Californian orphan given new home in equally sunny Singapore (Mesa/Boogie content)
Whilst strolling around minding my own business last week, I happened across a used Mesa/Boogie Nomad 55 1×12 combo which had just arrived from America (clearly moving to where the action is away from the stagnating U.S. economy). I’ve never met one of these amps before and was intrigued to try it so I asked the store to let me have a quick go. Unfortunately, since it had only just arrived it has missing some tubes and since I had to hurry back to the office, I gave it a miss, returning the following day when I had more time, which also afforded me the opportunity to do a bit of research on the Web.
The Nomad doesn’t seem to be one of Boogie’s most popular amps, at least judging by the attention it is given on the Boogie Board forum, but herein lay its intrigue. Reviews on Harmony Central were generally good too, mostly gleaming, but tempered with some more sober and constructive advice to even out the averages from the ‘wahey! I have a Boogie crowd!’ who all scored it 10/10 in every category. Sentiment from the more thoughtful (and perhaps experienced) reviewers tended to say that the Nomad is extremely versatile with many, many sounds inside its 3 channel (each with dual modes) pre-amp architecture, which in turn made it potentially hard to dial in the tones desired but rewarded those with the time and willing to experiment a lot (check!). There were some comments about a ‘fizzy’ top end on the higher gain settings that were hard to eradicate too. With these in mind, I returned to the store for a proper play test, spending about an hour on a busy Saturday impressing the shit out of all the chicks who were dragged in there by their boyfriends and having to dodge the panties that they threw at me as I shredded the f*ck out of the test guitars at a fair amount of volume while navigating the front panel of the amp.
A couple of thousand Singapore Dollars lighter, I was home with this new baby in my study ready for a cleanup. Generally the amp was in great condition. The black Tolex was immaculate – without a single tear or mark – only surface dirt. The control panel was a bit greasy and grimy so I set about removing all the control knobs and giving it a wipe. You can see how dirty it was in the second shot below.
A quick swab with a tissue and EUUWWWWW!!! It was fuckin’ green man! I broke out the Dettol antibacterial all purpose cleanser and proceeded to thoroughly disinfect and buff the front panel:
The controls were washed in soapy water, then rubbed with the Dettol. By the time I had finished, I had polished more black knobs than a masseuse working in a Harlem happy-finish joint. Next, the whole exterior was given a good wipe down with cleaner.
Now for the rear – dust city before:
An hour later, after unscrewing all the bits at the back, removing and wiping down the reverb tray, polishing the speaker chassis, running wet cloths up and down the various cables and an all over dust off with sticky tape and cloth the result was this:
Interestingly the amp came with one 6L6 power tube and one EL34 with the bias set to EL34 (the store had put them in hastily in mistake). I swapped in a pair of Groove Tubes 6L6s and set the bias accordingly. Also of interest, when I took out the reverb tray, I found this little gem; the original inspection tag with Serial Number – 001859 which will help me date it:
The finished result – she looks like brand new:
I spent about two hours playing through it the following day, and also downloaded the manual from the Mesa Website to read on the toilet. So far I have spent a lot of time on Channel 1 (the lowest gain, cleanest channel) which is rewarding me with some beautiful lush sounds, very balanced. I can get a very warm jazzy sound using my most metal of guitars with the treble rolled off on the neck pickup which was totally addictive; I think I’d buy this amp again for this sound alone! I haven’t spent so much time with Channels 2 and 3 which step up into quite high gain territory but so far, yes, I have experienced this so called ‘fizziness’ in the top end with the gain past 2 O’Clock on Channel 3 but I don’t find it unpleasant; one complaint – I would venture to say that the bottom end could be tighter for metal rhythm. It doesn’t have the ‘chunk’ when you scoop the EQ (I was also surprised to not be able to get that tightness on a Dual Rectifier that they have at a rehearsal studio I frequented). Oh well – this isn’t really a biggie since I’m well past the urge to be in a Thrash Band and am really looking for some warm cleans and some singing sustaining lead sounds now. I would also like to add some commentary regarding the amp’s reverb, or rather, lack of on channels 2 and 3. I share the sentiment that I generally don’t want much ‘verb on gainier sounds since they tend to add a bit of mush; I am content with the amount on channel 1 which is where I will use that effect the most.
…anyway there’s much more experimentation to be done; the manual has many more tonal contingencies inside and permutations of settings to explore that I am certain will sound great and I can’t wait to spend much more time over the coming months twiddling them knobs. The best thing about this amp is the versatility of the 3 channel configuration, each with dual modes and separate gain and master controls. Add to this a global output control and this is tone heaven even at low volumes; try to get these sounds at practice volumes with your Dual Rectifier.
Here she is with my Ibanez S570. Note 110-220 transformer at left and MXR Carbon Copy on top which I was using to experiment with the FX loop:
Overall, I’m delighted with this purchase. It’s in superb condition – almost like new and I’m sure it will hold its value well should I ever need to flip it. The footswitch was a bit beaten up though and I need to clean that up, but if I get super anal I could buy a new one off the Mesa website. Mesa named this amp the “Nomad” in honour of its capability to yield great sounds to those willing to journey into its “desert” (yes – it actually says something cheesy like this in the manual!) and wander in exploration of sonic reward, and I hope it lives up to this. I am quietly confident that this is the beginning of a long partnership between it and my family of guitars. Welcome, Nomad, to Gitbuddy’s harem.
(I’m still getting a Mark V though – :))