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December 2014
more... Builder ProfileGearAmpsMay 2013Mesa/Boogie

Builder Profile: Mesa/Boogie

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Builder Profile: Mesa/Boogie

Every Player, Every Need
Although it might sound like hyperbole, anyone who’s looked at the history of Mesa/Boogie still has to admit that it’s never rested on its laurels. From its genesis facilitating sustain for blues-rockers to its preeminence among headbangers to its more Fullerton-flavored Lone Star designs to the 2010 introduction of the chimey-sounding TransAtlantic series, Smith and Boogie have always had their eyes to the future. The latter series first served up the TA-15 as a means to help bedroom and small-club players achieve great tone without having to crank an amp to ear-splitting volume. As Smith pointed out, “Given the economics of business today, a lot of people needed a real lightweight fly rig—something under 50 pounds that they can carry with them and still get their tone.”

Though the TA-15 was inspired by the classic Vox AC15, Mesa took the series beyond that recipe both in terms of what the TA-15 itself can do and in terms of what that new TransAtlantic framework enabled them to do afterward. “In the TransAtlantic, we went beyond Vox in several ways,” Smith says. “First, we gave you the two different gain structures for the Vox channel, plus the ability to switch the master. Secondly, we wanted to give people something that was several amps in one. Once you’ve committed to these expenses of the cabinet, the speakers, the chassis, and the transformers, building more amps on that same platform is really where the value packing comes from.”

Boogie’s new line of overdrive and distortion pedals [reviewed in the January 2013 PG] further exemplify both the company’s adventurous spirit and Smith’s support for the ideas of his team members. The stompboxes—the Tone-Burst, the Grid Slammer, the Flux-Drive, and the Throttle Box—were developed and designed over the course of two years by engineers Dan Van Riezen and Tommy Waugh. “They’re really gratified to see just how readily they are being accepted and all the accolades they’ve received,” says Smith.

In Memoriam: Kurt Houser 1973-2013

Founder Randall Smith and the entire Mesa/Boogie team asked to pay tribute to longtime team member Kurt Houser, who passed away not long before this article went to press. “Kurt was a truly passionate family member and 21-year comrade in tone. He applied his integrity, creativity, and incredible attention to detail across a wide range of departments—from quality control to sheet-metal design to sourcing—with an unwavering attitude toward perfection. He accepted nothing less than the absolute best for Mesa and its customers. Kurt passed on February 21 at the age of 39, and is survived by two children, Kenneth and Mackenzie. His contributions to Mesa and our products were invaluable and he will be dearly missed.”

Meanwhile, bassists who’ve long heard about the legendarily robust and gritty tones of Mesa’s Bass 400+ tube bass heads will be thrilled to hear that two new bass amps of that ilk are in the works. “It’s been a long and involved process,” says Smith. “The Strategy draws its heritage from the Bass 400+, and the Prodigy is a much smaller version. My thumbnail description of the Strategy is that it’s half the size and half the weight of an [Ampeg] SVT, but it’s half again as powerful—450 all-tube watts vs. the SVT’s 300 watts—but with twice the tone. The Prodigy is smaller than the TA-30, but packs a whopping 250 watts.” Though no release date has been given, the company has already lined up their first endorsee for the new line—Sir Paul McCartney.

Boogie On!
Although Smith was cool enough to pull back the curtain a bit and give us an idea what’s next on the bass-amp front, what lies beyond that for Mesa/Boogie is anyone’s guess. Given his company’s history, though, it’s probably safe to bet it’ll be innovative, impeccably built, and chock-full of great tones. “We’ve been asked by people, ‘Did you guys ever think of making a limited-edition, premier, super-signature model using all of the best parts and everything?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, that is what we do. In fact that’s all we do!’”

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