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Another NAD, Mesa Boogie Express 5:25 plus

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Digital Larry, Dec 4, 2020.

  1. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's

    May 30, 2017
    Silicon Valley, CA
    No doubt this is part of my post mid life crisis crisis, as I'm past mid life. I've played guitar and bass and stuff for 40 years, but.... I NEVER OWNED A TUBE AMP! OMG the shame!

    And then I come here and read about all the guys who used to play tube amps for years upon decades but they've thrown that all in the bin of history to get a (dunt dunt dunnn) modeler! Wait! I need to know what I was missing!

    I have a modeler, use it for recording, works great IMO in spite of being 10 years old.

    I also recently bought a Peavey Classic 20 MH, just to see... can I get something to supplement the modeler, which I will continue to use, for whatever reason? What will I learn about myself along the way?

    I thought maybe I'd keep both the Peavey and the Mesa, but I don't think that's gonna happen any more. The Peavey's clean sound is fine, and the drive channel has some potential but IMO gets gritty way too early. Plus there's only one EQ section so for any clean/drive switching, it's going to be a compromise. The Peavey's simulated spring reverb is IMO AN ABOMINATION and the more I hear it the more it bugs me.

    So yesterday I go pick up the Mesa head at Guitar Center (used).

    Quick impressions to start:
    a) It hums a bit. It hums more on the Class A 5W setting than the 15W AB triode or 25W AB pentode settings. Not sure why that is, but perhaps someone will explain it.

    b) There is a weird low level gurgling coming out of the spring reverb, which goes away when the reverb knob is all the way down.

    c) A couple of the little teeny switches kinda pop when I flip them.

    d) THE TOAN is AWESOME. The blues channel takes what is between 0 and 1 on the PV drive knob and spreads it over the full range. I didn't turn it up very loud but this thing seems to achieve a nice buttery overdrive sound without harshness. The clean channel is clean. The crunch channel can even be sorta clean. Still have some exploring to do here.

    e) This thing has a LOT of options. Maybe too many. 2 preamp channels with boost, 2 EQ channels, graphic EQ, 3 power stage modes.

    f) It probably gets really loud. I was messing with both an open back and closed back 1x12 and on the 5 watt setting, master volume about "1" seemed good. I'm getting in a Captor-X attenuator cab sim thingey next week and will see how that fits into the whole low-volume/headphone/recording angle.

    g) There are no menus. This is the aspect that I'm most interested in exploring. Will a more straightforward user interface (knobs and switches) somehow improve my workflow or get me to finish the vocals on those songs I've been working on for a year? eh.... maybe not.

    Most likely, the Peavey's gonna go back and I'm going to build up a second system with the Mesa and a few effects pedals (with its own looper, natch) to see where it takes me.

    I did go back to the modeler and flipped through some different amp models on that. That thing sounds pretty dang good too!
  2. Crashbelt

    Crashbelt Tele-Holic

    Mar 15, 2017
    Cambridge England
    Great score for your first valve amp - your shame is fully justified but you got there in the end:lol:

    I usually gig 50s Gibson tweed amps, but the 5:25 is the exception when I need something versatile and loud.

    Can't answer all your questions, but I just checked mine and there wasn't much hum on the 5w setting or any popping when flicking the mini-toggle switches or any spring reverb gurgling so maybe get those checked out.

    The options are a bit complex for me (I just like to plug in and play) too. There are on line recommended combinations of settings which are a good starting point.

    The tone is great - glassy cleans and serious overdrive, although just short of the death metal recto-madness which some Boogie enthusiasts love. I play rock, blues, soul, R'n'B etc and its perfect for those styles.

    Is it loud? My ears are now ringing from sticking an SG Standard through it at 5w!!
    Presume you have the head version if you've been trying out different cabs? I have the combo with the 10" speaker, which I turn into a mini-stack by piggy-backing it on top of a Boogie extension cab with a 12".

    Play the hell out of it.....................
    Digital Larry likes this.
  3. Tyuk

    Tyuk TDPRI Member

    Aug 5, 2020
    Here's a bit of my experience after almost 20 years of using them.

    A) Aside from my beginner practice amps, I've used tube amps/head my entire career; they all hum to a certain extent IMO. This is due to a variety of reasons, which usually differ from amp to amp: the sheer design, some have fans built in to help dissipate the tube's heat, etc. I'm not technically proficient so I won't go into the specifics but are you sure the hum is coming from the amp itself? There are many other factors that contribute noise to my signal but this may be more of a 'hiss' than a 'hum': what lighting is in the room, my proximity to my amp or other electronics that may cause interference, dirty power (i.e. 60 cycle hum), etc.

    B) Spring/built in reverb has always introduced a bit of noise into the signal when turned up but this is usually a bit of noise that isn't that, that noticeable. That said, it's never been a gurgle so it might be something to investigate with a certified tech.

    C) This is common in a lot amps IME and from reading other people's, regardless of what the switch does (power amp settings, channel switching, standby/on-off switches). This is a deal break for some but not for others. How loud are you playing the amp? My JCM2000 DSL50 tends to pop when switching channels but it's only noticeable when I'm playing alone at bedroom levels. In a full band mix and at gigging volumes, you wouldn't even notice. On other hand, my older 5150 doesn't pop at all so it may come down to the components themselves in one way or another (I will let someone more experienced correct me if I'm wrong). That said, this may also be an issue with dirty relays; do you know the last time the amp was serviced/cleaned?

    D) Welcome to tube country! Tube amps can definitely sound great at low volumes but they really start to shine at higher volumes when their tubes are pushed. Also, be forewarned: you may have to adjust your EQ as you up the volume as the frequency responses from the amp and speaker will change as you start to crank the amp. IMO, pushing/cranking a SS/digital amp has a significantly different feel than cranking a tube amp but then again, I'm biased towards tube amps so take this with a grain of salt.

    E) This is ironic to me as you're switching from an amp modeler. That's one of the main reasons why I've never jumped into the modeler realm; too many options, settings, parameters, software, interfaces, etc. Gain, volume, EQ (I'm used to shared and it's never been an issue personally) are usually enough for me to get the tone I want out of any amp. If I can't, then I'm most likely looking for another type of amp.

    F) A tube amp of the same wattage as a digital counterpart will be naturally louder and this is simply due to the analog vs. digital divide. People may argue with me here but I highly doubt it; YMMV.

    G) Please refer to E).

    That all said, there's obviously no wrong answer but before ditching either the modeler or the Peavey, I personally would try a few things:

    1) If the gain on the Peavey isn't what I was looking for, I'd try to use the clean as a pedal platform with gain pedals. This simply may be a case where the voicing of that particular amp isn't what you're looking for, i.e. it shouldn't be a baseline for ALL tube amps.

    2) Try to dial out the undesired grittiness with my guitar's tone/volume.

    3) If the Peavey has an effects loop, try the modeler going through that with either 4-cable method or simply in the loop itself and it treat it like your pedalboard. If possible, I would clear the DSP of any amp/cabs sims and simply isolate the effects that would hit your preamp (drives, etc.) vs. power amp (delays, reverbs, general modulation). Forgive my ignorance and if that's not possible with your particular modeler.
    Digital Larry likes this.
  4. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's

    May 30, 2017
    Silicon Valley, CA

    There's not much chance of me getting rid of the modeler. It only cost me $200 and it really works great, especially for recording. I don't ever turn up loud; while I suppose I could, I do have a family that might not always be in the mood for it.

    As far as me pointing out hums and glorps and whatnot, I'm just being super critical because my modeler
    a) is very quiet to begin with
    b) has a very effective noise gate option built in to each amp model

    The hum is really mmmmmm 60 cycles type stuff. Hiss - I didn't hear any but I think my high frequencies are starting to go. Eh? What's that you say? Crumpet on the refurb?

    I got the PV at Guitar Center used, so I can simply return it in the next few weeks and get my money back. I don't really see any point in keeping it. I'm already looking at it funny. "This is gonna hurt you more than it hurts me" territory.

    I'm already planning to set up the Mesa with pedals just to see how that works day to day compared to the modeler. I'm not even planning to get a drive pedal at the moment. I have a booster and tremolo, gonna add a compressor for the front end and I have 2 DSP pedals for the effects loop. I can write my own algorithms for those so they'll be delay/reverb on one and modulations/filter on the other (probably).

    I have no plans to perform, even when such a thing returns to being a thing. Mostly this will be used for recording and general goofing around. I can easily see both this and the modeler getting use, but time will tell!
    Tyuk likes this.
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