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|Founded||Petaluma, California, United States (1969 )|
|Headquarters||Petaluma, California, United States|
|Key people||Randall Smith|
MESA was started by Randall Smith as a small repair shop which modified Fender Amplifiers, particularly the diminutive Fender Princeton. Smith's modifications gave the small amps much more input gain, making them much louder as well as creating a high-gain, distorted guitar tone. Prominent early customers included Carlos Santana, and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. Exposure from these top players helped to establish Mesa/Boogie's position on the market, and it is frequently referred to as the first manufacturer of boutique amplifiers.
Randall Smith worked as a repair tech in the music shop he co-owned, and Mesa/Boogie began with a practical joke: he borrowed a Fender Princeton (a small 12-watt amplifier) from his friend, Barry Melton of Country Joe and the Fish, and hotrodded it by replacing the amplifier section with that of a Fender Bassman and installing a 12-inch speaker instead of the original 10-inch. The resulting amplifier proved to be loud and successful, and Smith made more than 200 of these Princeton "Boogies"--a name allegedly provided by Carlos Santana, who is to have exclaimed "This thing boogies!"
If hot-rodding Fenders was the first breakthrough, the second was developing an extra gain stage for the guitar input. Smith was building a preamplifier for Lee Michaels, who needed a pre-amp to drive his new Crown DC-300 power amplifiers. Smith added an extra tube gain stage to the preamp, with three variable gain controls at different points in the circuit (what is now called a "cascaded" design), creating the first high-gain amplifier. He set about designing a guitar amplifier around the new principle, and in 1972 the Mark I was released.
The MESA name came about through Smith's other job, rebuilding Mercedes engines. He needed an 'official' sounding name, through which to buy Mercedes parts and building supplies, and chose MESA Engineering.
He produced a number of custom variations on the Mark I through the late 1970s, with options including reverb, EQ, various speakers (most often Altec or Electro-Voice), koa wood jointed cabinets, and wicker grill. The Mark II was released in 1978.
In the 1980s, Mesa continued to produce combo and head amplifiers, and began production of rack power and pre-amps, developing power amplifiers such as the M180/190 and Strategy series, as well as pre-amps such as the Quad and Studio. Other models developed in the 1980s included the Mark III, the Son of Boogie, and the Studio .22. Production of new models has continued into the 2000s, with models such as the Road King II, the Lone Star and Lone Star Special, and the Stiletto and Express lines.
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Mesa Boogie Mark Series
The Mark Series of amplifiers was Mesa's flagship product until the introduction of the Rectifier series. It was introduced in 1971 and is still being produced today. The most recent model is the Mark V.
Introduced in the Mark II-B was the Simul-Class power amplifier stage, which combined tubes running in Class A and Class AB through the same output transformer. The Simul-Class system has been a staple in Mark Series amplifiers since then, as well as the 5-band graphic equalizer, both exclusive to the line until the introduction of the Dual Caliber series, and select power amplifiers.
The Rectifier series is Mesa's current flagship line.
The line-up began as the Dual Rectifier series of amps, which included the Solo, Heartbreaker, Maverick, and Blue Angel*. All amps in the series, except for the Blue Angel had two forms of electrical rectification (conversion of power from AC to DC): Silicon diodes and one or more vacuum tube(s) that the user could select via a switch located on the back panel of the amplifier (hence the name "Dual Rectifier").
While the Heartbreaker and Maverick used only one 5AR4 tube rectifier, the Solo employed two 5U4G tubes. This distinction engendered the misconception that the name Dual Rectifier was derived from this amp; the Solo's popularity only reinforced this misconception. Future designs would further contradict and confuse the line's namesake.
* The Blue Angel was designed with only a vacuum tube rectifier but retained the Dual Rectifier designation.
In short order, Randall Smith stopped production of the other Dual Rectifier amps and concentrated on producing different configurations of the Solo, which became the Dual Rectifier.
The Express line of guitar amplifiers was released in 2007, and has essentially replaced the F-Series in the Mesa Boogie line up. Although not directly descended from the F-Series, these two lines do have some features in common, some of which have been expanded upon in the Express line. This amp uses solid-state rectification like the F series.
The Express line introduced Mesa's Duo-Class technology. This technology offers the ability to run the power section of the amplifier in either true class A (single-ended) mode, or true class AB (push-pull) mode. This allows the operator to choose between running the amplifier at a reduced power output of 5 watts (class A), or full power (class AB). When run in 5 watt (Class A) mode, the power section is operating on only one vacuum tube.
There are two different models offered in the Express line; the 5:25, which has a maximum power output of 25 watts; and the 5:50, which has a maximum power output of 50 watts.
The 5:25 operates on two EL84 tubes in the power section, and produces a maximum rated power output of 25 watts. It is available as either a Short Chassis Head (19 inches wide), or a 1x10 (Open Back) Combo unit containing one E50 Speaker, and comes with casters included. They also offer a 1x12 (Open Back) Combo unit with one V30 Speaker, which offers a bigger sound over the 10" speaker.
The 5:50 operates on two 6L6 tubes in the power section, and produces a maximum rated power output of 50 watts. It is available as a Medium Head (width 22-7/8in), a Long Head (width 26-1/4in), a 1x12 (Open Back) Combo unit containing one C90 Speaker, or a 2x12 (Open Back) Combo unit containing two C90 Speakers. Both Combo units come with casters included.
The Atlantic Series was launched officially at Winter NAMM 2010 with the release of the Transatlantic TA-15. At first, this was seen as Mesa's foray into the rapidly growing "Lunchbox Amplifier" market, but with the recent introduction of the Royal Atlantic RA-100, featuring a full sized head form factor, the line has expanded outside of the aforementioned compact market segment.
The Electra Dyne was introduced in 2009 alongside the Mark V at that year's Winter NAMM show. While the Mark V can appear complicated with many knobs, switches, lights, and sliders, the Electra Dyne was created to be the polar opposite. It features six knobs and one switch on the front panel (not including the Power and Standby switches), the first Mesa amplifier with this few controls since the Mark 1. The Electra Dyne is a single-channel amplifier with three foot-switchable modes. It employs a Simul-Class output section, which runs a Class A power amplifier and a Class AB power amplifier simultaneously through the same output transformer. The output can be switched between 90 watts and 45 watts.
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