Saturday, December 7, 2019

Review: Mesa Boogie V-Twin Pedal

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review my first tube preamp, which incidentally was also a pedal: the Mesa Boogie V-Twin!

This pedal has been in production from 1993 to 2005 and it was actually one of the first tube preamps packed in a stompbox, and to make sure it was solid, they build it ultra heavy and protected: the chassis is sturdy like a nuclear bunker!

I have bought the Mesa Boogie V-Twin in the early 2000s, I wanted to try a Mesa Boogie (basically all the nu metal bands at that time were playing Dual Rectifiers) but I didn't have much money, and I wanted to see the difference between a preamp with tubes and one without, having played only solid state and digital amps up to that point (except the awful Laney heads in the rehearsal's room), plus it had a direct recording out, and I couldn't microphone an amp at home.

On the paper this was the perfect preamp for me, and maybe it was, but I didn't know how to handle it.
I expected an instant metal sound, and only years later I realized how Mesa Boogie amps are not properly "instant metal": they incarnate the "California" sound, as opposed to the "British tone" of Marshall and Orange, and they were created with totally different purposes, the fact that those amps became famous for metal is (as per the creator's words) "totally unexpected".

The Mesa Boogie sound is, in facts, quite darker and fuller than the classic "upper mid rangey" British sound: it lets you obtain easily very thick and warm clean tones and fat, chunky crunches that in many amps of the brand don't have a lot of gain and are full of low-mids.
What the producers around the early 2000s  found out was that this type of amp, boosted with a tube screamer to dig out most of the useless and "cloudy" low mids and adding some gain, would let them obtain a good balance between fat low end and definition for modern rock and metal (especially with downtuned guitars), and for 10/15 years basically the Mesa sound became what the Marshall tone was in the '80s: the standard.

This little, heavy pedal was a jewel of technology when it came out, it featured 2 12AX7 tubes, 2 channels for a total of 3 modes, eq and gain section, a bypass switch, external switching inputs and a speaker emulated out to record straight into the mixer.
The speaker emulated out, specifically, was using analog technology similar to the Sansamp, and it had only one voicing, which was anyway very rare in the '90s and very useful.

All in all I have used this pedal almost exclusively in the studio, it made me achieve the first good clean sounds I have ever recorded, but live it was too limited, and the fact that I had to boost it with another overdrive in order to obtain good metal tones made the whole thing less convenient, so eventually I have switched to my first tube head, the Randall RH50T.

Still to this day I wonder what I could achieve now that I have more knowledge on how to obtain a tone I like, and if I will ever be able to try it again, I will surely spend some time with it.

If you're looking for good cleans and fat american crunchy tones this unit still today can give you a lot of satisfaction, otherwise around there are other great alternatives, both analog and digital.

Thumbs sideways!

Specs taken from the website:

- Handcrafted in Petaluma, California

- 2x12AX7

- 2 Channels, 3 Modes (Clean, Blues & Solo)

- Mode Assignment Switches

- Gain, Master, Bass, Mid, Treble and Presence (Universal)

- Bypass Switch

- Clean Gain Adjustment Control

- Record/Headphone Out

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