NAD: Mesa Boogie Mark VII head. WOW

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bandit2013

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To start off, all black was not my desire but the one with the cream/Black jute faceplate was going to take considerable time to get my hands on. I can always change the face plate at some other time. That does not define how the amp sounds or performs anyway. I still have the original faceplate for the JP2C and thought of going back to black with that one too. I do not mind that the cabs have a tan grill. For this NAD thread, I will relate the Mark VII to the JP2C at times and not just because they share a common head shell. I will reference the Mark V90 if it is related or similar.

Where to start with the amp? How about glossing over what usually gets no traction. Clean, or in this case CH1.
Clean channel is the best I ever heard yet. Clean and Fat are superb. Enough said. GEQ on or off, it just sounds that good. Plenty of chime without sounding thin or too warm. Push the gain to get it dirty and that sounds great too. Best of all it does not get muddy but may need to dig into the clean modes to find any weaknesses or quirks. I got into the habit of just running the lead or high gain channels on amps and dial back on the guitar volume to clean things up as I often found the clean channels to be too warm, dark or lacking any desired character I cared for. Nope, Fat is great as is the clean modes. Having a duplicate FAT on CH2 does not bother me one bit.

The crunch mode is also very impressive. It is voiced well and does not seem to push midrange content in attempt to emulate a British amp of sorts. Based on the manual, the gain setting will affect the voice of the crunch mode's midrange. Perhaps I need to explore this in more detail as I just got the amp yesterday. In some respects, it is similar to the Mark V90 crunch but is also different. I will go into more detail on comparing the Mark V90 to the Mark VII but not at this time, just pointing out there is some similar aspects to this basic mode or voice.

Where the magic is: CH3. The IIC mode is true to its label. This mode nails the JP2C CH2 loaded with the STR415 to a T. I can see why others have sold off there JP2C after they got the Mark VII. If they were still using the STR440 or STR443, yeah, I can see that being the deciding factor. The STR415 Sylvania tubes that are difficult to get your hands on made the JP2C something completely different; Awesome.

Mark IV mode, not sure how to relate this to the Mark IV. I no longer have that amp for a direct comparison. As you guessed it, it will surpass the JP2C in all respects in terms of drive characteristics. I do not believe I can emulate this with the JP2C on CH3. Mark V90 mark IV mode can't touch it. the MK7 at its best for the hard and heavy. It can also be used in many other ways. It is one of the many WOW factors of this new Mark amp.

So what is new? I am sure you read about it. Mark IIB and Mark VII modes. I will start with the IIB as a follow up to the CH3 offerings. The IIB mode is different and nothing like the Mark I mode of the MkV90. This one mode is worthy of exploration. It may not be as saturated as the IIC or IV modes but still deserving of use. It can grind just like the rest. I have only explored the Mark VII with standard tuning 6 strings and drop-D on occasion. I have yet to bring out the 7 stringers. That will happen soon enough. The IIB does not sit back like the Mark I (V90). I did not feel the need to redial my settings on the channel. GEQ on or off, it just sounded great. Mark I (V90) is more of an acquired taste. You literally need to cut bass and midrange and make some adjustments to pull the bottom end out of the swamp. That is with the mark I voice in normal, not thick.

Before I jump into the other mode Mark VII, I want to point out a few observations: Crunch voices CH1, CH2 and Mark IIB are out of phase with the rest. I can assume there is a gain stage drop to achieve those voices. Similar to the Badlander Crunch and Crush. Crunch is also out of phase. The same would apply to the RA and TC lo gain channel. I wanted to point this out in the event you are playing with another guitar player with a different amp. There is a slim chance you may be out of phase with the other amp. Keeping that in mind, if it happens, bring in some more distance between the Mark VII and the other amp in contention as this will result in thinning out the blended tone of the two amps due to some sound wave cancellation.

CH2 Mark VII is nice but much more than that. It has an interesting voice and gain quality. Mesa says it is a cross-over between a Mark and a Recto. In some ways it is a good description but not what it sounds like to me. I have to pull out another reference as to what I feel is a cross breed of amps, The Badlander. To me it seems to bridge that gap between a Recto and a Mark. However, it is all based on the Rectifier preamp. Since the Mark VII may not have a cold clipper circuit, it will not get that close. In short, it is quite aggressive in some respects. I would say it is the Badlander like mode set on crush. This is one mode I do like just as much as the IIC and IV modes on CH3.

There is nothing I felt I could do without. Every channel and modes were amazing. This amp is a masterpiece, a work of audible art that has impressed me beyond my comprehension.

A note about the FX loop that some of you may want to know: It is about the same as the JP2C loop. Fully tube buffered from send to return. I ran this in stereo mode with the JP2C through a strymon Bigsky reverb. The effect was well balanced between the two amps. Just as a test, I dug out the Line6 DL4. I could not use that one with the Mark V90 as it would overdrive the input buffer and sound distorted and compressed. Clean modes and high gain, repeats and dry signal did not get any tone suck. Same with the TC flashback3. No issues with that one either. Those are the only two in my collection that the Mark V90 did not behave well with. I wonder what I did with the the Boss GT-100. I left it somewhere but have no desire to retrieve it.
 
Great, more G.A.S.! LOL.

Nice write up on your first impressions.

It’s good to hear that’s it’s not just another MKV90 style amp, that amp was a big disappointment for me.

Curios to see how you feel after a couple of months.

Dom
 
Now for a deeper dive with some general assumptions on this fine instrument. Mesa did come out with the Mark VI. In my opinion it was in disguise as the JP2C. Sure, that was intended to be a recreation of the IIC+, but with the added features and channel separation why not call it the Mark VI. Perhaps that is just speculation, and the Mark VI was something completely different. So what is the Mark VII really? It does resemble the JP2C in more respects than one. From the back side, including the preamp tube layout to the metal tube task plate they are almost identical in a mechanical perspective.

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A closer view:
Mark VII rear

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The JP2C rear:

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I am not sure if the PTs are the same parts. They do share the same physical dimensions. Location of the chokes, OT and reverb transformer are also in the same location. The small cooling fan also shares the same physical location. Aside from the front and rear panel, I think the basic preamp of the JP2C was utilized to create the Mark VII. Sure, I would not doubt the PCB design is different, it would have to be. What I am trying to point out is this, Mesa took a few steps back to their roots of one Icon and rebuilt a masterpiece of ingenuity and years of experience to deliver a fine amplifier that is deserving of its heritage and moving forward with some modern tech that is common to the JP2C and added some improvements. Simul-Class 90W vs 100W class A/B. Comparing the IIC mode of the Mark VII to the JP2C CH2 (gain and presence pushed in), I could not tell the difference all that much. The MKVII does have a bit more presence in its voice but everything else sounded the same. Note: JP2C has the Mesa STR415 tubes. The blue inked logo simply fell off the glass by touching it. This is what they looked like before handling them.

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The stock tubes used in the Mark VII, Mesa STR445 (JJ 6L6GC tube) do sound really good in this amp. Nice and tight low end. Almost has a dry characteristic with well controlled midrange and articulated high end. These power tubes do bring out the best in the clean modes. They do not disappoint with the rest of the amp either. Sorry, off track here. Back to some details that may reveal something or not. Some of this is assumed as I do not know for a fact where the tone stack sits relative to the crunch, IIB or MKVII modes. I made the assumption that it is fixed in front of the V1B triode. What appears to be interesting is how each mode rearranges the preamp cascade. It become more evident if you map out the gain stage chain or mark the stage number to the associated tube triode. I will start with the tube task charts copied from the manual. Followed by a simple path indicating the signal path. I do not have the schematics of either but have seen the IIC to note what the lead drive triodes are. The metal tube ID plate looks identical too. Same layout.

mkvii task.JPGjp2c task.JPG

When you decipher the list and arrange the gain stages as they occur in sequence, you will note a specific pattern emerge. Starting with the JP2C assuming this is identical to a IIC+. Do not worry about the actual tube numbers if they are different. I will point out the lead drive pair that has been the heart and soul of all Mark amps. Some may have different tube numbers like the Mark V90 (with that amp it is V5A->V4B, but note that there are extra preamp tubes in the V90. So the lead drive circuit here with the JP and MkVII would be the V3B->V4A pair. I highlighted those two in bold below.

JP2C
CH1: V1A->(TS)->V1B->V2B->(FX)->V2A->(GEQ)->PI
CH2, CH2: V1A->(TS)->V1B->V3B->V4A-> V2B->(FX)->V2A->(GEQ)->PI

Mark VII (to keep it simple, I will just list the voices)
Clean/Fat modes: V1A->(TS)->V1B->V2B->(FX)->V2A->(GEQ)->PI (same as JP2C)
IIC+, IV modes: V1A->(TS)->V1B->V3B->V4A-> V2B->(FX)->V2A->(GEQ)->PI (Same as JP2C)
IIB mode: V1A->(TS)->V1B->V4A->V2B->(FX)->V2A->(GEQ)->PI
Crunch: V1A->V3B ->(TS)->V1B->V2B->(FX)->V2A->(GEQ)->PI
VII mode: V1A->V3B->V4A->(TS)->V1B->V2B->(FX)->V2A->(GEQ)->PI

This is where it becomes very interesting. Instead of adding in additional tubes to configure the various voices, modes and emulation of the different amps like it was done with the Mark V, the challenge was to design a world class preamp with size constraints of the small chassis in mind. This is where the ingenuity comes in. IIB mode is not much different in the general sense as the IIC or IV chain, all that is done is to bypass V3B. Then there is crunch and VII modes. They are similar as they both redirect the lead drive circuit in between V1A and V1B. Crunch uses a bypass on the V4A and VII is the full lead drive circuit. Relays are what make this happen. Good talents on the PCB layout too. This is just a simple representation. It does not account for what happens to each triode gain stage in terms of its individual topography. It is possible to set up the circuit for the Mark VII and reconnect one of the triodes as a cold clipper. Not sure that was done. However, the combination of the hard work from the Mesa Engineering team has brought back the mojo I felt was missing in the Mark V90. Why do they call this the amp for dads? I guess it depends on how old the father is, if they are my age when the Mark IIC+ and Mark III were just fresh off the assembly line, I get it.

This Mark VII is more than just for us old farts. It has the true authority to go beyond what I feel is iconic. Not sure if my opinion will change after I get the 7 strings out. **** this amp sounds amazing. Thank you Mesa for something this awesome. Not even thinking about what may be next.

Wonder how long the Mark V90 will remain in production. I do not see that one dropping off anytime soon. It is a good amp in its own way shape and form but is it due for retirement? I will be keeping my Mark V for now. JP2C is also a keeper. the Mark VII, not really sure if I want to keep it. Just throwing out a curve ball to confuse you. Hell yeah, the MKVII is a keeper.
 
Just a note for those who buy into this product and want to figure out how to replace the preamp tubes. Under close inspection of the assembly, I was using a flashlight to peek into the chassis. Yep, it has the access window just behind the faceplate as does the general mill JP2C (excludes the special edition as I do not believe that faceplate is removable). I did not try to remove the faceplate from the MKVII yet. No need to do that now. However, I did with the JP2C that shares the same head shell. It was not that obvious that cutout was there. That was until after I did the full chassis removal trick before I noticed it. The JP2C manual did not reveal this. I did not read every single word in the MKVII but did not see any reference or hint how to reach the preamp tubes.

Picture of the JP2C with the faceplate removed.

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I spent some time with the Mark VII and V today. I wanted to hear how they differ. My V90 combo has an EVM12L classic as does the widebody extension cab. Wanted to kill two birds with one stone as I have not tried the MK7 with the EV speaker yet. Nice. That was no surprise as the JP2C sounds just as good with the EV.

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I had to use the Mark V footswitch as it was easier to change channels. Does not have a toggle swtich on the front to select what channel to be used. Also did some weird things without it plugged in. The V is just an old dog ready to retire.

Comparing the Mark V90 to the Mark VII is almost like comparing an apple to an orange. They are different. Considering the overall voice of the Mark V90 is on the boxy side of the tone farm. The MK7 is a bit more neutral. Not boxy, not boomy, No ice pick or requiring a lobotomy after playing it. Enough of the negative remarks, I sort of felt the same way about the Mark IVb combo. Perhaps it just comes with age? All of the preamp and power tubes are new but that never changed its boxy behavior. The EV speaker makes the boxy sound more apparent. However, it is hard to beat when you really push it. The Celestion Redback also holds up well but has more treble roll off than I want.

Anyways here is the rundown on what sounds very similar between the two and what does not.

  • Clean and Fat on both Marks are very similar on characteristics. The Mark V was a bit thinner toned on clean but about the same on fat. Nice that was interesting. Since I wanted to dig out the active guitars in my collection, it did require some moving of things. The Jam room is a total mess at the moment. One guitar in particular was a Kiesel DC600 with a Graph-tech Ghost equipped Floyd Rose bridge. In other words, it has Piezo saddles and a processor that converts the pulses to an acoustic guitar sound. Also I can run the passive pickups with the piezo or the passives alone. Both Marks delivered the goods in spades. So the CH1 of both amps are very much in line, just a different overall tone as they are not identically voiced.
  • Tweed mode on the Mark V was one of the ice pick generators I could not tolerate. However, I cured that with change in preamp tubes. It is actually not a bad sound. Not applicable to the Mark VII so if that is one of your favorite modes of the Mark V90, it is not one of the 7 flavors offered by the Mark VII. Yeah, the Mark VII only has 7 modes where as the Mark V90 has a total of 9. Rest assured, if you really want to get the clean or fat to grind, just crank up the gain on the Mark VII.
  • Crunch: Now that was a surprise. They are very similar in many respects. The Mark VII adds more body to the character and is not midrange saturated. A few tweaks here and there and you can get them to sound very similar.
  • Edge: this is one feature I am glad never went further than the Mark V. It is a thinned out rendering of the crunch and Mark I. It was one of the major ice pick modes but that too was sort of cured with change in preamp tubes like the tweed mode on CH1. Not applicable to the Mark VII. I think they made a wise choice to double the crunch and fat modes on two channels than to repeat this mistake. However, when I had the Mesa preamp tubes and ice pick it did work ok with the 7 string guitar.
  • Mark I vs Mark IIB: I know they are on different channels. but there are some similarities to the two. I never owned a Mark I or Mark IIB so do not know how they compare to the real deal. Not that it matters. Mark IIB is more open and not bottom end compressed like the Mark I mode is. They do have similar gain characteristics so I grouped them together as being similar. The Mark VII does not have a thick function like the Mark V90 as that is more of a Mark I associated thing. The Mark IIB is a better sound for me however the Mark I is not all that bad and does have its place. I prefer the Mark IIB as it is an alternative crunch or clean depending on the gain setting.
  • IIC: It was interesting they are similar to some extent. The Mark V90 seems to have less gain than the Mark VII or the JP2C. The Mark V90 did a decent job in getting close to that sound but seems to sit under a blanket so it will never live up to its label in full context. It does get better the harder you drive the amp volume so it is not all that bad as I may make it seem.
  • IV: There is some similar tones with this mode as well. The Mark V90 tends to push the low end to its flub characteristic. Perhaps my power section is not up to par as I remember it sounding much better. I actually thought back when I got this amp it was a slight improvement over the Mark IVb I had at the time. Hands down the Mark VII delivers the full mojo of this iconic sound. Actually, I think it surpasses the Mark IV in most respects. It is a killer sound for the heavy but does have many other uses too.
  • Mark V Extreme and Mark VII hybrid: Take one look at the labels on the amp and thing this amp is missing the Extreme mode. It is present on the Mark V90 so why not the Mark VII. What makes the Extreme mode worth while, it reconfigures the negative feedback circuit from the 8 ohm tap to the 4 ohm tap, it also adds in more capacitance so it is almost as effective as taking it out but it is still there. If it was disconnected, the presence control would not work as that is part of the negative feedback circuit from the low side of the OT to the phase inverter. So why did I group the Mark VII with the Extreme? Why did I call it a Hybrid? It is a hybrid considering how it repositions the lead drive circuit which is almost set up like a rectifier circuit. This repositioning of the high gain overdrive lead circuit in front of the tone stack (assumed) sounds **** close to the Extreme mode of the Mark V90. It is a totally different circuit in all respects but sound very close in character.
In short, moving from the Mark V90 to the Mark VII you gain some things and you loose some things.

What you get:
  • You gain much better sound quality overall.
  • You gain a usable FX loop that does not suck and seems quite compatible with instrument level effects like the Line6 DL4 as an example. I have an old one so not sure it if is line level compatible, but it worked ok with the Triple Crown. I think it is more of having a proper impedance for the Send/Return buffers. Not sure if this will hold true with all instrument level FX units. If you can use it with the Mark III, IIC+, JP2C or even the Mark IV it should work with the Mark VII.
  • You gain more accuracy in the IIC and Mark IV modes.
What you loose:
  • An FX loop that sucks.
  • Edge and Tweed modes. Not that I would miss it. You can still get the dirt on the clean but not sure if that is your thing.
  • Variac power mode. Variac power mode did cut back on much of the top end brightness as it offered a more interesting dynamic range and feel of the amp.
  • Tube tracking in 45W modes. I never used it much as it never made much of a difference when I did. It did seem that this was sort of out of place on a Mark amp and seemed to be a feature more better served on a Rectifier amp. Perhaps some of you love this more than others.
  • Pentode /Triode feature. This was also a carryover from the Mark IV. I always felt the Mark V sounded better in Pentode vs Triode as it thickened up the tone of the power section.
  • 10W class A: Now this was something I did make use of on occasion. Not often as the wording may suggest.
Just though I would share my view or opinion. I only wish my Mark V90 lived up to its reputation. I just never bonded with it like I have with other Mesa amps. The Mark VII was almost an instant hit right out of the box. It only seems to get better every time I power this thing up. It has not stolen my liking for the Badlander or Royal Atlantic as those two amps are staples in my arsenal. It does shoe in as an enhancement to my overall rig and may end up taking on a role of its own or with the JP2C. Now I am finally happy with a Mesa Mark amp I can live with. Not that the JP2C was out of the picture.
 
This is the exact, insightful comparison I was looking for. Glad to hear the ice pick is gone with the VII.

I use the overall Master Volume knob to help tame the volume of my V90 after I balance each channel's volume. I either do this, or use an attenuator when I am in hard-bypass mode. Do you miss having that overall Master volume?

Clean channel is pretty important for my style. I was also hoping if you can comment on the reverb on cleans? Are those similar? How does the V90 fat mode with bold switch engaged compare to the VII fat?
 
This is the exact, insightful comparison I was looking for. Glad to hear the ice pick is gone with the VII.

I use the overall Master Volume knob to help tame the volume of my V90 after I balance each channel's volume. I either do this, or use an attenuator when I am in hard-bypass mode. Do you miss having that overall Master volume?

Clean channel is pretty important for my style. I was also hoping if you can comment on the reverb on cleans? Are those similar? How does the V90 fat mode with bold switch engaged compare to the VII fat?
As for the global master volume with solo feature, I do not miss it. Just a point I need to make clear, I have not used the Mark V90 in several years. I never bonded with it. It did come out when I started exploring some of the other tube offerings that Mesa has. The STR448 was the one I wanted to try.

TBH, I like the Mark V90 better when the FX loop is in hard bypass. It sounded fuller that way. But I am an FX junkie of sorts, so I have to settle on the method available. A bit of a tangent here: That being said, it was difficult to find FX units that would work properly with the Mark V90 such that it did not overdrive the FX buffer. That is what it sounds like but there is another explanation to the issue with the Mark V loop. It is more related to the impedance mismatch of the Send/Return circuits. Not sure what company posted a resolve for the use of their products regards to the Mark V FX loop. Was it the G-Major or something else? I tried to find that resource again but it is now gone. I think the company folded.

If you are interested in the test results that I did, you can go to this link. It probably will not give you the information you seek. (Generally speaking, as you did not specifically ask for this information).

https://boogieforum.com/threads/mark-v-90w-fx-send-levels-measured-others.74195/
So back to the Global Master volume or what Mark V calls Output. It is not required. JP2C does not have this function either. Actually my favorite Mesa amps such as the Badlander and Royal Atlantic do not have the global master volume with Solo boost. I find that much easier to get a full tone and balance between channels. You can emulate that with the Mark V in hard bypass if you do not mind dropping out the FX loop. The only kicker is the Extreme voice as this mode alters the negative feedback circuit (Aka presence). It changes its feed from the 8 ohm to the 4 ohm and removes a short across a cap that is provided by a relay. This effectively will give you a volume jump so that may be difficult to balance with CH1 and CH2. If you ever played through a Rectifier amp, the modern mode on the gain channels is effectively the same thing but different. Rectifiers do not use the presence controls with the negative feed back in most modes except for modern. Everyone believe that it disconnects the negative feedback, that is true, it does, but they do not say it gets reconnected as a different circuit that is a true presence control linked to the phase inverter. Presence in the other channels and modes is just a high pass filter of sorts. This is all evident in the schematics you can find by doing a search, if you can read them and understand them it will be clear. If you cannot make sense of them, don't worry about it. It is not required to have that level of understanding.

Sorry, I am wordy at times.

Yeah, I hear you. The global master volume does aid with driving the amp at bedroom levels but you also sacrifice a major portion of that sound. To me that is a compromise. However, I can run the JP2C at bedroom levels at 100W power. It is important to what power tubes you have in that amp. The low end can become dominant but the shred switch will compensate for the bloom of low end. As for the Mark VII, I have not explored the bedroom level capabilities yet. It will be a rude awakening for you if you think this is a bedroom amp. 90W is very loud indeed. This amp will push a peak of 140Wrms (frequency dependent) I used my RockCrusher that has an input power meter. Not what I would call a reliable unit of measure though. 45W can peak up to 85Wrms but typically lingers around 50W to 60W of peak power. 25W mode is a safe 35W to 40W range. I do plan on borrowing the oscilloscope and special probes for measuring power from work as that is a calibrated unit. I want to do this out of curiosity sake.

I did not have an issue getting a good balance from clean to Mark IV modes. Just a reminder this amp took a minor step back to the good old days where a micro inch movement on the volume control would jump from mild to full on. It is not that dramatic as the volume taper is more controllable. Its curve is a bit more aggressive than the JP2C though. The Mark VII is very loud in all power modes. I have yet to explore the bedroom level approach. This is not a sleeper amp and it performs very strong just like the Badlander which I though was one of the loudest amps in my arsenal but can be dialed back to some extent. So with the Mark V90 in question, the 10W power mode is your friend. That too can be loud if you want it to be. However, it is unlike the 25W power you would get with the Mark VII. To be honest, when I first tried the different power modes, I could not tell the difference. That was the reason why I got the Rivera RockCrusher Recording load box out in the first place. Is it really switching to the different power modes or was it stuck in 90W? It does switch to them. A power attenuator may be needed for Bedroom level performance. Then again, why bother with that, just unplug the speaker and use headphones as it has the same CAB clone IR system first used int he Badlander, the Mark VII also has a load resistor that gets connected when nothing is plugged into the amp. The earlier versions of the CAB Clone (non-IR type) have a speaker off switch (TC and JP2C). All of the other amps will require a speaker load. The only other Mark I recall that had a silent mode was the Mark IVb. Never used it but it did have a pull silent mode on the front panel. Cab clone did not exist back than.

Reverb is very much the same thing as in the Mark V90. Same tank used in the RA100 and JP2C. May as well include the Roadster. It is a long tank, with dual spring runners. Amps like the Triple Crown use a shorter 3 spring unit. When I watch the Sweetwater demo on the Mark V, they demonstrated the clean channel with reverb. That was not the onboard reverb, that was an effect pedal. The spring reverb sounds no different than the one on the Mark V90. I would not say it is lush, that award goes to the California Tweed (different reverb tank and circuits, not 12AX7 driven either). I would assume the Mark V:25 and MarkV:35 if equipped with the reverb, it probably is the same unit used in the Triple Crown. I am not familiar with the mini-Marks as I have no interest in EL84 amps.
 
Thanks for the great breakdown and comparison. Really helpful. If I do get a VII I’d miss the SOLO function a lot for gigging. The channels can be balanced easy enough, so the lack of an OUTPUT dial isn’t too big of a deal…but another clean signal boost pedal in the loop would be needed to replace the SOLO function.

When I get nee gear or make a change to something I’ve learned to give it 2-3 months to see if I really like it or not. Hopefully you’ll still be loving the VII a few months from now!

Side note: The V’s EDGE mode doesn’t get much love but it can create some early AC/DC tones, the real twingy/gritty ones like on the studio album Let There Be Rock.
 
I will copy here some comments I made in the tube thread about the MKVII. I will also add some picks of the rigs I mention:

I think the VII is a great amp both in sound and features. I bought it to replace my MKV, which I still love (I gave it to my son as a birthday present). I had the MK V and the JP-2C in the same rig using a Mesa HeadTrack to switch between heads (another great piece of gear because it can also switches the effects from one am FX loop to the other when it switches the head). While the JP-2C has built in midi switching, the MKV does not. I had to add extra gear to add that functionality, like the Mini Amp Gizmo from RJM. I am also using a Mastermind GT-10 for switching. Like the JP-2C's built in midi, the VII's built in midi allowed me to remove a bunch of stuff from the rig, which makes the rig easier to use. The built in Cab Clone IR also allowed me to remove an extra piece of gear performing that function as well.

As far as the sound of the amp, every mode is useful. I don't feel I have to compromise, except on which of the modes I will use on each channel. Personally, I would have chosen other modes to duplicate, but to be honest you still can only choose three at a time. My favorites are Fat on channel 1, MKVII mode on channel 2, and IIC and IV on channel 3. Those are the modes where I live. However, crunch and IIB are also really nice, and if I am in a certain mode, I will play there.

It took me a long time to get the sound I wanted from the VII mode. I had to dial it in sort of like I dial in my Triple and sort of like a Mark. I find with a boost in front, VII mode gets a great heavy rhythm sound and without the boost it is a great lead sound. I think the controls are way more sensitive than the V, for example. I fell like the VII's controls actually respond the way they are described in the manual. I don't feel that way about the V or JP-2C. It is not that the controls on those amps are bad, but reading the manual creates an expectation of how they will respond, but that way is not for the sounds I want. I feel the range of the controls in all modes and channels is greater in that I hear more changes in the sound over the whole range of the control. They also remind me of my Mark III++ in that every control adds gain it seems. I really like the feel of playing the amp. It seems to me to stay responsive no matter how much gain I dump in a channel, and it is very responsive to pick attack. I do like the IIC mode on the VII more than the V because it seems they restored that bass cap that is missing on the MKV. The sound is fuller and has more body on the VII. I used to get that sound in MKIV mode on the V.

Unlike my MKV and JP-2C, I don't think the VII responds as well to different pickups. While I can play my EMG equipped guitars and my Fishman Fluence Modern guitar on the MKV or JP-2C, I find I need to reset a lot of controls for each pickup type on the VII. I like the EMGs better than the Fluence, but that could be user error on my part. So, in general, I think the VII might be more sensitive to pickups and guitars. I have to try my single coil guitar with the VII.
 

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New from Mesa, or shall I say from my studio, the Mesa Boogie Mark VII signature series. Ok, it does not exist. I was just trying out the cream and black jute faceplate from the JP2C in place of the black one that is standard issue with the MKVII. This will not be for very long, limited time only, as I will be installing the original faceplate probably this evening. Yep, there is an access window behind the faceplate for preamp tube access. No need to pull the chassis out unless you opted for a hardwood cab that does not have a removable faceplate. I will take pictures of the access window when I change it back to stock.

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Curious about the quality of the cleans of the MkVII. I have a Mk V90 and 25, a Lone Star Special, an Electra-Dyne and a Fillmore 50 and a Mark II C+ modded. The ED and LSS have superior, honey-drenched cleans, and the Fillmore cleans are the most useful across genres, IMO. But those amps, great as they are, don't offer the tight gain I want in the quiver. The Mark's cleans are strong, but compared to the others, they are missing something IMO. Would be good to know if the Mk VII upped the clean game. If so, I'd be in.
 
Curious about the quality of the cleans of the MkVII. I have a Mk V90 and 25, a Lone Star Special, an Electra-Dyne and a Fillmore 50 and a Mark II C+ modded. The ED and LSS have superior, honey-drenched cleans, and the Fillmore cleans are the most useful across genres, IMO. But those amps, great as they are, don't offer the tight gain I want in the quiver. The Mark's cleans are strong, but compared to the others, they are missing something IMO. Would be good to know if the Mk VII upped the clean game. If so, I'd be in.
That is a great question but I may not have the answer. I would agree the ED has some superb sounding clean. I have only tried one once a few years ago before I received my Royal Atlantic. I never played through a Lone Star. Instead of the Filmore, I opted to get the California Tweed 4:40. My Mark V90 is a bit subpar in its performance so I will leave that out for a direct comparison as I do not want to be negative on the subject. Unfortunately I do not own the amps you listed for reference except the Mark V90. The JP2C may be close. Trick for the JP2C is all with the power tubes and is very amazing with the coveted STR415 Sylvania 6L6GC. I feel the clean and fat modes are very nice. To me it was one point of interest that aided in my decision to pull the trigger. Not that I never played through the Mark VII so I had no clue how this would sound in person compared to demos and recorded samples of the various modes. The Mesa video was the only resource I had for reference. All of the others were more focused on the other desired features which is why you would want this amp in the first place. There are 2 basic clean modes, clean and fat. There is an alternate mode called the IIB. So far, the clean modes have not disappointed me. I was really surprised how well the STR445 tubes performed with this amp. I can get some nice chime in the clean. Even the Ghose FR bridge I have on one guitar delivered that acoustic guitar sound convincingly well. With traditional pickups, that depends on its impedance and designed characteristics. From a Strat to piezo bridge, single coil to humbucker of various types including guitars with active tone controls. I have not explored the EMG loaded guitar yet. What made the clean modes even more impressive was the speaker choice. I have opted to go with the Vertical 212 cab but also have a widebody 112 open back that was loaded with an EVM12L classic. Keep in mind when comparing an amp for specific characteristics it may make a difference what type of cabinet you are using. I am not particularly fond of the MC90 speaker but that probably sounds really good in the combo. Also, I have tried the clean modes with and without the GEQ turned on. With the GEQ turned on the character did not get drenched with too much of this but it probably could if you try to make it sound that way. The IIB mode is similar to the Mark I but not as dark and muffled. The clean modes (clean, fat, and the alternate IIB) are not shy of providing a grind if you want some bite in your clean. Then again, even with the tighter high gain modes, the dynamics of this amp are on par with my favorite amps: JP2C, Badlander, Royal Atlantic such that you can have that power hitting grind and punch of the tight low end, roll back on the guitar's volume and it just cleans up very well without losing much in volume. That has been my trick with using multiple amps at once without using any switch gear (I know, I should invest in a midi controller as my rig keeps getting bigger).

I do not mind if others want to comment on their experiences with how the clean modes compare to other amps they have.

My list of amps in my collection:
Mesa Engineering: TC-100, TC-50, California Tweed, JP2C, Roadster, MWDR, Mark V90, Royal Atlantic RA100 head, Royal Atlantic combo, two Badlander 100's and finally the Mark VII. May as well call it the Mark VII90. Before you know it there will be mini MK7s popping up. Sort of makes me wonder how long the V will remain active. I have explored many of the features and characteristics of all of the amps listed with the Mark VII being the newcomer, so my exploration is just starting. The Electa-Dyne was one of the amps I wanted to add to the list, perhaps someday I will if the opportunity presents itself without any inflated pricing.

I could only suggest you try one out if you can find one. Where I live, that is not possible within 100 miles one way which is about how close the nearest guitar center is.
 
Here are the pictures I promised with the faceplate removed. Nice, I did not take a good look at it when I swapped the plates but this time I did. Note that the faceplate for the JP2C was a bit larger than expected. It did fit but not properly. Anyway, the access port or window is much larger than the JP2C. If it is the same size, it did not feel that way when I stuck my hand in to get hold of one of the preamp shields. I would rather pull the front panel than to remove the amp chassis from the head shell. I did not pull out any preamp tubes so their orientation is yet unknown.

So the top image is the Mark VII and the one below it is the JP2C (same picture as above but repeated it to compare the two without having to scroll up to find it).

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I know these are long and wordy posts. Any further discoveries and or interesting things I find out with this new amp I will try to keep it at a minimum. Yeah right. That will be the day when I can narrow down a post to something short and simple as that does not explain what I hear or may feel about the subject.

Come to think of it, Feel. Dose this amp have a feel to it. In a physical sense yes. Considering I am only running a 212 cabinet I did not expect the wall of air as much as I would get with an oversized 412. It may not be reminiscent of the Memorex commercials with the dude relaxing in his hair with his hair blowing around from the speakers of his stereo system. It is enough to feel it. But I know what most are referring too, and it is not that. You will feel like you are coupled to the amp in many respects. Probably because it remains tight and responsive. It is the same with the JP2C loaded with the STR415. I would not say it is more forward or sitting in the background, it is more or less with you if that makes any sense.

So far there is not one aspect of this amp I found distasteful. All of the different modes or voices are very usable and sound great. With that said there may be some modes you may not like or have a direct use for. Some may never use the clean or fat modes let alone IIB. The IIC+ nails what I hear with the JP2C (STR415 is paramount to getting that sound. The STR440 or STR443 just do not get you there). I did swap the power tubes as I wanted to try out the STR445 in the JP2C and the STR415 in the Mark VII. I found that the JP2C with the STR445 was not much different than with the STR415. However, the Mark VII sort of lost something in that exchange. Not sure how to describe it, except it was not for the better. 20 minutes into this, I swapped the tubes back to their respective place. Mesa got it right with the power tube selection for the Mark VII.

Last on the list was how does it run with the 7 string? That is usually one of my tests I run with a new amp as I do often get out the 7 stringers. Well, it holds up and does not loose its composure. No need for a shred switch (actually that thing only works when you are using the STR440 or STR443 to cut the low end and I found it was not necessary to use with the STR415 or even the STR448 power tubes in the JP2C). The Mark VII delivers the goods. You may need to make some minor adjustments to the GEQ low end or reduce the bass on the channel just a bit. You do not need to make any gross adjustments mind you, it all depends on how you dialed in the amp to start with. I much prefer to hear the low end and feel it than to quell it with some alternative methods.

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A few observations thus far. I will start with the minor one.
Since I reduced the rig set up from 4 amps down to just two so I can compare the Mark VII to the JP2C in more depth. I did eventually run the two amps in stereo mode with the Stymon BigSky which is one of the observations I wanted to bring up. At first, I had thought they had equal balance in signal strength or at least would be very similar. They are not. The JP2C seems to have more influence than the Mark VII. It is not much but enough to hear it. Running in full stereo it does not matter. However, when running just the one amp I should hear the reverb reflections from the left channel jumping over to the right. If both amps are the same, I would hear this if running on CHA or CHB as long as both amps are on and the FX is on. JP2C paired up with a Badlander and they behave about the same. I would have thought that the JP2C and Mark VII would be similar. So, when running the Mark VII, I hear the reflections from the reverb pedal in the JP2C but when running the JP2C I hear nothing from the Mark VII. I should flip the left and right side and see if that changes anything. Not sure if the BigSky auto-adjusts the gain on the buffers of the input and output sections based on the signal strength of the left circuit. I know it does this but probably not describing it properly as this effect works perfectly with the Mark V90 FX loop. There is some correction going on with the FX pedal but it just works. I had a similar issue when pairing up the Roadster and MWDR. What ever it is, not a deal breaker but sort of wished the JP2C had some sort of switch on the footswitch control to turn on/off the FX loop. That feature is only available through midi, bummer. Why have both GEQ buttons? Only one is required as you can assign each channel to what ever GEQ you want to use. Too bad the midi command structure is different between the two amps. If they were the same I could use a single midi cable and run with one footswitch like you can with two identical amps. Makes me want to buy another Mark VII but I am fine for now.

Not exactly sure what is going on but just something unexpected.
If you do not like something alarming, do not continue. I am not trying to set the fire alarm here, just and observation that could be remedied with a preamp tube swap, maybe? However, the sound characteristics are not what I would say is a microphonic tube issue. Could be feedback of the reverb fade function of the strobe mute. At this point it is unknown. More of a random thing but so far, I had it happen three times to date. I just got this amp, what, like last week.

One other observation, probably more critical but seems to be associated with the footswitch or channel changes with the mini toggle switch or from taking out of standby. Is it a glitch or is there some other issue like a microphonic tube? Here is the symptom I had occur twice while using the footswitch controller but not during the same session, I would say they were several days apart, so it was not consecutive. These two instances occurred while using other channels for a while, perhaps an hour before it cropped up: When changing over from Mark VII (CH2) or crunch (CH1 or CH2) to CH3 (IIC or IV) and I believe it may have occurred with Fat (CH1) to CH3 (any mode), I would get this digital sounding scream almost like entering the matrix of sorts after taking the blue pill and getting sucked into the mirror. It did not end there, it continued to escalate into a scream as if the mojo was leaking out in a bad way. I did hit the standby switch immediately as I feared the worse red plating power tubes on the first occasion. The second occasion I held back by my impulse to hit the standby switch and took a look at the power tubes, all was good while the sound was getting very annoying, then changed to a different channel on the footswitch and it went away. Not a red plate thing but it is first thing that comes to mind based on my experience with the Mark V90. I have become skeptical at best and a bit defensive about Simul-Class in general. Could it be a bad program of the midi controller or was it done haphazardly that some glitches have yet to be discovered upon the release? Slow reacting relay? or is it the strobe mute function getting confused. Note: both times this occurred was when switching to CH3 from one of the other channels.

The third time (was actually the first time it happened, the other two above occurred several days after this instance) I had this noise was at power up following the change of standby to on. I did let the amp warm up for a good 20 minutes prior as I was working on something (making coffee). Taking the amp out of standby had this immediate digitized oscillation effect (best way to describe it). I was on CH3 at the time. Was not using the FX loop as there was nothing plugged into it. 8ohm load and did not have the footswitch control connected as I wanted to use the mini toggles. I killed the power when that happened. It is almost as if there is some sort of noise gait issue. Was not aware if this amp was so equipped and I doubt it is. I would not rule out a microphonic tube at this point. Ever hear that ping noise when changing channels in a different amp? It is almost like that but worse, it triggers a self-oscillation effect but sounds almost like a digital effect of sorts.

Not trying to sound the alarm of a potential defect. It could be one of the toggle switches are out of place. Will have to take a closer look when it occurs and document what I did when it happened. If the amp fails in the process it is a Mesa thing and should be under warranty. It could be just a simple midi dump thing and reflash of the midi controller but I do not have the gear to do that. I will let Mesa instruct me on this as I have no plans to remove the chassis from the head shell or try to fix it beyond a change in preamp tube. However it if occurs again, I will be making a call to CS, actually it will not be a call, may report the issue to my sales rep at Sweetwater first and then use email for Mesa customer service as I do not feel like talking to people in Gibson world. Would rather have someone from Mesa work on this issue. If they piss me off, I will be returning the amp to Sweetwater either for an exchange or something else. Mind you I am not upset with this amp in any way. It is amazing. Just the glitch or latched up channel change that makes me think it is a problem. It is more or less a random thing and not something easily triggered. This could easily go through an RMA process and get returned with a note: nothing found. It is a new product, it should get looked over and probably run through its paces. Hell, take the **** thing home and play around with it for a few days. Don't just spend 5 minutes and make an assumption on the issue. One must learn of the issue and why it occurs to get a resolve on the issue at hand. I do this stuff for a living, design products and then make a request to our customer service and tell them I want to see all returns on a new product as I will go to the ninth degree to identify what is wrong with it so I can implement a correction moving forward. This is part of engineering practice 101 which I feel many engineers do not explore in their careers. I take pride in my work and I leave the arrogance behind, if there is something to learn of an issue to come up with the solution to make it more bulletproof is more rewarding to me than to shrug it off saying you must be nuts, it does not happen on the workbench. Well Duh, it won't happen, You need to have all the good stuff in the works to make it happen. It is called transient analysis you dumb ***. The amp itself is not much different as it is an array of relays, solid state switches (JFETS, MOSFETS, BJT transistors, and my favorite the latching TRIAC, if you are not familiar with TRIACS in its small signal quirks it does have a latching mode as do MOSFETS as well as IGBJT. Sorry about my rant. I will get off the soapbox. Just have an interesting thing occurring. It may be as simple as a microphonic tube and nothing more. I can wait for the issue to pop up again before I decide to roll in some fresh Mesa preamp tubes.
 
This could be part of my problem. Not sure exactly as I have noticed other peculiarities.

I did not have the channel mini toggle switch in the default position for using the footswitch. It is supposed to be set to CH2 as it also has FS marked next to it. The other odd thing was that when I started out with the GEQ set to off/FS I could not turn on the GEQ. This time I will try again with the mini toggle switches in the desired positions before powering up. I also rotated the Midi channel selector decoder switch on the back a few clicks in both directions and then set to channel 1 (position 0). Now for the fun part. I will be using the stereo FX setup. Too bad I cannot turn on/off the FX on the JP2C. As for the Mark V90, I can make use of the mute switch if I want to take it out. I can also mute the Mark VII and JP2C with the Mesa Switch track.

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The end result was not as exciting as I hoped it would be. I think having the Mark V90 in the mix sort of took away from the overall sound. All of the amps were in phase on CH3 on the two Marks, CH3 or CH4 on the JP did not make much of a difference. The big reward was with the amps on their clean channels. That sounded really good for a change.

I think it is that time to stuff the MC90 speaker back into the Mark V90 (actually it is the one I pulled from the widebody cab) and retube it with Mesa 12AX7 tubes and drop it off at the nearest place for short sale. I don't care if I don't get the full value for it. I just want it gone.

Time to bring out the Badlanders again. I will make due with what gear I have available to get all 4 up and running. May try the Lehel little amp switcher. Did not like it much as it was very noisy. It could be the way I was using it. Mesa switch track is far superior in sound quality and isolation.
 
This could be part of my problem. Not sure exactly as I have noticed other peculiarities.

I did not have the channel mini toggle switch in the default position for using the footswitch. It is supposed to be set to CH2 as it also has FS marked next to it. The other odd thing was that when I started out with the GEQ set to off/FS I could not turn on the GEQ. This time I will try again with the mini toggle switches in the desired positions before powering up. I also rotated the Midi channel selector decoder switch on the back a few clicks in both directions and then set to channel 1 (position 0). Now for the fun part. I will be using the stereo FX setup. Too bad I cannot turn on/off the FX on the JP2C. As for the Mark V90, I can make use of the mute switch if I want to take it out. I can also mute the Mark VII and JP2C with the Mesa Switch track.

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The end result was not as exciting as I hoped it would be. I think having the Mark V90 in the mix sort of took away from the overall sound. All of the amps were in phase on CH3 on the two Marks, CH3 or CH4 on the JP did not make much of a difference. The big reward was with the amps on their clean channels. That sounded really good for a change.

I think it is that time to stuff the MC90 speaker back into the Mark V90 (actually it is the one I pulled from the widebody cab) and retube it with Mesa 12AX7 tubes and drop it off at the nearest place for short sale. I don't care if I don't get the full value for it. I just want it gone.

Time to bring out the Badlanders again. I will make due with what gear I have available to get all 4 up and running. May try the Lehel little amp switcher. Did not like it much as it was very noisy. It could be the way I was using it. Mesa switch track is far superior in sound quality and isolation.
It's most certainly not having the switches in the proper positions. I've read about it causing problems, and on some amps (i don't recall if Mesa) the manufacturer has claimed you could potentially damage some part of the circuit by using the footswitch while the toggles are in the wrong position.
So I'm pretty sure that was your problem. I mean you're talking about a new amp right? they check that stuff before shipping it.
 
It's most certainly not having the switches in the proper positions. I've read about it causing problems, and on some amps (i don't recall if Mesa) the manufacturer has claimed you could potentially damage some part of the circuit by using the footswitch while the toggles are in the wrong position.
So I'm pretty sure that was your problem. I mean you're talking about a new amp right? they check that stuff before shipping it.
Agreed for the two times I had the issue. Odd that I never encountered such problems with the JP2C as I never purposely set the channel selector to CH2 before using it with the Footswitch.

Also, I had too issues, one I had disclosed and the other I left out: Use of the amp without the footswitch. This should not happen. The first feedback squeal like a tube was microphonic occurred right after taking the amp out of standby, amp was on CH3. There was one time it took almost 2 seconds to change from CH2 to CH3 after I moved the mini toggle from CH2 to CH3. It does not state in the manual that the footswitch is mandatory.

If you use midi, you are not supposed to use the footswitch at the same time. That is the only part in the manual that discloses permanent damage to the amp and or footswitch.

You can daisy chain two or more of the same amps and control them with one footswitch. It is outlined in the manual how to do that. I have done this many times with the two Triple Crowns. But I only have one Mark VII and one JP2C. They are not compatible. I did not mix up the footswitch controllers either. I did notice the footswitch controllers DIN port for the JP and MK7 are the same. So it is possible to mix them up by mistake. The Triple Crown uses a different DIN style so it is not possible to accidentally use the wrong footswitch.

At the moment I do not own any midi controllers or switch gear other than what comes supplied with the amp itself, its footswitch control.

I am ok with leaving the amp on CH2 when I use the footswitch. No big deal with that. Why does it still happen when I power up without the footswitch connected and want to switch channels with the mini toggle switch? So far, this occurrence is best described as random and not frequent. If it does become problematic, I will take the proper action. It could be a preamp tube or it is something else.

The amp in general has been very stable and sounds great. Just a few observed things that has occurred over the week I have had this amp. It would not be the first time I bought a Lemon from Mesa Boogie. My Mark V90 is a prime example of such. All of my other Mesa amps are flawless in functions and I never experienced such a train wreck of issues like I have with the Mark V90. The Mark III I have owned for 24 years never failed or had any issues. Mark IVb I had for 12 years never had an issue. Mark V90, I wish I could say the same thing but I cannot, Everything else crapped out on it but have not lost the diode rectifiers yet like others have experienced. I am trying to remain optimistic here so I will refrain from digging up the past. I do not want to turd this thread.
 
This was going in the wrong direction but did sound really good. Nothing wrong with a little 412 action. The one on the far left looks like the tan grill cloth, no it is actually the gray/black jute grill cloth as that is the matching cab I use with the Royal Atlantic. The Center 412 under the Mark VII is an old oversized recto cab I rebuilt and is loaded with EVM12L Black Label speakers. the one on the far right is the 2nd Mesa standard 412 cab I had to have so I could run the MWDR through it and still have the other for the RA100.

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So why was this going in the wrong direction? Too much volume for the small room. It sounded epic but I like my hearing and would rather be able to play my guitar and enjoy it without the need of ear plugs. I must be an old fart. I am. The bulk of the loudness was from the two Badlander 100s. Those amps are loud and so is the Mark VII. This would be great for an outdoor venue. Not a small room. Going back to Vertical 212s as that was more manageable. I could probably tolerate two 412 cabs with the Mark VII. But all three amps going was a bit over the top. Awesome but may lose my hearing.

Not sure if I should bring out the 4 cabs and make use of the JP2C or just run a pair of cabs with the Mark VII which is probably what I will do next.

If this is getting boring, I can stop posting. Sorry if this is becoming a blog. For now, I want to dig into this setup and see what comes to mind for creativity as I do want to get back into recording again.
 
I will copy here some comments I made in the tube thread about the MKVII. I will also add some picks of the rigs I mention:

I think the VII is a great amp both in sound and features. I bought it to replace my MKV, which I still love (I gave it to my son as a birthday present). I had the MK V and the JP-2C in the same rig using a Mesa HeadTrack to switch between heads (another great piece of gear because it can also switches the effects from one am FX loop to the other when it switches the head). While the JP-2C has built in midi switching, the MKV does not. I had to add extra gear to add that functionality, like the Mini Amp Gizmo from RJM. I am also using a Mastermind GT-10 for switching. Like the JP-2C's built in midi, the VII's built in midi allowed me to remove a bunch of stuff from the rig, which makes the rig easier to use. The built in Cab Clone IR also allowed me to remove an extra piece of gear performing that function as well.

As far as the sound of the amp, every mode is useful. I don't feel I have to compromise, except on which of the modes I will use on each channel. Personally, I would have chosen other modes to duplicate, but to be honest you still can only choose three at a time. My favorites are Fat on channel 1, MKVII mode on channel 2, and IIC and IV on channel 3. Those are the modes where I live. However, crunch and IIB are also really nice, and if I am in a certain mode, I will play there.

It took me a long time to get the sound I wanted from the VII mode. I had to dial it in sort of like I dial in my Triple and sort of like a Mark. I find with a boost in front, VII mode gets a great heavy rhythm sound and without the boost it is a great lead sound. I think the controls are way more sensitive than the V, for example. I fell like the VII's controls actually respond the way they are described in the manual. I don't feel that way about the V or JP-2C. It is not that the controls on those amps are bad, but reading the manual creates an expectation of how they will respond, but that way is not for the sounds I want. I feel the range of the controls in all modes and channels is greater in that I hear more changes in the sound over the whole range of the control. They also remind me of my Mark III++ in that every control adds gain it seems. I really like the feel of playing the amp. It seems to me to stay responsive no matter how much gain I dump in a channel, and it is very responsive to pick attack. I do like the IIC mode on the VII more than the V because it seems they restored that bass cap that is missing on the MKV. The sound is fuller and has more body on the VII. I used to get that sound in MKIV mode on the V.

Unlike my MKV and JP-2C, I don't think the VII responds as well to different pickups. While I can play my EMG equipped guitars and my Fishman Fluence Modern guitar on the MKV or JP-2C, I find I need to reset a lot of controls for each pickup type on the VII. I like the EMGs better than the Fluence, but that could be user error on my part. So, in general, I think the VII might be more sensitive to pickups and guitars. I have to try my single coil guitar with the VII.
I can see the actives being more influential. I feel the Mark VII is a bit more sensitive on the pick attack compared to the JP2C. After you had posted this, I had to dig up my active guitars. I only have one axe with the EMGs, the others are more of an active tone control type thing and one has a piezo bridge. The piezo sounded great on clean or fat. A bit weird on the other modes as expected. As for the gutiars with the active tone controls. Not an issue. For reference, the one with the Ghost FR piezo bridge is a Kiesel DC600. The guitars with the active tone controls are Carvin DC400 and the one guitar with active pickups is a Squire contemporary strat I swapped out the pickups with EMG 57/66 set. I did not get to the EMG equipped guitar yet.

As for the Mark VII, it is a great amp that can run on its own. It also blends well with others of similar character. I am not disappointed at all with this amp.
 

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