AF’s Weblog

June 4, 2012

Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier Review

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Mesa Boobie Mini Rectifier Review

We are living in an era of miniaturization, and guitar amp manufacturers aren’t an exception. Many of them already offer compact amps and now Mesa Boogie presents its second small sized (and with reduced output power) amp head. Let’s see if the Californian brand still sounds as proud!

Everything is Smaller in our Lives

Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier

Remember the 60’s? It wasn’t that long ago… In the past, the size and the output power of an amp were crucial to the sound of our favorite guitar players. But things change a lot. Housing shortage, noise restrictions… It’s not easy to live the rock ‘n’ roll way of life. Even Lemmy from Motorhead lives in a 54-square-foot apartment… But to take the best out of the 100W power of your nice Dual Rectifier, the famous amp of the US manufacturer, you need to play on large stages… In spite of this, the Dual and Triple Rectifier series were very successful… and unfortunately they are normally used with the master control set to 2! And no amp with less output power was able to produce this typical Recto sound coming straight from California.

So, when Mesa/Boogie presented the Transatlantic some of our was hope restored. But this amp doesn’t deliver the huge sound the manufacturer got us used to: a fat US tone with detailed highs and tight lows.

However, today, all fans of this typical sound can rejoice — the US manufacturer has finally presented the Mini rectifier, an all-tube amp head with switchable output power. The compact version of a Dual Rectifier. Literally.

Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier

Sold in a small cover, this nice and compact amp head doesn’t have anything to envy its big brothers from an aesthetic point of view. It’s obvious that it’s part of the same family that has been praised by most rock musicians for 10 (20?) years. Black vinyl, aluminum front plate in truck-step look, small transport handle… At first glance, everything seems to be in place.

Taking a closer look, you’ll find the exact same design and settings as in the Dual and Triple Rectifiers. Besides a 1/8″ instrument input and a footswitch connector, the front panel features two independent channels. Each channel offers two different voicings (Clean/Pushed and Vintage/Modern), a gain control, a three-band EQ (Treble, Mid, Bass), and presence and master controls. The Mini Rectifier includes five 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL84 power tubes, unlike its big brothers that use EL34 or 6L6 tubes.

But the main difference is the possibility to select a different output power for each channel on the Mini. A small switch allows you to choose between 25W and 10W for each channel independently. A clever idea: the technical documentation explains that there is a real sound difference between both output power modes. The 10W mode produces a slightly more vintage and round tone than the 25W mode. The latter comes much closer to the modern Rectifier sound (it would be a mistake to think Mesa/Boogie makes amps for deaf rockers only).

Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier

On the front panel you’ll also see a couple of power and standby switches.

But it is in the rear panel where you’ll find everything you need: FX loop with hard bypass (sweet!), two four and eight-ohm speaker outs, power socket. Considering the dimensions of the amp, don’t expect much more. Straightforwardness and space saving are the maxims. And that’s a good thing. But let’s listen to what comes out of the beast…

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

With the Mini Rectifier, Mesa succeeds in preserving the typical Rectifier soul and spirit in a compact amp with less output power. The competition is hard in this market segment and many brands already offer all-tube amps for home musicians. However, Mesa has the advantage of offering a faithful variation of its top-range products.

The other side of the coin is the price! Sold for $1,000, the Mini Rectifier isn’t accessible to everybody. Add the matching 1×12″ speaker cabinet for $450 and the bill turns quite high for a 25-watt amp! In spite of the high manufacturing quality, only some additional features (a third, higher output power setting, all four voicings accessible via the footswitch, etc.) would justify the price gap with competitor products that are half as expensive! So Mesa stays clearly above its competitors when it comes to price. Bummer!

However, the design and manufacturing are excellent and this new small beast keeps its promise… it rocks!

Advantages: 
  • Two separate channels, two voicings per channel
  • Rectifier look
  • Nice red glow coming from inside the amp…
  • Comprehensive connections
  • Finish
Drawbacks:
  • High price…
  • The dot on the knobs is not easily readable
  • Footswitch a bit too basic considering the price…

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Mesa Boobie Mini Rectifier Review

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September 28, 2010

Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15 Amp Head Review

We have recently seen the birth of some tube amp heads for electric guitars sporting a reduced size and weight, such as the Vox Night Train. This amp head format allows guitarists to enjoy their sound without breaking their back lugging gear to and fro. So now it is Mesa Boogie’s turn to launch its own portable version of a tube amp head, the Transatlantic. It’s up to us to test all of this and see if Mesa Boogie has succeeded …

Let’s Unpack

Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15

First thing we notice out of the box, the very small size of the machine: 12 3/8”W x 6 3/4”D x 5 7/8”H, weighing only 12 pounds.

A “carry on” is provided with the head, just to remind us that this is a transportable amp head format. There are pockets everywhere for storing goodies found at the bottom of the box:

  • A footswitch with a button (Channel ½)
  • An HP cable long enough (about 5 meters)
  • A conventional AC power outlet

The head has a retractable iron handle iron gives it a “Lunchbox” look.  This is not the best example for ergonomics in action, but it deserves to be there (after 45 minutes in the crowded subway, my hands longed for a plastic handle). The Design and the buttons “gas cooker” style provide an unusual looking product, a bit out of time, vintage, but at the same time utilizing modern materials such lots of metals.   Finishes are well cared for and we don’t notice any defects, the “Made in USA” has its effect.

Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15

The highlight of the show is when the head is turned on: a blue light emanates from the bowels of the beast to dazzle the eyes.   Question of taste, I think it looks a little Jacky-tuning, but this sensation disappears when the sound comes out of the speaker.  We would have liked the option to disable the effect of “Neon 205 GTI”…oh well!   Let’s forget this episode in bad taste (which may be felt only by me) and move on to the bowels of the head.

The Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15 is equipped with 4 preamp 12AX7 type tubes, and two EL84 type tubes for power amplification.  Patented technology provides three power modes for the amp section, selectable via switches on the front. In the 5 Watts mode, the head is working on a Class A tube power, 15 Watts mode, two tubes are used in Class A mode Push-Pull, while in 25 watts mode 2 tubes operate in Class A / B power .

Now let’s get to the settings …

Conclusion

It was a pleasure to test the Mesa Transatlantic amp head, once I passed the halo of blue neon light. We like the sound it delivers, rather vintage type, bluesy or rock, as one wishes.  However, we lament the lack of extreme sounds with gain galore for playing a proper palm mute. With all the little options that the amp front panel and independent channels offer, we come to find a pleasant sound very easily.  It can also be well used both during rehearsal, as well as in concert with 25 Watts and a footswitchable channel.  In short, if it did not cost the modest sum of about $900, the average guitarist would be in heaven and it would have been easier to swallow this pill.  Apart from that, the guitarists looking for a portable head with a distinctive sound, yet with many options, will be delighted!

Advantages:

  • Successful design
  • 2 Channels
  • Tweed Sound
  • Small size
  • Convenient carry bag
  • Quality Manufacturing
  • Palette of sounds through the front panel switches
  • Adequate power for rehearsals and acceptable to neighbors
  • Footswitch included

Drawbacks:

  • Neon Blue “Jacky tuning”
  • No FX loop
  • Push / pull for the master / cut
  • A bit expensive
  • No extreme sounds

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15 Review

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