Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Mesa Boogie Lonestar review

A few days ago one of the small guitar shops near me put a couple of pics up on Facebook of some new stuff they had acquired. One of these items was a Mesa Boogie Lonestar Classic Combo. I've been curious about these but never ran across one. I've talked about how much I love Andy Timmons tone and style of playing. And I've owned one of the Mesa Boogie Stiletto's that he uses but I've always wanted to try out a Lonestar so I jumped at the chance to go down and check it out. I grabbed my current favorite guitar and headed to the shop in the middle of the afternoon and spent some time checking it out.

The Mesa Lonestar is similar to the Stiletto in many ways. They are both two channel amps with a dedicated set of knobs for each channel, a master volume and a boost volume. They both have switches on both channels to choose between 100 watts and 50 watts (the newer lonestar's also have a 10 watt setting). You can also choose between a tube rectifier or solid state rectifiers, and there is a variac switch on both amps to help knock the power down and give it a spongier feel. They also are both very demanding amps in that they don't let you hide, every mistake you make is amplified and put in your face and you hear a huge difference depending on which guitar your using. And that is where the similarities end.

In contrast to the Stiletto the Lonestar has an active EQ and sounds great at lower volume.  It was much easier for me to find usable sounds. Channel 1 reminds me of a Blackface Twin while Channel 2 reminded me, surprisingly of a JTM45 type sound. Fender cleans and vintage Marshall in the same amp? yep. The Variac switch makes more of a difference on the Lonestar than the Stiletto. On the Stiletto there was a softening of attack and a slightly looser feel but on the Lonestar the gain gets into tweed type of sponginess. The lead sound was thick and solid. It has a ton of loose low end that can be to much and can get farty sounding if your not careful but pull the bass down (or use a TS type pedal) and you get a thick lower mids that sounds awesome. The gain switch and two gain knobs on the 2nd channel take you from Tweed to MK 1 type gains.
Andy Timmons Lonestar's and Stiletto's

Using the Variac on channel two with the three way switch set to thick and a decent amount of gain rolled in I was able to quickly dial in a sound that covered everything from gorgeous cleans to early Van Halen just by switching pickups and changing from using my fingers lightly to nailing the strings with my pick. This amp is a dynamics players dream. In the Thicker setting it sounds like an early MK 1 which quickly inspired some Santana type runs.

As versatile and easy to use as this amp is it isn't for everyone. I'd really like to try it on a small 4x12 cabinet and see if it tightens up the bottom end and gives it a little more focused sound. It's very low mids heavy and while it certainly has a lot of gain on tap I would never call this a high gain amp in line with a Dual Rectifier. If you want modern metal or even 80's shred keep looking this isn't for you. But if your longing for a variety of vintage voiced amps the Lonestar is certainly worth a listen.

This review is completely unsolicited and any opinion is my own.

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