Put Some Gain on It
The gain modes on the Electra-Dyne are simply that: modes, though you can footswitch between all three (Clean, Low and Hi) quite effectively. Mesa wanted to keep the amp as close to its single-channel roots as possible, so the two gain options are British-voiced variations on the core tone. Starting with the low-gain option with the Les Paul, the amplifier took on a very unique tone for Mesa, one with more punch in the upper mids and a slight rolloff in the highs. This mode can get saturated to a point, about as much as some of the midgain settings on a vintage JCM800. The Hi gain mode definitely had that liquid gain that Mesa is known for, but with the same kick in the mids that the Low mode had. It was strange at first, because I wasn’t used to hearing this sound come from a Mesa amp. After a while, however, I really started to love it.
Since these two modes are Mesa’s homage to vintage Brit amp tones, I decided to compare them to an original legend in that vein. I set up a 1973 Marshall Super Bass head with a Bogner 4x12” next to the Mesa, and ran an A/B box between the two. I know full well that the Super Bass traditionally has fewer highs and more lows than a Super Lead, but this particular one seems to have the best of both worlds, and is one of the best representations of that era that I’ve come across. Switching between both amps driven, the similarities were highly evident: strong upper midrange, smooth lows and strong attack in the high end. What was particularly evident in the Mesa was just how strong and balanced the sound was over the vintage Marshall. Obviously, there is a major difference in the power amp structure, but this was why I set up both in the first place. Mesa took some of the best things about British preamp design and stuck their own engine init, effectively making a great British-voiced amp with a huge, clean power section.
On the Back
The rear panel houses three controls for the reverb circuit: a knob to adjust the amount of the effect, a switch that removes it from the circuit entirely with a hard bypass and—for even more versatility—a Mode Defeat switch allowing you to remove the reverb from Vintage Hi or Low mode while retaining it on the Clean, so you can have one gain mode wet and the other dry. My favorite setting was to remove the reverb from the high-gain mode and drench the Low with a liberal amount of the effect. While the Jazzmaster inherently has a lot of high end, I found it difficult even after much adjustment to dial out the superhigh frequencies without losing the body of the sound. With an American Fender Strat, it was easier to control. The Electra-Dyne revealed itself to be very sensitive to the type of guitar plugged into it, more than most amps I’ve come across.
The final two controls available are Clean Level Trim and Gain Trim, which address the issue of volume balancing. All too often, guitarists have had to deal with the difficulty of finding that perfect balance when switching between clean and overdriven tones that still sits in the mix and doesn’t overpower everything else. Using the Clean Level Trim, I was able to reduce the clean volume to match the gain modes. The Gain Trim either lowers the gain of the Clean (for players who use higher gain modes) or lowers the gain for the Low and Hi modes. I was able to get some fantastic tones using the Les Paul with the Gain Trim on the Hi mode, allowing me to crank the amp much louder to get that non-master-volume-esque cut without oversaturating the tone.
The Final Mojo
The Electra-Dyne is an appealing addition to the Mesa/Boogie catalog. For players longing for another Mesa amp with simple controls to make its debut, this is most certainly worth a look. It’s an excellent hybrid of a new, powerful amplifier design and a nod to the tones that made so much rock ‘n’ roll possible. Some guitarists, namely those who’ve played Mesa products for years and are used to their sound, might not like the direction this amp is going. It’s not a high-gain metal monster, and the high-end response from some guitars might send certain players in the other direction, but for those on the lookout for an utterly flooring clean tone and excellent boost options—that also comes in rackmount, 1x12 and 2x12 combo formats—the Electra-Dyne might be just the ticket. It’s a new sound for Mesa, and it’s an interesting one.
you want some of Mesa/ Boogie’s best clean tones, and simple and straightforward is the order of the day.
you’re looking for more of the traditional Mesa tone or a modern metal amp.