Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier in Use

Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier: Hard to set up? But it gets tamed here

How to get that sound you KNOW is in there.

Now then you have the triple 'recto' now what? Here's where the fun starts; you will either love doing all of this or you will hate it. Getting a great sound from any new amp like the Triple Rectifier is not always easy and I can tell you on the triple it takes a bit of knowledge. Actually when you listen to all those guys who use a triple rectifier (and there are many) you might think its a simple plug in, crank it and go. After all, these are top line amps and it must be easy? right?

Well no actually, its much harder to get a decent sound from a Triple Rectifier (or dual rectifier for that matter) and many guys give up quite early on in their quest for tone from this amp. Good! Now go and immediately buy one second hand like new, that is, if you don't really have one; you will buy it cheap and it's probably the best buy you will ever make. I bought my first one of these (I have had two) in about 2007 from a shop in Daytona Beach on the main drag down towards the beach, a great guy and I can recommend him but it seems he's not selling Mesa any more (2015). I remember at the time that the difference in price was just $100 between the dual and triple recto. I bought the triple (I was completely undecided at the time) and at first I regretted that move in a serious way; in fact I nearly sold the triple recto within a month! You may well too unless you really apply yourself to the task of getting that sound you know is in there.


Scary when new - but you soon see a way around these amps; click for a larger view

At the store, the amp sounded great. One of the first things you notice (at least I did) is that at low volumes the amp sounded really good; the first 10 minutes and you are in heaven. But get the amp home and it sounds like sh*t - really! What's changed? your environment, your cab, probably your guitar and your wallet (its got less money in it now). Its likely that after a while you will start to dig (and I don't mean the amp) - things like 'reading the manual' spring to mind. Now I personally don't have too much of a problem with the mesa boogie triple manual but it is hard going and some of the simplest settings comments in there have profound effects on the sound from your amp.

So let's just break it all down a little and work at this to get a good (read great) sound; here are the pointers which I found useful in getting the Triple really good sounding for me.

The Cab:

Here in the UK mesa boogie cabs are extremely expensive and they really hold their money on the second hand market. I did not, or ever have bought a mesa 4x12 cab. The price is completely unjustifiable here in the UK, only someone with too much money would even consider one. I have tried lots of cabs because I can, but most guys might have one cab. I would personally recommend a Marshall 1960a or 1960b cab especially if you live out side of the USA. I have actually got many cabs, Marshall, Engl and many more, but for rock music I ALWAYS end up coming back to this cab. It has the 75W Celestions in there - not the wimpy 25 or 30w Celestions reissues which are absolutely too 'flabby' to do anything ever with ANY rectifier amp from Mesa Boogie.

This cab can easily handle the output of this amp when cranked (which you will not do too often - trust me on this) and is even a stereo cab. Its a low cost here in the UK at about £400 street price (that's about $600 including tax). At this point the USA guys drool.

If you want more bottom end than this cab can give you then don't mess about get the mesa 4x12 developed for this amp; and stop moaning about the price - its your SOUND isn't it? You DO want the best? Your sound cannot be compromised, its the main tool you have! For the real deal cab from Mesa Boogie there are a number of choices from the oversized 4x12 or the cab now called the 'stiletto' 4x12 cab. You could also use those 2x12 Rectifier cabs they have if you don't have the space or money or don't need the volume.

You could also use the Road King II 4x12 which offers a partially open back cab along with a closed cab and use which is most suited to you for your sound. I suggest you try them out. I'll keep my Marshall cab thanks. If you can afford the Mesa Boogie 4x12 cab and you live in Europe you too have too much money. My address is on the contacts page... feel free to send it to me any time you want. No you fool not the cab, the money!

The Speaker Cable:

That's right you are reading this and all the time you thought any old speaker cable will do? unfortunately it will not. There is a massive range of amp to speaker cables out there of varying price and varying quality and the bad ones are REALLY bad. Remember the one you use right now and bought for less than $15 (£10). Getting a cheap cable and using it here is going to do you no favors- and the ultimate sacrilege is using a guitar cable - don't do it. Not only is it going to give you a really bad sound, its going to affect the amp itself and could possibly lead to early failure of a major component - you!

But seriously, the amp cannot work correctly if you use a regular guitar cable here. Go out and buy one of those really thick amp to speaker cables - made for the job, with two wires neither is a shield (open the jack to check, don't believe the dealer) and don't cut corners on this cable - it will last a long time and you will probably have it for many years so in the long run its a good idea to do the right thing here. You will not regret it.

Now we move on to the Triple Rectifier amp and how to get the best sounds from it (many of these tips and tricks work just the same on a dual recto so save the page). There are three channels on a triple rectifier - clean with two 'modes' available to you and the other two channels with three 'modes' or types of sound from each channel. Channel one is what it says on the tin - in clean mode it really is pristine clean - like Fender, while in 'pushed' mode you get some break up of the sound - nice with some blues styles. Did I say you can use a Triple for the blues? yes that's right you can.

In fact, both the dual and triple rectifiers can be used for much more than out and out rock or metal - they are actually very versatile amps indeed and very often these amps are really associated with rock and metal only, but I can tell you they have some really great clean and 'nice' overdriven sounds as well as the ones you 'expect' from them. But I suspect you bought yours for rock or metal, right on! I noticed after much experimentation that really the channel for lead guitar (what from a recto? yes really) was channel two. On a Triple Rectifier channel two is the best channel in the amp. In fact channel two became my favorite channel in the triple rectifier amp I had - it was awesome - eventually... read on.

For Channel two and three I used a Tube Screamer (TS808 in my case) to get the amp really tighter on the bottom end; an aspect often criticized in recto amps. I did previously use a BBE Sonic Maximiser before I woke up to the Tube Screamer when I had my first Triple Rectifier amp, but that was difficult to get right and never sounded like what you hear from these amps. Its not easy with the TS and control settings, but its not too hard either. Without the TS it can be really hard work! Just a 10th of a turn on a control knob can zap your sound.

When you set up the triple recto set the FX loop controls for send and mix to the normal position which is marked on the chassis. Later make sure the FX loop is activated (turned on) for the output control and solo knobs to work properly - often these settings are wrong and the knobs don't work right. When set correctly the output will act like an overall 'master' control so you can keep that monster at bay as you play. You really would not like a triple on full tilt just trust me on this. Remember the Triple Rectifier can easily damage your hearing so be acutely aware of the volumes you could be dealing with if you can't control the volume properly.

Initial Settings

Here are some settings for the initial sound. There are some in the manual and I also found those very useful especially when you start with this amp for the first time:

Set the rectification to silicon diode. Set the Variac to bold.

Channel 1 Mode 'clean' presence 10:00 master 10:30 gain 12:00 bass 12:00 mid 08:00 treble 12:00

Channel 2 Mode 'vintage' presence 11:00 master 11:00 gain 2:00 bass 10:00 mid 10:00 treble 12:00

Channel 3 Mode 'modern' presence 8:30 master 9:30 gain 1:30 bass 12:00 mid 8:00 treble 12:00

Adjust the volumes to balance the channels. Set the master to where you like (but I like 11:00 to 12:00).

Now these are just really the sounds you can start with; there are also many in the handbook, but like they say, take your time with changing these. The Presence and the Treble are massively important in this am as is the bass control and you have to dial in these settings really carefully. For the tube screamer I have mine more as a 'booster' than a distortion pedal - and here's one of the secrets to the triple recto in my opinion - DO NOT whack up the distortion on the tube screamer - it will not usually be too cool. Keep the settings so that the TS is driving the channel without distorting the channel - like a boost for the guitar e.g. drive 8:00 to 9:00 tone 12:00 and level 12:00 or higher depending on your style - you will soon get the hang of this.

You could also use a Seymour Duncan pedal; it can give you up to 25db gain from a little red pedal and it does not do distortion - its exactly what you want and probably cheaper than the TS. I have one of these too and it can be easily set (theres only one knob - no not me you fool) and the result is great. I never heard of anyone else using one of these so remember you heard it from me first. The difference is quite amazing.

Presence Gain Treble and Bass Controls

The presence on channel two and three is vastly different - if for example both were set to 10:00. Actually channel three would be set to 10:00 PLUS the maximum of channel two! so bear in mind that whacking up the presence on channel three will be an experience of getting those 'modern' modes you have heard on countless records - but CAREFUL dialing in of the presence and treble is necessary.

But if you turn up the presence on lead work you will undoubtedly not like the sound, in my view the sound goes very thin and gets really tiring and forgettable very quickly because its a crap tone! So don't do it - this amp was designed in a different way than most - and that's exactly why you see so many triples available for sale - guys just don't drive them right - hence the 'bad press' these amps sometimes get - but that view and reputation is completely unfounded and these triple recto amps are in my view one of the best 'sleepers' you can buy, just superb value for money. Just heed the warnings and LISTEN to what you are told by other guys then you won't go far wrong. Experience matters with this amp. Mine was like new and cost just $900 (or somewhere about that price) - it was like mint and just 3 years old with very little use.

The manual talks about gain and treble controls. In my view the presence (see above) and the treble are the two most important controls. If you want more distortion in a given channel without increasing the gain or master, then crank the treble and lower the presence and hey presto its all in there. I would also watch that bass knob when you are NOT in the modern mode. The effect can be to turn a great lead sound in to a flabbly noise.

For all my amps I have a front panel printed out and I keep it with the amp for the knob and control settings. This way, once I do have those settings for 'my' sound I can easily get back there if someone knocks a knob or just twiddles around when I'm not there. In the studio this is what musicians do on the very first sight of my rectifier amps and its all lost if you don't document every setting.

I learned this trick of documenting the settings a long time ago with my Engl E670, because once I have those channel settings then I don't change them virtually ever. The same applies to the back of the amp - and there are some in the manual - I just shrink them on the Photostat machine and mark them out. My settings card is usually about 6x4 inches (who knows what that is in cm - and who cares). But it's really easy to knock the settings and sometimes at a gig you might have trouble getting them back - hence the record of the settings. Remember just 10% variance on some of these controls will destroy a perfect sound.

Obviously there are no exact settings and I do not have a simple set here and thats it section - my sound is not your sound. Even if you use my exact settings you might well be unhappy with the sound that comes out of the amp. And there are many settings you can change. I recommend changing just one thing at a time and listening closely as an a or b comparison then settle with which one you like THEN write it down! For example, you might like the spongy setting or the bold setting at the back of the amp. I prefer the bold and also the Silicon rectification for lead guitar work. The tube rectification to me sounds 'flabby' but that might just be me. It does however have its place in different channels and different use - like rhythm guitar, or crushing modern mode. Some guys rave about the tube rectifier rectification, I rant about it.

Remember if you really want that metal sound it will come from the modern mode of the amp and you can get that from channel two and channel three but channel three is the one you have heard - because of the presence control and how it works in the amp as stated earlier. Oh and don't look for reverb its not there! get a pedal in the loop if you must.

My favorite channel in the triple recto is undoubtedly channel two set to vintage with silicon diode rectification, bold setting and master (for the amp) set at about 11:30 to 12:00. If you play lead guitar (and many who buy these amps do not) then this setup will be awesome for you. In fact I still use the exact settings today on the Road King II which sounds the same on channel three as this channel two on the triple rectifier does.

Funnily enough not too long ago I sold my second Triple Rectifier to fund a Road King II, and the guy who bought the Triple Rectifier (you know who you are) complained. The first things out of his lips was 'its too loud'! So, read that manual and set up the output control correctly. It matters. If you don't? maybe you will be moving house.

I do not have a triple recto today, so most of this is from memory from when I did. I have probably got this right, but if anyone finds anything which I got wrong (I'm getting old :-) let me know. Or indeed if you have any other things to contribute Ill put your infop up here and make you famous - it helps EVERYONE to be that way.

One thing I did not mention for all you Triaxis users (yes here on the triple recto page, you will come here sooner or later) is that no matter what you do there is no triple or dual recto in the TriAxis, no matter what they say and this was one of the reasons for me when I sold the TriAxis. You could use the rectifier preamp and sell the Triaxis - but then its not a Triaxis is it? The Triaxis does however have its uses and that is NOT detrimental just because it does not have recto speak.

I also really like Marshall amps and some of the sounds in those. Check out the reviews as they are coming on line all the time; it just takes a while to write just one page on this site - so check back regularly.

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