The long-awaited return of the coveted Mark IIC+ amplifiers that Mesa/Boogie produced in the 1980s has finally been realized with the introduction of the John Petrucci-inspired JP-2C, which is both a IIC+ at heart and Mesa’s first “unlimited build” signature model. Of course, as Mesa never makes exact replicas of anything—their constantly evolving technology always figures to some degree into the models it chooses to bring back—it’s no surprise that the JP-2C has some new tricks up its sleeve. Much of this is due to Mesa and Petrucci’s intention of creating the most aggressive and purest-sounding representation of the Mark IIC+, and the need for it to fully address his requirements for an amp that functions equally well onstage and in the studio.
An important aspect of the JP-2C is that it doesn’t have the multiple voicing modes found on other Mesa amps. Instead, the aim was to give each of the three channels the ultimate voicing and flexibility possible from the original Mark IIC+ circuits. The Clean channel gets there via a high-headroom preamp with a Mid control that adds boost when turned past halfway. It’s actually the same Mid/Boost circuit found on some other Mesa amps, however, as the gain on this channel is pretty low to begin with, you only get a mild clean boost and more midrange color by cranking up the Mid knob. Wrangling any appreciable distortion from the Clean channel requires turning it up until the power section clips, which, of course, means loud. Strats, Teles, a PRS Mira, and a Teye Pistolero all sounded outstanding though this pristine and dimensional channel, and the exquisite spring reverb brings the nicest sense of bloom to a spectrum of tones that are right in the wheelhouse for jazz, funk, and anything else that requires a cleaner approach.
Channel 2 is the Lead channel from the Mark IIC+, although the original Volume 1 and Lead Master controls have been dispensed with to make it easier to dial in, and the gain is preset for optimal tone for what this channel is primarily intended for—crunch rhythm— although there was plenty of overdrive available for solos using the aforementioned guitars. The Gain knob has a pull function that boosts gain by a small amount, and the Presence control (also push-pull) has a lower frequency range to improve focus on highly overdriven tones. (Pulling the knob out reverts to the higher frequency curve that Mesa has traditionally used.) The Bass, Mid (i.e., Mid/Boost), and Treble controls offer interactive adjustment over their respective bands, and if you require additional tone sculpting, activating EQ1 or EQ2 on any or all of the channels gives two identical 5-band equalizers to play with. There’s also a “Shred” setting, which can be switched to operate on either Channel 2 or 2 + 3. It’s not a footswitchable function, but it does create a bump in gain along with added top-end shimmer that gives a nice sheen to highly overdriven tones.
Channel 2 works so well for everything from gritty alt-country to scorching rock/metal tones that Mesa could have stopped the show right there. But then there’s Channel 3, which duplicates all of the above features, yet is voiced to sound a little fatter and more compressed while delivering violent levels of gain. The class A/B 100-watt output stage furthers the aggressive attack that’s a hallmark of Petrucci’s sound, and it’s a good carryover for this amp as his favorite vintage Mark IIC+ head is reportedly an A/B 100 watter. The JP-2C’s third channel is simply a blast to play through. Its touch responsiveness, over-the-top sustain, and ungodly clarity and definition make it a dream for anyone who wants mammoth amounts of super-well-focused distortion. One of the best qualities of this amp—regardless of what channel you’re on—is that the core tones are so well configured that very little EQ fussing is needed to nail down whatever is needed. In fact, despite its many EQ options, the JP-2C is probably the easiest Mesa/Boogie to dial in because it just naturally does what you want it to do.
Continuing a bit on that subject, the EQ section is where you find the on/off switches for four other functions: Effects Loop, Reverb, Channel Select, and Shred Mode. The placement of the mini toggles here is mainly for convenience, as the user isn’t forced to scurry around the already crowded front and rear panels for the switches to make these selections. And while it’s slightly inconvenient to have the three Reverb Level controls on the back, where else could they go? One thing worth noting is there’s a mini Speaker Mute switch in the CabClone section on the back. If you’re not getting any sound from the amp be sure to check it. Of course, that function allows you to listen though headphones for practice, and the XLR out and cabinet options bring a lot of flexibility to the package for recording. (For a detailed review of the stand-alone CabClone visit guitarplayer.com.)
So what’s not to like about the JP-2C? Virtually nothing, unless a forest of controls pushes your panic button. The thing is, complex as it may look, everything on this amp is there for good reason, and the logic of it all quickly becomes apparent as you start exploring what each channel has to offer. In short, the JP-2C replicates many of the qualities of the Mark IIC+ while delivering greater clean headroom and more distortion. It’s a surprisingly flexible amp considering it was made to accommodate John Petrucci’s style, and even if its furious gain potential isn’t something everyone needs, the JP-2C is by no means a one-trick pony. This is an amp that’s absolutely worth auditioning and well deserving of an Editors’ Pick Award.
PRICE $2,499 street
CONTROLS (Channel 1) Gain, Master, Presence, Treble, Mid, Bass, EQ1/EQ2/Bypass select switch. (Channel 2) Gain (pull boost), Master, Presence (pull shift), Treble, Mid, Bass, EQ1/EQ2/Bypass switch. (Channel 3) Gain (pull boost), Master, Presence (pull shift), Treble, Mid, Bass, EQ1/EQ2/Bypass switch. (Rear panel) Channel 1-3 Reverb controls, Slave and HD 1/4" outs, 2 x 4Ω speaker outs, 8Ω and 16Ω speaker outs, Send and Return jacks. CabClone XLR out with speaker on/off switch, 3-position Cabinet switch, Footswitch jack, MIDI In and Through/ Out jacks, MIDI Channel selector and Store switch
POWER 100 watts/60 watts, Class A/B fixed bias
TUBES 5 x 12AX7, 4 x 6L6
EXTRAS 60/100-watt switch. Six-button JP-2C footswitch for selecting channels, reverb, and EQ. Shred mode for Channels 2 and 3. CabClone D.I. out. MIDI programmable.
SPEAKER Tested with Mesa Recto 4x12 and 1x12 slant cabinets.
WEIGHT 40 lbs
KUDOS Inspiring range of clean to highly overdriven tones. Lots of EQ options but still easy to dial in. CabClone speaker-simulated D.I.