#1
Damn, I'm suffering a bout of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome in this case). Skip the long 3 paragraph "explanation / background" paragraphs if you want, to get to the questions in last paragraph.

I'm a hobby player, but just sort of on that edge of wanting to connect with others, form band, etc. I also like acquiring "quality" stuff, like guitars & gear that I feel are "classics" that will stand the test of time, hold resale value, etc.

A few months back, I gifted myself with an all-tube amp, stepping up from a cheap $50 practice amp. I chose the 4 watt Vox AC4C1 because (1) it was actually cheaper than any of the used all-tube amps I could find from decent names, (2) it had good reviews, and (3) the low wattage is actually an advantage since I am playing it in a small house with kids around. It's my understanding (could be wrong?) that if you play a tube amp at a VERY low setting, you really do not get the full tube effect, like if I splurged on a 50 watt all tube amp, but had to play it at a SUPER low setting to keep the noise down, it would not sound very good. Going with a very low wattage lets me turn up the volume relatively higher in relation to the "max" volume, which in theory should give me more of the benefit of the tube sound. Well, that's what I took away from reading about tube amps, maybe I'm wrong... In fact, even the 4 watt has to be turned down really far (like 1.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, sometimes up to 2 or 3 if no one's home), but it sounds great to me. I know some say this has limitations based on small speaker, small cab, or could use better tubes, but maybe it's just my inexperience or coming from cheap practice amp, but I think it sounds AWESOME, I see no flaws or ways to improve the tone to get what I want to hear. At least not yet. I play a PRS McCarty through it, which I also think helps (great guitar).

Well, as much as I'm happy with this amp, I was just browsing some guitar gear for sale the other day, and the Mesa Boogie Express 5/50 caught my eye. The fact it can switch between 5 watt and 50 watt seemed ideal since, at 5 watt, it presumably would perform comparably to my Vox (in terms of being able to turn it "up" in relation to the total volume, to get the benefit of the tubes). I also have read a bunch, and Mesa Boogie quality seems very well-established. And this comes with a lot more versatility, functionality. Paired with my split coil PRS, I'm just drooling at thought of tonal explorations I can do. And having footswitch. And, the fact I could kick it up to 50 watt amp -- a REAL amp, not a toy, and so I'd be ready when I get to the level where I might gig, and not have to worry down the road about buying second amp -- well, that kind of appeals to me. Like, it seems it would be money well spent, and would hold its value and stuff. Since the option to play it at 5 watts is major selling point (meaning I could get rid of vox, sell it to offset the cost of the Mesa Boogie), I don't think any other Mesa Boogie amps that do not have this option would work for me (like the Nomad, for example). I have read a bit on the 5/25, but everyone seems to prefer the 5/50, and the prices are not that different, so I'm thinking 5/50 is the best bet.

Sorry for long intro...which brings me to my questions: (1) does anyone suggest waiting till I really feel I will make use of 50 watt tube amp, which may be a year or more down the road, to splurge on this? I'm worried prices, availability will just go up on good, classic gear, but I also am not made of money, and so I'm open to hear if anyone wants to talk me out of a perhaps impulse bout of GAS; (2) anyone know of other amps I might consider that also have option to switch between low watts and higher watts? (3) The 5/50 I saw for sale had broken footswitch, I'm wondering if that's an expensive replacement, if I can get any after market footswitch, or have to specifically get the exact Mesa Boogie model that came with the original, which would presumably cost a bit more, have to factor that in.

Thanks for any input

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#2
new gear is always fun!

and alot of guys talk about tubes amps not being able to sound good at bedroom levels, these people are (basically) wrong. sure, a classic marshall JTM45 sounds best turned way up, so that the power section starts to distort, but it sounds great clean too! i play a fifty watt amp at bedroom levels all the time, and a 1x10 15 watt combo for lots of love performances.

the mesa 5:50, i have played. and is a great all around amp for practicing and performing. lots of diverse tones can be found in that combo, especially combined with such a versatile guitar as a PRS. it sounds excellent at practice volumes. and you can get it to really overdrive at low volumes too, because it is designed to do that. (whence the two channels.)

moral of the story, go play the amp if you can. if you love it, buy it. it will serve you well for practicing, jamming with friends, and performing.
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#3
A 5/50 is a great soulful guitar amp built like a tank in the Mesa tradition. I have played through a 5/50 a bit but never owned one. I gig with a Mesa F-30 which shares many features with a 5/50.

What I like: Excellent clean tones, blues with a little hair on it, crunchy rhythm, classic Mesa singing lead tones. All Mesa combos have a very useful master volume so you can get really good tone at very low volumes in both 5w and 50w mode. A very wide tonal palate but not really a metal shred amp.

What I sometimes didn't like: Too many switches and controls. I found it a little confusing and easy to get lost. Sometimes fewer knobs are a good thing so you can reliably just turn up and wail. I suppose over time you adapt and find certain settings you like that are repeatable. I think this was a marketing move to offer a wide palate of tone and lots of bells and whistles with different settings to capture the imagination of shopping guitarists but I am not sure it adds a lot of value. I could see some guitarists having difficulty dialing it in, which was a problem with the old Mk IIIs.

At it's core it has the heart of a Mesa and will always be a high quality, gig worthy guitar amp. I considered owning one but chose a used F-30 instead for the butt-simple interface and it had everything Mesa I wanted at 1/2 the cost.
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Last edited by Cajundaddy at Mar 31, 2014,
#4
Cajundaddy does make a good point that i failed to address. some people prefer very simple layouts, because then they can just plug and play. some people enjoy lots of buttons and knobs, im somewhere in the middle. Mesa is also really good about giving several suggestions on how to get a vast array of tones from their amps inside the owners manual. this is a big help when first using an amp with a lot of buttons and switches. and if you buy used, fear not, their manuals are available as PDFs!
Quote by BryanChampine
It was like a orgasm in my ear.
Chea_man is the best.
#5
It depends on what you wanna do with it.
At the store I tried a 5:50 with the intention of djenting the shit out of it, and the result wasn't as I expected at all: it's a nice blues amp.
Nothing more.

It has lotsa options, though what it really boils down to is the following: decent cleans (but maybe it was the guitar I was using at the moment) and low gain.
Seriously, you'll not play stuff more distorted than blues with that thing.

Then, looking for small tube amps instead of big ones (5w vs 100w or so) for the sake of using the full potential of the small one is like looking at a class S mercedes instead of a 458 for the sake of going to the grocery store.
You'll not use the full potential of anything if you have to keep the volume low, so since they invented the awesome thing that is the post phase inverter master volume, often referred to as "the volume control", you may as well choose an amp for it's features.
Why?
Because a 5w amp isn't gonna be quiet either with the volume turned up.
And I'm talking about a serious not quietness here.

The higher volume = better sound thing happens for two reasons:
1. when playing at higher volumes, your speakers push more air, resulting in a fuller sound because of the more air and some other relatively complicated stuff.
Though that happens with everything, transistor guitar amps, tube guitar amps, hi fi amps...
2. when overdriven (when you send too much current into them), tubes tend to distort the signal coming through, which is a thing most guitarists like.
Once, when we didn't have the master volume control (you actually, I'm not even that old), the only reason to achieve distortion was to turn up the volume - refer to the second post of this thread for an example - though now we can just turn up the gain and keep the master volume low.
The sound of preamp tubes distorting isn't the same as power tubes distortion, though it's still tubes distortion and it's a nice compromise if you ask me - I mean, it's not like they sound bad at all...

I wouldn't suggest waiting for the occasion of turning a 50w amp all the way up to 11 to buy one, you may as well just keep it on 3 when you have to practice.

So, give us a bit of info here - where are you located, what's your budget and what do you wanna play with it?
Name's Luca.

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Quote by Cajundaddy
Clue: amplifiers amplify so don't turn it on if you need quiet.
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#6
The 5:50 is a good amp - my favorite of the mini-boogies. I use it for a lot of small gigs. If you can swing it, I would definitely buy one.

I disagree with the above poster that it lacks gain - on the high gain channel with the post-EQ engaged it's got pretty good high gain sounds. The biggest limitation for heavier sounds IMO is the 1x12 open back enclosure and relatively tame sounding speaker.
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#7
I guess I'm of a different opinion than most, but I've hated every Express I've tried. They all just sounded muddy, undefined, and lifeless to me. You can cop a decent blues tone. Decent, not great. IMHO, they're really nothing special at all, and definitely not worth the price tag.
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#9
I use a non-plus Mesa Express 5:50 in my Top 40/90s Rock cover band. To give some background, in the past 3 years, I have gigged with a Blues Jr, a Fender HRD, an Egnater Renegade, a Budda Superdrive, a Dr Z. Maz 18nr, an Orange TH30, and an Egnater Tourmaster.

The Mesa has stayed in my rig longer than any of the others primarily because it has the headroom to get nice glassy cleans, passable reverb, and a boogie drive channel.

I think like any other Mesa, it takes a lot of time fiddling with the knobs to be able to get the tones you want. It will pretty much do anything you wanted to with it, perhaps save for super-high gain applications.

The people who say its just a blues amp clearly haven't owned one or spent any amount of time with it. There is more than enough gain to play rock, especially if you use a guitar with humbuckers. I typically run the Blues channel for my cleans with the master cranked and I use the gain knob to get the right volume. I use the crunch channel for my primary dirty sound, and will boost with an OCD and a Sweet Honey OD when needed. If I'm playing inside, I run it at 5 watts typically because my band mics everything.


My recommendation is to sit any play with one for a bit. It does take a little while to dial it in, but once you're there, it's a great 2-channel amp. And you can find them used for a steal -- I bought mine with 2 years of warranty left for $850. They are even cheaper now.



The footswitch might be the only issue. You'll have to get a Mesa replacement because of the way they use the midi cable.

Gear:
Partscaster/Tele into a bunch of pedals, a Maz 18 head, and a Z Best cab.
#10
Quote by roamingbard13
I use a non-plus Mesa Express 5:50 in my Top 40/90s Rock cover band. To give some background, in the past 3 years, I have gigged with a Blues Jr, a Fender HRD, an Egnater Renegade, a Budda Superdrive, a Dr Z. Maz 18nr, an Orange TH30, and an Egnater Tourmaster.

The Mesa has stayed in my rig longer than any of the others primarily because it has the headroom to get nice glassy cleans, passable reverb, and a boogie drive channel.

I think like any other Mesa, it takes a lot of time fiddling with the knobs to be able to get the tones you want. It will pretty much do anything you wanted to with it, perhaps save for super-high gain applications.

The people who say its just a blues amp clearly haven't owned one or spent any amount of time with it. There is more than enough gain to play rock, especially if you use a guitar with humbuckers. I typically run the Blues channel for my cleans with the master cranked and I use the gain knob to get the right volume. I use the crunch channel for my primary dirty sound, and will boost with an OCD and a Sweet Honey OD when needed. If I'm playing inside, I run it at 5 watts typically because my band mics everything.


My recommendation is to sit any play with one for a bit. It does take a little while to dial it in, but once you're there, it's a great 2-channel amp. And you can find them used for a steal -- I bought mine with 2 years of warranty left for $850. They are even cheaper now.



The footswitch might be the only issue. You'll have to get a Mesa replacement because of the way they use the midi cable.



Listen to him. I also own the express 5:50 2x12 config and i love the amp so i can relate to his experience. i play that amp mostly on the 5w mode and it sounds great even on low volume. Even at 5w it can get really loud. I played the amp at the 50w with a friend who is a drummer (plays like a gorilla) and the amp kept up with him no problem. This amp takes pedals really well and my delays i run in the effects loop sounds amazing. This amp can do way more than blues. This amp can get into the Hard Rock range. I bought this amp for $1500 at the time and i don't regret the purchase as my first tube amp. Totally go for this amp. you won't regret it.

Only thing i wish is that they put the "clean" and "burn" on the same channel and the "blues" and "crunch" on the same channel. The "clean" and "crunch" settings are the 2 best sounds of the amp IMO. good news is that you can turn the gain down on the "blues" channel and it acts like an alternate clean.
Last edited by deadmanwalkin00 at Apr 3, 2014,
#11
Quote by Cajundaddy


What I sometimes didn't like: Too many switches and controls. I found it a little confusing and easy to get lost. Sometimes fewer knobs are a good thing so you can reliably just turn up and wail. I suppose over time you adapt and find certain settings you like that are repeatable. I think this was a marketing move to offer a wide palate of tone and lots of bells and whistles with different settings to capture the imagination of shopping guitarists but I am not sure it adds a lot of value. I could see some guitarists having difficulty dialing it in, which was a problem with the old Mk IIIs.
.


generally if you want an amp to plug and play, you don't get a mesa. once you are famailar its easier, but they certainly not the easiest to dial in. however i doubt you read the manual and learned what the controls and switches do properly.

honestly i got my MKIV and printed a manual out right away (easy to find on google). read through it and maybe refer to it once or twice and it will sound great.

my trem-o-verb was easier than the MKIV, but you have to mess around a bit.

why would you not want a huge pallet of tones? its not a marketing move its something manufactured to obviously make more sales, but if you can get that right sound, they sell more amps. i don't think mesa has an issue with sales.
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#13
Quote by diabolical
Never had a problem dialing in a good sound on a Mesa.


good tone is easy, "my" tone, the best out of it isn't.
WTLT 2014 GG&A

Quote by andersondb7
alright "king of the guitar forum"


Quote by trashedlostfdup
nope i am "GOD of the guitar forum" i think that fits me better.


Quote by andersondb7
youre just being a jerk man.



****** NEW NEW NEW!
2017-07-07 2017-07-07 Update and a Chat On Noise Constraints *** NEW FRIDAY 7/7
2017-04-13 RUN AWAY from COMPUTERS!!! TCE? RANT ALERT!!!
2017-03-02 - Guitar Philosophy 1001- Be Prepared For the Situation (Thursday 2017-03-02)
2017-02-21 How to Hot-Rod the Hell of your Stratocaster for $50! (Tuesday 2017-2-21)
Resentments and Rambling from a Guitar Junkie
---> http://trashedengineering.blogspot.com/
#14
If you like the tone you get from the AC4, I would look into a TA-15 instead of the Express. The tone of the channel one is very Vox-ish. It has 5, 15, and 25 watt settings. That's plenty for gigging, especially if you want some power tube dirt.
#15
Quote by deadmanwalkin00
Listen to him. I also own the express 5:50 2x12 config and i love the amp so i can relate to his experience. i play that amp mostly on the 5w mode and it sounds great even on low volume. Even at 5w it can get really loud. I played the amp at the 50w with a friend who is a drummer (plays like a gorilla) and the amp kept up with him no problem. This amp takes pedals really well and my delays i run in the effects loop sounds amazing. This amp can do way more than blues. This amp can get into the Hard Rock range. I bought this amp for $1500 at the time and i don't regret the purchase as my first tube amp. Totally go for this amp. you won't regret it.

Only thing i wish is that they put the "clean" and "burn" on the same channel and the "blues" and "crunch" on the same channel. The "clean" and "crunch" settings are the 2 best sounds of the amp IMO. good news is that you can turn the gain down on the "blues" channel and it acts like an alternate clean.



I 100% agree with you. I flip back and forth constantly on which channel I make clean vs. dirty. But the crunch channel sounds so good I normally make channel 1 the dirty channel.

Gear:
Partscaster/Tele into a bunch of pedals, a Maz 18 head, and a Z Best cab.