Mesa Boogie Mark IV Head
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Mesa Boogie Mark IV Head

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

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glassjaw7 30/03/2011

Mesa Boogie Mark IV Head : la opinión de glassjaw7 (content in English)

"One of the most versatile amps ever built"
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The Mesa Boogie Mark IV is an 85 watt tube head or combo with Mesa's patented "Simul-Class" tube power section. Simul-Class combines class A and class AB performance simultaneously so the player can experience the sweet, harmonic-laden overtones and gain characteristics of a class A amplifier, and the high headroom and powerful performance and feel of a class AB amplifier in one amp! This amp has a fixed bias, as do all Mesa Boogie amps.

The Mark IV has many connections on the rear panel, making the amp extremely versatile and able to be acclimated equally well to demanding live or studio environments. There are sooo many features in this amp that it's nearly impossible to talk about all of them in depth. I can only scratch the surface of what this versatile machine can do tonally. Here are some features. (taken from website):

3 Channels w/Independent Gain & Master Controls (Rhythm I, Rhythm II & Lead)
Independent Treble & Presence Controls for Rhythm I & II (Bass & Mid combined)
Fully Independent EQ for Lead Channel (Bass, Mid, Treble & Presence)
Multi-Stage “Cascading Gain” Lead Channel (Lead Gain + Lead Drive)
Lead Voicing Switch (Mid Gain/Harmonics)
Pull Fat (Rhythm II & Lead Channel)
Pull Bright (Rhythm I & Lead)
Pull Shift Presence Controls (Rhythm II & Lead)
Assignable 5 Band Graphic EQ
Assignable FX Loop
Slave Out w/Level Control
Spring Reverb
Output Level Control (over all channels)
Full Power/Tweed “Variac” Switch
Simul-Class/Class A Switch
Pentode/Triode Switch
Record Out w/Level Control
Silent Record Mute Switch (Pull Output Level)
Fan Cooled
External Switching Input
6 Button Footswitch (Rhythm I, Rhythm II, Lead, Lead+EQ, EQ (Graphic) & FX Loop)

With all these features, I must say I find it odd that this amp (and all channel switching amps) don't have midi control built in at the factory. I just don't understand why such a simple and useful technology that has been around for so many years, isn't included in an amp such as this one. It would be much smarter than using the included 1/4" switching jacks that Mesa uses. That feature, as well as external bias test points and adjustment controls should be a feature on every amp built. Although the latter doesn't really apply to the Mesa since they use a hard, fixed bias in their amps.

UTILIZATION

This amp is very difficult to just jump into. The first time I saw a used Mark IV at a Guitar Center, I was really excited to finally plug in and see what all the fuss was about. I was extremely...disappointed! I twisted some knobs to where I thought they should be set, completely disregarded the graphic eq and the switches on the rear of the amp, and didn't even know that some of the knobs on the front panel had push/pull options.
I hit one chord and turned up my nose at the piece of junk that I was so hyped to play.

Years later, when I actually knew a bit about tube amps, and about Boogies, I played one and was absolutely blown away! You NEED to know how the eq and all the settings of this amp function together to enjoy it. You also should read the manual. Mesa Boogie's manuals are extremely well-written and will basically walk you through the dialing-in process on the Mark IV. Read it!

SOUNDS

This amp has the vibe going on! Coming from a rectifier background, I couldn't believe the beautiful, articulate and smooth lead tones I could pull out of this thing! It can get so smooth and perfect sounding with the right settings on the graphic eq, that it almost sounds like the "ideal" buttery lead tone. Exactly the opposite of the Dual Rectifier which has a huge crushing rhythm sound, but lacks the appropriate voicing for smooth lead tones.

The loop is also much, much better than the rectifier loop (which is basically useless due to phasing problems). The series Mark loop takes effects well, and placing a bit of delay in the loop makes leads just sing forever! This amp has one of the best lead tones I've ever played/heard, including Diezel, Bogner, Orange, etc.

The surprising thing is that this amp can get downright brutal! It gets such a tight, articulate and mean sounding rhythm tone that it is still being used for some of the most demanding modern rock and metal today. This gain voicing isn't quite as huge as the recto, but it makes up for that big "wall-of-sound" vibe by providing a cutting and super responsive tone that can always be heard in a mix. Lamb of God and Dream Theater are a couple of great examples of this type of sound.

One thing overlooked in the Mark IV is the remarkable clean tone! The clean sounds attainable in this amp are some of the best in any channel switcher, period. The rich, cleans found in Rhythm 1 honestly rival any Fender I've played, and I've played a lot!

The only weak point of this amp, and I say weak cautiously, is the Rhythm 2 channel. This mid-gain voicing doesn't have quite the character or great feel that the clean and lead channels have, and is complained about commonly. However, it is still a very useable and good sounding channel. It almost has a slight british feel to it, depending how the channel eq and the graphic eq is set. Throw a boost such as an Xotic BB pre in front of this channel and it goes from decent to great!

The assignable graphic equalizer is one of the coolest features of this amplifier. The manual recommends setting the amplifier up in such a way that you basically leave the knobs at one setting, and use the 750K slider to tailor your preferred sound. I found this to be very accurate, and all channels seemed to be dialed perfectly using this approach. The front panel controls are not meant to sound good on all settings. There is a specific range where the controls work together and sound good, and you should follow the manual's suggestions.
Me being a tweaker who's never truly satisfied no matter how perfect something sounds, I messed with the graphic eq and came up with some other cool sounds! One of the best sounds was setting the graphic eq to an "up-down-up-down-up" setting instead of the classic "V" shape with the mids scooped.

The up-down position setting made the amp sound almost like a Marshall. Very detailed and present mids became the forefront of my sound, and with the high end tamed a bit, this was a very useable and unique tone.

OVERALL OPINION

The Mark IV is one of the best amps I've ever used. It has been around for so many years, yet is still being used for everything from pop to jazz to rock to extreme metal. There really is no limit to what you can do tonally with this amplifier! The graphic eq and plethora of settings on the back panel, as well as a good sounding effects loop and variable wattage settings make this amp an indispensable tool for the studio or the stage! Highly recommended!