Last night I took a different approach to dialing in tones on my Mesa Express 5:25. I was really happy with the results, so I thought I'd post here to see if others have done similar thing with their amps. I've owned the amp for a year, so I was happy to find a different way to dial in some great tones.

I was experimenting with overdriven-yet-clean tones on my amp. For me this usually meant keeping the gain between 11-2 (11 on the "crunch" setting or 2ish on the "clean" setting of the green channel) while keeping the channel volume at 830 (almost as low as it will go) to keep the volume low enough for household play. This meant that all my distortion came from the gain, with no power tube saturation, so the treble was a little harsh and it didn't sound as sweet as it does on higher volumes.

Last night I threw my assumptions out the window, and tried, on the amp's class A 5w setting, cranking the channel volume to noon, while keeping the gain almost as low as it would go.

Wow. What a difference! I didn't expect to find useable tones at apartment volumes with the channel volume at noon, but the gain dial could be turned down so low that I was able to get great power tube saturation with little preamp distortion. This did what one would hope for: it tamed the bass, added a little compression & subtle harmonics, and smoothed out the highs. What a beautiful tone! I feel a little sheepish that I hadn't tried this already -- I had only tried cranking the volume when the gain was in the middle of its range.

I tried the same thing on the dirty channel, but couldn't keep the volume at noon while still using it at apartment-friendly volumes. When I turned down the volume to ~10 o'clock (a neighbourly level) with minimal gain, there was a host of useful overdriven crunch and lead tones, except the bass was under control and it was not muddy in the way the burn setting can get.

I know this ain't rocket science to more experienced players, but I didn't realize that the Express' gain control could dial low enough to allow for such a high channel volume setting and power tube distortion at neighbourly volumes. I thought it needed to get really loud in order to do that. I just found a whole new appreciation for my amp, and want to experiment further with the highly-interactive tone controls.

Do any of you have anecdotes to share re: trying a different approach to dialing in tone, allowing you to see your amp completely differently? Any other Mesa Express or EL-84 class A 5W amp users who have tried this on their amp?
i have a 100w marshall jcm 800 and the only way i can get those sweet tones is through an attenuator, without it im pretty sure id be in trouble with the police.....
^ I thought I was in the same boat, needing an attenuator for home practice.