Mesa Boogie Mark III Head
Mesa Boogie Mark III Head

Mark III Head, Tube Guitar Amp Head from Mesa Boogie in the Mark III series.

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King Loudness 03/23/2011

Mesa Boogie Mark III Head : King Loudness's user review

« The amp that started it all for me! »

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This was my first truly good amplifier that I bought when I was 14 in 2008. Mine was a 1992 "green stripe" model with onboard reverb, onboard graphic EQ and Mesa's patented "Simul-Class" power (which basically allows you to run one pair of EL34 power tubes and one pair of 6L6s in a Mesa amp for some varied tones). Mine was 85w in full power mode or it could be put down to 25w in half power. The Mesa amps have a very unique preamp section that reacts unlike many other amps. Using it in tandem with the 5 band graphic EQ yields some amazing and versatile sounds.

There are three channels, Rhythm 1, Rhythm 2, and Lead. There is also a system of pull knobs that act as channel switchers or they change the gain/EQ structure (add brightness/gain, add bass, etc). The amp is a bit confusing to set up at first as there are several different ways that one could run it. There is a "Volume 1" control that acts as an overall gain/output level for the entire amp, as well as a separate gain for the lead channel and a master volume for the whole amp.

(Basically, the first two channels' gain/volume are controlled by the Volume 1 control and master volume, and the lead channel's gain is controlled by the Volume 1 as well as a separate lead drive control).

It's got three separate footswitches, all connected by detachable 1/4" cables (read: guitar cables), two for changing channels, and one dual button for switching the EQ and reverb on or off. I found them to be clunky and wished that it was an all in one unit... that was probably my biggest caveat about the amp's features physically.


The amp is not very easy to set up if you haven't done so before. Like I said above, the preamp section is very unique. Gain is added or taken away based on the equalization controls as well as the gain controls... so it can take some time to really set it up right. The biggest issue is getting a balance between the three channels as far as your gain level for each separate channel. I found that after owning it for about seven months, I achieved a balance as far as my Rhythm 1 (clean) channel and my lead channel. This was accomplished by running the Volume 1 control fairly low (around 3.5-4) and the Lead Drive quite high (8.5-9). To me, this was the best balance between those two channels. However, even up until I sold it, I could not possibly balance Rhythm 1 (clean) and Rhythm 2 (crunch) channels to have proportionate amounts of gain. Given that they share a gain control... it was impossible to get a compromise. If I ran Volume 1 low, R1 sounded great for cleans, but R2 had a very weak/thin crunch tone. If I ran Volume 1 high, my crunch tones were killer (think classic Marshall, but with 6L6s), but the cleans had too much gain and saturation.

For those interested, my settings upon selling it were as follows:

(P designates to pull that control out)

Volume 1 - 3.5
Treble - 8 (P)
Bass - 2.5 (P)
Middle - 5 (Pull for R2 channel)
Master Volume - varied depending on the setting... I usually ran it between 1-3. (P)
Lead Drive (9) (Pull for Lead Channel)
Lead Volume (P)
Presence - 0

(GEQ was like a downward staircase with the low mids cut back).


Once you get past the hurdle of dialing it in... you'll find that there are a bunch of great sounding tones available to use. I was using it primarily with a Basson Sound cabinet and various superstrat guitars (Parker Fly, EBMM JP6). I'll base my review of the sounds off of the settings that I posted above, as those were my main settings for about 4-6 months.

Clean: Very rich and smooth with Volume 1 low. It reminded me quite a bit of a classic Fender amp, but with a bit more punch in the bass and low midrange. It was great for many styles (I used it in jazz, blues, and hard rock applications without problems) and reacted equally well to comping chords as well as lead lines. This channel was also very kind to boost pedals... I often found myself running something like one of my handwired W.A.R boosts or one of my Zoom analog dirtboxes in front of the clean channel for a controlled sort of bluesy breakup. This worked especially well with a Strat or Tele type guitar.

Crunch: I can't really comment much on this channel because it really didn't work as well the way I had the amp set up. When I would put Volume 1 at 9 or 10, the Crunch channel would react kind of like a classic British voiced head (IE: Marshall). Something very spongy and great for that vintage vibe. Again, this channel was cool to boost... I often found myself throwing a gain box in front of it just to give it that classic eighties feel ALA Whitesnake or Ratt.

Lead: This channel is what sold me on the amp... and ultimately what led me to buy two more Mesa Mark series amps to replace it after I sold it. It's EXTREMELY suited to what I do. It's very smooth and articulate, which makes it perfect for fast passages that require a very crisp tone. I always found myself getting great sustain and feedback and a great singing tone at most volume levels (home, rehearsal, and band/gig levels). It's a very singing sounding channel that doesn't get harsh as you add gain or treble and it really made my playing improve a whole lot after about a year of using the amp.


Overall I feel like this Mesa set the standard for what I like in an amp. I did many months of research on HC forums before pulling the trigger. Every time I'd buy another amp, I'd try to compare it to the Mark III... and it never worked. In the end, I just bought a Mesa Mark Five... so I've remedied myself somewhat!

They can be hard to dial in at first (It took me about six months to get it to a point that I was truly content) but then once I found that... I just couldn't go back. I've had many different amps (Splawn, Orange, Genz Benz, Peavey) and just find myself coming back to Mesa every time... truly stellar amps. The biggest issue I have is the channel balancing... so when I opted for another amp, I went for the Mesa Mark Five as opposed to another III because of the channel versatility.

They're extremely well priced compared to the IV or V... so it's a great value for the money as well. They definitely come highly recommended from me!