NAD: Mesa Boogie Mark VII head. WOW

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Agreed about tube rolling, as it does with most amps.

Bandit- yea that was a long post LOL but a great synopsis of what you needed to do to be happy with your MKV. It really did sound great.

I went the same route with my Roadster, modded to my taste.

You hit the nail on the head for me when mentioning ‘The dominant tone or tuned upper midrange content cannot be filtered out with the GEQ on the Lead channel’. That was the rub for me, as well as the general ice pick descriptions. The MKV is a great amp, I played many gigs with it but just couldn’t really bond with it like I did with my Roadster.

Do you feel the MKVII has that same or similar dominant frequency?

I really appreciate you posting the gut shots of these amps in particular. As an amp tech and all-around electronics technician, I find those photos to be very informative and give me a notion of the serviceabilty of these amps should they need it.

I would rate their serviceability as good. Looks like the Mark VII will be easier in some respects to work on than the Mark V. It looks to me like it's designed to have entire circuit boards installed and removed quickly. (Installed, primarily, for reduced assembly time and cost.) Everything is connectorized and the usage of individual wires running across the boards is cut down almost to zero.

Some techs will look at it and think "nightmare" but they're the ones whose amp repair skills stopped growing in 1975 when Marshall introduced the two channel master volume models 2203 and 2204. Those of us who have experience with many forms of commercial, industrial, and consumer grade electronics are not put off by these amps in the slightest.

I've had to mark and disconnect over 50 wires to a PC board in order to remove the board to replace a 3 cent resistor and a 9 cent transistor, and then put it all back together before I could even test the unit. A few hours labor. Common commercial electronics. I didn't ***** about it, I did my job, and it worked when I was done. These amps don't scare any tech who's worthy of taking your hard earned money.

If your amp tech is scared away by these photos, believe me, he's not the guy you want working on it anyway.

I have every Mark, or some form of reissue, right now, except for a IV which I traded for my V:90, and I will be getting a VII when the time is right.
I have started to take a closer look at the Mark VII. What does each mode have for me to discover and what does it sound like. I did another review of the manual to get a better sense of each mode. It was mentioned that the crunch and VII modes were similar to the Triple Crown and Badlander. The TC has more of a Brit flavor in its tone so we can set that one aside. The Badlander does have some similar traits to the Mark VII. Both crunch modes are very similar to each other. The same would apply to the Mark V. Thinking the VII mode was like the V90: CH3 was a good assumption. Different circuit topography but the change in the negative feedback (Presence Control) does have a similar effect as the Modern modes on a Dual Rectifier. It is just not the same thing. Sure, the Badlander is different but does sound similar to the JP2C and Mark VII.

Just for kicks. I was running the Bad and Mark VII side by side but taking into account the tone similarities between the two. I did not start with the clean but ended up there. Badlander clean is not quite what you would call a Fender circuit. Nope, The tone stack is not on the front end following the first gain stage, the signal is forced into a funnel through a DC coupled cathode follower circuit used as a tone stack driver. Yeah, that sounds bad, it really is BAD. Love the clean mode on the Badlander as it is more than just clean. I can get that mode to drive as hard as the crunch modes with the gain at noon. Can the Mark VII do this too? I tried with the FAT mode. It was a bit rich on the low end to push it hard into clip. However, that thinner sounding clean mode is where that is at. Drive the gain up to 3pm or 4pm and it will rip just like the Badlander clean with a moderate gain setting. It sounds better with the GEQ turned on. Was only curious if the mark VII clean had any bite to it. It does.

Now to the point, crunch vs crunch. I did try the VII without the GEQ but could not get a good match between the two amps. This is probably the first time I noticed the sub harmonics of the Badlander. It is not like that of a Dual Rec but there are some low frequencies that were difficult to emulate on the Mark VII. That changed once I turned on the GEQ and made some adjustments. You can get very close but will never achieve the same tone since one was sporting the EL34 power tubes and the other 6L6GC. If you ever saw Mesa's description of the STR445 when they first came out, they are described as having a 6CA7 character but in a 6L6GC. Now the obvious difference other than the power tubes would be in the preamp. Just for fact seekers out there, I did get confirmation from MESA through the customer service by email. Asked where the tone stack resides in Crunch and MKVII modes. The red color indicates it is part of the lead drive circuit that is common to all Mark amps. Tone stack now becomes post gain. This is also similar with the Mark V90 CH2 circuitry. The purple color indicates it is a Cathode follower. The double triode with the purple color is a DC coupled Cathode follower circuit. The light blue is the cold clipper circuit. The other colors were just there for adding some contrast.

nk7 crunch alternat.JPG
badlander crunch.JPG

The Mark VII mode compared to Crush of the Badlander.

mark 7 vii mode alternat.JPG


As I stated before, I can get very close with each amp. The Badlander seems to have a more open and articulate sound and the Mark VII is slightly more condensed. No need to say tight or compressed. Those characteristics words hold true to both amps. Usually when trying to get a matching tone from two different amps, you lose that flexibility as this is just a narrow range of their capabilities.

Note that the Mark VII, JP2C, Badlander, Triple Crown, Royal Atlantic and not sure if there are others, do not have any hard bypass on the FX circuitry. The Badlander and Royal Atlantic do not have any means to bypass the FX loop jacks other than the internal switch that is connected in the return jack. All of the other amps in the list to have a relay of sorts to split the shorting connection between send and return to run the loop. The JP2C can only turn off the FX loop with the mini toggle switch as this function is not included with the footswitch.

Amps like the Mark V90, MWDR, Roadster, Road King, and some not listed do have a hard bypass to circumvent the fx circuitry. Meaning the Send/return tubes are out of the signal chain.

Sure, lots of words and interesting graphics. Sorry no pictures at this time. Considering another video but more focused on the Mark VII. More of a comparison to the Badlander and JP2C. In some ways the Mark VII has crossed boundaries. It is not just a novel collection of a few Mark series amps like the Mark V90 but it is a composition of the Mark series amps from the IIB up to the IV and has a Badlander included in the package. For me it is a really good fit for my dual BAD rig setup. I am still pondering the idea of getting out the one standard 412 to use with the Mark VII and retain the Vertical 212 cabs for the Badlanders or just run three vertical 212 cabs to retain my hearing. Going for the 412 cab and will go back if that is too much for the small room.
Agreed about tube rolling, as it does with most amps.

Bandit- yea that was a long post LOL but a great synopsis of what you needed to do to be happy with your MKV. It really did sound great.

I went the same route with my Roadster, modded to my taste.

You hit the nail on the head for me when mentioning ‘The dominant tone or tuned upper midrange content cannot be filtered out with the GEQ on the Lead channel’. That was the rub for me, as well as the general ice pick descriptions. The MKV is a great amp, I played many gigs with it but just couldn’t really bond with it like I did with my Roadster.

Do you feel the MKVII has that same or similar dominant frequency?

If that upper midrange content is there, it is difficult to hear it. The Mark VII is very similar to that of the JP2C on CH3 IIC+ and IV modes. The Mark VII is bright, and you almost get that thought it will be an ice pick but that is from bad vibes I got with the Mark V90. Once I get the Mark V90 sound out of my head, not played for a few days and go back to the Mark VII, I do not hear any overtones that would suggest a boxy feel or ice pick issue. I would not doubt that one could dial in the amp to sound like an ice pick. I can do the same with other amps with gross adjustments on the presence, gain and treble. Addin the 6600 Hz slider on the GEQ all the way up, sure. The nasal like tone is not present.
I have reviewed the manual again but not in full detail. I may do such at a later time. My focus was on clean, crunch and VII modes. I have to say this honestly, these three modes are really BAD. Not terrible mind you but really, really BAD, as in Badlander. I have run the Mark VII with two BAD-100 in a tri amp configuration. The BADs in stereo sharing a BigSky reverb with the Mark VII dry or with a delay. clean vs clean, crunch vs crunch, crush vs VII. No issues with phasing relationships. That is a huge + when running multiple amps. I would assume the TC100 would have the same effect but it is more of a Brit tone than the Badlander. I should bring it out just for kicks.

How does the clean compare, sure both are clean but when the gain goes up on the BAD to get the clean into clipping, does the Mark VII clean compare. Surprisingly yes it does. BAD gain at noon was equivalent to the MKVII clean gain at 3pm. I doubt it will cover the same gain range as the BAD with the gain any higher but was able to replicate the same sound and grind, one from EL34 and the other from 6L6. Trick was to run the GEQ and set it up thinking Dual Rec tone.

Crunch VS Crunch: Same trick with the GEQ. One must play with the midrange and bass controls to replicate the BAD crunch. I have not explored it with the full sweep of the gain control yet.

Crush vs VII: Same as the crunch notes. I just wanted to confirm the statement in the manual about crunch and VII modes. The Triple Crown and Badlander both were mentioned briefly in the description of the two modes.

This is at the top of page 16 in the manual. It is mostly about the VII mode but may as well include the crunch as that is also on the Badlander. Triple Crown lo gain is a bit different. I will try to compare the TC100 soon. The Mark VII does BAD very well. It is almost like having a Mark IIC+, Mark IVa and a Badlander in one amp. In my case, the Mark VII could replace the Badlander and JP2C as I can get the best of both amps out of the one amplifier.

Beyond 2:00, and on through the rest of the GAIN’s rotation, the saturation becomes increasingly thicker and creamier. This upper region is really where the MARK VII Mode introduces a new Boogie gain voice that falls sonically between where the MARK IV Mode sits and where “Modified Brit” circuits, like our Triple Crown and Badlander, hang their hat. It’s got a more aggressive top end and a percussive midrange attack with a chesty kick in the upper low end that is different than MARK circuits with their pronounced higher midrange bump and more sub-low bottom end that must be used sparingly in the preamp. This hybrid-Boogie may be the perfect blend between “American” and “Classic Brit” where gain is concerned, as it’s got some of the character of each, yet has a new personality all its own.

I am thinking of making another Mark VII video. This one will include the Badlander, JP2C and may include the Triple Crown 100. Perhaps a 3 part video or if I omit the TC it will be a 2 part video.
I am starting to get a better understanding why one would say it does not work in a mix.

First impression it was perfect. Even compared it to the JP2C (loaded with the STR415). Recently compared it to the Badlander exploring the full gain potentials of the clean, crunch and VII modes. TBH, the Badlander may not be liked by the Recto people but I love it almost more then the JP2C. The BAD keeps that note definition intact, just like the JP2C. Not getting that with the Mark VII. I would not say it is a blanket on the whole spectrum, just a partial blanket on tone. I believe it is with the power tubes more than the preamp. I did try the STR440 tubes for a short period of time, 15 minutes at best, I thought they sounded much better than the STR445 tubes. I will see how that turns out. Have not tried the EL34 tubes yet. Since the amp does not have a variac power feature, should I even try it? Mark V is recommended you run the variac power when using the EL34. So how is this Mark VII different? Lower plate voltages? The size and probably the mass of the PT is much the same as the JP2C by appearance. Sure, it is just the plate stack that makes it huge. Not sure if it has the same windings or if it is a different PT. The amp is good but similar to the Mark V90, gets tiring in some ways but for different reasons. Too tight? I feel it is the STR445 power tubes more than anything. Waiting for them to cool down to swap them out.
STR440 sounded good, but still had something off. I had a preamp tube issue from day one, I rearranged them, and it sort of went away. At least I was not getting the issue of amp confusion and getting latched into some feedback issue. Let the amp cool down again, installed the original power tubes and decided to swap the tubes with some new Mesa tubes I had recently received. Took nearly 2 months to get them. Still waiting on the STR445 to arrive. Thought those were still available but nope. Long lead times for them. Replacing the Preamp tubes with new ones did the trick. Sure the amp is basically new, sometimes you get some odd ones every now and then. All is good.
If I can describe the "feeling off" characteristic: It is not just one thing but many, first is the pick attack, it was too apparent and had a very bright edge to its sound, almost a snappy brittleness. The main body of the notes or notes that followed were a bit undefined as if they were blurred. Sure there was distortion when you want it but did not have that sound quality I was getting with my other Mesa amps, JP2C as a prime example. Overall tone was too bright and did not seem to be correctable with the GEQ or presence as this took away some of the characteristics I did like. Sort of flat and lifeless. Not on the same level as the Mark V90, but did remind me of it. If that was the best the amp could do I would probably return it. It still sounds good but the "off characteristics" were becoming a bother to listen to it. Not boxy or ice pick but seemed to have that potential.

I replaced all 5 preamp tubes. I tested the new tubes using an Orange VT1000, it may not be ideal, but will indicate strength of the triodes and if they are matched. Three were matched or had the same number so I used one in V5 and V2. And the rest got filled up with the rest.

The end result: Loss of that brittle pick attack, I can still hear the attack, it is just not in your face sort of thing. Main body of note or notes is slightly dry with some gooey characteristic that resides in the midrange. That sounded really good. Bottom end was just as good as it was before. Now I can adjust presence to add to the grind if I want more cut through the mix sound. I can also push the gain more on CH3 without enticing the brittle sound to emerge. Change in the preamp tubes from the original to the Mesa replacement parts made a huge difference. I could not stop playing. A micro-phonic tube or one that has that character may make things sound off, too bright or brittle. Which one it was, have no clue, I did the shot-gun approach assuming they were all bad. Sure, I spend a few good hours before getting the tube shields into place and installing the face plate. Hint, it is easier to rest the amp on its side to get the preamp tubes in and out and to install the tube shields. Not much room in there to start with. At least the front panel comes off for preamp tube access. No need to remove power tubes to reach them. I did not have to disconnect the speaker cable or footswitch cable to change preamp tubes.

What is going into the amps vs replacement market of the same branded tubes makes me wonder. Where do the rejects end up? Not the first time I had a micro-phonic or noisy preamp tube in a new purchase. The exception was the 2nd Badlander, Roadster and the MWDR. Every other amp I had bought had some preamp tube issues.
Not sure anyone is following this threat anymore. No matter. I have reached a conclusion on this new amp, it was worth buying, no regrets at this point. I am considering getting a second one. I did at one point consider buying a second JP2C but the tube offerings sort of put me off until Mesa approved the TAD redbase 6L6GC aka STR448. Had to take care of a bucket list thing first, STR415 for the JP2C as so many claimed they were the bomb for that amp. They are right. You can get new old stock direct from Mesa assuming they still have them. Need to use email to customer service. The tubes are not cataloged item so it will not show up on their system as a recognized part. At least the STR448 are a decent substitute with just a different character.

So far after changing the original preamp tubes with some new one's I got in recently (Mesa 12AX7), I am now taken in by this amp more than I expected to be. I do not see how this would get lost in the mix, it sounds much like the JP2C with the STR415 tubes. It is also quite similar to the Badlander in many respects. Crunch, VII modes are really good, I cannot see why some do not like those modes. IIC and IV are also on par with the JP2C CH2 and CH3. This morning I decided to compare crunch, VII and IV modes, dialed in each channel the same. GEQ set up for tast and active on all channels. Not much of a difference between them, say for compression and depth. Getting used to the amp as time goes on. I have been far removed from Mark series amps for some time. Sure I have the JP2C but the STR443 power tubes made me loose interest in that amp. The STR440 tubes I was using were near the end of their useful life and they are no longer in production. Bummer. STR443 in the same bias color as the STR440 but that is all, they do not sound as good as the STR440. The STR448 rekindled my interest in the JP2C and shortly there after, the STR415. I even borrowed the STR445 tubes from the Mark VII in the JP2C and they sounded good too. Not the end of the world after the STR440 are now out of production. Perhaps with the Rectifier but those are now shipping with the STR445 tubes. Have not tried them in the Roadster or MWDR yet. I will get there eventually.

I really like the spring reverb on the cleans (clean or fat) as it has a nice character to it. I get the impression it is tuned differently and inserted back into the signal chain compared to the other modes.

I cannot see how this amp would get lost in the mix. The Badlander cuts through quite well. I hear that in a live setting all the time when I am playing the drums and group's guitar player and bass player are over. Comparing the BAD to the MKVII, there is not much difference since swapping out the preamp tubes. Note definition has improved considerably as did the sound density. A microphonic preamp tube will spoil the fun which is what I found to be the case with the Mark VII as I felt there was something off with the amp. Now it is on par with the rest.

It could just be the speaker cab that aids its composure to getting lost in the mix. I only have the Standard slant front 412 cabs (latest version of the Oversized Recto cab). The old oversized recto cab I do have from 1999-2000 was reconstructed with EVM12L black labels. That cap is too much for the small room I am in. It delivers the goods quite well with the Mark VII and JP2C. Would like to see the smaller half back Mark cabs return, The ones with the expanded metal grill. I never played through one but from what everyone else says, they are the better of the cabs for a Mark. Will have to look out for a used one I suppose. So far the Vertical 212 cabs are holding up. Great cab for the Badlander, Triple Crown, JP2C and the Mark VII. They are almost as loud as the 412 cabs if that matters. Too bad EVM12L are only 8 ohm speakers, If they were available in 16 ohms I would have at least one V212 loaded with them. Then again, I did try a pair of the EV wired as a 4 ohm. Seemed the envelope was tuned for the V30 more so than the EV speaker. I guess it is time to wrap this thread up. I may do another set of videos. More of a comprehensive comparison like the 7 VS JP2C, Badlander, and TC100. Not sure If I should bother with the Roadster or MWDR as they sit differently in the tone farm than the Badlander. TC100 is also questionable but may do it for kicks since it was referenced in the Mark VII manual.
i have a VII and have much preferred it over the V and honestly my mark III+ red stripe. I did swap out several of the preamp tubes for square foil getter 12ax7b's through and that made a large impact. I'm following, looking to swap power tubes as well!
Bandit2013, I'm sure folks are following your thread,but most dnt have a comment, as is pretty much normal on these forums.You have some excellent information here for us to benefit from.Thankyou for that. My view on the vii is forget trying to be the smallest amp head and just make it normal size and it could've had 3 graphics on it then,or at least 2.iow,give it the full treatment ,especially if it's gonna be the last one.but who knows..
Yea me too, I’m really on the fence between the VII or JP2C. I’m a fan of the IIC+, and only really need 1 clean, crunch & lead setting each, so I think it may be the JP2C.


Since when do we only buy things we need? LOL

I’m also on the fence about the VII. I’m almost to the point of just getting one so I can stop thinking about it! If only it didn’t cost an arm and a leg…
I have posted this picture before, but it seems relevant to some of the comments in this thread. I had a JP-2C and I also bought a MK7. I had a MKV that I gave to my son. I like having both the JP-2C and the MK7 and I don't think I could get rid of either amp. I use a Mesa HeadTracker to switch between the amps, which gives me essentially a six channel amp. I actually wish the MK7 was a four-channel amp like the Roadster, so I could have Clean-Crunch-MK VII-IIC+. That would be perfect. I can get close to that by using the clean channel on the JP-2C.

I have posted this picture before, but it seems relevant to some of the comments in this thread. I had a JP-2C and I also bought a MK7. I had a MKV that I gave to my son. I like having both the JP-2C and the MK7 and I don't think I could get rid of either amp. I use a Mesa HeadTracker to switch between the amps, which gives me essentially a six channel amp. I actually wish the MK7 was a four-channel amp like the Roadster, so I could have Clean-Crunch-MK VII-IIC+. That would be perfect. I can get close to that by using the clean channel on the JP-2C.

Twin Towers... nice gotta dig that :D
Yea me too, I’m really on the fence between the VII or JP2C. I’m a fan of the IIC+, and only really need 1 clean, crunch & lead setting each, so I think it may be the JP2C.

Yea picked up the V:90 for the 3 chans live deal, with that same configuration approach. Had considered the JP2C but already had a IIC+, even though the JP2C is more versatile and gig friendly. The V is a bit more of a PITA logistically to haul around and have gotten used to the lighter, more compact 2 chan LSS, Ace and IIC+ with OD pedals for crunch rhythm.
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.

View attachment 1845

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.
Very helpful and insightful review. Thank you so much.

I just ordered the Mark VII combo. I am not too keen on spending this much money on an amp. But my question is, would the head and one twelve speaker in a 23" enclosure sound better than the 19" enclosure the combo version is in or is it just different? I think the head looks cooler, but for a gig, putting wheels on the combo is much easier to get around. As you have a combo and head setup (though different amps); would is your opinion of the separate speaker cabinet vs the combo. Is it more open sounding and the combo tighter? If it is tighter, is it a negative tight sound or just a smaller focused sound.
The EV speaker is not a major requirement. I only use that with some amplifies due to personal preference. My answer to your question may not be a direct response. I may beat around the bush a bit so bear with me on this.

As for your question regarding the use of a head and widebody 112 cab verses a combo having a similar cavity size, they sound different. It is more of the resonance of the cabinet lacking the chassis and transformers in the air space along with the reverb tank nested at the bottom tucked in under the speaker magnet. Which is better? That depends on how the combo sounds by itself. I have not tried these amps out in person before buying so I cannot directly answer your question specifically on the Mark VII combo vs head and cabinet. I have a preference for a head as I can easily manage that with any cabinet I choose to use. This means I do not have to carry an extra speaker with me if I just want to run the vertical 212 cab or a 412. The head will take up less space than the combo.

Back in the late 80s/early 90s, I was in a band and what I would bring with me was my Mark III combo. It was equipped with the black shadow EVM12L speaker. That small amp was a beast by itself but only got better when I added another cabinet. the EV could take the higher volume levels without cone breakup. It just seemed limitless. After those days passed, I got a Mark IVB combo. That was decent amp, sounded different than the Mark III and was much easier to manage at a lower volume level. I never ran that with others, it was more of a solo thing.

What will impact tone more so than you would expect is the depth of the cabinet. Most of the compact 112 or even the 212 or 410 have the same depth of around 11 1/2 inches. The Thiele cab is 12 3/4 deep and is ported. Close back cabs in the Recto line will generally be 14 inches deep (except for the mini 112 cabs). One Mesa's front page for the Mark VII it is a stack up of the combo with the Thiele cab. The Thiele cab will add some tight response to the mix but blended with the open back combo may be a really good sound combination. I do not have any experience with the Thiele cabs though. Mesa dropped the close back ported cabinet in the widebody format. It was not a Thiele form factor though. They seem to make changes to their cabinet offerings I do not bother to keep up. I do have some interest in the compact 410 cab that has the same width as the widebody cabinet. I am tempted to get one. It is open back too. That combined with the 112 widebody may be a really cool experiment or massive waste of money. I cannot find any videos or other related media on how they sound. There are a few videos on the Mark VII combo. The one done by Sweetwater was good. Note if you watch that, the fat mode where they mentioned the reverb, the FX loop was active so there was reverb or something in the FX loop that added in that extra shimmer to the sound. The spring reverb does sound really good on the fat mode, that I can say is accurate but it sound nothing like their demonstration. Just thought I would point that out.

Just keep this in mind, combos at practice or home use for enjoyment sound great. At gig level they tend to result in more speaker breakup (depends on what speaker is in the amp). More than likely it is due to driving the power section harder to obtain the desired volume level to break through the mix. You may want to consider adding an extension cabinet for that additional SPL you would get with two speakers vs one. So tempted to buy a Thiele cab just as much as the wide body 410 cab. If I get the 410, will not need the Thiele as I have an EV loaded widebody 112 cab which is probably all I need to enhance the bottom end.

At least there is some saving grace with the IR cab clone. Never used it so not sure what that will provide if patched to the PA for additional support or volume levels. Small gigs, the combo should fair well. If you need a bit more SPL vs cone breakup, just get another cab to run with the combo.

I only play the guitar to retain my sanity. I no longer play any gigs or play guitar in a group (I do play the drums though).


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