amps of that nature that I've heard, but unless you have 4 grand to drop on an amp then you should get tone of these instead. // 9
unregistered, on august 13, 2012 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Features: The Mesa Boogie Mark V is the singularly most versatile 3-channel amplifier I have ever owned, heard and have ever played through. This amp comes standard with 6L6's, but you can flip the tube bias switch and replace with EL34's. You can go to Mesa's website and get details on all the toggles, knob, settings, etc., and hear the amp being played in many of its configurations. As such, without going into the myriad details and options within each of the 3 separate channels, the tones and feels are virtually limitless. If you're looking for a particular sound, the Mark V has it! You just have to spend time to find it. There's enough voltage going through this amp to electrocute a convict... Consequently the three power settings (10W, 45W, 90W) can produce a "pop" when switching... So set 'em up ahead of time. A variable (sweeping) power option would probably be better for this amp along with selectable EL34's. // 8
Sound: I play a PRS Custom 24 and an American Standard Strat with DiMarzio Areas at neck and center, and Seymour Duncan JB at bridge. The clean channel (channel 1) could be cleaner, and the amp hums louder than any other tube amps I've owned (Fenders, Egnater, etc.). But, once again, channels 2 & 3 can be tremendously versatile - clean to chunky to hi-gain, etc. // 7
Reliability & Durability: All that said, I bought the Mark V combo amp and had to return it. I spent the first three weeks of ownership troubleshooting the tube sputtering/crackling and the mechanical rattles in the amp to no avail. The guys at Mesa were good about sending spare tubes, but were basically of the attitude that combos will be combos' (to paraphrase) when it came to the rattles.
When none of those problems could be resolved, I exchanged the Mark V combo for a Mark V head and cabinet. Within about a day, a fuse blew when switching out of standby mode and had to replace the 5U4G tube. After a few more days the tube sputtering and crackling started up. I replaced all four power tubes (after swapping out pre-amp tubes) and eliminated that problem. Shortly thereafter discovered the channel-two EQ preset knob was loose and spun around and around. About the same time, I discovered the power plug was pulling away from the cable shroud and exposing the insulated wire. Under warranty, Mesa handled exchanges for the tubes, fuses and power cord.
Beyond that however, this amplifier produces loud pops when between switching channels even if all channels are at the same power level (for example 45W, 45W and 45W for channels 1, 2, and 3, respectively). Louder yet is the pop when switching to standby. It's alarming! This amp also hums louder than most tube amps I've owned. The Mesa guys are a little less sympathetic to these problems.
Just aside, be aware that within each channel the tone control knob selections are pretty useless much beyond about their 1 o'clock positions. For example, beyond about the 1 o'clock setting presence gets very shrill, treble produces that ice-pick or hot-wire through the ears tone, bass gets flabby. However, combinations anywhere from 7 o'clock to 1 o'clock produce some very sweet tones!
As such, the Mark V would be a superior studio amp if you keep lots of spare parts handy. A gigging amp?.. I don't trust it (yet). After eight long weeks of ownership (of TWO Mark V's), I would not recommend the Mark V. You may be able to do just as well buying both a Fender Twin and a Marshall for the 6L6's and EL34's, or just buy an Egnater Tourmaster 4100 amp and save a bit of cash. I'll probably sell my Mark V for a loss and do just that. // 2
Overall Impression: My overall Impressions of the Mesa Boogie Mark V:
Pros: To reiterate, this amp is extremely versatile with power to spare. For that reason, it's a great one-stop-shop for any studio
Cons: The Mark V (in my experience with two of them) is temperamental, a bit unreliable, noisy, and exhibits some questionable construction. // 3