The Mesa Boogie MARK FIVE 25™ is born of thoroughbred stock that carries worldwide accolades and is still setting trends with top Artists 35 years after its unveiling. The Mesa Boogie MARK FIVE 25, like the MARK FIVE it is born from, is really a collection of iconic amplifiers. There are far too many circuits and sounds to think of it as merely an amp... it’s a living history of MESA/Boogie!
From the groundbreaking MARK I that introduced the world to high-gain with it’s cascading preamp, to the Mark II - the world’s first high gain Dual Mode Channel Switching amplifier (and it’s later siblings that introduced Simul-Classpower). From the MARK III that ushered in the era of 3 Channel footswtching performance, to the MARK IV which gave all that power individual control, the MARK FIVE (and now the FIVE: 25) is the embodiment of the last 45 years of guitar amp evolution.
In this latest 25 watt incarnation, the sounds and attributes that make MARK Series amps so popular on stage and in the studio are not only shrunk to their smallest possible physical size, but are also further refined and improved. The gorgeous sparkling Cleans and soaring high gain Lead sounds have made the jump successfully across output tube platforms and a new and exciting timbre of the MARK Series voice is created here in the MARK FIVE: 25™’s EL84 Duet. Brighter, tighter, more shredding in the top end, a bit more forgiving in feel and exceedingly more clip-able, the FIVE: 25 is right on time. Whether introducing the MARK heritage to a new generation of low wattage devotees, or fulfilling the ultra-portable Tone Dreams of steadfast MARK Series fans, the MARK FIVE: 25 has got what it takes to inspire and fuel your passion in the most manageable package ever!
BACK TO THE WELLSPRING
It was back to the wellspring of past MARK amps for inspiration on the MARK FIVE: 25, so we once again revisited the most coveted of them all, the MARK II-C+. We compared that vintage icon and the production 6L6 powered MARK FIVE (being our best work to date at paying tribute to II-Cs) and listened to what the current MARK had to offer. After confirming that many of the MARK FIVE Modes absolutely HAD to be in this mini package... and that they TRULY sounded on par with (or even better than) the II-C+, we set out to find a layout that fit 6 incredible Modes into a sub-compact chassis size.
Overwhelmingly, those polled rallied for two–and only two–preamp channels for a tiny MARK amp. With pedals now offering such a personalized, quick-change approach to getting different sounds, we agreed and set to work defining the FIVE: 25’s two Channels. We’ve arrived at a collection that includes the very best of the MARK IIC+, MARK IV and the MARK FIVE in a package that’s truly unbelievable in size. The result is a new Bench-MARK, every bit a fully pro model and worthy of its ancestor’s storied heritage.
Packing the stylistic width, versatility, aggressiveness and Tone of the MARK FIVE, the MARK FIVE: 25 serves it up with a bouncy, brash new attitude all its own. Combining the power of the MARK FIVE preamp with our exclusive Dyna-Watt™ 2xEL84 power section, the FIVE: 25 creates a MARK amp of unprecedented portability, clip-ability and high-speed, tactile expressiveness. It assures the MARK amp lineage will continue on past the current “little amp” trends of today to define a sonic territory and class of amplifier hard to ignore in any size or wattage category for years to come.
The top Channel 1 incorporates our best two Clean Modes ever, CLEAN and FAT from the MARK FIVE. These Modes offer two musically useful flavors of this sparkling low gain voice that benefit from 35 years of continuous refinement and take Clean sounds to a dynamic, new touch-sensitive plateau. A third “crossover” Mode is also showcased here in Channel 1 and again, it’s taken directly from the acclaimed MARK FIVE.
The CRUNCH Mode, delivered courtesy of Channel 2 in the big FIVE, covers the mid-gain ground between Clean and mildly overdriven and ultimately, with this power section, on up to the higher gain sounds of its namesake. CRUNCH by itself is worthy of–and delivers more than–most stand-alone amplifiers. It roams the many subtle transition zones between clean, mildly pushed and fully saturated with finesse and offers an expressive, touch sensitive palette with broad stylistic boundaries. Play the Blues with howling overdrive, grind away on aggressive Chunking Rhythm or rip through Lead work with more layers of smoldering gain... CRUNCH is up for it all and then some. Also, here in the FIVE: 25, CRUNCH is enhanced by the ability to blend in more power section clip at lower volumes due to its lower wattage range. The EL84s accentuated top end harmonic content adds a nice openness to lower GAIN settings and Brit-voiced shred to the higher GAIN range, making CRUNCH even more applicable and valuable. You will likely find it, as many have, one of the most useful Modes of all in this MARK’s arsenal.Channel 1 in the MARK FIVE: 25 is fitted with an additional feature that increases both the gain and flexibility in all three of its Modes. First seen on our Carlos Santana Tribute, the KING SNAKE™, an adjustable GAIN BOOST is incorporated into the upper half of the MID Control.
What was a switchable On/Off Gain Boost feature on the original MARK I appears here (and on the Carlos Tribute KING SNAKE) as an adjustable MID/BOOST found on the MID Control. From 0 to 5.0 on the MID/BOOST you will find the normal range of a standard MID control in a condensed form. From 5.0 to 10 on the MID/BOOST a wonderful graduation of overdrive possibilities unfold that enhance gain over a wide midrange spectrum and saturate with increasing thickness. This simple but incredibly powerful (and patent applied for) MID/BOOST feature allows you to dial-in additional gain into any of Channel 1’s three Modes ranging from subtle enhancement to substantial overdrive. This incremental saturation is perfectly suited for adding extra fur to “edge of clean” sounds, helping them transition smoothly into clip with player-directed dynamics and authenticity. It also broadens the stylistic range of CRUNCH and for some players, can add all the overdrive they’ll ever need.
When even that much gain is not enough, combine CRUNCH, the upper range of the MID/BOOST and the 10 WATT Power Mode cranked way up and you’ll be truly grinding (remember, you’re still in the “Clean Channel)! The dial-to-taste smooth, warm overdrive found in the MID/BOOST transforms Channel 1 into a full featured (high gain) amplifier all its own and offers HUGE potential for great solo and overdriven rhythm sounds across a wide range of styles.
The top MK IIC+ Mode In Channel 2 is an exact recreation of the iconic MARK IIC+ LEAD Mode and offers the blistering midrange focus and searing top end of this classic 30 year-old circuit. It’s funny to think of high gain sounds as Vintage (at least for us), but as surely as the bands that used them to define their sound in the ‘80s, along with those Artist still doing so today, the C+ is a recording dream and a Road Dog... a surviving, thriving piece of Rock History. It’s urgent attack and tight midrange focus provide the perfect canvas to create, especially huge Rock and Metal sounds, with another iconic MARK feature... the on-board Boogie Five-Band Graphic EQ. The II-C+ Mode responds very well to the Graphic EQ and the ever popular extreme settings of the 80 and 240Hz Sliders. The MK IIC+ is more adept at keeping things tight, tuned and chunking due to its stripped, mid-focused nature. The 750Hz Slider is the perfect tool with which to apply the precise amount of inherent midrange attack in this Mode and bring the sound forward (bumped) or push it back (scooped) in your musical landscape. Many Heavy Rock aficionados find the MK IIC+ Mode with the EQ employed their go-to sound for aggressive high gain rhythm work. For the rest it provides an articulate, singing high gain voice with tons of mid-focus clarity from which to craft your signature Lead voice.
The middle MK IV Mode is another exact recreation, this time of the MARK IV’s “Lead” Channel and it appears on both the 6L6 MARK FIVE’S Channel 3 roster and here on the MARK FIVE: 25. This MARK IV Lead Mode is fatter and creamier than its mid-accentuated brother, offering a warmer voice that’s great for both single note soloing and high gain chording. It can provide more girth and sonic width and can round things out or fill them in. It’s nicely juxtaposed to the pointed, more forward voice of the IIC+ and is supremely balanced and full bodied. Because of this more filled-out footprint you may want to use less extreme settings on the Graphic EQ. Super-scooped mids on the 750Hz and/or radically boosted low end on the 80 and 240Hz Sliders may create sounds that are not as cohesive or turn “mushy” and slow, especially at higher GAIN (and/or MASTER settings). Played with or without the Five Band EQ though, the MK IV Mode is a great all around choice for so many styles, low or high gain, and would be a great “if I could only have one” Lead Mode. Its warmth, balance and easy to play feel are the sonic anchor for Channel 3 in the big FIVE and even more of one here in the tighter, brighter EL84 powered MARK FIVE:25.
The lower XTREME Mode is also a faithful duplication and taken directly from the 6L6 MARK FIVE. While its name is shorter here to fit this tiny Panel (no “E”), it definitely lives up to its name and delivers the radical dose of high gain infused with extra harmonics and even more urgent attack than its cousin upstairs, the IIC+ Mode. This hyper reactive voice jumps at the first hint of pick attack and roars with aggression. It’s further antagonized by the similar response of the EL84 power tubes here in the FIVE: 25 with their fast attack, higher mid frequency and relative lack of sub-low bottom end. XTREME shreds, grinds and thrashes like the angry teen it is circuit-wise and whatever it lacks in nuance, it makes up for in brash attitude. It’s very fast, forward and furious and should be used in musical environments where you don’t care if you offend and/or dominate... and in fact, may even be the goal.
5-BAND GRAPHIC EQ
The on-board 5-Band Graphic EQ has been an iconic trademark of MARK Series Boogies since it first appeared on the MARK I back in 1970. The shaping power of this feature can’t be denied, especially when combined with the MARK II and IV’s tight, mid-focused gain sound. In the ‘80s the classic “V” setting of the Graphic EQ on MARK II and III models became an instant Classic. With bigger chunking low end, scooped mids for width and a chirping harmonic top, these MARK amps were nice alternatives to the Brit-mods of the day.
They quickly took their place as the other sound in Heavy Rock, etching the on-board Boogie Graphic a nice little niche in Rock history. While the MARK FIVE: 25 Tone Controls are accurate and effective over a wide range, they come earlier in the signal path and can only achieve so much shaping before they produce possible imbalances in certain Modes. One example might be the BASS Control in Channel 2 where, in the MARK II-C+ and MARK IV Modes, too much bass dialed up early in the preamp will cause the sound to be tubby and unfocused.
The Graphic EQ comes at the very end of the signal chain so you can shape the final sound with the only consideration being how much of a certain frequency your speakers, cabinet–and ultimately your ears–can handle. The only consideration is that here in this 25 Watt power section, extreme settings of the two lowest Bands – 80Hz and 240Hz will use up power (wattage) quickly and overall headroom will be affected. This is even more of a consideration in the 10 Watt Power setting. Dial with care and taste to ensure the best performance. Subtle movements cause substantial results here, so use this powerful tool wisely and it can take your sound almost anywhere you want to go. Just be sure to reference less altered sounds from time to time to keep a perspective as it’s easy to get an “EQ Hangover”.
Each Channel is fitted with a mini-toggle just to the left of the SLIDERS to select the operational status of the 5-Band Graphic EQ and the FIVE: 25 gives you a choice of two ways to utilize its shaping power. In each Channel you can decide whether you want the EQ active all the time in that Channel–EQ ON (toggle up), bypassed all the time in that Channel¬–EQ OFF (toggle center), or activated by the EQ button on the Footswitch–EQ FS (toggle down). There is also an Orange LED in between the switches to keep you apprised of EQ status that illuminates when the EQ is active, regardless of how it has been engaged.
MULTI-WATT™ Channel Assignable Power
To the right of the Graphic EQ SLIDERS are the Multi-Watt™ Channel Assignable Power switches for each Channel. These allow selection of either the full 25 watts of Dyna-Watt™ power with its more-than-rated punch and impressive burst of headroom on the attack, or the brighter and oh-so-clip-able 10 watts of Class AB Triode power. The Blue LED lamp in the center of the Panel between the Multi-Watt switches is the AC Pilot light. Dyna-Watt is the choice for most gigging or rehearsing with others and provides the maximum volume for clean sounds and the tightest tracking response for high gain rhythm work, especially in the low end. This bouncy, elastic feeling power section was created in 1984 and was the engine behind our first low wattage amp the STUDIO .22, and its shocking performance. Explosive, dynamic speed, an easy to play feel and the impression of power far beyond its rated wattage have kept it at the center of our low wattage offerings for 30 years now. This incarnation pairs it with the MARK Series preamp, which is also dynamic, expressive and touch sensitive and together they create an incredible playing experience that’s as magic as it is portable.
The 10 Watt setting flips the 2xEL84s over to a CLASS A/B Triode wiring configuration that offers an opposite power response to Dyna-Watt along with greatly increased clip-ability. It produces a skinnier, slightly brighter response and is the same low power scheme used in our Mini Rectifier 25 for it’s ability to track many styles and it’s the perfect fit for the 6 versatile preamp Modes here in this MARK rendering as well. The 10 Watt setting is great for lower volume practicing, rehearsing and recording and allows more use of the power section as a gain source, enabling you to reduce the preamp’s GAIN Control settings and explore the old school approach to achieving tube overdrive... power saturation. With the POWER switch to engage AC power from the wall and the STANDBY to allow warm up at cold-start and cool down at set breaks for the tubes, the tour of the Front Panel is complete. Now let’s review the Rear Panel and explore the MARK FIVE: 25’s comprehensive list of interfacing and Effects possibilities.
The REAR PANEL
The first feature of note starting at the far left is the Series, Buffered, Tube FX LOOP This is the interface point for outboard processing and it provides a junction between the preamp and power section. The LOOP performs well with both Rack and Pedal type outboard gear with the obvious exceptions being those effects that work better on the INPUT of an amplifier (Wah, Compression, Gain and Overdrive Pedals, Envelope Filters, etc.). Since it is buffered, you can use multiple units in line and relatively longer lengths of cable (25 feet or less) before hearing too much degradation in signal. Lengths longer than 25 feet may warrant including an additional Buffer or Line Driver to preserve your Tone. Though it goes without saying, we’ll say it here anyway. The MARK FIVE: 25, despite it’s tiny size, is a professional amplifier. Use high quality, professional Effects Processors when interfacing to your FX LOOP or the likelihood of diminished performance and poor sound quality will be increased.
The FIVE: 25 includes a HEADPHONES Output for personal enjoyment of the amplifier when it is not possible to play through a speaker. This jack derives its “speaker simulated” signal from the included CABCLONE™ D.I. feature and delivers a surprisingly good rendering of the FIVE: 25’s sound and feel to your headphone set of choice. May we advise you here that the performance of headphones and their proximity to your ears is vastly different from that of your favorite speaker cabinet. Therefore, it is important to note that the settings of your amplifier will more than likely require adjustment to get the best results and better match the qualities of your headphones. The playing volume is determined by the MASTER control and you will need to adjust the volume there as this circuit is passive and has no op-amp driven volume control. Remember that headphones can vary greatly in both sound and efficiency and therefore the performance of the HEADPHONE jack can be optimized or compromised by the headphones connected to it. We recommend trying a few sets of different types and manufacturers with the MARK FIVE: 25 before choosing headphones for this application.
ALL-TUBE, SPRING REVERB
Next up are the REVERB Controls and there is an individual MIX for each Channel. This allows different amounts of the all-tube, short-spring analog Reverb to be dialed in for each of the FIVE: 25’s two Channels. Anything from a subtle background ambience to a fully drenched effect can be dialed according to taste and musical style and the inclusion of this traditional analog spring Reverb further underscores the professional legitimacy of this MARK model.The MARK FIVE: 25 SPEAKER interfacing is also taken straight from the 6L6 MARK FIVE and offers our time tested 1x8 OHM and 2x4 OHM SPEAKER OUTPUT jacks. This combination enables proper impedance matching with a wide range of cabinet options and speaker load impedances and ensures you’ll have great performance regardless of your cabinet choices.
INTRODUCING THE CABCLONE™ D.I.
And last but DEFINITELY not least, is possibly the coolest feature ever to grace a MESA Rear Panel, the on-board CABCLONE D.I. and Cabinet Simulation feature. This built-in magic allows you to capture a wonderful representation of the sound and feel of the MARK FIVE: 25 direct to a Console, Converter or even direct to a Recorder without the need to mic up the speaker.
Taken directly from our acclaimed stand-alone CABCLONE™, this compensated D.I. (and HEADPHONE Output) does an incredible job of capturing the signal from the SPEAKER OUTPUT and turning it into direct injection gold. The four elements here allow for use both with a live speaker and without, so you can blend the direct and a mic’d speaker cabinet if you so desire. The CABCLONE section features switches for SPEAKER Status (OFF/ON), CABINET Style (OPEN BACK/CLOSED BACK), GROUND (GROUND/LIFT; Pin 1 Float) and an XLR BALANCED Output. This array of controls comprises perhaps the most valuable and welcome feature set on any MESA amp and expand both the functionality and enjoyment potential many fold. The MARK FIVE: 25 is the first of our amplifiers to include this powerful tool built right in for speedy and convenient live use or recording applications without sacrificing authenticity and Tone. It’s sure to increase the professional potential of this little dynamo and help this MARK usher in a new era of MESA performance as well as raise the bar even further for amplifiers in its category and beyond.