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Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier RoadKing II

By Fletch Whipp RockStarzUSA CEO

Back in March ’89 I discovered Metallica for the first time via their ‘Master of Puppets’ CD. Within a month I had an Olympic level desire to play guitar, because what they were doing with their instruments, I too needed to do just that. I started buying guitar magazines shortly thereafter, and naturally any ads featuring James & Kirk from Metallica were stared at for hours on end. I think that’s my earliest recollection of Mesa Boogie Amplifiers.

Like most any other kid playing music in the 80′s/90′s in Australia, finding a music store that had a Mesa amp was like winning the lottery. It was a rare sight, in fact, in those days, one company Downunder imported & sold them, located 1,500 miles away from me, so nada chance of seeing them-except for a used one. The typical music store didn’t have access to them, nor could afford their staggering USD price tag with the poor currency that existed for almost two decades. Simply put, did you want to buy a used car, or a guitar amp??… they were THAT expensive.

The elegant, yet domineering logo that commands respect around the world.

So, naturally when I emigrated to the USA, playing a Mesa was a pretty high priority musically. On our first trip to San Francisco, Mouse & I visited the Mesa Boogie factory in Petaluma & did the factory tour. It was a serious emotional high for me…. a trip to ‘High Gain Mecca’. I’m proud to say I’ve owned most of their range of pieces over the last 10 years, I’ve hung around the Hollywood Pro Shop like a lost puppy, asking an inordinate amount of questions from Jimbo & crew…. played ‘their’ stalwart Schecter demo guitar more times than I’ve had hot dinners whilst in L.A (regular visitors will smile at that last comment). I’ll always be a fan boy, despite 3 decades into working in the Industry.

I’ve always played a very wide ranges of styles & genre’s, Rock, Metal, Fusion, Jazz, Gospel, Country etc, so even from the earliest days, I knew a 2 channel (clean/dirty) amp while already a step up from the early amp offerings from the 50′s-80′s was way too limiting, yet there was no other solution present. Marshall were an early adopter of the 3 channel amp design that rapidly connected with an audience, & 3 channel amps became the defacto standard for versatile amplification…. until 2000.

Visiting the home of tone in Petaluma.

At that time, the just North of San Francisco amp manufacturer caused jaws to drop around the world with the introduction of their Dual Rectifier Road King, a 4 channel tone shaping monster that was such a quantum leap forwards in amplification that much like when Rudolph Nureyev, the famed Russian ballet Dancer appeared on the scene, competitors threw up their hands in a ‘how the heck do we compete with that??’ scenario. It was a double whammy, Mesa Boogie had firmly established they were not only the Rolls-Royce of guitar amplification, but also true market innovators. Being an astute student of all things Boogie, it should be noted that Randall Smith, Mesa’s CEO & founder is the Steve Jobs of the amp world. The man is a visionary, he seems to have that midas touch & like his iconic computer counterpart, seems to have had a 6th sense in recognizing opportunity, consistently, along the way.

A masterpiece of amplifier design. The Mesa Boogie RoadKing Series II

The Road King was a further development of the existing iconic Rectifier line of amplifiers, introduced in 1991-that were a cult hit amongst musicians worldwide, that has since evolved in becoming one of the most important, culturally impacting amps to be released in the 20th century. Period.

With the introduction of the Road King, Mesa had produced the most feature – & option – laden iteration of the original Solo Rectifier design. It features four channels, each with two different speaker outputs, two effects loops, containing 3 entirely different ‘voicings’ tailored to that particular channel via a selectable mini toggle switch, & Progressive Linkage, a powerful concept that allows the user to assign different power amplifiers to each channel, & footswitch between them. Five different power tube configurations (two 6L6, two EL34, two 6L6 + two EL34, four 6L6 & finally four 6L6 + two EL34) can be selected on each of the 4 channels, indicated by different LED lights on the front of the amplifier, with ratings from 30w to 120w. Each channel features an analog tube driven, adjustable reverb control too.

The Road King faceplate really highlights it’s 4-amps-in-one faceplate

The amp features Recto-Tracking, which automatically selects the appropriate rectification (single or dual 5U4s or silicon diode) depending on the power tube configuration. Even after the introduction of the Mark V, which draws many features from the Road King, the Road King Series II still remains Mesa’s most versatile (and at first glance, complex) amplifier.

Rectifier-Tracking matches the power harness you have selected to the perfect amount of juicy rectifier sag for the number of output tubes in use. Here’s how it works: When you select one pair of output tubes, either 6L6s or EL-34s, Recto Tracking brings up one 5U4 rectifier tube for enhanced low power bounce. When selecting two pairs of output tubes, both5U4 rectifier tubes are engaged to support the increased power and retain the dynamic feel. And finally, selecting all six power tubes triggers the tighter sounding, more efficient silicon diode rectifiers to produce an authoritative 120 watts of headroom. And just like the famed Dual and Triple Rectifiers, you can over-ride Recto-Tracking anytime by merely selecting the Silicon Diodes.

Mesa’s marketing offers: Imagine a bubbly Clean sound, using the incredible dynamics of a 50 watt pair of tube-rectified 6L6s. Now footswitch to the threshold-clean Brit voice on Channel 2, driving a pair of EL-34′s for a chiming power clip. Or, if you need alternate clean sounds, set Channel 1 to Tweed and Channel 2 to Fat, choosing power amps for each that best suit your style.

A breathtaking array of tone shaping options is found on the back.

Applying Rectifier Logic further, Channels 3 & 4 each include Raw, Vintage and Modern modes, just like the fabled Dual and Triple Rectos. But with the Road King you can combine each mode with any of five different power sections. For example, try strapping Raw to a pairing of EL’s and 6L’s for a snarling harmonic spread with British attitude. Or run Vintage, through four 6L6s, to cop the Dual Rec Solo Head exactly. And if you can stand more, hit Modern through all six power tubes, diode rectified, for a new frontier in crushing gain.

With so many features contained within the Road King, Mesa had to design their most elaborate foot switching pedal to date, the result being the ‘King Kontroller’. When I first received my Road King, I renamed the pedal to ‘King Kong’ because like the larger than life movie monster, there wasn’t another amp footswitch in the amplifier animal kingdom that contained the switching ability, let alone measure a staggering 2 ft wide, more than triple the width of a typical amps footswitch!

The Mesa ‘King Kontroller’

The Road King’s tone equally matches it’s beautiful yet imposing presence. If you can imagine a particular tone, the Road King with it’s breathtaking array of tone shaping capabilities can deliver it. I have seen Dream Theater use the Road King live, I’ve seen a worship guitarist employing the Road King for Church services… overheard beautiful traditional jazz standards played through it & more. If it has a niche, it would be the Hard Rock-Metal market due to it’s impressive lineage-the Dual Rectifier series with it’s signature tone, however, with the latest iteration of the Road King, Series II, Mesa have refined the Road King to offer a gorgeous clean sound from their coveted ‘Lonestar’ amp range. an all tube reverb & dual series effects loop routing.

Marcus taking us on the Mesa Engineering factory tour

While I am around Amps everyday at our multiple locations with RockStarzUSA, playing the Road King II really is like unwrapping a Christmas present. No matter when the muse strikes, or in what form it arrives, the Road King II allows my musical vision to be shaped & realized.

Our penultimate goal for the RockStarzUSA ProShop will be the day when our presence is established to the degree where we will be partnered with Mesa as a dealer. While some stores may consider Mesa as just another brand in their range, for RockStarzUSA, the depth of passion runs deeper, and can be measured in decades.

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