The introduction of the Mark 5 a
few years ago seemed to be the last word from
Mesa/Boogie in terms of packing the company’s
“greatest hits” amps into a single chassis.
This highly successful three-channel amplifier
has paved the way for the smaller two-channel
Mark 5 Twenty-Five, which has two EL84 power
tubes in place of its bigger brother’s quartet of
6L6s. Weighing in at only 16.5 lbs and measuring
14" wide, this radical amp offers six style modes,
along with a load of features, including independent
controls for each channel, a footswitchable
5-band EQ that can be assigned to either
or both channels (or bypassed completely),
and a CabClone cabinet simulator that, like
the stand-alone version (reviewed in the January
2015 issue of GP), has an internal amp load,
speaker on/off and ground-lift switches, closed-and
open-back voicings, and a headphone out.
Channel 1 has a mode switch that toggles
between Clean, Fat, and Crunch settings, while
channel 2 lets you select Mark II C+, Mark IV, and
Xtreme modes. Other details include a tube-buffered
effects loop, tube-driven spring reverb with
independent channel controls, and a Multi-Watt
switch on both channels that lets you independently
select 10- or 25-watt operation.
Tested through a Mesa Mini Rectifier 1x12
slant cabinet—and with a variety of guitars that
included a Gibson Historic ’59 Les Paul, a PRS
Modern Eagle II, and a Fender American Standard
Tele—the Mark 5 Twenty-Five proved its
ability to deliver an impressive array of sounds.
Using channel 1 on the Clean setting yields a
crisp tone that’s perfect for anything you’d typically
deploy a Fender Deluxe Reverb on—such
as country, R&B, funk grooves, and jazz. The
spacious sounding spring reverb is a perfect
match here, as it’s beautifully integrated with
the amp’s core tone.
The Fat setting brings on more grind and
serves as a fine platform for dirtier clean sounds,
the thicker response adding welcome girth to
single-coil pickups. In Crunch mode, the tones
get much more distorted—excellent for wailing
blues and rock solos—and even at high gain
settings the amp maintains its superb dynamic
qualities, allowing for smooth transitions from
cleaner to more over-driven tones by adjusting
the guitar volume or picking harder. In this
mode particularly, the Mid/Boost knob—which
turns into a variable gain boost as you move
the knob from 5 to 10—can be used to fatten
up the tones while also boosting the gain to
shred levels if desired.
Switching to channel 2 unlocks the Mark
5 Twenty-Five’s classic Mesa/Boogie side by
providing an excellent replication of the famed
Mark IIC+ lead channel. This feat was proven in
the Mark 5’s ability to nail the high-gain magic
of the IIC+, so it’s not surprising that the Mark
5 Twenty-Five also dishes out that same deliciously
saturated grind. Fans of IIC+ tone may never need to venture beyond this mode—especially
with the 5-band EQ at hand—but that
would be to overlook the Mark IV setting, which
replicates the lead channel of that other Mesa
classic. It’s fatter and broader sounding than
the IIC+ mode, and plays well with single-coils
or in any application where you seek a rounder,
smoother flavor of distortion. Again, the 5-band
graphic can be a useful frequency sculpting tool
for beefier sounding guitars, although I didn’t
feel it was necessary when using the Les Paul
and Modern Eagle II, both of which sounded
very balanced though the Mark IV circuit. In
Xtreme mode, the amp churns out its highest
level of gain and aggression, with quick transient
response, plenty of in-your-face presence,
and ridiculous sustain. Lifted from the Mark 5,
it’s a go-to setting for thrash metal and other,
well, extreme styles.
At the end of all these amazing preamp
options comes the twin EL84 output stage,
which has a quick response to picking attack,
and a bit slimmer vibe compared to 6L6s. You
can push the volume to high levels without the
tones becoming mushy sounding, and while
optimal performance is via the 25-watt setting,
running either or both channels in the 10-watt
setting (class AB triode) definitely tames the
volume for rehearsals, practice, etc., while also
letting you run the output stage harder to take
advantage of power tube distortion—something
that EL84s seem born to do. For late night practicing,
the CabClone section lets you shut off
the main speaker outs and route the full amp
signal though cabinet-simulator circuitry—listening
to it all though headphones with open-and
closed-back settings to choose from. Way
cool! The CabClone also features a balanced
XLR out for sending a direct signal to the P.A.
or recording console, as well as a ground-lift
switch to mitigate hum problems when interfacing
with external gear.
The Mark 5 Twenty-Five affords the player
an almost unbelievable amount of tone options
in a package that is extremely easy to tote. How
Mesa founder Randall Smith managed to engineer
six different amplifier modes into this tiny
head is nothing short of a mind blower, and the
result is a unit that delivers more sounds per
pound than any all-tube amplifier on the market.
With its “library” of classic Boogie circuits, multitude
of hip features, and elegant interface,
the Mark 5 Twenty-Five represents a quantum
leap in guitar amp technology and earns an
Editors’ Pick Award.
Mark 5 Twenty-Five
PRICE $1,299 street
CONTROLS Channel 1: Gain, Treble, Mid/Boost, Bass, Presence, Reverb
(rear panel), Master controls.
Clean/Fat/Crunch switch, Multi-
Watt switch (10 watts/25
watts). Channel 2: Gain, Treble,
Mid/Boost, Bass, Presence,
Reverb (rear panel), Master
controls. Mark IIC+/Mark IV/Xtreme switch, Multi-Watt
switch (10 watts/25 watts).
TUBES Six 12AX7s, two EL84s
POWER 25 watts/10 watts
EXTRAS Footswitchable, channelassignable
EQ with bypass switch. Tubedriven
spring reverb. Tubebuffered
effects loop. Built-in
CabClone speaker simulator.
Padded cover and 2-button
SPEAKERS Tested with Mesa Mini Rectifier
1x12 slant cabinet ($449 street)
WEIGHT 16.5 lbs
KUDOS Incredible tonal range. Super
portable. Excellent features.
CabClone cabinet simulator.
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