Price paid: $ 1699.99
Purchased from: Huber-Breese Music
Features: What we have here is an amazingly versatile sonic box. Introduced in 2006, Mesa set out to put it's Britishly flavored Stiletto line into combo form. The result it is the Stiletto Ace. It is an all tube, EL34 based, two channel, six mode amp, with sounds ranging from glassy pure cleans, to the softest and grittiest crunch, through searing leads, and all the way to soaring, harmonically rich lines. My only complaint is that it requires a surgeons Precision to dial in the heaviest of rhythms without sounding piercingly gritty or to bloated of a low end. It has an effects loop which it bypasses extremely well, and a two button footswitch to Switch channels and to operate it's solo function. It has two power options, bold and spongy. Bold is operating at full power, and spongy uses a built in Variac to step down the power for a saggier feel. But don't let it fool you, this amp can get very tight. It also has the option of using Tube or Diode rectifiers. I generally use Diodes on clean to get each note to POP right when I want it, and tubes on gain applications to get a less dry feel.
I also wish reverb would have been included, even though the cleans are amazingly lush, and the gain is completely monstrous, there are times when some atmosphere can truly take your tone to the sky. I have mostly used this amp around the house and and at band practices, though I have gigged it once and plan to rigorously in the future. It preformed admirably, like it's namesake, the tone cut through the mix and sat there contently. (For the record, this was a deathcore show). It most certainly had the kahunas to stand alongside another guitarist, a bass, a keyboardist, a vocalist, and the drums. // 9
Sound: My main guitar is an Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus with a pair of Seymour Duncans dropped in. With that and the amp, I can tackle just about and genre in the book. it's been used for Prog-Rock, Metal, Deathcore, Blues, Jazz, Classic Rock, and is currently doing it's time in an experimental/rock/post-hardcore band. It is a bit noisy and when recording a gate was absolutely necessary. It only really occurs on high gain applications, but even the fan is awfully noisy.
Starting with the clean channel, the first mode is fat clean. The best way to describe it is glassy. Notes ring out with depth and clarity and take very well to effects. Arpeggiated lines ring clearly and evenly, with a haunting vibe. But, like glass, it breaks fairly soon and careful adjustment of the gain and master controls are necessary to make the sound stand out but not breakup. The next mode is tite clean. I rarely use this mode simply because fat clean is so good. Much of the body of the notes is lost and they seen to ring out less. It does take to jangly chords very well though, and can be used to sit in a very specific part of the mix if it was necessary.
The last mode on channel one and the first mode on channel two is CRUNCH. It is very easily the most versatile channel. Enough tones can be coaxed from this channel alone to fit multiple amps. Lower gain applications can be just as glassy as the clean channel, but dynamically diverse enough to dig into classic rock in the vein of ACDC with use of your guitars volume knob. The only negative about this channel is that the high end requires adjustment so as not to pierce your eardrums. But that may be a desirable sound.
The next channel is tite gain. This is the ACE's first high gain channel. Like it's name suggests, this channel is very tight. Coheed And Cambria esque tones can be found on this channel, as well as searing lead tones. It truly cuts like a knife and each note is well articulated, this channel also takes well to effects.
The final channel on the ace is fluid Drive. Here, all of the Stiletto's gain potential shines, This channel is very harmonically rich. In true Boogie fashion, Santana esque lines are welcomed here. Notes sustain for days and soar above rhythms. However, without careful EQing, this channel can get pretty muddy for rhythms.
Careful use of the treble control is advised. But, for when you just have to break it down, right then and there, true hardcore style, this amp fills out the mix in a unique spot, for immense chest thumping action.
Overall, this amp is voiced have a cutting tone. On ALL of the channels there is a a very focused sound that is heavy in the low mids, but tend to leave extreme bass frequencies alone. Also, the high end requires getting used to and to make adjustments accordingly.
My Settings at the present time are: Clean, fat clean, Gain-5, Treble-4, Mid-6, Bass-8.5, Presence-4. Gain, fluid Drive, Gain-6, Treble-5, Mid-4, Bass-5.5. // 10
Reliability & Durability: In terms of cost, I am forced to gig without a backup, but if I had the option, I would most likely have another option. Early on when I had this amp, a few days after purchase, there was a power tube issue, but that was remedied quickly and easily by a Switch. But more recently, I began to have problems with the sound cutting out at high volumes, as well as being awfully noisy. I sent it in, and it took about 2 weeks to fix. Apparently the issue was in the wiring and preamp tubes. They retubed it with EH EL34s and an EH 12AX7. It now has been operating perfectly (and sounds better) ever since. // 7
Overall Impression: As I have stated earlier, this amp does it all... nearly. It is currently my only amplifier, the downside of being nearly $1800 dollars after tax. If there was one thing I wish I would have known before I bought it, it would be how ice picky it can get near the speaker cone. If it were stolen or lost, I would most likely go for the head and a cab version simply because of how hard it is to transport. it's too heavy to carry with one hand down stairs, but too wide to carry with two comfortably. I A/Bed this amp with a Single Recto and this amp blew it away in my opinion. Much more versatile and pleasant sounding to the ears. If Mesa were to add a third channel to this as well as reverb, it would be perfect. A BritKing if you will. Heres a Youtube video of this amp in action. // 9