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This article was originally published in issue #63
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Available in 25-watt and 50-watt combos, as well as a 50-watt heat, this vintage-voiced stunner might be the most versatile amp in Mesa’s entire product range.
Superb classic-voiced leads and crunch.
Modern, pedal-friendly cleans.
Not great for metal.
50 or 25 Watt Selectable
2 Channels / 3 Mode Channel Cloning
Dimensions: 17.87" H x 22.75" W x 10.13" D
Humbly named in tribute to the renowned bi-coastal venues that showcased the biggest names in Classic Rock over decades, MESA/Boogie introduces the Fillmore 50. Billed as super-responsive, nuanced, organic… and “vintage-inspired Magic” by those who’ve experienced it, Nick Jennison takes a closer look at this exciting 2 channel combo.
Ask any guitarist what they picture when they think of Mesa/Boogie and they’ll likely tell you about imposing, treadplate-fronted Rectifiers grinding out searing gain through oversized 4x12s. Given the ubiquity of the “Dual Rec” in the metal world, this characterisation is understandable, but Mesa/Boogie’s roots are the hot-rodded combo amps that slayed stacks in the late 70s and 80s. Carlos Santana, Steve Lukather, Prince and Metallica all relied on Mesa/Boogie’s diminutive powerhouses for their tones.
Complete with classic “Blackface Fender” aesthetics, the new Fillmore amps hark back to the original modded Princeton's that came out of Randall Smith’s California workshop, but with a distinctly modern twist. It’s all mod cons under the hood though. Available in 25-watt and 50-watt combos, as well as a 50-watt heat, this vintage-voiced stunner might be the most versatile amp in Mesa’s entire product range.
All three amps in the Fillmore line boast two identical channels, each with three very distinct modes that cover everything from refined boutique cleans to fat, saturated lead tones. Because both channels are identical, you can set this amp up in exactly the way that works for you, without having to compromise. Some examples might be:
- Two high gain sounds at different volumes
- One sparkling clean and one warmer, pedal-friendly clean
- Pushed clean and bluesy lead
- Classic rock crunch and fat leads
- One bright and open crunch and one tight, focussed crunch
Essentially, the Fillmore is a true tonal chameleon and can handle just about any gig you can think of with a minimum of fuss. If (for example) you play in a touring blues-rock band, but you also pay the bills playing funk and R&B in a function band, you can convincingly do both with the Fillmore.
Tonally, the Fillmore is very much a vintage-voiced beast. The “HI” setting is thick and saturated with a distinctive “aaaow” vowel that’s super authoritative for single note lines. There’s plenty of gain available for most styles, but don’t expect modern metal tones - the attack is too compressed and the highs are too smooth for those kinds of tones. Even at more moderate gain settings, the front of the note is compressed pretty hard in this mode, and it’s little too fat for convincing rhythm work, but that’s where the “DRIVE” mode comes in. In this setting, the tone opens up with a superb grain and bark that’s every bit as good for classic rock grind as it is for stinging blues. Interestingly, the “CLEAN” mode is rather modern sounding, and doesn’t exhibit any of the midrange “holes” found in classic Fender or Vox designs. While purists might miss this inherent scoop, it does make the Fillmore incredibly pedal friendly, flattering fuzzes, plexi-style pedals and transparent overdrives equally well - and if you absolutely MUST have that scooped clean, it’s only a twist of the midrange knob away.
Add a tube driven long-tank spring reverb with controls for each channel and you have a seriously versatile tone monster in a portable and elegant package. It’s not exactly cheap, but considering it could conceivably replace your entire amp collection, it’s well worth the price tag.