Maury's Music is known for Martin & Blueridge acoustics (and for good reason) but Maury plays electric guitar too. On any given night, more than half the time he's onstage he's playing his Fender Strat or a Reverend guitar - and although his guitar of choice might sometimes change, his amp is always Mesa/Boogie. We honestly feel that Boogies are the Martin Guitars of tube amps. One of the most popular series is the fabled Mesa/Boogie Mark series of handmade amplifiers from Petaluma, California.
The Mark Series
Mesa/Boogie guitar amps can generally be divided into 4 series. The Mark series, The Lonestar series, The Express Series and the Rectifiers. While they all posess that overal Mesa tone and feel, each series has a characteristic that separates it from the others, especially when it comes to overdrive and gainier tones. While the Mark series is the oldest, it includes Randall Smith's oldest guitar amp the Mark I (1970) and his newest: the JP-2C Mark IIC+. There's a lot of ground to cover here. Let's dive in.
What IS the Mark Series sound?
That answer depends on which Mark you mean. The Mark Series has grown and evolved since Carlos Santana helped put the the first Mark I on the map. It's more appropriate to ask what's the Mark I sound? What's the Mark II sound - and so on. Mesa are very versatile, but to help generalize, I think of it this way. Mark I is Carlos Santana. Fat cleans, and a singing lead tone. Mark II & Mark III give you everything Mark I did, and generously increases the gain on tap. Think early Metallica. Mark IV was a collection of Marks I, II, III and gives you all their tones plus a 3rd channel and even more gain. Think Dream Theatre. The Mark V is the updated version of the Mark IV, and its the equivalent of owning all those amps & cramming them into one portable package. So the Mark V's channel 1 sound is Mark I. Literally - same circuit. Mark V's channel 3 sound is switchable from Mark II, IV, and "Extreme" (Mark IV with added bass & gain). See what I mean? And remember IV is I, II and III. :)
Where have I heard this before?
You're and individual, and probably searching for your own signature sound, and that's the right idea. But somewhere along the way, someone else's tone & playing has no doubt inspired you. If you're wondering if you're already a fan of the Mesa/Boogie Mark I, II, III or IV - maybe you are. Some classic artists who employ one version or another of the Mark tone are listed here, and the wide variety shouldn't come as a surprise. Mesas are very versatile amplifiers.
Pat Simmons - Doobie Brothers
Steve Lukather - Toto
Neil Schon - Journey
Trey Anastasio - Phish
John Driskell Hopkins - Zac Brown Band
James Hetfield & Kirk Hammet - Metallica
John Petrucci - Dream Theatre
Which Mark is right for me?
We all want a Mark - but which one? Well, more than one will likely work for you, but here's where it pays to be practical. Years ago everyone may have wanted the biggest & loudest, and for some players that might still apply. But there's a trend happening where many manufacturers are finding ways to give us big tone in small packages, and Mesa/Boogie is no exception.
If you're counting on playing mostly at home or small stages, the Mark Five: 25 is a great choice. If you prefer a combo, the Mark Five: 35 is a Mark Five: 25 with a little more headroom, in a combo format, with a more versatile footswitch. You have 2 solo buttons which allows you to have CH2's solo engaged early, so that when you switch from CH1 to CH2, you don't need a 3rd foot to keep you from falling over the monitors. I'd suggest going up to the Mark V combo (or head) if you need three channels and/or you want to be sure you won't run out of clean headroom onstage. It's 6L6 power section gives you the added option of running at 90 watts. The Five:25 and Five:35 have ample output on the drive channel, but on some very loud stages, you might get some unwanted clip from the clean channel. The Five:35 solves that problem for most players, but the Mark V's 90 watts of robust 6L6s goodness just isn't there in the EL-84s output section of the little brothers.
In summary, when it come to choosing the right Mesa/Boogie, the Mark series is a perfect choice for the discerning musician who wants a lifetime amp, to cover many musical styles. No other Mesa/Boogie series handles so many genres so well. A Mark V is an amp that will grow with you - because it IS a Mark I, II and IV. Maybe you're in a wedding band and you need to cover classic rock, funk, top 40? No problem. Even if you have your sights on working in a metal band on the side - you might consider changing guitars or pickups, but you won't need to go amp shopping. Fast forward 5 years and you're playing blues and reggae. You got this. Wait - what about country? C'mon- with ease! Owning a Mark V, Five:25 or Five: 35 means you own the entire lineage of Marks - and that's not a marketing gimmick and it's NOT modeling. The Mark Vs circuitry is directly taken from those amps. When you engage a Mark I, IIC+ or IV Channel on a Mark V, you are getting exactly that same analog cicuitry from that original amp. Channel switching from crystalline clean to soupy Mark IV overtones is such a luxury, you'll wonder how you ever made it this far without having one. Footswitchable EQ and FX are here too. Mesa/Boogies are some of the most versatile amps around - and the current Marks are the most versatile Boogies.
But that's just my opinion. What do YOU think of the Marks? Post your comments below.