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Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:05 pm
by bandit2013
My current amp status, Roadster and RA100 heads each having their own 412 cab. I am really getting interested in the Stiletto Deuce (probably Stage II). Just wondering if Stiletto owners also have an RA100 or have they been able to compare the two. I am not concerned as to which is better. To me it is all about tone and character of the amp and how it responds to playing style, etc.. From what I have heard in various recordings, I like what I am hearing. Not sure if it is the raw amp or juiced with effects.

Also, is the roman numeral II in black or white that is over the input jack?

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 1:51 pm
by kramerxxx
I cannot speak to the RA100, but I have a Mark III, a Dual Rec and an Electra Dyne, in my basement.

I just received, (*this morning - the kid tells me), a Stiletto Deuce II I ordered from Guitar Center.

I will give you my thoughts after the weekend, as I hope to play it at a jam tonight, a gig tomorrow and another jam on Sunday.

I'm like you, I don't have reason to sell off the other amps, I just wanted something with a bit more 'Cut' and I like the feature set of this amp.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 6:09 pm
by bandit2013
I will await your first experience with the Deuce.

The more I learn about the Stiletto amps, the more I want one.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Sat Nov 07, 2015 9:49 am
by kramerxxx
Ok, first impressions.

Guitar Center packed this thing Great! They did forget the cord for the foot switch, of well...

I have no idea why anyone would say this amp is bright. Don't get me wrong, it could be, but the tone controls WORK WELL on this amp. This is NOT a Marshall clone, but it does play in that tonal zone though.

In minutes I had a fantastic clean sound, crunch rhythm and lead. Much more to my liking than my Dual Rec or Electra Dyne. Then I plugged in my pedalboard, ok this was a wasted few minutes... This amp exceeded my expectations, crazy good, no compromise. On to the jam.

Easy to dial in, on the fly. Cuts like a knife. Articulate. Volume was very manageable. I used a single Avatar cab with Celestion G12-100k speaker. I'm going to have to try this with a Scumback M75 after the weekend, in this cab.

My drummer said, 'it was great to hear you', nuff said.

I'm playing a paid gig with it, this today, as a fill-in, and will be curious to see how it goes over. I think I could sell my Electra Dyne for about the same price as I paid for this amp and have a backup. I think I'll know by the end of the weekend. For more, I think Mesa should reconsider discontinuing this line.

The only thing I'm serious considering for this amp, a Hall of Fame reverb pedal. I'm using a Carbon Copy and I think the reverb pedal might be a better fit. That is one thing I love on my Electra Dyne, the tenets is great.

More to follow.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Sat Nov 07, 2015 10:09 am
by bandit2013
Sounds like a great choice you made. Hope everything else works out.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:28 am
by kramerxxx
After day two thoughts:

I set both channel's treble middle bass settings very close. On the first I have it set to Crunch mode, on the second channel I was switching back and forth from tite and fluid modes. Gain set to about 11:30,channel matters at 10, amp master and solo knobs set 9 o'clock.

I'm not sure how much gain most use, but this amp has more than most would need. With the above setup I could use my guitars tone and volume control to disk in many great sounds.

Tonight I'll be running the amp with both electric and acoustic guitars.

I use a modified TS-9 and a BB preamp to flavor the distortion, with an analog and digital delay in the loop. All worked very well with this amp

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 6:55 am
by bandit2013
Still debating on pulling the trigger and get one. I was a few days short of trying out a Stage 1. I was going to be up that way anyhow and they sold it 4 days ago.... Oh well, at least I got some guitar strings. Nothing local to me for guitar stuff so an hour or more dive is typical. I was a bit bummed though, would have love to try it out before I buy it. I was tempted to play thought the RA100 combo just to hear how that would compare to the head. For some reason or another I think I need something different than what I have. All three of my Mesas are great amps, each having their one flavor of tone. The only one that excels at bedroom level is the Mark V (but that is not what I am after). What I admire about the Stiletto is the cleans as well as the gain channels (based on what I have listened too on the net). I have experimented with different types of tubes in all of my amps, the one that seems to shine through is the RA100 as it sounds almost as good with the right 6L6 as it does with EL34's. The Roadster on the other hand seems to sound weak with EL34's but that may be how I set up the preamp. Ruby or Mesa 6L6GC (very similar tubes) seem to sound the best in the Roadster. For the Mark V that would be either SED 6L6GC or TAD6L6GCSTR (the Mesa or Ruby tubes sort of floods the mids a bit and does nothing to reduce or enhance the top end) As for the other type, the KT77 did well but seemed a bit honky after a while, the SED EL34 sounded good too but were outstanding in the RA100. The Mesa EL34 are ok, not bad in the RA100 but do not serve well in the other two. Either a Deuce or Trident seems to fit what I am after, however I can dial in that character of tone I like for Classic Rock with the RA100 and some what close with the Roadster depending on what channel is used. I may even consider an ACE but would prefer 50W/100W capability. I am not too worried to add another 412 since I was considering replacing my 15yr old cab with a new one but it still has many years of life left in it. It is comparable to the new one I bought last year for the RA100 but there is a notable difference between the two (you would think the 15 yr old speakers would be broken in by now, they were not three years ago since I never really used the cab all that much until I got the Mark V (reason why I changed from V30 to EV) and the Roadster is the reason why I restored the cab. I did break in the old V30 speakers in an inexpensive traditional size cab, thought they sounded great in the smaller cab until I got the new OS Recto and was blown away. It did not take long to realize what I was missing with the Roadster, sure the EV sounded great but did not complement the tone of the amp as well as they did the Mark V.

Not after heavy metal amp but if it is capable that is good. Besides, there is nothing wrong with having a few amps and guitars. I just need to learn how to use them, still trying to figure out what I have done in the past 30 years since I started.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 7:17 pm
by bandit2013
I decided to forego the stage II and settle on the Stage I. I am really after more of a vintage tone than heavy metal but what I gathered thus far the stage I would be capable to some extent. I have plenty of amps that cover that anyway. Hopefully I will be impressed since I have yet had a chance to play through one. If I need more gain I can always add a pedal and put the Mesa 5 band EQ in the loop. Of course there are tube options too and I have a few that seem a bit too much for the RA100. Now it is the waiting game.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:58 am
by kramerxxx
Ok, latest update.

I had a VHT Deliverance D120h sitting around not getting much use. Great amp, articulate, massive low end, cleans up great with just the guitar volume. But no loop, or foot switchable features. I play in a cover band and prefer a clean, a crunch and a lead sound.

Saturday morning I took my newly arrived stiletto deuce stage II, unplugged my pedal board and did a side by side comparison with the VHT.

The cleans were as good, or possibly better.. much more tweakable. In fact I was left thinking that the Clean were as good as the Mark V I recently replaced, and better than any other Mesa I own, including m my Electra Dyne, (*with the reverb bypassed).

The VHT beat the deuce for low end, but not for anything else. Mid gain and sustain went to the to the Mesa, which surprised me.

When you consider all the additional features the Mesa has, it is much more versatile than the Deliverance.

There was a guy on craigslist that was trying to sell a Trident, that had been listed for two months. I called him, told him what I had, he thought it sounded like a better fit for him, so we met and not I'm the proud owner of two Stilettos.

Anyone that says these amps don't have enough gain is mistaken. It is just a more open, natural sounding gain that lets the guitar tone come through. I've played these amps with the preamp cranked and the master more, bypassed and up really loud, and the amp responds great with the guitar volume and tone controls.

This has the high gain sounds I wanted the Mark V to have, but couldn't get with that amp. The master has a much better taper. The sound of running the tube Rectifiers with either channel, at full power or varic power is great, and noticeably different.

Another thing that is posted about these amps is how bright they are, uh, not really. They are bright at low volume, but as soon as you get to it above drummer volume, the amp starts balancing out.

I don't think I'll run either of these amps at 50watts, the tone is better at full power, and both amps sound really similar, despite the 100/150watt rating difference. The only change I've done since getting both is I swapped the V1 preamp tube to a Tung-Sol, which opens the tone up from the Mesa branded JJs that were in them.

I can see the regular rock guys wanting a Mesa, picking a Mark or Recto over these amps, or going with a more Marshall sounding amp. I am very pleased with this changed in direction for me and like these amps very much.

These amps are real sleepers, and I'm tempted to pick up more of them as their used prices are very good right now.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:08 pm
by bandit2013
If the Stage II is anything like the Stage I, the current Mesa 12AX7A worked great in V1 and EH 12AX7A in V2 (input for Fluid Drive and Fat Clean). The original Russian #2 were EH tubes (the amp when it came was loaded with them). I did not get the volume up that much, just loud enough to feel the air pressure press against me. I was hoping for less gain actually. Was a monster of an amp that much I will say in a positive viewpoint. I have the Mark V and Roadster for the heavy stuff, and the RA100 can fill in the gaps but excels at vintage tone more so than the other two. My least favorite of my amps goes to the Mark V. It is more of a novelty amp but can be used to fulfill a purpose.

Reminds me of a joke. What is the definition of perfect pitch? It is the sound a Jenson Black Bird speaker makes when it hits a banjo and an accordion at the bottom of a dumpster, and then followed but the Mark V combo it was placed into.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:18 am
by kramerxxx
I traded a Bad Cat Hot Cat 30 for my Mark V, a few years ago. It was a great trade, for the versatility, but I never thought that the V lived up to all the hype, as it didn't really sound like the the amps it was trying to emulate. I've had 2 Mark IIC+s, an SOB(Mark I clone),a Mark IV, and 2 Dual Recs. Don't get me wrong, the V is a great amp, just not the amp for me. I loved all the foot switchable options, but the sound was a bit too process sounding to me, on channel 3. Channels 1&2 are amazing. I can get very close to Mark v sounds with my DR by running a FEW in the loop with the kids pumped up.

I traded the Mark V for a guitar and don't miss it.

And short of the Mark I setting, the Stiletto Stage II gives me everything I liked about the V, plus more, without the genetic Channel 3.

I like the Electra Dyne better than the RA100, but having said that I use my pedal board and an attenuator with it so it really is the same feature set. I can get the Stiletto and Electra Dyne cleans to sound the same, minus the reverb. One thing about the ED, mine is a head, not the combo. Matching the cab/speakers to the volume you need and the room, makes all the difference. Also I think the RA100 really needed a separate EQ for the gain channels, and a Presence control, so it really is just as limited as the ED, but not really a big deal as both are great amps.


A beautiful sound is to run the Stiletto AND a Dual Rec at the same time. I've not figured the switching out yet, but these two amps together, at almost any volume, are magical!!!! I certainly don't want to carry two half stacks to a gig to make $50, but in my basement, this is the sound of Rock n Roll, to be. Cut, massive low end, saturation and articulation, all at the same time.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2015 11:15 am
by bandit2013
Now that you mention it, the Stiletto did have similar character to the Mark IVB I had. It is also similar to the Mark V in some respects. I just did not have enough room for another half stack in my studio (converted spare bedroom). The Roadster is a blessing as it can perform many tasks. I was considering using a ditto to record a rhythm thought the Roadster and then play a lead through the Stiletto. However there are many things I could have should have done before trading in for something else, another RA100. My group is really focused on ACDC than I am and that tone is hard to accomplish with any of the Mesa amps I have. I can get very close and the Roadster can definitely get there but yet seems to have a bit more gain in the overall tone. I am not much of a believer in distortion /OD/TS pedals, but I have decided to cross that boundary as I do know what I am missing. I could not resist the Wampler Plexi Drive deluxe. From what I have seen on demos it is an interesting pedal that seemed worthy to try out. I also had to get a phaser since I have never used one of those either. I like Van Halen and it just does not sound the same without one.

I will definitely have to give the Jensen Black Bird more of a chance to break in. After I removed it from the combo I noticed the cone suspension was quite stiff compared to the EV it replaced. They also sound similar except for the clean which is incredible thought the Jensen. This is my last ditch effort to ether adapt to the Mark V or sell it. I would like to use it for more than chugging, but it does that quite well in CH2 with the gain maxed out on crunch mode. (also need to have two 8 ohm EVM12L black label speakers running in parallel, so far the other amps cannot touch that sound). That is one reason why I am holding on to the V. I can get some different sounds from this amp that are not easy to achieve from the others, also you have to adjust everything to run in the dark side of the sound spectrum. I used to pipe the Roadster though a EV loaded 412 but converted that to V30 as they sounded better with that amp. As for the stiletto it did not work well with the V30. It actually sounded better thought the EV that I have in the Mark V combo (before the change to the Jensen speaker). The stiletto would be one of those amps that would benefit with a mix of speakers as that will bring out the gain structure. Tried it though the Egnator cab (16ohm) and the EV extended cab and was blown away with that, almost tempting to keep it. If I did though, I would be on the quest for something else down the road. Too bad I do not have the luxury of having them all.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2015 10:02 am
by kramerxxx
I played my Deuce last night, at practice. I ran a Rivera Rock Crushed on the first setting, with both EQ switches engaged. The master volume on this amp works very well, I only used the attenuator for the line out, to the board. I used a single Avatar cab with a celestion G12-k100. This is a really good match for this amp, due to the more pronounced mids of the amp and the flat response of the speakers. These speakers also have a great low end, which fills out the sound more than a traditional Marshall.

On my pedal board I use a Carbon Copy as a reverb effect and a Boss DD-6 for longer delay duties. I have a TC CPF chorus and a TS9. This is a simple, but really effective setup.

Channel 1 Fat Clean with the gain up sound exactly like my Electra Dyne clean. Crunch on that channel can do the Tweed sounds from a Mark V. The guitar vol/tone controls make this channel with the price of admission.

Channel 2 with Tite or Fluid, will do almost everything the Mark V will do on both of its gain channels, even The Mark 1 setting, with the guitar tone control rolled back.

I think the first thing most guitarists would do would be is set the rectifiers to SS, and the variac to Bold. And while this sounds really good for metal, for more variety the opposite works better. I play in a band with 2 guitars and even with the solo boost set conservatively, I had no trouble cutting through the mix.

The one point that comes up a lot but is worth mentioning here, these amps don't sound good at low volumes. For the bedroom player this amp would be a very big disappointment.

The Mark V is a much better amp for someone that just wants an amp that does a lot of sounds and volumes that you can control with the footswitch. The Stiletto Stage II is a better fit for the guitarist that knows how to work the controls of both the amp and your guitar. I have a dozen amps and have not turned on any of them since getting my two Stilettos. I was looking for a Marshall sounding amp to add to the stable, and I'm very happy I took the leap of faith and purchased this amp, sight unseen, from Guitar Center. I think this is why these amps are lower prices than others, it is not Marshall or Mesa enough for either of those camps, but it is just right for me. If I see any of these amps for sale at a good price, I'll likely trade or buy another, or more of them.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:26 pm
by bandit2013
The reason why you like your Stiletto is the same reason why I like the RA100 and Roadster. Very touch sensitive and responsive the guitar and its controls. Most of the time I run the guitar full tilt but since I have had the RA100 and Roadster, that has changed.

Re: Considering getting a Deuce stage II....

Posted: Sat Nov 28, 2015 10:15 am
by kramerxxx
I played out last night with a Mesa 3/4 back 1x12 with an EVM12L in it. Absolutely a great use of this speaker. My favorite with the amp is still a quad of greenbacks, but for lower volume, small club, the EV bright the goods. Great palm muted chugging, clear articulation, chime, bloom.

I love this amp.