Mesa/Boogie Electra Dyne Amplifier Head
$1,599.00; 1x12 combo, $1,699.00; 2x12 combo, $1,799.00
Originally published in Guitar World, 30th Anniversary 2010 issue
When it comes to tone and features, the Electra Dyne may be the black
sheep of the Mesa/Boogie family, but every rocker knows that black is
always in style.
It's fascinating to observe how every new Mesa/Boogie guitar amplifier model manages to deliver a wide variety of tones and innovative features, even as the company’s product line has diversified over time. While its top-of-the-line Mark Series amplifiers continue to grow in complexity and pack the capabilities of multiple amps into a standard-size chassis, even Mesa’s most affordable and compact models, like those in the Express Series, offer new innovations and impressive tonal versatility.
With a streamlined, simple-looking faceplate that features just six control knobs, Mesa’s new Electra Dyne model seems to be the antithesis of every Mesa amp that’s preceded it until now. The Electra Dyne even operates similarly to a single-channel amp, but it still manages to deliver all the clean, overdrive and distortion tones most guitarists need to get through a gig like a good Boogie should, thanks to several ingenious and easy-to-use features. While the Electra Dyne may wear the clothing of a classic single-channel amp, it’s still a versatile Boogie behind the veil.
In addition to its simplified control array, the Electra Dyne deviates slightly from previous Boogie paths by offering tones that are more raunchy, raw and rebellious than the pristine, almost hi-fi high-gain voices for which the company is known. If you’ve always admired the versatility of a Boogie amp but prefer classic vintage-style clean, overdrive and distortion tones, the Electra Dyne may be the amp you’ve been waiting for.
With only one volume, treble, mid, bass, presence and master knobs, a three-way Hi/Clean/Low switch, and a power-on switch that also provides full- and half-power settings, the Electra Dyne’s front panel offers the most simple and elegant control array ever found on a Mesa/Boogie amp model. However, a look at the amp’s back panel reveals several uncommon controls and features that allow users to customize and personalize the Electra Dyne’s performance characteristics with typical Boogie flexibility. In addition to mono send and return jacks, speaker outputs and a reverb level control, the rear panel has a reverb bypass switch, a defeat mode that lets you bypass the reverb only when high- or low-gain modes are selected, a slave output with level control for driving external effect processors or power amps, and a unique gain trim control that lets you adjust the balance between the amp’s Clean and Hi/Low modes.
The Electra Dyne ships with a quartet of 6L6 tubes that delivers sparkling Fender-style clean tones and dynamic Marshall-style crunch. The power tubes operate in Mesa’s patented Simul-Class configuration where one pair of tubes runs in extended Class A while the other pair runs in Class A/B. Seven 12AX7 tubes drive the preamp, effect return and reverb sections, providing true all-tube operation and delivering plenty of gain for crushing metal distortion tones.
If you prefer the more compressed and focused sound of EL34 tubes, a 6L6/EL34 bias-select switch allows you to swap tubes without making modifications or bias adjustments. Even though this switch is surrounded by a metal collar to prevent accidental switching, some users or careless techs who haven’t read the Electra Dyne’s outstanding and informative manual may be tempted to change bias settings under the mistaken impression that the amp offers instant powertube switching. Since this is really a “set-and-forget” type of switch, Mesa should have either placed it inside the chassis near the tubes and out of the sight of curious tweakers or restricted access to the switch with a removable cover.
Although all three modes share the same set of EQ, gain and volume controls, this configuration is not a throwback to the “too dark/too bright/just right” conundrum of yesteryear’s three-channel amps. The Low and Hi modes may stack up additional stages of gain, but the overall tone remains consistent as you toggle from Clean to Low to Hi. This should satisfy most players who need an outstanding clean tone, a raunchy, crunchy overdrive tone for rock rhythm and blues soloing, and a sizzling, singing distortion tone for over-the-top solos, without shifting the overall tonality and character too drastically. The Electra Dyne’s treble delivers radiant harmonics while the midrange produces rich and complex tones without the typical nasal honk of lesser amps. Overall, the amp combines the character of Fender Twin and Bassman amps and classic Marshall “Plexi” and hot-rodded nonmaster Marshalls, resulting in an amp that Stevie and Jimi certainly would have adored.
The Electra Dyne’s spring reverb is first class all the way, and the ability to bypass it with a footswitch or configure it to be bypassed only in the Low or Hi mode greatly adds to the amp’s usefulness in gigging situations. The reverb leans more toward the bouncy surf tones of a Super Reverb than the lush wash of a Twin Reverb, but it still sounds mighty fine.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When it comes to tone and features, the Electra Dyne may be the black sheep of the Mesa/Boogie family, but every rocker knows that black is always in style. Don’t let the streamlined single-channel styling fool you—this amp is as versatile and gig-worthy as any other Boogie, but it greatly simplifies the process of dialing in the tones and performance characteristics you want and love.
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