Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #5
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
If you're the kind of player who likes to plug into a classic one channel amp, set up a single sound and control everything else from your guitar, then I suggest you turn over right now as the Mark V is about as complicated and fully-featured as amplifiers get. In fact, I'd suggest that even the most tech-savvy player would find this amp a little daunting to begin with. The Mark V is described by Mesa as a living history of their company, representing all their classic sounds from the past 40 years. It's an impressive feat and it's certainly one of the most versatile amps I've ever used.
To list all the features would take up the entire review so here's a run down of the most important ones. The 1x12" speakered combo version we looked at features seven 12Ax7 tubes in the preamp and four 6L6's in the power stage for a fat American overdrive and lots of clean headroom. A bias selector switch on the back panel allows for EL34's to be used instead for a thinner, more British sound. A single 5U4 rectifier tube completes the package.
The Mark V's sounds are split into three channels with independent EQ gain and volume controls. Each channel has three modes with increasing levels of gain and tonal options from the super clean 90 Watt mode of channel one, to the over the top saturated sounds of channel three in extreme mode - and everything inbetween. Almost any sound you can imagine can be conjured up here from the plethora of pre and power amp options. Each channel has an independent spring reverb control that sounds thick and warm and it's very easy to create usable sounds quickly.
Each channel also has access to a five band graphic EQ as featured on all Mark series Boogies since the Mark I back in 1970. An incredible amount of EQ control can be had from the graphic EQ and the classic 'V' curve has become a staple sound for all metal and hardcore bands for the past 30 years. A preset EQ curve has been added via a depth control, allowing you to dial in that classic 'V' sound via a single control. Each channel can toggle between the graphic EQ and the preset EQ via a small toggle switch.
The Mark V features very useful power scaling abilities with each channel able to independently switch between full 90 Watt power, 45 Watt Class AB power and 10 Watt Class A power at the flick of a switch. It's amazing how much tonal depth this switch gives. In 10 Watt mode the clean channel breaks up much earlier and beautiful, rich power amp crunch tones can be created at moderate volume levels. Having the ability to switch each channels power independently is a stroke of genius. Channels one and two can switch between tube and solid state rectification for yet further tonal options and Channel three can switch between Pentode and Triode operation to affect the tightness and bottom end of the higher gain sounds. There is a tube buffered effects loop with send level control on the back panel and multiple output options for running extension cabinets or slave lines to power amps for larger venues. A solidly constructed footswitch allows for channel, EQ, reverb and FX loop switching and turning on a solo boost function for those 'foot on the monitor' moments.
The tones available are classic Boogie territory. Searing, high gain leads are complimented by classic, bell-like clean tones and touch sensitive dynamic response. Mark I mode is instant Santana and the IIC+ and Mark IV modes get you into Metallica and Dream Theater territory with ease. As with most Boogie amps, a fair amount of tweaking will be required to get the best out of each channel and mode. I like to think of Boogies as having a learning curve that goes well beyond simply learning the controls. This is an amp that requires patience and time to get the best tones from but the effort is certainly worth it.
So is it the ultimate guitar amp? Well, it is undeniably expensive and certainly represents the very upper end of the market. Then again, it could be argued that the price actually represents great value for money when you consider the sheer number of features on offer. However, the price puts the Mark V combo firmly out of reach for the vast majority of players and pushes it firmly into the pro-level category. If money is no object and you require a huge variety of sounds from your amp, then the Mark V may well be the last amp you ever need to buy. But if you don't require this many features or only need a limited palette of tonal options, it has to be said that you could get something for less money with just as impressive a sound.