Guitar Aficionado

Watt's Happening: Mesa Engineering Lone Star Special

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It’s been decades since Mesa/Boogie grew from a small Northern California boutique-amp company — operating out of a converted doghouse, no less — to a ubiquitous presence on stages and in studios around the world.

Yet, company founder Randall Smith and his team continue to address their customers’ individual desires with a dizzying array of custom cabinetry finishing options, like leather covering, stained maple, and exotic hardwoods, including African Ribbon Mahogany, Bubinga, Tasmanian Blackwood and Purple Heart. The Lone Star Special 1x12 combo delivered to Guitar Aficionado sported a gorgeous Myrtlewood cabinet, finished flawlessly to showcase the timber’s wonderful natural grain.

The amplifier’s advanced feature set and sound are no less worthy of praise. Powered by a pair of EL84s, the unit boasts two channels, each with controls for gain, treble, mid, bass, presence, and master, while the second channel provides an additional cascading gain stage.

Mini switches allow players to select each channel’s power mode: 30, 15 or five watts. A master output regulates the overall volume of the amp, and a foot-switchable solo boost provides an adjustable level bump for leads. Individual reverb controls for each channel, as well as a global bright/warm switch for an all-tube spring reverb circuit, are housed on the amp’s back panel.

Confronted with a 1959 Stratocaster and a 1963 Gibson ES-335, the amp performed admirably and delivered the rich midrange and glassy highs that are Mesa/Boogie’s trademark. The Lone Star’s patented ability to select different power output settings for each channel is revelatory. For example, you could use the muscular 30- or 15-watt settings to generate full-bodied clean rhythm sounds, then switch channels and instantaneously engage the five-watt mode for a harmonically saturated, rough-and-ragged lead sound reminiscent of everyone’s favorite classic-rock platters. Ingenious and excellent.

Photo: Massimo Gammacurta

List Price: $1,849 (base)