« Mesa Boogie F-50 »Published on 05/12/04 at 15:00
Despite being a fan of the Mesa Boogie sound I remained open-minded. After all Boogies are expensive, so if I could purchase something a little cheaper I could get more gear - right! So I travelled around a number of music shops, trying out the Marshalls, Fenders, Mesas etc.
With budget, tone and versatility as my driving factors. I purchased the F-50, because to my ears it had everything I was looking for in an amp.
I am one of these annoying shoppers that will make a nuisance of himself in all the guitar shops in order to get the right information. Then go somewhere else in order to get the best deal e.g. the internet.
This amp was purchased in Peter Cooks Guitar World, Hanwell London. Simply because they offered the best deal - by far! The cost was £1050 (UK pounds). No one else who claimed price matching ability would even go near this price. They offered some poor excuse about not being allowed to work outside a fixed price bracket.
Two words - versatility and tone.
I believe this amp sounds fantastic. When I first opened up the box, I was amazed at the attention to detail. Looking behind the amp, all the cables are neatly tied and contained in a soft pouch. Its as solid as a rock and weighs a ton. The documentation is well written and informative, neatly contained in a plastic wallet. A slip cover is provided, which may be handy for transporting the amp or keeping the dust away when you're not playing.
Features: Rhythm Channel (Clean), Lead Channel (Drive), Lead w/Contour & Reverb. All fairly basic. Oh, and not to forget the hard bias.
Wow! Comparible to the Fender amps. Has the sweetest break-up as you crank the drive up. This is a great channel for jazz & mellow stuff. Works well with my piezo pick-ups and sounds great with my out-of-phase in-between two humbuckers guitar setting. You have to hear it to believe it. No other amp I tried even came close when comparing the available clean sounds. Shimmering and punchy might be two descriptive words, but seriously you have to try it out for yourself.
Ok this comes in two flavours - classic and contour, which is a modern sound.
The classic without contour mode is typical of a Santana sound. Sounds great playing the blues and has been compared to the Mark I on steroids. Great sound / tone - just bend one of the higher strings, add a little vibrato and you'll see what I mean.
Contour mode approaches the rectifier sound. There is more drive then you're likely to need. Once again, you get great tone that doesnt take over the sound of your guitar but really compliments it well. I personally enjoy playing the heavy palm muted riffs on this channel ala. Metallica.
On both channels the drive sounds natural. Not over-compressed or wish-washy like a number of other amps on the market. Please note, as this is a tube amp the best sounds come when the volume is turned up. Believe me this thing is loud though. It does sound pretty good at low volumes, unlike many other amps but it does get smoother as the volume increases.
Sounds fine to my ears. In all honesty though, I am more likely to use the reverb as part of an effects chain.
I am pleasantly suprised in that the longer I have this amp and more I get used to it, the better it sounds.
It's difficult trying to think about what I don't like simply because this amp is marketed as a basic amp with no bells and whistles, but just tone. It doesnt pretend to be anything it isnt.
Regardless of what it's marketed as if I were to compare it to other amps including Mesa Boogies, my criticisms/feature wish list would be as follows:
1) A solo button for pre-defined volume boosts.
2) Clearer foot controls. The layout is fine, but when I am on the clean channel no status LEDs display to tell me what drive setting I'll be on when I change the channel.
3) Options to use either EL34 or 6L6 valves.
4) Better stock valves.
Points 1 and 3 are mute points really as these features are found in the Nomad range at a slightly higher cost. Anyway, for a volume boost I just need to get a booster pedal and problem solved. Point 2 is what I feel most strongly about.
Apart from these points it is a real struggle to come up with criticisms on such a great amp.
As mentioned earlier, it's built like a rock and weighs like one to.
Mesa is well renound for it's top quality construction and attention to detail. Every detail has been taken care of even down to keeping the cables tidy.
Before I even switched the amp on after first unpacking it, I couldnt help but notice the care that has gone into this product. This is my first Mesa Boogie product and I can honstly say that I am sold for life. I have read reviews from people trusting Boogie products to the extent where they dont have to hear/test them before they make a purchase. I am not quite up there and will always try before I buy, probably more as a matter of course - the products aren't cheap after all. But from my experience I can understand where this confidence comes from.
Clearly the Mesa Boogie sound isn't for everyone. Our ears and tastes are different and we have to go along with what sounds good to us.
If you appreciate the Boogie sound or are at least curious. Check out some artists e.g. Santana, Dream Theater etc. that use Boogies and see what you think. Give them a demo at a local music shop. Compare them to other amps and see what delivers the sound you are looking for. If possible, turn the amp up loud to get an idea of its potential (not just for the volume but tone).
From my experience, Mesa Boogie deliver top quality products that far surpass other manufacturers in tone, quality and detail.
If my amp was lost or stolen. I would definitely stay with Mesa Boogie.
This review was originally published on http://www.musicgearreview.com