Having compacted down much of the full-bore Mark Five’s hyper-functionality to the diminutive Mark Five: 25 three years ago—an amp that brought Mesa/Boogie’s flagship voicings to the lunchbox-sized market—the California maker has now nudged the punching power upwards to the Mark Five: 35. This more muscular performer also adds a few useful bonus features, and although a cursory glance at the Mesa/Boogie lineup might indicate some redundancy between the big boy and its little brother, early raves indicate the 35-watter definitely has its place.
Like the smaller 25, Mark Five: 35 has two entirely independent channels. The first is ostensibly for rhythm, the second for lead, and each has three modes: Clean, Fat, and Crunch on Ch1; MkIIC+, MkIV, and Xtreme on Ch2. The flexibility is extended by a 5-band graphic EQ that can be individually selectable per-channel to be on, off, or footswitch-enabled; plus independent, footswitchable Solo output-level controls for each channel (essentially second masters). Each also has its own rear-panel Reverb level control, and the 35, 25, or 10-watt Multi-Watt power level is also independently assignable per channel, meaning you can push your lead tone into heavy output saturation in 10-watt mode while maintaining maximum clean headroom in 35-watt mode on Ch1, for example.
The output stage comprises four EL84 tubes, which are run together in fixed-bias for 35 watts, halved to two for 25 watts, or run in triode mode for 10 watts. In addition to the volume reduction, expect a slightly squishier feel with each notch down, as well as an earlier onset of distortion. As with most classic Boogie Mark designs, however, the majority of the user-adjustable gain and tone shaping occurs in the preamp, which is driven by four 12AX7s, plus another two for reverb and phase-inverter duties. Inside the chassis we find the usual Mesa/Boogie assembly and component quality, with circuitry packed onto a sturdy printed board. The accompanying speaker cabinet is Mesa’s WideBody Compact 1x12, an open-back cab measuring 22.5" x 16.5" x 11.25" and loaded with a single proprietary Celestion MC-90 speaker.
While you can certainly partner the head with other cabs, Mesa’s Doug West tells us that the formulation of the still English-made MC-90 duplicates the production methods of the great-sounding Celestions Mesa used in the ’80s, which have a perfect scoop for clean sounds, and sweet, balanced response for high-gain settings and their saturated overtones, while still handling higher power and minimizing cone cry and other undesirable artifacts in the process.
Tested with a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Stratocaster, the Mark Five: 35 provided a fast rewind to my days spent gigging with a Boogie Mark IIB many years ago. It’s a more versatile tone machine, certainly, and more refined too, but that familiar Boogie sonic signature is front and center in creamy yet sizzling high-gain settings, with lots of beating overtones amid string bends, and delightfully malleable sustain and controlled feedback. Mesa/Boogie has earned pride of place in the metal camp, and the Mark Five: 35 does such tricks as well as you could hope any lower-wattage, small-bottle amp can manage—in more vintage ’80s style from Ch2’s sweetly eviscerating MkIIC+ setting, or with contemporary tightness and thump set to Xtreme, both easily chunked up via the graphic EQ. But the Mark Series amps have always been more than just shred machines, and judicious Gain settings easily straddle classic rock, punk, garage, grunge, or whatever breed of more restrained dirt your heart desires.
And all this before savoring Ch1’s capabilities, which run from pristine cleans to juicy, thick rock crunch, and blues drive, a cornucopia that will no doubt have some players wishing they could footswitch between this channel’s voices alone. Add in the convenience of the CabClone, a good sounding tube-driven spring reverb, and the superb versatility of the independent power levels and Solo settings—clearly too much to cover in detail in the space allowed here—and this mighty 35-watter is a clear Editors’ Pick Award winner.
MODEL Mark Five: 35
PRICE Head $1,749, 1x12 Widebody cab $429 street
CHANNELS 2 (three modes each)
CONTROLS Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass, Presence and Master for each channel; switches for Clean/Fat/Crunch on Ch1 and MkIIC+/MkIV/Xtreme on Ch2; shared assignable 5-band EQ; individual Solo output controls; individual Reverb controls (back panel)
POWER 35 watts, independently switchable to 15 watts and 10 watts for each channel
TUBES Six 12AX7 preamp tubes, four EL84 output tubes
EXTRAS Four-button footswitch for Channel, EQ, Solo 1, Solo 2; CabClone DI output and switching; outputs for 4Ω and 8Ω speakers
SPEAKER 12” Celestion MC-90
WEIGHT Head 27 lbs, cabinet 33 lbs
KUDOS Mindboggling versatility from one great-sounding voice to the next, in a well-thought out and robustly constructed package
CONCERNS Not a big detractor, but some players would find it handy to footswitch between Clean and Crunch on Ch1 (for example)