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MESA Lone Star Amplifier

29th October 2004

MESA Lone Star AmplifierFrom modifying Fender Princeton combos in the late 60s, Randall Smith created what was to become the first of the ‘boutique’ amplifier companies, MESA Engineering. Today, MESA is one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of high-end guitar and bass amplification.

The classic MESA/Boogie combos defined a new level of craftsmanship and performance in the 70s and 80s, and today the MESA range defines versatility and ease of operation, as well as the classic quality, innovation and attention to detail that has become the company’s trademark.

One of MESA Engineering’s latest offerings, the Lone Star (click on picture to see full size photo in new window) continues the progressive tradition while reaching back to tap into some vintage roots, to create a classic sounding amp with state-of-the-art performance and flexibility.

The first noticeable thing about the Lone Star is its simple, yet classic design. Visually, the amp has a vintage/retro vibe about it – The blue bronco vinyl covering and pewter speaker grille cloth combine with the front mounted controls to present a very snappy package. The aforementioned controls are straight forward and easy to use, and the black control knobs and brushed aluminium control panel complete the overall look. The really clever stuff is on the inside behind the aesthetics, but more on that later. First, what does it sound like?

Channel 1 of the Lone Star starts out with enough black face twang to make any country picker happy, warming up nicely as the gain is increased, the responsiveness of the amp to pickup changes and pick attack produce a range of sounds from shimmering and clean to smooth and jazzy. Some very tasty clean blues tones came out as I pushed the gain on the clean channel and experimented with my pickups. With single coil or humbucking pickups, the Lone Star gives up some very satisfying tonal variations. The 50/100w switches on each channel also provide the ability to get a little more ‘valve burn’ warmth by dropping the wattage on the channel. In 100w mode the channel has headroom to spare, giving clip-free clarity and projection.

Channel 2 is where things start to get interesting. The channel can be set up as a slightly more overdriven clone of channel One, or the Drive control can be switched in, enabling the now famous MESA multi-stage cascading gain circuit with two additional triode stages and a separate drive control. In this mode, the Lone Star starts to emulate its Rectifier cousins with rich harmonic overtones and singing sustain when wound up. For a relatively simple control setup, this amp is remarkable in its versatility and flexibility. As with Channel 1, Channel 2 can be set at 50 or 100 watts, with tube or silicon diode rectification. The built-in variac option on the power input allows the amp to run in a brown-out mode, giving a looser feel and more clipping. I had no trouble going from crunchy rhythm to saturated scream with a quick tweak.

The back panel of the Lone Star features a Diode/Tube rectifier tracking switch, separate channel controls for the all-tube long tank reverb (which has two tone settings – bright and warm), bias setting switch, all tube series effects loop, slave out with level control and external switch ports.

All these back-end features make the Lone Star the perfect workhorse for the guitarist who changes musical hats for different gigs, as well as the purist who is after vintage tone with modern performance.

Graham Greene


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