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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:58 am 
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Mark II

Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:20 pm
Posts: 91
I've been using Mark 3 heads and combos for awhile now and am taking the plunge into a Studio Pre and 2:90 rack rig for the first time. So far I've got a bunch of questions, and I'd love any feedback (har) from anyone who knows their way around these things!

  1. Once I've got everything connected, which volume control(s) should I actually be adjusting, and which should I just set and forget...the master volume, the output levels, the power amp's volume knobs?
  2. Plugging the SP into the effects return of my green stripe Mark 3 combo and comparing the two, is it normal for the SP to have a lot more lead channel gain? I was setting it around 1-2 (with the input dialed back to 4-5) in order to sound something like the Mark 3 on 5-6 (with the input on 7-8), which seems...odd.
  3. Still comparing the two and trying to set aside that huge gain difference, it seems like the closest I can get them is flipping all the SP switches on and leaving all the Mark 3 switches off. At that point the rhythm channels are similar, but the SP's lead is still a bit thicker, more saturated, more crunchy, and more prone to farting out if I'm not careful with the bass knob. I don't dislike it, but I was surprised...if anything I'd expected the SP to be lower gain and less crunchy. I'm getting almost a JCM 800 vs 900 vibe here.
  4. Speaking of which, I was expecting the "fat" switch to act like the bass shift on a Mark 3, but no...it definitely doesn't add low end, and if anything it seems to add or move around some midrange. Might be something like the Mark 3 treble shift, but more subtle? Weird!
  5. I don't know the history of this thing's tubes, but they're all Mesas (including the V1 with its little rubber jacket). I wonder if they're old or even original, and that's why it sounds wacky compared to a recently maintained combo.

I'm gonna swap some tubes around to see if that tames the gain and crunch, hopefully I have some AT/AU/AY7s somewhere.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 08, 2017 9:07 am 
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Mark IV

Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2007 9:13 pm
Posts: 505
I'll take a stab at answering this...

1. Good question. Probably the most convenient thing to do would be to set-and-forget your power amp's levels somewhere louder than what you ever expect to need, then adjust the SP's master volume from there.
2. The volume controls on the Mark III and the SP do behave differently. I have my SP's volume on 4 with the lead drive at 6, which gives me a nice tone from medium-to-low output humbuckers. On my purple stripe I think I tend to have my controls roughly the way you're describing.
3. I've never tried this, exactly, but what you're describing does sound roughly like I would expect.
4. Yeah, I think you're right about the fat switch; the closest thing to it on the III is the treble shift. I used to leave the fat switch on all the time, because you get a little boost in gain and saturation with it, but lately I've become fond of the tone with it off. It's closer to a Marshall kind of crunch. My settings are Volume=4, Master=3.5, Treble=8, Bass=1, Mid=5.5, Lead Drive=6, with a very shallow V in the EQ.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 08, 2017 6:23 pm 
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Mark II

Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:20 pm
Posts: 91
Awesome, thanks! I played with it more seriously today in the practice space. The volume/gain thing is so weird compared to the Mark 3s! It kind of seems like:
  • With a Mark 3 if you set the rhythm channel to overdrive, you can hear it start to make the lead channel a bit fuzzy, loose, eventually noisy. If you back off the rhythm just below where it starts overdriving, the lead channel sounds normal.
  • With the SP, the rhythm channel gain sounds pretty similar to the Mark 3's when you're running it hard. But overdriving at that stage has a much more drastic effect on the lead channel, and you have to back the rhythm off way down into its clean range before the lead channel settles down.
  • I could see this bugging me if I was planning to switch between channels on the fly, because I have to lower the rhythm gain so much that the lead master ends up being at like 1 in order to get the channels even close to balanced, and there seems to be some cutoff point where setting the lead master too low suddenly makes the lead channel sound all weird and fuzzy.

Anyhow, I swapped a 12AT7 into the lead position and that helped a lot...now I can get overdrive around 4-5 instead of 1-2 (which is good because it drops off hard around 1), and running it flat out doesn't get too crazy. I still have to keep the rhythm gain low-ish though, because turning it up past 4 or so does something to the lead channel that even the lower gain tube doesn't tame. Weird!

I guess the plot twist here is that this is mainly going to be a bass rig, taking the place of my D-180. I am excited to try it on guitar too, especially considering how different it is from my Mark 3s.


Last edited by morgan138 on Sun Apr 09, 2017 10:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 08, 2017 6:27 pm 
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Mark II

Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:20 pm
Posts: 91
Whoopysnorp wrote:
1. Good question. Probably the most convenient thing to do would be to set-and-forget your power amp's levels somewhere louder than what you ever expect to need, then adjust the SP's master volume from there.

This was my instinct. What do you do with the SP's "output level" knobs? Glancing at the tube chart it looks like they're V4, so I guess an actual gain stage and not just another passive master volume...


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:30 am 
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Mark IV

Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2007 9:13 pm
Posts: 505
I should point out that I have been using the effects send of my SP in place of the main out for years. Some people say it sounds better; I'm not sure I buy that, but for the whole time I've owned my SP (a dozen years or so) I've had intermittent problems with one or the other sides of the main output fading to silence out of nowhere. The effects send has never done that, so I've just stuck with that. I control my overall level with the master volume.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 10:18 am 
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Mark II

Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:20 pm
Posts: 91
Whoopysnorp wrote:
I should point out that I have been using the effects send of my SP in place of the main out for years.

I've seen a lot of people say that. How do you connect a 2:90 so that it runs both sides off the same mono signal?

This seems like a super obvious thing but there's nothing in the manual and I can't see a switch or easy way to jumper the input jacks.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 10:19 am 
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Mark II

Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:20 pm
Posts: 91
I also just realized that on a SP or Mark 3 the lead "channel" (i.e. boost and master) comes before the rhythm volume, not after as the tube and knob layout had led me to believe.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 12:05 pm 
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Mark IV

Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2007 9:13 pm
Posts: 505
morgan138 wrote:
Whoopysnorp wrote:
I should point out that I have been using the effects send of my SP in place of the main out for years.

I've seen a lot of people say that. How do you connect a 2:90 so that it runs both sides off the same mono signal?

This seems like a super obvious thing but there's nothing in the manual and I can't see a switch or easy way to jumper the input jacks.


I don't think there is an easy way to do that. Back when I had a Simul 395, I always just used one half of it and left the other half on standby all the time. That's the main reason I decided to give up on the rack power amp thing. The stereo functionality is useful if you're using stereo effects, but otherwise, your guitar is a mono signal, and unless you genuinely need 180 watts, there's not much to gain by using both channels of the amp.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 1:26 pm 
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Mark II

Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:20 pm
Posts: 91
Whoopysnorp wrote:
The stereo functionality is useful if you're using stereo effects, but otherwise, your guitar is a mono signal, and unless you genuinely need 180 watts, there's not much to gain by using both channels of the amp.

No kidding?! I was thinking there must be some obvious solution I was missing since it seemed like Mesa had thought of every other possible option for that power amp.

Definitely going to need all 180 watts for a bass rig, I guess I'll build a splitter cable if I need to use the effects send instead of the two main outputs. Or I guess swap in a shorting jack on one 2:90 input, if I'm feeling ambitious?


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 2:42 pm 
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Mark IV

Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2007 9:13 pm
Posts: 505
I forgot this was meant to be a bass rig. OK, what I would probably do is use the main outputs, leave both of them on like 5 or so (if I recall correctly they are very hot), set power amp to taste, and control overall level with the Studio Pre's master volume.

I'm pretty sure at some point I've done recordings using my Studio Pre as a bass front end. Sounded good, of course.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 8:20 am 
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Mark II

Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:20 pm
Posts: 91
Power amp arrived last night, sounded good at home testing volumes. I still need to make a couple of shorting plugs and bring the whole thing down to the practice space though.

And, of course, re-wire my 8x10 in stereo so I can use both power sections. It never ends.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2017 10:54 pm 
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Mark II

Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:20 pm
Posts: 91
Played my first show with this (using a pair of 1x15s, because I didn't want to drag a vintage 8x10 to this one). Sounded pretty good, tons of low end for a guitar preamp. At this point I have the outputs on 5, power amp volumes halfway, presences zeroed, and just use the master to set my volume. The 2:90's "deep" switch is complete overkill, and so far I'm not really loving the way the presence and "modern" switch sound with bass -- they start to make the high end sound kind of harsh (especially if it's overdriven or distorted), and eventually the low end gets kind of rowdy and uneven sounding. Eh, so it goes.

Am I crazy, or do the output level controls not do anything past 4-5? I don't know if it's the knob taper, or I'm just not grasping how that gain/volume stage works, but the level goes up really fast from 0-3 and then just a little bit from 3-4 or so. And then from there on up, no difference.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:37 pm 
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Mark IV

Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2007 9:13 pm
Posts: 505
It's been a while since I played with the main outs, but from memory I think you're right, most of the range is in the first half of the knob.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 9:14 pm 
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Bottle Rocket

Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2009 10:43 am
Posts: 19
morgan138 wrote:
Whoopysnorp wrote:

I've seen a lot of people say that. How do you connect a 2:90 so that it runs both sides off the same mono signal?


You can use a 1/4" Y-splitter or a A/B/Y pedal.

SP > A/B/Y input > A/B/Y Outputs > 2:90 Inputs


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:55 am 
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Mark III

Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 8:32 pm
Posts: 245
Location: Phil[th]adelphia, PA
The Studio Pre + 2:90 is the greatest tone I've ever found. I play a lot of different styles: jazz, rockabilly, 80s metal, grunge, etc. and after ten years of buying and selling amps, the SP+2:90 has yet to be beat.

To me, the "Boogie sound" of Mark amps is basically a cranked Fender Bassman on steroids; it can be as saturated as you want but also somehow crystal clear at the same time. I can go from a bubbly Vox-like rhythm sound, to Hetfield-style chugging, to a searing Paul Gilbert-ish solo all without touching a single knob on the amp. My current band project is a tribute to 1990s alt. rock, so needless to say the Studio Pre couldn't be a better fit for that 90s wall-of-guitar sound.

I also have to rave about the 2:90. I've tried many, many amps, and the 2:90 has got to be the greatest 6L6 platform I've ever discovered. You can even just run your guitar directly in with or without pedals and it just sounds and feels incredible. Not only that, but the 2:90's presence control is my favorite presence knob ever, giving me that perfect glassy brightness that I have trouble milking out of most amps. I am more often frustrated by fighting with your typical amp's tone stack (Bass, Mid, Treble controls) so I wish more amps just had two knobs like the 2:90: volume and presence. Even when running my guitar directly in to the 2:90, all I need is that presence control and the rest of the tone just takes care of itself.


So the next time you get a bad case of G.A.S., be careful about selling either of these pieces. You might regret it!

_________________
- Simul-Satellite
- Triaxis
- Studio Pre
- 2:90
- Trem-O-Verb


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