Ed. note: This article was written by Guitar Lifestyle contributor Russ. You can read more of his contributions here, and you can follow him on Twitter here.
Aloha! Usually I talk about the ukulele, but today I wanted to talk about the 1990s.
It was a great decade that featured a roller coaster of popular music ranging from glam rock up and down through the rise of grunge, angry rap, more toned-down alternative, British pop rock, gothic alternative, money-driven hip hop, to nu metal.
That’s a pretty crazy trip, and I think that, while its impressive to look at the degree of change in the rock scene, it’s even more impressive to look at staples that were prevalent in them all.
I’m talking, of course, of Mesa Boogie.
Mesa Boogie is a company that was largely made famous by Carlos Santana decades ago, but in the 1990s, they had THE sound. At the end of the decade, the things you needed were a PRS guitar and a Mesa Boogie amp. I think if there was a common tone of a decade, this would be the 90’s.
Everyone played them in every genre. They were expensive, but the quality in build and tone were always there and people would acknowledge their value and save up for them. They permeated all the scenes from alternative to nu-metal. They were with Metallica on tour. They were used in punk rock and pop punk. They were even there in prog rock!
Everyone knew that if you wanted to be a serious contender, you needed to have a Dual Rectifier. Need more power and control (or at least knobs)? The Triple Rectifier is for you.
Looking for less tread plate, but still want a good variety of tones? The Mark III and IV are right up your alley.
More recently, they released an amp that bridges British and American amp voicings – the TransAtlantic TA-30.
These amps were prevalently used to shape the sound of a decade, and they continue to be used today. Mesa Boogie is still making high-quality amps that stand up to being used on the road and have great tones.
But they also have their downsides.
Most of them have to be pretty loud to sound good. That’s a bummer when you tuck in to do some late-night practicing. They’re also pretty big, physically (TA-30 excluded), and when you add a cab to the equation, the room’s square or cubic footage starts to disappear pretty quickly. And they’re made for the big guys – the working musicians. The idea of getting a Dual or Triple Rectifier to jam on at home with the master under “1” always seemed a little … extravagant to me. Not that I’m saying you couldn’t, but I’m saying I couldn’t without feeling like it was a waste of an amp. To cap it off, they’re pretty pricey.
Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about any of that anymore. IK Multimedia has listened to the screaming masses that have been howling since the release of the AmpliTube Custom Shop and joined forces with Mesa Boogie to release five officially-licensed amp sims and cabs. You can buy them individually or in one package, and I recommend just buying it all. Yes, it’s $119.99, but Mesa Boogie isn’t a one-trick pony and I could see myself using all of the amps at one point or another on tracks.
Now I don’t have to worry about space, volume, lugging it all around from place to place (which means I can bring all five amps on road trips and record in hotels), waking up neighbors, or having it take up too much space in the house.
I have wanted this for years, and now that it’s finally here, it’s hard to remain objective for the review. This is the company that was used by almost all of my musical heroes to make the soundtrack that inspired me to learn guitar! You have all the benefits of virtual amp sims, and you get to see the actual name “Mesa Boogie” looking back at you when you record.
Fortunately for me, IK did it right and the amps sound great and can be used in a variety of applications. They include presets to help showcase the versatility of the individual amps and get you started on crafting your own tones for future use. And the tones are great! You can get rock sounds from the past or add a pedal to get today’s djent-y tones. Personally, I really like the Mark IV, but seem to always slide back to the Dual Rectifier. It has a sound that I’m all too familiar with (almost like a sonic version of home) and I just get bit giddy looking at it thinking “here it is: my own Boogie!”
Honestly, I haven’t been more stoked about an AmpliTube expansion since the Orange package, and I’m so excited to be able to talk about this with you folks today. If you can, I recommend you check this out and see if you like it. It’s well worth buying!
For more information, visit IK Multimedia’s Mesa Boogie page.
Until next time, mahalo!