I HAVE ALWAYS ASSOCIATED MESA/BOOGIE WITH AMP TONES that are either super clean or soaked in gobs of gain. In the last couple of years, the company has released several amps that have dismantled that perception one model at a time. With the release of the TA-15, Mesa became an honorable contender in the world of British-toned amplifiers. Continuing further down this path across the pond, Mesa/ Boogie recently introduced a new member to the Transatlantic family, the TA-30. At first glance, this amp appears to just be a higher-powered version of the TA-15, but upon closer investigation, the TA-30 has several new features, which include a series effects loop, an alltube spring reverb with separate mix controls on the Green and the Red Channels, and a new pull Boost on the Red Channel’s Gain control (The Green/Brit Channel has Normal/Clean and Top Boost/Overdrive modes, and the Red/American Channel has Tweed/Clean, Hi1/ Brit Gain, and Hi2/Boogie Gain modes). For the Brit-minded purist, both reverb and loop circuitry can be hard-bypassed to retain maximum attack and vintage-approved sensitivity.
The TA-30 sports the same style metal enclosure as the TA-15, though it’s a few inches wider. Removing the four screws on each side of the enclosure allows you full access to the power tubes and reverb tank. Further disassembly is required to access the preamp tubes, however. (Mesa’s Doug West adds: “We kept hearing from players and rental companies that they needed a top-mount, Brit-style amp that provides easy serviceability in stage environments. The combo versions of the TA-30 incorporate a removable vented access panel held on by six Phillips- head screws, that—unlike some other top-mount designs—allows easy access to the tubes without the need to take the amp apart.”)
For my first test, I wanted to see how the reverb sounded with a delay pedal, so I plugged in my Gretsch 6118-LTV and a Line 6 Echo Park into the TA-30, ran the head into a 2x12 Transatlantic cabinet, and proceeded to pull up a rockabilly tone by using the Hi2 setting on the Red channel with the Gain at eight o’clock, Master at two o’clock, Treble at noon, and the Bass at 11 o’clock. I set the Reverb to nine o’clock and ran the Echo Park through the amp’s effects loop. The result was strikingly similar to Brian Setzer’s tone on “Sleepwalk.” The reverb was smooth and full sounding, and it didn’t interfere with the clarity of the notes, even when turned all the way up.
Next, I went for a Wes Montgomery-type tone using a Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion III guitar. Switching to the Red channel and Tweed mode, I set the power to 40 watts (you can select 15, 30, or 40 watts), turned the Volume and Treble controls to 11 o’clock, and boosted the Bass up to one o’clock. I also kept the Cut/Master knob pushed in for Cut mode (which attenuates high frequencies), and dialed it to two o’clock. The tones had a delicious jazzy sweetness and warmth, and amp revealed even the slightest changes in my attack and dynamics.
Among the tones that the TA-30 does best is an AC/DC-style rhythm sound. Using my PRS Custom 22 loaded with 57/08 pickups, I set the amp to the Top Boost mode and engaged the master function by pulling out the Cut/ Master knob. The setting that worked the best for crunchy rock chords was the master at 10 o’clock, volume at noon, treble at 11 o’clock, and the bass at noon. While the TA-30 introduces a new variety of spongy British sounds to the Mesa family, the amp stays true to its high-gain ancestors in Hi1 and Hi2 modes. I found that pushing the gain in the Hi1 setting delivered articulated and pumpy overdrive that was great for drop-tuned riffs. The Hi2 setting added a touch more gain and low end that worked really well for sustained soloing and burning leads.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for one amp that can deliver a wide variety of tones and is loud, responsive, and portable, the TA-30 is a must-hear for tone seekers.
CONTACT Mesa/Boogie, (707) 778- 6565; mesaboogie.com
PRICE $1,499 street; also available in rackmount ($1,499), 1x12 ($1,649), and 2x12 ($1,749) combo versions.
CHANNELS Two (five Style modes)
CONTROLS (Green Channel) Volume, Treble, Bass, Reverb, Cut/ Master. (Red Channel) Gain/ Boost, Treble, Bass, Reverb, Master.
TUBES Four EL84 power tubes, six 12AX7 preamp tubes
POWER Select between 15, 30, or 40 watts
EXTRAS Effects Loop. 4Ω and 8Ω speaker jacks. Reverb jack.
SPEAKER Tested with 2x12 Transatlantic extension cab
WEIGHT 17 lbs
KUDOS Simple design. Portable. Diverse tone palette.