Mesa’s recently introduced TC-50 presents the company’s vision of a three-channel amp with new circuits that are optimized to deliver exceptional clean to massively overdriven tones. The TC-50 packs a ton of features, including a built-in CabClone amp load/speaker simulator, MIDI programmability, a Bias switch for easy tube swaps, independently adjustable reverb on all channels, and footswitchable channel-select (also switchable from the front panel), solo boost, reverb bypass, and effects loop on/off. The rugged switcher connects via a 6-pin cable and features LED indicators and metal stomp buttons that give a positive “click” when pressed.
Our review amp was outfitted with two EL34 power tubes. A biasing switch makes it easy to switch to 6L6s for a beefier response, or to a pair of 6V6s to cut the power in half, while also enjoying the compressed, twangy sparkle that 6V6s are known for.
The Clean channel on this amp sounded very clear and dimensional with humbucker and single-coil guitars. A Drive/Normal switch sets the gain structure for crystalline tones or slightly grainier textures, and the high headroom in either mode proved great for the pedals I used, which included a Diezel V4, an EHX Synth 9, a GFI Specular Reverb V2, a Joe Gore Cult, and a TWA Dynamorph. The tube-driven spring reverb is beautiful-sounding whether used to add a whiff of dimension or slathered on to create a big wash of reflection.
Moving into distortion territory, the Lo channel goes at it with soaked-in-harmonics grind as the Gain knob is turned up. The 12AX7-fueled circuit is very responsive to changes in guitar volume, allowing for easy sweeps between stringy rhythm sounds and sustaining solo tones, and the two switchable modes give you a choice of a louder and more aggressive response in the Tight setting or a softer vibe in the Normal position. This channel’s voicing is such that I could set the EQ knobs around halfway, and simply adjust the Gain and Presence as needed to get cool tones with a Tele, a Les Paul, or an Epiphone Firebird.
Full-scale sustain is attained via the TC-50’s Hi channel, which, despite having a ridiculous amount of gain, is touch-responsive and preserving of the guitar’s sonic character. Here too, the Tight setting delivers the most aggressive tones, while the Normal position is smoother and slightly more compressed in feel. Obviously, with its searing sustain and chunking low-end delivery, this channel is optimized for hard rock and metal, but it’s very useable for other styles too. I dug it for slide, and it sounded great for amped-up blues and jazz/fusion-y stuff as well. Worth noting too, is that the amp stays very quiet even when churning out huge amounts of distortion.
Throughout it all, the CabClone proved very useful whether listening through headphones or sending a direct signal to a mixer. The built-in amp load lets you run the amp with the speakers switched off, while allowing the power tubes to be driven hard to get their coloration into the brew. The three cabinet simulations are handy for recording, and even on smaller gigs I dug the expansive sound obtained by running the amp though a closed-back Mesa 2x12 cab while feeding an “open-back” signal to a P.A.
Factor in its MIDI capabilities, and the TC-50 is an insanely flexible amp that will enable you to get your rock on whether your tone tastes lean toward Andy Summers, Angus Young, or Alexi Laiho. Between its sparkling cleans and furious overdrive, there are plenty of great sounds in this amp that can fill the bill for blues, jazz, country, and a whole lot else. Typical of all Mesa amplifiers, the TC-50 provides a tremendous amount of bang for the buckage, and is a must-play if you’re looking for a single-amp solution for everything you do.
TRIPLE CROWN TC-50
PRICE $1,799 street; rackmount version $1,799 street; 1x12 combo $1,999 street
CONTROLS (Clean channel) Gain, Master, Presence, Bass, Mid, Treble, Drive/Normal switch. (Lo channel) Gain, Master, Presence, Bass, Mid, Treble, Tight/Normal switch. (Hi channel) Gain, Master, Presence, Bass, Mid, Treble, Tight/Normal switch. Global Output and Solo controls. (Rear panel) Bias switch (EL34/6V6, 6L6). Speaker on/off and 4Ω/8Ω switches. 3-position CabClone switch (Vintage/Open/Closed Back). Ground-lift switch.
POWER 50 watts with EL34s and 6L6s; 25 watts with 6V6s
TUBES 6 x 12AX7, 1 x 12AT7, 2 x EL34 (can also use 6V6 and 6L6 tubes)
EXTRAS MIDI w/channel selector and store switch (256 presets). Footswitchable Solo level control and tube spring reverb on all channels (6-button footswitch included). Reverb Level controls for each channel. Two ¼" speaker outs, XLR DI out, ¼” headphone out, ¼" line out. MIDI In, Out/Thru jacks.
SPEAKER Tested with Mesa 2x12 Rectifier cabinet.
WEIGHT 35 lbs
KUDOS Excellent clean to extremely overdriven tones. Built-in Cab Clone amp load/cabinet simulator. MIDI controllable. Multifunction footswitch included.