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December 2014
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Mesa/Boogie Trans-Atlantic TA-15 Amp Review


Now that I’ve admitted to my favorite amp setting, let’s not pretend that it’s a downhill slope from there. The three-position voicing toggle on Channel 2 selects between Tweed, HI 1, and HI 2. Mesa’s intent is for these to sound like a tweed Fender, a Marshall, and a classic Mark-series Boogie, respectively. Channel 2 sends us back across the pond to Southern California, where Leo Fender’s game-changing amplifiers were unveiled in the late 1940s. With the amp in the Tweed voicing, I definitely heard that unmistakable Fender spank and thud. Tweeds and early Bassmans are known for their amazingly punchy dynamic range and the smooth, chiming overdrive they emit when you push them, and these Fender amps birthed most rock-and- roll guitar amp circuits. It’s a daunting task for a lunchbox amp to recreate this, and while the TransAtlantic’s sound is fabulous, the voicing sounded more like a Bassman than a Tweed to my ears.

I happen to own a late-’60s Bassman, and I love everything it has to offer. Bringing up the Bass on the TransAtlantic’s Tweed setting edged ever closer to that elusive Bassman punch. With the Gain at 2 o’clock, the TransAtlantic sounded like a boosted mini Bassman. Without a midrange control, I wasn’t able to exactly dial in my Bassman, but I never expected the TransAtlantic to get this close. Very impressive—and we’re only halfway through the voicings.

The TransAtlantic takes us back to the UK with the next voicing, HI 1, which pays tribute to the Marshall legacy. My instinct was to dime the gain and see how far it would go. In this setting, the attack was quick, the mids sliced, and the lows were slightly compressed, with plenty of dynamic reach. You’re not going to get all the way to modern metal tones, but you’ll definitely achieve early shred tones. While my fingers reminisced on some of Kirk Hammett’s earliest riffs, my ears soaked up the capable EL84 power section. These power amp tubes pay an excellent tribute to the EL34s typically found in Marshalls. I liked this setting dimed, with flat EQ and the output switched to 15 watts. This delivered that signature British low-end tightness and allowed my speakers to reach their full range of motion.

Our final TransAtlantic voyage takes us back to Cali for the HI 2 gain setting. There’s a lot to say about this setting, but I can sum it up with a question. Who does Boogie better than Mesa? HI 2 is a slightly modified version of Mesa’s own high-gain design pulled from their legendary Mark series. It shouldn’t surprise you that the TransAtlantic is not going to produce enough bass to crack plaster and induce tinnitus. Low-wattage amps that attempt to deliver too much bass will inevitably sacrifice important high and mid frequencies— it’s physics.

What’s important is that Mesa successfully scaled their signature sound into a unit that will give Mesa fans a chance to experience this lush distortion at room volumes. For players who want an authentic Boogie tone onstage and in the studio, you’ve now got a comparable tool for practicing and writing. I liked pairing the HI 2 and 25-watt settings, a combination that yielded extended headroom.

The Final Mojo
With the TransAtlantic, Mesa set a lofty goal—make a tiny, lightweight, sonically excellent alltube amp that’s capable of many popular voicings. And they succeeded. The TransAtlantic is as versatile as most other amp makers’ full-sized heads. While it doesn’t attempt to sail into uncharted sonic realms, it packs a ton of tones and features into a tiny footprint. And that makes it an amazing tone machine for practical guitarists of many stripes.
Buy if...
the idea of an all tube, multi-voiced, multi-watt practice amp excites you.
Skip if...
you have no volume constraints and/ or someone else schleps your gear.
Rating...


Street $899 - Mesa Engineering - mesaboogie.com