Mesa Boogie Setting's Meta-study

Started by Heady Jam Fan, January 12, 2015, 04:01:19 PM

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Heady Jam Fan


The original post is below, but I figured it might make sense to put some updated thoughts at the beginning of thread. The settings I've been using are as follows:

Volume: 4.5
Treble: 4.5 Pulled
Bass: 1.9
Middle: 5.5
MV: 1.95
Lead Gain: 3
Lead Master: 4 Pulled (Trey has this on 6, pulled, which seems loud)
Reverb: 7
Presence: 2.5
GEQ: Auto
Set to Class-A (using all 6L6's)

I think the lower input volume, which Walker had indicated (see below), sounds more like Trey's earlier Mesa tones. The ProAudioStar pics of Trey's rig show the input volume set to 4.5 pretty clearly. At some point, Trey stated he started using more amp distortion, and the pics from his "rig-talk" look like he has the input volume marked at 8.5 on the blue gaffers tape. This makes the clean channel a but edgier and punchier, but really has a big effect on the lead channel; with the input volume at 8.5, the lead channel is notable distorted when set at 3. Trying to clean up the lead channel by turning the lead gain down leaves that channel sounding somewhat too mellow IMO. However, with the input volume at 4.5, the lead is clean but present with the lead gain set at 3.

As far as the "P" symbols on the gaffers tape indicating a knob is pulled, I think he wrote "p" on each side of the number for that specific knob. The letter "P" can be seen 4 time on the gaffer tapes, but only indicating 2 knobs are pulled: the 2 knobs sandwiched by the "P's." This is the treble shift adding upper mids to the lead, and the lead master adding brightness to the leads. Pulling the lead master adds a fair amount of treble and volume that makes the leads jump out compared to the rhythm, but keeping it pushed it gives a more mellow fusion lead.

Original Post:
Having just busted out my Mesa again for the first time in about a year, I figured I would look over some of the past discussions on the settings.

First, here is what I deduced from the Rig Video:

Quote from: Heady Jam Fan on January 23, 2013, 04:07:06 PM

From left to right, what I see on the tape is:
8.5P - 5.1P - 1.8 - 5.5 - 1.93 - 3 - 3.5p - 3

The "p" corresponds to pull - each knob can be pulled for a specific effect.

8.5P - Volume w/ treble boost (bright) pulled for a shimmer on R1 channel (clean)
5.1P - treble w/ treble shift pulled for upper-midrange drive on the lead channel
1.8 - Bass
5.5 - Midrange
1.93 - Master Volume
3 - Lead Drive
3.5P - Lead Master w/ treble / bright pulled - adds brightness to lead channel
3 - Reverb
[IIRC, I think someone decided the gaffer tape near the back of the amp reads "2.5" for the presence, the reverb setting actually reads 7, the arrows on the right side indicate the GEQ is set to "AUTO" and the amp is set to "half power".]

Here is what Hoody deduced from the same rig video:
Quote from: Hoody on July 22, 2014, 09:21:19 PM
Vol. 8.5
Treble:  5.1 pulled
Bass:  1.8
Middle 5.5
Master 1.95
Lead Drive 3
Lead Master 6.5 pulled
reverb 8
Presence 2.5

And Walker's settings from pics on ProAudioStar:

Quote from: Walker done done on August 29, 2012, 08:41:44 PM
Volume: 4.5
Treble: 5
Bass: 2
Middle: 5.5
Master: just under 2
Lead Drive: 3
Lead Master: 5
Reverb: off (not 100% on that)
EQ: Auto or off, making the "upside down V" irrelevant except when the Lead channel is on (off as in the middle position)
1/2 Power (at least in one pic I saw)

These are all remarkably close. Some thoughts:

The lead master settings each of us came up with differ. This won't effect how the amp sounds, just the balance between rhythm and lead. Set to have a nice lead boost.

The volume Walker saw in pictures is much lower than the volume written on the gaffers tape. I think this is accurate; the volume setting Trey used changed over time. The higher setting is more aggressive, maybe just a touch of overdrive at 8.5, punchier, less smooth, and the lead channel would be a bit distorted too. I prefer the volume at 7, especially if you ever use Rhythm2/Crunch. Although I don't think Trey ever uses the rhythm 2 (crunch) channel.

Its impossible to see if knobs are pushed or pulled from pictures. So the only info available regarding whether knobs are pushed or pulled is from the pictures with the blue gaffers tape. These push/pull settings make a HUGE difference. As far as which knobs are pushed/pulled, Hoody and I came to the same conclusions EXCEPT regarding the volume knob. I see a "P" on the gaffers tape after the volume setting, indicating the knob is pulled. However, this makes the amp too bright and harsh. Maybe the "P" is written before the setting for each knob that is pulled?

If the "P" goes before the settting for each knob that is pulled...
- This would still mean the treble knob is pulled for more upper-mids in the lead channel.
- I would read the lead master setting the same as Hoody: "P6.5" or 6.5 and pulled, giving the lead channel more treble.
- However, this would mean the bass knob is pulled for more punch in the bass. I personally prefer setting the bass knob low and pulling it out for more bass. I set mine at 1 and pulled. Pulling the knob gives a more percussive bass than turning the knob higher. Yet, setting the knob at 1.8 and pulling it would be more bass than Trey uses, at least to my ear. Its a usable setting, but a little on the fat side IMO.

Additionally, the push/pull settings answer the common question about how Trey gets a lead tone that isn't too pinched/midrange-focused with the GEQ set like an upside-down V. The pulling the treble knob adds upper midrange to the lead channel, and pulling the lead master adds treble to the lead channel. So even though the GEQ makes it look like the mids are boosted compared to everything else, its actually that the mids, upper-mids and treble are boosted compared to the bass. I can match this on my EQ pedal by cutting a few DB's bass, leaving the low-mids at unity, and boosting the mids, upper-mids and treble by a few DBs. This keeps the treble in the signal so his tone is still aggressive and stays in the band-mix, and the bass is attenuated so it doesn't get muddy. So why does Trey use the push/pull knobs rather than the GEQ to boost the treble and upper mids? I think it sounds and feels a little different. The boost from the push/pull knobs - I believe - occurs in the preamp while the GEQ is after the preamp.

Lastly, I sometimes find these settings have a bit too much grit in the lead channel if I am playing a clean lead like the that of Dirt. The lead drive setting interacts with all the other settings, so I just adjust it so its at the 'edge of breakup;' I turn it up until I start hearing overdrive then just back it off slightly. However, I am using an EQ pedal for my lead boost just because I put it in a True Bypass Loop with a Delay pedal; when I turn on the TB Loop, it turns on my EQ/Boost and Delay, so I only have to stomp once for my lead setting. Instead, I set my lead channel to heavy distortion just for fun ;)

My settings:

Volume: 7
Treble: 5 Pulled
Bass: 1 Pulled
Mids: 5.5
Master: 2
Lead Drive: 10 (or 2-3 to match Trey).
Lead Master: 3 (or about 5 for Trey's settings)
Presence: 2.5
Reverb: 10 (my reverb is particularly quiet)

Last thing worth noting. If you are ambivalent between a completely clean and a slightly dirty lead channel, set the lead channel at the edge of breakup and then turn on the rhythm 2.
Headless Hollowbody > Mesa Boogie MK III > TRM Trucker 212 w/ V30's
Whammy 5 > Mini Wah > 74 Script Phase 90 > CP9Pro+ > 82 TS9 > 83 TS9 > Ross Compressor > Turbo-Tuner > 83 AD9


Great thread.

The only thing I would add is that when the volume is at 8.5, "pulling it" should be less significant at that volume level/gain level.

I have a purple stripe, and isn't has hot.

Heady Jam Fan

Quote from: express50express on January 13, 2015, 04:20:30 PM
Great thread.

The only thing I would add is that when the volume is at 8.5, "pulling it" should be less significant at that volume level/gain level.

I have a purple stripe, and isn't has hot.


Yes - good point. With the volume at 7, the pull bright is too much treble, but I can't remember if its too much (to my ear) when the volume is at 8.5 (I'll try it again, maybe Sunday). It definitely would be if the volume was at 4.5!
Headless Hollowbody > Mesa Boogie MK III > TRM Trucker 212 w/ V30's
Whammy 5 > Mini Wah > 74 Script Phase 90 > CP9Pro+ > 82 TS9 > 83 TS9 > Ross Compressor > Turbo-Tuner > 83 AD9


Its hard to tell (for me at least) by sound whether the Volume is pulled.  I think it could be but he tames the treble just by turning down that volume knob a good deal.  That's really the only way I can get his sound, even with the same guitar, pedal, amp. 

I'm still really curious about the DR amp settings.  I haven't seen any good pics of it.  For me that 97/98 tone was always the best and it wasn't even close.  I love the Mark III tone I get, but its still to my tastes not as good as his DR sound.


I would love to see/know his DR settings too!  I have a Vintage Sound Vintage 22 which has the mid channel and a few other mods that are similar to what we know of treys.  I have a hard time getting good loud cleans before the amp breaks up - I'm not sure how he does it!


One question is what level his mid knobs are set at.  Some people set it so that all the way to 0 sets it to the default, and you can go all the way up to 25k.  Others have the mid knob set where noon is the default, and you can go up to 10k, or 25. 

I don't think he actually gets that loud of clean tones.  They usually don't play all that loud really.  But the weber 50 watt helps get cleaner, warm volume.  Other than that I don't really know how he gets that really great clean sound.


It's documented in the Mesa Boogie Mark III guide, that when the volume high, the pulled volume has zero impact. I have proven this over and over on my Purple Strip.

I feel like when Trey is playing through his Mesa these days, the sound is going through so much other stuff, including the monster PA; therefore the Mesa is playing such a small part of his overall tone.

I find that the Mesa Mark III is a great Amp. However, even if I could get it to replicate Trey's sound to my ears satisfaction, it just lacks that sweetness that the DR or many others amps can deliver by themselves. And for me, that is why I think the Mesa is sometimes hard to get along with. Not to mention, one day it sounds awesome, the next it sounds like poop. A fender always sounds good.

Trey has a very unique tone, and other than people like us who have at one point in time tried to chase, most professional guitar players would have no desire whatsoever to chase his tone.

Heady Jam Fan

When I was going for the Trey tone, people always told me I nailed it with the Mesa. So on one hand, I agree there is more to the equation, but I disagree that you can't get satisfactorily close to his tone with just the hollowbody with PAFS > TS9 > Comp > Amp > Celestion. Though at this point, I kinda do my own thing, influenced by him (rather than trying to cop his tone).

When the volume is at seven, pulling the volume knob for bright has a big effect (at least to me on my Mesa), but maybe not at 8.5. Although, then I don't know why he would have it marked as pulled out if it didn't have an effect at 8.5? Or do you think the first "P" there is for the treble knob (not the volume/bright)? Your right about it having less effect as the volume knob goes up (or no effect when the volume knob is at 10), I have seen the Mesa manual where it says the bright has less effect higher the volume is. Same with most bright caps like on a Fender; I think the way they work is that the more resistance on the volume potentiometer (the lower the volume is set), the more signal goes through the bright capacitor.

I do love the sweetness of the Fender tone too! That's why I also have a DR. But the "about to explode" punchiness of the Mesa is incredible. It cuts through much better and my band prefers that tone. I think that "in your face" punchiness can get fatiguing,  which i think leads to that experience where the Mesa doesn't sound right some days.

The tricky part about matching the Fender tone is that each vintage Fender can sound pretty different. I keep my treble at about 8 and my bass around 3 to 3.5. At one point, I added a mid potentiometer, but liked it stock, so I removed the pot. Your right, a wide range of pot values work. I used a 15k, so in the middle of the knob's range was the stock amount of mid-range. Though I kind of liked it more when I left the resistor, so the lowest setting on the mid knob was the stock amount of mid-range. The fact is the mid knob doesn't add mids so much as bypass the other tone controls. At 25k, your getting into the RAW control range, but you can even use a higher value like 50k. Seems unnecessary to me though (and hard to dial in the setting you want - its too sensitive).

I don't think we will ever know the mods to the reverb channel of his DR.
Headless Hollowbody > Mesa Boogie MK III > TRM Trucker 212 w/ V30's
Whammy 5 > Mini Wah > 74 Script Phase 90 > CP9Pro+ > 82 TS9 > 83 TS9 > Ross Compressor > Turbo-Tuner > 83 AD9

Walker done done

I don't think Trey engages the GEQ.  I think the upside down V plays no part in his tone.
Guitars: Resurrection Phishy Hollowbody (koa top/back, cedar sides, Schaller Golden 50 pups, 2 series/single coil/parallel switches), Gibson SG Faded, Dean Evo, Fender Tele, Ovation Acoustic, Fender Acoustic

Signal Path: Garmopat-modded Vox V847 wah > Emma Discumbobulator > TS808 silver > TS9 silver > Ross Compressor (grey) > Alesis Microverb (reverb) > Mesa Boogie Mark III with custom 2x12 AO cabinet (speakers: Tone Tubby & Emminence Commonwealth).

Loop 1: Whammy II > Nova Delay
Loop 2: Alesis Microverb (reverse) > Ibanez DM2000 > CAE Super Trem > Black Cat Vibe
Loop 3 Boomerang+
Tuner: Boss TU-3

Effects not in use:  Voce Spin II (leslie sim), Boss DD6, Digitech RPM-1 (leslie sim), Analogman Orange Squeeze, Keeley 4knob Comp, Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, Super Hard On (boost), Ibanez AW7 (autowah), Denelectro French Fries (autowah) - If interested in any of these PM me.  Always willing to deal.

Heady Jam Fan

Quote from: Walker done done on January 14, 2015, 02:16:24 PM
I don't think Trey engages the GEQ.  I think the upside down V plays no part in his tone.

What is it that makes you think that? With the above settings, the lead channel sounds good with or without the GEQ, so you could certainly be right. But, if my memory serves me correctly, any pics of the switch show it in the auto setting.

You can see the switch is in the up (auto) position here, and the there is a plug in the lead footswitch jack. So it looks like he uses the lead channel with the GEQ in the auto setting, set to an upside-down V.
Headless Hollowbody > Mesa Boogie MK III > TRM Trucker 212 w/ V30's
Whammy 5 > Mini Wah > 74 Script Phase 90 > CP9Pro+ > 82 TS9 > 83 TS9 > Ross Compressor > Turbo-Tuner > 83 AD9


Guitars: 2006 Gibson Les Paul standard, 1997 Fender Stratocaster, 90's Fender Telecaster, Xavier and Aria acoustics

Pedals: Furman SPB-8C; Epigaze Audio Neutrino buffer > RMC Wizard > Whammy DT > Korg pitchblack > Maxon AF9 > Maxon OD9 silver x2 > Analogman 2 knob compRossor > Analogman Astrotone fuzz > Black Cat mini trem > Black Cat Vibe > Boss 500FMH volume > Boss PH2 > FL9 > Ibanez DE7 > TC Nova Repeater > Xotic EP booster

FX loop: Boomerang Phrase sampler v1

Amps: 50w Rockitt Retro Plexi, '89 Simul-class Mesa MKIII Blue stripe combo (V30) > 3/4 closed back 2x12 (C90) Mesa cab, 3rd gen 40w Fender Hot Rod deluxe, 50w Marshall MG 1x12 combo

Heady Jam Fan

Headless Hollowbody > Mesa Boogie MK III > TRM Trucker 212 w/ V30's
Whammy 5 > Mini Wah > 74 Script Phase 90 > CP9Pro+ > 82 TS9 > 83 TS9 > Ross Compressor > Turbo-Tuner > 83 AD9


My question is, when the F does Trey use the lead channel on his Mesa. I know the footswitch is connected, but has anyone seen the footswitch in his floor rig? I haven't. I only see him playing with his TS9's for overdrive and boosts. From what I hear, he has the lower drive TS9's on almost all the time, and plays with guitar volume and switches. Anyways, I'd love to see any picture of a footswitch or something labeled "lead or boost" in his rig.
I'm guessing he only channel switches when he wants to get crazy wild.


Also, did I say yet, that I love this thread!


I read somewhere the list off all the mods he had done, and it was endless.

I think the most important mod can make on a DR to achieve Trey's tone or improve whatever else your after is to swap the speaker, remove  the bright clip, and add a mid pot control to the reverb circuit. I wish I never sold my DRRI!!!!!

I now switch between a Mark III and a 68 Bandmaster. Trying to get a combo build for the head.