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> New Amp - Mesa/boogie 1987 Mark Iii (red Stripe)
Zephyr
post May 15 2008, 02:23 AM
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I finally got myself a tube amp! And not just any, but a vintage, and a Mesa! Interesting fact, it's a Mark III head originally, but the guy put it in a Mark I combo cab. I'm ecstatic about it, and I got it for $1000 (which unfortunately means I doubt I'll be getting more gear for a while). I had a few questions about it however, really just generic "tube newb" questions probably. laugh.gif I have no experience with tube amps, and I've been trying to learn about them.

Anyways, the amp is, as I said, from 1987. And the tubes have never been changed. I know that tubes supposedly should be changed every 8 to 12 months, but apparently this guy never saw reason to, or something. I read that there are some warning signs about tubes, such as a glowing red plate (?), but I saw nothing like that. So, the amp sounds good as it is, I mean, nothing's blowing up, crackling, etc. But I'm still worried about it.

First of all - I was wondering just how huge of an impact changing the tubes could have? It has 4 power tubes, 2 6L6's and 2 EL-34's, and you can switch between having just the EL-34's or all 4 on. It also has 6 preamp tubes. I don't hear as much about changing preamp tubes, but I figure that they're pretty old, and changing them should help. However, with each pair of power tubes running for about $40, and the preamp tubes being about $20 a pop, changing all of them would get pricey, fast. And I'm pretty much broke. So, I'd be willing to buy something that would have a momumental impact, but otherwise, I'll have to save up for a while. So, what would you all recommend?

Also, Boogie recommends the 6L6's and EL34's, and I hear about them often, but I, once again, know nothing about tubes. Could someone tell me how different tubes affect your sound, and maybe give me some alternatives?

Finally, does anyone have experience with the Mark series? I would gladly welcome any advice on dialing in a good sound. For cleans, I prefer a mellow, smooth, jazzy type of sound, and for lead, I like a very smooth, but still high-gain sound (think Santana, Timmons, Vai, etc.). Once again, I can't crank it up really at any time, and as it is, the cleans still sound very generic and the lead channel still sounds very rough and crunchy.

Finally, (again? huh.gif laugh.gif ) I've heard about these power attenuators (Marshall Power Brake, Hot Plate, etc.) that allow you to get the sound of your amp cranked up, but keep it at manageable levels at the same time. I was dismayed to find out that the cheapest that I could find went for about $300. Is there a cheaper alternative? And, if not, is it worth it for one of these? Do they really keep your tone up and volume down?

Thanks in advance! biggrin.gif I'll add more questions as I think of them...

P.S. Will get pictures soon, camera's dead at the moment, and we're out of batteries.

This post has been edited by Zephyr: May 15 2008, 02:27 AM
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USAMAN
post May 15 2008, 02:26 AM
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Do they really keep your tone up and volume down?


IMHO...Volume, Yes
Tone.....PFFTttt...Not even close..Tone suckers Ive tried the dr Z, The marshall and the thd.....completely underwhelmed!


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FrankW
post May 15 2008, 04:44 AM
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Zephyr, the attenuators allow you to crank your power section as well as the pre-amp section, and keep the overall volume at manageable levels. You can get a distorted sound by cranking your pre-amp channel and keeping your overall volume low, but to get a singing, sweet, sustaining tone, you must crank both parts of the amp. An attenuator will allow that. Keep in mind that the speaker also colors your tone, (as well as your hands), so to get the true tone of the amp, you must crank it somewhat. Of course, this is not always practical. I used power attenuators years back and they worked great for me, tonewise. A Mark3 comes with 6L6s from the factory. I am very curious as to what mods were done to your amp, if any. What I'm saying is, there might be a biasing problem with running two different types of power tubes in an amp that was not designed that way. It would behoove you to have this amp checked out by a reputable tech to find out what's going on. EL34s and 6L6s are two different animals, and the only amp I know of that can run them both at the same time, as designed, is the Mesa Boogie Road King. Good luck! I stand corrected! I just did some research on the Mark3, and both sets of tubes can be run at the same time. It can be run using 4 6L6s, but apparently, the power tube combination can also be utilized. My mistake...

This post has been edited by FrankW: May 15 2008, 05:13 AM
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Zephyr
post May 15 2008, 05:11 AM
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QUOTE (USAMAN @ May 14 2008, 06:26 PM) *
Do they really keep your tone up and volume down?


IMHO...Volume, Yes
Tone.....PFFTttt...Not even close..Tone suckers Ive tried the dr Z, The marshall and the thd.....completely underwhelmed!


That's what I was worried about... might still be worth it, though, because otherwise, I doubt I'll ever get this amp turned up. biggrin.gif


QUOTE (FrankW @ May 14 2008, 08:44 PM) *
Zephyr, the attenuators allow you to crank your power section as well as the pre-amp section, and keep the overall volume at manageable levels. You can get a distorted sound by cranking your pre-amp channel and keeping your overall volume low, but to get a singing, sweet, sustaining tone, you must crank both parts of the amp. An attenuator will allow that. Keep in mind that the speaker also colors your tone, (as well as your hands), so to get the true tone of the amp, you must crank it somewhat. Of course, this is not always practical. I used power attenuators years back and they worked great for me, tonewise. A Mark3 comes with 6L6s from the factory. I am very curious as to what mods were done to your amp, if any. What I'm saying is, there might be a biasing problem with running two different types of power tubes in an amp that was not designed that way. It would behoove you to have this amp checked out by a reputable tech to find out what's going on. EL34s and 6L6s are two different animals, and the only amp I know of that can run them both at the same time, as designed, is the Mesa Boogie Road King. Good luck!


Yeah, that's what I've been hearing. That legendary tube saturation comes from the power tubes, not the preamp tubes, and can only be achieved by turning it up it until the tubes start to break up. When I try just using the preamp distortion, it sounds harsh, and really just unusable (for me at least). So, I think I might start saving for an attenuator. Do you have a recommendation for one? I've heard a lot about the Power Brake and the Hot Plate. Or are they all more or less the same?

I am a little worried about the 1x12 cabinet, it's an EV speaker, which I'm told are nice, but the single speaker just lacks the fullness of a 2 or 4x12.

I'm not sure about the tubes, the guy said he had never changed them, and the owner's manual says that you should use 6L6's with the EL-34's. But I guess it could have come with all 6L6's. Anyways, taking it to a tech is a great idea, I could just have him do a "diagnosis," and see if anything is wrong with it. I can't really tell if anything sounds off on it, because I never heard it when it was new.

Thanks a bunch! biggrin.gif

This post has been edited by Zephyr: May 15 2008, 05:11 AM
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FrankW
post May 15 2008, 05:28 AM
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QUOTE (Zephyr @ May 15 2008, 05:11 AM) *
That's what I was worried about... might still be worth it, though, because otherwise, I doubt I'll ever get this amp turned up. biggrin.gif




Yeah, that's what I've been hearing. That legendary tube saturation comes from the power tubes, not the preamp tubes, and can only be achieved by turning it up it until the tubes start to break up. When I try just using the preamp distortion, it sounds harsh, and really just unusable (for me at least). So, I think I might start saving for an attenuator. Do you have a recommendation for one? I've heard a lot about the Power Brake and the Hot Plate. Or are they all more or less the same?

I am a little worried about the 1x12 cabinet, it's an EV speaker, which I'm told are nice, but the single speaker just lacks the fullness of a 2 or 4x12.

I'm not sure about the tubes, the guy said he had never changed them, and the owner's manual says that you should use 6L6's with the EL-34's. But I guess it could have come with all 6L6's. Anyways, taking it to a tech is a great idea, I could just have him do a "diagnosis," and see if anything is wrong with it. I can't really tell if anything sounds off on it, because I never heard it when it was new.

Thanks a bunch! biggrin.gif

I wanted to tell you that 6L6s and EL34s DO work in the Mark3...my mistake! As a matter of fact, it WAS designed that way. You can run 4 6L6s in it, though. As far as attenuators go, I used one back in the day from a company named Altair. It worked great, but I don't know if it is still available. I would think that they all work similarly, but I won't pretend to be an expert on that...I've only used the one brand. There is a new one on the market, but I can't remember the brand. I'd google if I were you, and see what you can come up with. As far as the EV speaker, it was from a Mark1 as you mentioned, and may work just fine tonewise with the Mark3...why not? Is the cabinet open-backed? It probably is. Of course, you won't get the oomph from a 1by12 compared to a 2by12 or a 4by12, and you also must consider that an open-backed cabinet gives you a different sound than a closed-back, or sealed, cabinet. Typically, an open-backed cabinet will give you more defined clean sounds, and a sealed cabinet works best for overdriven sounds. Experimentation is the key.

This post has been edited by FrankW: May 15 2008, 05:37 AM
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Zephyr
post May 15 2008, 05:55 AM
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QUOTE (FrankW @ May 14 2008, 09:28 PM) *
I wanted to tell you that 6L6s and EL34s DO work in the Mark3...my mistake! As a matter of fact, it WAS designed that way. You can run 4 6L6s in it, though. As far as attenuators go, I used one back in the day from a company named Altair. It worked great, but I don't know if it is still available. I would think that they all work similarly, but I won't pretend to be an expert on that...I've only used the one brand. There is a new one on the market, but I can't remember the brand. I'd google if I were you, and see what you can come up with. As far as the EV speaker, it was from a Mark1 as you mentioned, and may work just fine tonewise with the Mark3...why not? Is the cabinet open-backed? It probably is. Of course, you won't get the oomph from a 1by12 compared to a 2by12 or a 4by12, and you also must consider that an open-backed cabinet gives you a different sound than a closed-back, or sealed, cabinet. Typically, an open-backed cabinet will give you more defined clean sounds, and a sealed cabinet works best for overdriven sounds. Experimentation is the key.


OK, that makes more sense. I've heard that the 6L6's have a sort of smoother sound, is this true?

I looked up the Altair, apparently it was the world's first guitar attenuator! Anyways, the Tom Scholz Power Soak looks pretty good, and it's at a decent price, too. I'll just have to see if I can find someone in my area selling one.
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FrankW
post May 15 2008, 06:29 AM
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QUOTE (Zephyr @ May 15 2008, 05:55 AM) *
OK, that makes more sense. I've heard that the 6L6's have a sort of smoother sound, is this true?

I looked up the Altair, apparently it was the world's first guitar attenuator! Anyways, the Tom Scholz Power Soak looks pretty good, and it's at a decent price, too. I'll just have to see if I can find someone in my area selling one.

Defining tones is a tricky proposition. One man's 'smooth' is anothers', well, 'not so smooth', know what I mean? For example, Andy Timmons, to me, gets a very smooth lead sound. Very vocal-like. Now, a lot of that comes from his hands, he's really good. His last album, the white one, was recorded using old Marshalls. As you probably know, they are EL34 powered amps. What is interesting, is that he is using a 6L6 powered Lonestar and an EL34 driven Stiletto for his live rig. EL34s tend to 'break up' sooner than 6L6s, but today's high gain amps are designed to produce ridiculous amounts of distortion regardless of what is in the power section. So, it goes back to tone. What pickups does he use? What wood is used in his guitars? How high does he crank the gain? Does he use a sealed cabinet, an open-backed cabinet, or a combination of the two? Does he use an overdrive or a distortion pedal? As you can see, it gets complex really quickly. Eric Johnson also has a smooth lead tone coming from old Marshalls. Carlos' signature lead sound came from a 6L6 powered Mark1, as you probably know. I am saying that you can 'eq' your sound to scream or not scream depending on lots of factors. Research your heroes' rigs as a starting point to help with your sound. I did, and it helps alot.

This post has been edited by FrankW: May 15 2008, 06:36 AM
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bmh1109
post May 15 2008, 08:17 PM
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as for your questions about power attenuators, there is a cheaper, and possibly better alternative. Look into Weber power Attenuators http://www.tedweber.com/atten.htm they come in many different models so you can get what you need and they are cheaper than the THD hotplates and the marshall power brake for sure. worth a shot in my opinon. Good luck and sweet amp


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Ivan Milenkovic
post May 15 2008, 09:29 PM
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Well, I think you would benefit greatly if changing the tubes. First change preamp ones, and them when you collect the money change the power tubes at once.

Oh and, congratulations on your new amp! smile.gif


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Bogdan Radovic
post May 15 2008, 11:25 PM
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You can play it that way for some time , but changing tubes will in near future would be cool! smile.gif

Congrats on a new (vintage smile.gif ) amp!!!

Looking forward to pictures and everything smile.gif


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Zephyr
post May 16 2008, 12:30 AM
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QUOTE (bmh1109 @ May 15 2008, 12:17 PM) *
as for your questions about power attenuators, there is a cheaper, and possibly better alternative. Look into Weber power Attenuators http://www.tedweber.com/atten.htm they come in many different models so you can get what you need and they are cheaper than the THD hotplates and the marshall power brake for sure. worth a shot in my opinon. Good luck and sweet amp


Wow! These look great! They're still pretty pricey, though, but they're much cheaper than the Power Brake and Hot Plate! Not to mention that these actually look like they're better quality, and much more adjustable. Muchos gracias!

The Mark III is 15 watts in the "Class A" mode and 85 in the "Simul-Class" mode. So, I would have to keep the amp on Class A mode, or get a 100W or higher model, if I did get one of these. Hmm...

QUOTE (Ivan Milenkovic @ May 15 2008, 01:29 PM) *
Well, I think you would benefit greatly if changing the tubes. First change preamp ones, and them when you collect the money change the power tubes at once.

Oh and, congratulations on your new amp! smile.gif


Really? The preamp tubes first? I though that the power tubes were typically changed more, but either way, I'll still need to save for while.

QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ May 15 2008, 03:25 PM) *
You can play it that way for some time , but changing tubes will in near future would be cool! smile.gif

Congrats on a new (vintage smile.gif ) amp!!!

Looking forward to pictures and everything smile.gif


Yep, sounds like a plan.

Thanks to everyone!
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FrankW
post May 18 2008, 09:24 PM
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QUOTE (Ivan Milenkovic @ May 15 2008, 09:29 PM) *
Well, I think you would benefit greatly if changing the tubes. First change preamp ones, and them when you collect the money change the power tubes at once.

Oh and, congratulations on your new amp! smile.gif

I agree with Ivan on this one. If you think your amp sounds good now, wait 'til you re-tube it! The brand of power tube is also a factor. Do some research to see what the players say. Groove Tubes comes to mind, but there are others...
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Zephyr
post May 19 2008, 05:27 AM
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Finally got pictures, I'm just going to link to my album instead of sticking a bunch of huge pictures on here.

So... here ya go! Take a look through. wink.gif
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MickeM
post May 19 2008, 08:24 AM
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QUOTE (Zephyr @ May 16 2008, 01:30 AM) *
Really? The preamp tubes first? I though that the power tubes were typically changed more, but either way, I'll still need to save for while.

In the normal case one would change the power tubes more frequent but since noting was ever changed a good guess is that the preamp tubes needs to go aswell. And like Ivan suggests, preamp tubes first, unless you can wait and get it all done in one go which would be the best.


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