A long time ago, when I had hair and something approaching muscle definition, I spent 6 months hitching from Istanbul to Cairo. It was a great, great trip. What was the highlight, Istanbul? Jersusalem? Damascus and Palmyra (Syria back in 1999 was wonderful)? I think it was a little burger bar in the Armenian quarter of Aleppo, the guy took a lamb patty, threw it onto a bun with fried onions, chips, salad…and then he added pastrami and 2 fried eggs on top, and some more chips. It was the greatest burger I have ever had and one of the most profound moments of my life.
The TA-30 may be the sonic equivalent of that uber-burger, a maelstrom of tones and influences thrown together, but is it that Aleppo burger or is it just the last Big Mac on the shelf? Lets investigate……
Amplitube’s Boogie collection is filled with recognised all-time classic designs, so the inclusion of the TA-30 may come as a surprise. “Where’s the IIc+!” the internet forums cried? I’m sure that the IIc+ and the MkV will be sold by Amplitube at some point, but what we have here now is a fascinating experiment, a mash up of classic British and American styles.
Essentially it is Mesa’s take on the Vox AC-30, and a Bassman, with a bit of Marshall, oh and while we are about it, lets pile on a hint of rectifier.
The layout on screen matches the real TA-30 exactly and despite the number of knobs and switches on display, you are quickly aware that everything is much more clearly laid out and logical than you would first think. Channel One is the Vox channel so you know what type of tones you are going to get. Played clean, It is sensational, glassier and sparklier than a Fender but with no hint of shrillness. It really loves single coils and the sound is so flexible and clear yet rounded and warm. Played straight your Hank Marvin impersonation will never sound better, but it is a fiercly modern sound too that loves modulation.
With the cut engaged, there are more tonal variation available (watch out with humbuckers, too much and it gets a little muddy), but with master volume engaged, things get a little dirty. It is a very 1966-68 British type of dirt though, never fuzzy but with that sweet clean tonality always cutting through, you want that classic Vox chime, it is here in bucket loads. The boost switch adds a little more gain but does not swamp the tone.
An AC-30 is a difficult thing to model, every amp sim maker (and I do mean everyone) will have an AC-30 as one of their core models. Some sound great, some pretty grim (iOS Amplitube’s is pretty poor) but none really sound close to a really good AC-30. This one does, this really nails one of the toughest amp circuits to emulate and it does it while adding Boogie touches of it’s own. The emulation of the wattage switch really works well, including Boogies own Dyna-watt system with throws in an extra simulated 10 watts to create a burst of headroom. Through good monitors, that creates an attack on clean notes that you can feel through your spine. It is addictive, believe me.
Channel 2 starts off with a Bassman-type circuit, rich and fat. It does not have the sheen of the Vox, but it is a very visceral tone that really makes you want to dig into those notes. Add a bit of grit and mids push forward, giving it slightly more of a mildly overdriven Twin flavour. The emulated Dyna Watt is perhaps not quite as pronounced on Channel 2, but it still adds a new flavour of its own and all together, things get pokier the more it is pushed. It is a much more American 60s tone of course, but intensely musical.
Channel 2 has an additional switch which offers, in addition to the Fender circuit, H1 and H2 options.
H1 means Marshall, I think with a leaning towards JTM territory. It is a great, great rhythm sound. Rich and dirty but very tight in the mids and bass. It loves humbuckers and seemed to respond to a Gibson scale slightly tighter than with a Fender. Wind everything right up and you have a lot of overdrive there (especially if set to 40w) but you still get fabulous note definition. We are really talking tight but loose 70s British rock here and it as good an emulation of that as I have heard.
H2 adds big Boogie overdrive that is warm and liquid the more the gain is pushed up. I found this to be quite sensitive to the treble control and wound it back a tad to get rid of any brittleness. It is not the skull crushing distortion of a rectifier but has more of an early 80s feel to it, halfway between a II+ and a Mark 3.
So this model is very much a greatest hits 1965-84. It gives you the best AC-30 model I have ever heard as well as fascinating variations on Fender’s finest, on Marshall and on Boogie’s own history.
It is intensely musical, reponds brilliantly to your playing and fills perfectly any sonic gaps left by the more famous amps in this collection.
This is very much an Aleppo burger and I have really loved tucking into this one.
Next….last but certainly not least, the Dual Rectifier, quake in terror guys. And once again, thanks to IK for this review copy.