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Fractal Audio AMP models: USA Clean / USA Lead / USA Rhythm (MESA/Boogie Mark IV)

yek

Moderator
Moderator


USA Clean / USA Lead / USA Rhythm: based on MESA/Boogie Mark IV

MESA (or: MESA/Boogie) is a very famous amp manufacturer, founded by Randall Smith in ‘71 in California. More company information.

Some of the amps carry the MESA name (Rectifiers, Lone Star), while others have a MESA/Boogie label (Bass 400+, Mark series, Triaxis).​

Randal Smith started off with the “snakeskin” Boogie amp, a modded Fender Princeton with increased gain and sustain, which made Santana famous (or was it the other way around?). Nowadays this amp is referred to as the Mark I. It was recently re-issued.

Since those early days the series has evolved. No longer called Boogie, they’re now referred to as the Mark series. Mainly known for their smooth high-gain tones, loved by metalheads as well as fusion guitar players. John Petrucci (Dream Theater) is probably the most famous endorser of the Mark series nowadays. Add Santana, Metallica, Keith Richards etc. The current Mark model is the Mark Five, plus various low-powered versions and John Petrucci’s signature model: JP-2C. More information in Wikipedia

Cliff:
"The MK V is basically a compendium of previous Mesa amps. There may be minor differences in tone due to circuit layout but nothing a few tweaks to the EQ can't fix."​

"I have a Mark IIC+, a Mark IV, a Mark V and a Triaxis. They're all completely different. Mesa always says things like "sounds the same as a IIC+" but the circuits are different and, probably most important, the knob tapers are completely different."​

We’ve got models of the legendary Mark IIC+ (“USA IIC+”) and the Mark IV (“USA Clean, USA Lead, USA Rhythm”) in our Fractal Audio devices. This post is about the Mark IV. The USA models are high on the list of favorite models of many owners of Fractal Audio gear.

MESA:
“Their compact size, stunning power and ultimate versatility have served legions of proud owners who see the Mark IV as the culmination of guitar amp evolution. The fifty thousand, II, III and IVs still in active duty are testament to this heritage.​

Three Big Sounds …with individual control and total conviction: Rhythm 1 feels bouncy and shimmers with freshness. The Lead Mode is blistering high-gain focus. And Rhythm 2 covers that elusive middle ground. This mode alone can produce an alternate Clean, a purring Blues or a grinding Crunch.”​

Like all MESA amps, the Mark amps feature a LOT of knobs and switches. As MESA states in the manual: “Every possible useful feature is included”. This can make them difficult to dial in for those who suffer from Option Anxiety, Parameter Paralysis or Agony of Choice. Also, this is why modeling this amp requires a number of separate models.

The Mark IV is a 85 watts amp (or less, depending on its settings) with a single input, 6L6 power tubes and reverb. It has 3 channels: Rhythm 1 (clean), Rhythm 2 (crunch) and Lead.

The main controls are Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence and Master.

Cliff:
"With the presence control at noon it's roughly neutral. Turn it down and you are actually boosting bass and reducing treble."​

Additional “pull” controls:
  • Rhythm I: Bright.
  • Rhythm II: Fat (more gain) and Shift Presence (higher frequency area).
  • Lead: Fat (more gain), Bright (adds sizzle and gain) and Shift Presence (higher frequency area).
The Lead channel also has a Voicing Switch, where Mid Gain delivers more gain (low volume levels), and Harmonics is more balanced (high volume levels). And it has an additional gain control (Lead Drive).

Cliff:
"The key to a good Boogie sound, IMO, is the Fat Switch. This is the Treble Pull Shift on the IIC+ and the Pull Fat on the Mark IV. Mesa knew this and the Lead 2 modes on the Triaxis all had the treble shift engaged by default."​

Models with two gain controls (Input Drive and Overdrive), such as USA Lead, always feel “elastic” and spongy, a real joy to play.

Cliff:
“Input Drive increases the gain amount as you rotate the knob clockwise. As the gain increases the tone is shifted from a treble and upper mid emphasis, which produces an up front sparkling tone, to a lower mid and bass emphasis, which produces a thick meaty tone.
Overdrive increases the gain amount as you rotate the knob clockwise but with no alteration of the tonal balance.
Different combinations of Input Drive and Overdrive settings will have a dramatic effect on the response of the amplifier and the personality of your instrument. It is easy to get familiar with the action of these controls and you’ll be amazed with your ability to make any guitar sound mellow, fat, soulful or aggressive.”​

Most amps in the Mark series also feature a graphic EQ (GEQ). This is an important part of the magic. While the regular tone controls are used to dial in the “feel”, the GEQ is used to shape the tone. On many MESA amps, including the Mark series, you’ll want to keep Bass really, really low to prevent flubbiness and then boost the low frequencies in the GEQ to compensate. That’s why many users set the GEQ in a V-shape, mostly on the Lead channel only. In the models of the Mark IV make sure that the location of the GEQ is Pre Power Amp, to correctly simulate the real amp.

Cliff:
"Having owned multiple Mark IV's, multiple Triaxis's and a variety of other Boogie products, I can tell that the Mark series in general are a bitch to dial in. Once you figure them out though they are great amps. IMO, the key to a MKIV is to use the TMB to get the feel and the EQ to get the tone."​

The Mark IV also has a built-in “Variac” Switch (“Tweed Power”), just like the Lone Star. It can be switched between Pentode (increases power and punch, clips harder) and Triode (softer and smoother, less headroom) mode. It can run in Class-A (2 power tubes, 30-50 watts) or in Simul-Class (simultaneous Class A and Class A/B, 70-85 watts).

MESA:
“The elusive magic of Simul-Class …our patented way of enriching a power section. Think of it as two different power amps working simultaneously. One extracts the juice of Class A sweetness while the other delivers the high power punch of Pentode Class AB.”​

The manual provides in-depth information about each control and sample settings.

Let’s check out our models of the Mark IV.

USA Clean: Rhythm 1 channel, which is the clean tone. It stays really clean for the most part of its Gain range. Use the Bright switch for Pull Bright.

USA LEAD: Lead channel, with Voicing set to Harmonics, and Pull Bright off. Use the FAT switch for Pull Fat. Presence Shift is available as a switch under Presence. Note: IMHO this is the model you may want to select when playing loud.

USA LEAD+: Lead channel, with Voicing set to Mid Gain, and Pull Bright off. Use the FAT switch for Pull Fat. Presence Shift is available as a switch under Presence.

USA LEAD BRT: Lead channel, with Voicing set to Harmonics, and Pull Bright on. Use the FAT switch for Pull Fat. Presence Shift is available as a switch under Presence.

USA LEAD BRT+: Lead channel, with Voicing set to Mid Gain, and Pull Bright on. Use the FAT switch for Pull Fat. Presence Shift is available as a switch under Presence. Note: IMHO this is the model you may want to select when playing at low volume levels.

USA RHYTHM: Rhythm 2 channel. Use the FAT switch for Pull Fat. Presence Shift is available as a switch under Presence.

A large portion of the bandwidth of the internet these days is occupied by guitar players looking for ways to either replicate Van Halen’s Brown Sound, or John Petrucci’s saturated high-gain tones. You’ll find many Petrucci-oriented threads and clips here and on Axe-Change.
Petrucci’s Mark IV settings
Mikko’s “Petrucci” presets for Axe-Fx II and AX8
Cooper Carter’s Petrucci “Astonishing” preset

MESA equips Mark cabinets with Celestion Custom 90 speakers (C90). Cabs #19 and #150 are MESA (Lone Star) cabinets with C90s. Or you can try the Rectifier cabinets with V30s, which you’ll find here. Cab #108 is an IR of Petrucci’s own cab with V30s.

Alternatively, try an EV-12L (“Rumble”) or Classic Lead 80 “Cali”) cab.​

It seems that MESA has pulled all videos of John Petrucci playing a Mark IV offline. Here are some others (but not great ones). Add your own.





 
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Wolfenstein98k

Power User
Never jived with this amp, but never owned the real thing.

Any tips from the regular users? Advice on which switches to (de)activate, which model to try, etc?
 

kewlpack

Inspired
<stupid question based on reading the OP too quickly without enough caffeine removed>
 
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Flamefork

New Member
Yek - in your notes above, there's this comment:
I thought, like the Lone Star, the TMB controls were PRE and that the GEQ was POST. Is that not the case here? Seems that you'd want to "shape the tone" post poweramp... Just making sure I understand. All these stinkin' amps and the different ways to dial them in is kinda crazy (but fun). ;)
TMB is pre preamp. GEQ is pre poweramp (= post preamp).
 

PumpkinKing86

Inspired
Being that I saw them last week, I also wanted to add that I think Lamb of God gets great tones out of the Mark IV (although I think they switched to Mark Vs in recent years).

The remixed/remastered version of "As the Palaces Burn" I think is exemplary of what the Mark IV in particular can sound like. Tracks like Ruin, 11th Hour, In Defense of Our Good Name, and Vigil feature killer riffs and great tone (at least on the remastered version).

Probably not everyone's cup of tea, but I live for good riffs. :cool:
 

Genome

Inspired
Did a little demo of TDEN intro a few firmwares back, naturally using the Mark IV through a Mesa Trad 4x12 IR. Think I got pretty close to JP.

 

shredi knight

Power User
It seems that MESA has pulled all videos of John Petrucci playing a Mark IV offline.

Well, they didn't pull these - Clips from Liquid Tension Experiment's reunion tour DVD's. The amps in Petrucci's stripped down rig are 2 Mark IV's and the tone is great. Probably his best live recorded tone (IMHO):


Kindred Spirits



Paradigm Shift



Live In N.Y.C. (full show)



Live In L.A. (full show)

 
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firmani99

Inspired
Never jived with this amp, but never owned the real thing.

Any tips from the regular users? Advice on which switches to (de)activate, which model to try, etc?
It's what I played before the axe. And now with the axe as well. For a good metal or rock tone keep bass really low. Like 2. And mid almost as low. Engage fat. Pick the non +model and keep the mv at 4. Use a v shape on the post eq to take out more mids and bring low end back in.
 

soheil

Power User
a question came to my mind yesterday, when we use any BRT models, what will happen when we turn on the BRT switch under the treble eq on amp page? what does it model?
 

yek

Moderator
Moderator
The BRT models represent the amp with the Lead Drive pulled out = Pull Bright.

The Bright switch in the model doesn't always refer to an actual Bright switch. It can also be the cap on the physical Volume/Gain control, which makes a tone go darker when the volume is increased.
 
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