Lone Star review by Mesa Boogie

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.3 (50 votes)
Mesa Boogie: Lone Star

Price paid: $ 1800

Purchased from: Guitar Center

Sound — 9
I've mostly been using the Lone Star with my Ibanez JEM7V, which has pretty high output pickups. I've found that I've gravitated toward the single coil sounds on my guitar, especially when using a clean sound on the Lone Star. There were a few times I got to play an old Strat through the Lone Star and it sounded great. I'm of the opinion that this amp works best with single coils. That isn't to say that it doesn't work with humbuckers, but it especially makes single coils sound great. The Lone Star Classic definitely can produce some nice tones. It can easily be seen as a naturally dark or midsey amp, since the sound with all the knobs at noon can be rather boomy, but this is easily compensated for by turning down the bass knob. I run both Channels with the Bass significantly reduced, in fact all the way off on the 2nd channel, and this actually doesn't make it sound undesirably thin. It simply gets rid of any issues of flubbyness in the bass, which is apparently common with Mesa amps. EQ settings used on this amp may vary according to taste, what guitar is plugged into it, and how cranked the amp is. Sometimes settings may appear counter-intuitive in comparison to what people are used to with other amps. While significantly or completely turning down the bass may seem like an extreme move, the low end starts to be reintroduced as you turn up the global master volume. The treble knob can also be increased a decent bit without sounding harsh, and the presence knob has a good range. The first channel at 100 watts produces a great pristine clean sound. You can also get some more lightly-broken-up or almost-clean sounds by increasing the pre-gain, which can be nice for blues and country. With proper tweaking, you can get everything from full and round jazz cleans to a spankin' sound with lots of twang and a powerful attack. It also takes overdrive and boost pedals quite well, maintaining a natural sound when pushed. Without the Drive engaged, the 2nd channel starts out sounding somewhat like the 1st channel starting to break up. As you increase the gain knob, you can get more into the territory of medium gain sounds, perfect for classic rock and all-around Vintage overdrive. A low to moderately overdrive sound on this channel can be tightened up and pushed just enough more with a tubescreamer type pedal for more of a singing lead tone. As the Drive is engaged, the amp opens up into higher gain territory. The Drive is very thick and rich sounding, without particularly producing any bees-in-a-jar quality. At first, it may not seem like a very desirable overdrive sound, particularly if one is looking for a liquidy, modern high-gain sound. The Drive on this channel has been complained about as not cutting through or just being flubby. It actually can be surprisingly nice though. That said, I've tended to use the 2nd channel without the Drive engaged more recently.

Overall Impression — 10
Overall, if you're in the market for a versatile and powerful tube amp that can get naturally fat tone and amazing cleans, the Lone Star is definitely one of the best options out there. The only territory that this amp can't get into is a real bright, easily broken up hot-rodded Marshall sound, and perhaps certain kinds of high-gain metal sounds. As a guitarist of about 13 years, it's the best amp I've ever owned.

Reliability & Durability — 10
The only technical issue I had with the amp is that the pedal that comes with it had the Boost switch mess up on me, so that it wouldn't disengage the boost. I called up guitar center and they had Mesa send me a new one, since I had a warranty. I recieved the new pedal within a few weeks and it works fine. Otherwise, there have been no issues of reliability with this amp so far. I haven't even had a reason to replace the tubes yet.

Features — 10
The version of the Lone Star that I have is the Lone Star Classic 2x12 Combo, which I got about a year ago (2010). It took a little bit of time to get familiar with manuevering the controls, but it is a simple enough set up. The amp is definitely versatile enough to cover most styles of music, perhaps with the exception of some metal. I use it for jazz, fusion, rock and blues, with a dash of country. The Lone Star Classic features 4x6L6 power tubes, 5x12AX7 preamp tubes, and a 1x5U4 rectifier tube. It has two channels, with each channel featuring a switch to select between 10, 50 and 100 watts, and each with a Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass, Presence, and Master Knob. The 2nd channel also has a voicing switch for normal/thick/thicker, and you can kick in an extra gain stage with a Drive knob for higher gain sounds. On the back there is an FX Loop and a Reverb knob for each channel with a bright/warm switch. I've mainly been using the Lone Star as an at-home practise amp and a recording amp, but if I had some gigs I would also use it for live situations. It is plenty loud, especially with the channels set to 100 watts. I can't imagine anyone needing to turn the master volume up far past halfway in most live situations.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I own one and have had no problem besides normal replacing tubes and I play it often. After 4 years my only complaint is it's heavy. I have a road case for it as well and it's like carrying around a box of iron, but the tone is amazing and worth toting.
    The guys from Minus the Bear used these on their past two albums and when I saw them live and they sound absolutely amazing! I'd love to get my hands on one of these beasts...
    ALERT!!!! I just had my Lone Star to the shop - it started smoking - a lot. The factory Tubes were to blame. I suggest every Lone Star owner ditch the factory tubes to avoid my repair. It was a freak incident - per my repair dude who is very experienced. However, he said the tube shorted and the damage went from there. The fuse did NOT blow! This conditions is past the fuse. Ergo... give yourself some peace of mind and avoid a $400 repair. Replace the factory tubes.