Part 1 – The Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier, exclusive review for PC/WIndows
Bit of a preamble here, but bear with me….On Sunday we all went to a barbeque at our new local pub, The Winchester Arms (superb roasts on a Sunday, don’t ask the barmaid about her scar). There was a very good band playing (The Man from Funkle, tight as a nut) and as a guitar nut I drifted over to the guitar player and checked out his gear. Lovely PRS, he was getting some great tones out of it, but where was his amp?
He had a laptop with Amplitube 3 on it with a foot pedal unit plugged in, and that was it. This was his 4th gig of the weekend and there had not been the slightest glitch.
I’ve seen amp software move from plugins with latency so bad that you could not play live into them at all, to solid studio tools. But that a hardworking, gigging guitarist was confident to take this gear live, with no backup, that really showed me how this type of software can be a complete solution.
Which brings me nicely to Amplitube’s newest baby, the Mesa Boogie collection. Amplitube were pioneers in amp software and are one of the few left standing. Guitar Rig has not been developed in years, GTR is essentially the same thing it was 10 years ago and other sims have faded away totally. Only Revalver can really stand up as a big, multi amp and effect sim.
But Amplitube keep on going, ever refined and expanded. And the latest expansion is the Mesa Boogie collection. Now a Boogie of some sort is one of the amps that you are guaranteed to see in any amp sim – the tone is that classic, but this is the first time there has been an officially endorsed Mesa Boogie amp sim out there in virtual land. This is a big, bold step. Everyonne knows (or think they know) what the Mesa Boogie tone should be, so for IK and Mesa Boogie to put out an official product at é150 a pop, well it better be pretty good.
For the money you get 5 amplifiers, the Triple Rectifier, Dual Rectifier, Mark IV, Mark III and the decidedly left-field TransAtlantic TA-30. (I would have loved a Mark V here) You also get matching speakers. And that is it. IK are really going for quality over quantity here – -does it all measure up?
I’m playing all these amps with a 2015 Gibson Les Paul Studio and a 1983 Ibanez Roadster.
The Triple Rectifier
Astonishingly, this iconic amp was first introduced in 1989. It is mind-boggling today, it must have just slayed them 26 years ago.
On the screen, first impressions are a little intimidating – there are a lot of knobs. But look at it for a while and it all falls into place. 3 channels with complete gain and tone circuits, Channel 1 also has a clean/pushed switch while Channels 2 & 3 get raw/vintage/modern voicings. But click on the Back switch and a look at the back of the virtual amp also gives you a choice of 6L6s and EL-34s, Spongy/bold power settings and a choice of vacuum tubes and diodes in the virtual rectifier. Its not Bias Amps level of modding, but these are useful tone tools – if they work.
For an amp famed for supernova levels of gain, what do we expect from the clean channel? With Gain set low, the Les Paul’s bridge humbucker has a wonderfully juicy quality to it, no harshness, no brittleness, but a woody strength of tone that more than hints at a really good Fender Bassman – it is much, much better than Amplitube’s official Fender Bassman model. Its a great funk tone, and ideal for clean blues. Switch to the neck pickup and everything becomes richer and creamier with no mush or muddiness at all – a great jazz tone.
The 32 year old single coils on the Ibanez gave it a distintive Fender Twin vibe – here there is a tone of sparkle and enough country twang without everything getting too harsh. Changing the rectifier settings to valve also give a more compressed tone which resulted in something not dissimilar to a Scotty Anderson tone.
But play with that gain knob and everything warms up. It never really overdrives, but just really pushes the mids so the tone, already robust, sits up even more. It works very well in a band mix, emphasising the guitar but still giving you all the definition and clarity.
But there is one more trick from this channel, switch from clean to Pushed gives you what sounds like a 20db boost and as good a Robben Ford tone as I’ve heard on an amp sim.
Channel 1 may not give you every clean tone ever recorded, but in 3 hours I could not get a bad sound out of it – it is fabulous.Boogies may be known for “hi-fi” clean tones, but this had bags more charecter.
Here we go, with the gain set low on this one you start of with a lot of bite, turning up the gain does not seem to dirty it up but just seems to tighten the whole effect of the sound.
It is a very forward tone, strong in the lower mids that instantly seems to respond to assertive playing. Its a rich, grainy tone and a long way away from classic 70s rock, there is much more aggression here. You need to watch the bass here, too much and things get a little muddy, erspecially on a neck pickup. There is not a huge amount of variation here either, the raw setting on the voicing sweetens it up but otherwise this pumps out a noise that really wants to pick a fight. Fortunately, as tough as this channel is, it really sounds great, with a ton of swagger built into it. You could be playing this in your garage in your pants with this one and you would still be strutting it. Probably not a first choice for blues (though that raw setting with a valve rectifier does nail a lot of classic rock sounds)
This is the big one, surely a molten avalanche of arse-ripping distortion? But it is much more subtle than that. THink Channel 2 but just…..bigger in every way. The key with all the channels, but especially this one is to avoid the temptation to turn all the knobs to 11. There is definitely a sweet spot in the interaction between tone controls and gain, and this varies from guitar to guitar. Get it right and you have a brutally aggressive lead tone which is articulate, defined and incredibly touch responsive….just like a real Rectifier then.
This is the first model from the Mesa collection I’ve played and instantly you can tell that this is a big step forward in modelling in terms of accuracy, of warmth, of tone and of playability. THere is a weight to the sound, a refined texture to the tone that is incredibly satisfying to play. It felt like a real Boogie, what more do you want?
Next…..I’ll be going over the Mark III, can it be be as good? Thanks to the godlike chaps at IK Multimedia for a review copy.