« Not quite there. »Published on 02/19/12 at 18:57
Custom designed and handcrafted in Petaluma, California
All-tube amplifier - 4 x EL-34 (or 6L6s), 7x12AX7
Proprietary Multi-Soak channel-assignable power attenuator (3 watts to 100 watts)
Multi-Soak includes 5-position power attenuation switch (-16dB, -12dB, -8dB, -4dB, and 0dB)
Bias Select switch (6L6/EL34)
Fixed bias for consistent, maintenance-free performance
2 channels, 3 footswitchable modes
Each mode with Independent Channel Master & Multi-Soak Power Controls (Multi-Soak Controls on back panel)
Channel 1 (Clean) features: Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass, Master, and Multi-Soak (on back panel)
Channel 2 (footswitchable Vintage Lo-Gain and Vintage Hi-Gain modes) features: Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass, Master-Lo, Master-Hi, Multi-Soak Lo & Multi-Soak Hi (on back panel)
Obviously this is bound to be an ugly duckling amp for mesa, a company who is not known for its EL34 amps. But lately they have been bursting out of the boutique market and taking their designs to a more public audience I suppose. The Royal Atlantic is supposedly their take on the marshall 2 channel design. These have not really caught on yet as far as I can tell. Nobody I know had played one before I decided to give one a shot. On paper it looks like a pretty good amp...and it is. The attenuation feature is great. Saves me a lot of trouble and money. One thing I can say about mesa is that their build quality has not gone downhill as they have grown up. Fortunately their stuff is still made to be bullet proof.
First of all, the clean channel sounds very good for an el34 amp. The only thing I could compare it to is the clean channel on those old el34 bogner shivas. It's very pleasant and not harsh at all. Breaks up really well.
The gain channel has a surprising amount of fire. I expected this to be more of a classic rock channel but it can get into hard rock territory very quick. I'm not entirely sure how british it sounds though. I played this next to a Splawn Quickrod and an old JCM800 and they pretty much killed the RA in terms of having that marshall sound. I realize that this isn't supposed to sound exactly like a marshall and all that, but to be honest the RA lead channel sounds like someone just stuck 34's in a dual rectifier, which isn't a bad thing...but for that reason I think this amp is mis marketed.
My favorite part about this amp is hands down the clean channel. The attenuator works nicely too, so that's a real plus. At the end of the day, this is basically a dual rectifier with el34's and a good clean channel. It's a better value too. I think Mesa is onto something with this multi soak attenuation stuff. It seems to be better than the attenuators every other amp maker is using. I can see this being a great amp for a certain kind of player, but not me and not many other guys. I think that's why these have not totally caught on.