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Overdrive: Hi Mode
Clips recorded through a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto 4x12. Clean recorded with a 2008 Nash '63 Strat, Hi Mode recorded with a Gibson Les Paul Studio
For almost 40 years, Mesa/Boogie has been an icon in American amplifier design. That unique tone has been heard by and inspired countless imitators around the globe. While some have come close to replicating their sound, none have truly nailed the tone of the originals. Famed designs such as the Mark I, Mark IIc+ and the Dual Rectifier have laid the tonal foundation that entire genres of music are based on. No self-respecting metal guitarist can deny the feeling the first time they heard the Mark IIc+ rip open that thunderous, distorted riff on Metallica’s “Battery.” The same can be said for the incredible tones that John Petrucci and Carlos Santana have coaxed out of the Mesas in their rigs. While Mesa/Boogie amps have always had their own sound, they’ve given nods to the forefathers of American amp design, Fender, ever since the first Mark I schematics were drawn up. Now, with the release of the Electra-Dyne, Mesa turns their focus to paying homage to the other side of the pond, namely the British sound, and puts their own stylized spin on it.

In comparison with most of Boogie’s past offerings, the Electra-Dyne is astonishingly simple. A total of only six control knobs grace the front panel, which is strange to see from a company known for popularizing the use of extensive options in amp design. With a simple three-band EQ, Presence, Gain and Master Volume knobs, and a tall head shell tailored with piping, it’s hard not to make a visual comparison to the famed Marshall Super Lead. Rounding out the front panel are the standard Power and Standby switches and a three-way toggle to switch between Clean, Low, and Hi gain modes.

Plugging In
After connecting the head to a Boogie 4x12 cab, I plugged in a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom with Tom Anderson pickups. I originally dropped the Tom Andersons in my Gibson when I owned a Trem-O-Verb combo, a highly underrated Mesa amp from yesteryear, and I know just how well Mesa designs treat their sound (Mesa has used Anderson guitars and pickups to test their amps for years). The Electra-Dyne can be set for either 90 or 45 watts via a small switch on the rear panel of the amp. In this case, I went with the 90-watt option. With all of the controls at noon (which is usually how I like to set up Mesas at first) and the amp set to clean, the Electra-Dyne roared with authority, exhibiting a noticeably huge amount of headroom—Mesa’s amps deserve their reputation for being on the loud side. The Electra-Dyne might be one of the loudest I’ve ever heard. It could also be that my ears just perceived it as being so, because the amount of headroom on the Clean mode is astonishing.

Mesa attributes this to the Simul-Class power amp. This mode is the only one in the amp that leans towards the American-voicing side, and it sounds utterly fantastic, like there’sa Deluxe Reverb hidden inside that’s been juiced to high heaven. With a dash of reverb (controlled from the rear panel), it was perfect for light and heavy chording, only getting thicker and more powerful the harder I hit the strings. I realized that I’d finally found a Mesa clean tone that beat out my favorite, the aforementioned Trem-O-Verb I used to own. Being highly satisfied with the clean tone this amp is capable of producing with a Les Paul, I wondered what it would sound like with a guitar known for that tone. I reached for an American Fender Jazzmaster, and kept the amp in the 90-watt mode. The high end was more pronounced of course, so I flipped to the 45-watt setting and brought the presence down a little to compensate. With the Reverb almost dimed, I was able to get some huge Johnny Greenwood-esque soundscapes with a glistening crispness that was absolutely beautiful. That reverb is no slouch, either.