Randall Smith at Mesa

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by brianf, Jan 1, 2008.

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  1. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    There's a huge amount of bashing Mesa (amps, as well as Randall Smith) here, for various reasons.

    Yes, I agree that they have patented some things which probably shouldn't have been granted because they were 'obvious' - but I'm not sure that any actually had prior use in a guitar amp. (And if they were granted wrongly, it's the fault of the Patent Office, not the applicant.)

    Yes, I agree that some of their ad copy is way over the top and bordering on nonsense.

    Yes, I agree that the amps aren't for everyone and can be offputting to people who aren't the sort who like to finely adjust things to get their tone.

    But Mesa have unquestionably been one of the most innovative amp companies ever, constantly pushing the boundaries of sounds and functionality in a way that very few other companies even come close to, while maintaining well above average quality at the same time as vastly increasing production.

    Remember that they were one of the first (if not the very first) 'boutique' amp companies, when they started. I don't know if they're number three in the world in production numbers now (for tube amps), but they certainly are in brand recognition.

    And they're one of only two amp companies - the other is Fender, obviously - who have twice redefined not only what an electric guitar can sound like, but also actually changed the course of music. No-one has done it three times. (Not even Marshall - none of their later amps are really more than an evolution of their first ones, tonally.)

    I'd put my Trem-o-verb and Blue Angel up against any amps ever made for outright tone, and the T-verb can do so much it's hard to know where to start if you're looking to beat it.

    I've also had the pleasure of a long conversation with Randall Smith when I was reviewing a Mesa amp for a guitar magazine, and he was a funny, honest and down to earth guy.
     
  2. alberob

    alberob Member

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    I still use my 1980 Mk2B all the time.It died once since I got it and repaired it myself after an extended conversation with a tech who had been around since the beginning.When I first got it and had a few questions Randall would get on the phone and answer them all.You will never deal with a nicer bunch of people.Randall is probably partially responsible for the G.A.S. on this forum as he lead the way to the search for the perfect amp for our individual needs.:dude
     
  3. EdMan57

    EdMan57 Member

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    Are you talking about Randall Smith or Ted McCarty?...as I believe Leo to have been a non musician,and Mr. Marshall to have been a drummer,of sorts.

    :confused:

    Ed
     
  4. VacuumVoodoo

    VacuumVoodoo Member

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    There's nothing unusual about RS patents. Patent law makes a clear distinction between an invention and novel application of a previously known principle/design. Most of RS patents are the latter. Some circuits patented by RS were known in the public domain but have not been used specifically in guitar amplifiers to achieve a different result/function from originally intended.
     
  5. kimock

    kimock Member

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    Randy! Dude can play. . .
     
  6. EdMan57

    EdMan57 Member

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    :BEER

    Cool!Thanks for the info.

    Ed
     
  7. rooster

    rooster Member

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    OK, let's start with the most obvious. RS patented the idea of two switchable masters volume on the same preamp channel. Marshall did that 14 years prior with the SL-X series of amps. Now, you cannot market an amp with that feature. That feature would allow you to build a lead channel and switch between two volume levels. Gee, can you think of a use for that? Well, he basically took Marshall's idea and patented it, and will litigate you out of business if you use it, even though he didn't come up with it.

    How about the cold clipping circuit on the Soldano SLO? That's the heart of the Dual Rectifier sound, he lifted it, and did a crappier version of it, and everyone talks about how he changed the sound of the electric guitar. That was Mike Soldano, not Randy Smith who created the Dual Recto sound.

    How about a switchable rectifier, between tube and solid state? That's been a common mod for decades, but he put a patent on it. Now, you can't build that feature into your amp.

    The problem people have with him is not his innovations or the quality of his amps (although I think they sound like crap next to an old Marshall), it's the fact that he takes someone else's design, patents it, and sues you out of business if he finds you infringing on "his" patent. Even if it's something that has been in the "public domain" for years. He'd patent the on/off switch if he thought he could get away with it. It's strong-arming, pure and simple.

    Can't think of a single thing he's come up with. Cascading previously parallel gain stages came around before him, although I might be wrong. If he came up with it, then huzzah. That's the ONLY thing he's ever actually come up with. The rest has been lifted. Which in itself is not a problem. The problem is when he lifts something, patents it, and sues people out of business for using the same thing that HE lifted. His platform is basically, "I stole it first."

    rooster.
     
  8. Ed Reed

    Ed Reed Senior Member

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    As far as patents that can be said for 99% of them. Someone else had the same idea at about the same time but the other one was first in line at the Patent Office.

    As far as Randy Smith, very good business man who happens to build amps.
     
  9. rooster

    rooster Member

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    That's very true. I wouldn't be caught dead playing his crap, though. Just the same way I wouldn't cross a picket line. I have personal ethics.

    rooster.
     
  10. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Marshall used two separate masters, neither of which affects the other. Mesa use a master and a 'solo' control.

    Yes, very similar in function - but different in detail.

    So why isn't the SLO the definitive modern rock amp? Because it isn't the same circuit, and doesn't sound the same. In any case, both are derivatives of the basic Marshall circuit anyway. (Which itself is an evolution of the Fender Bassman as I'm sure you know.)

    The SLO is a great, classic amp, but it didn't change music the way the Dual Rectifier did.

    Certainly it was a common mod - but it never appeared on a production amp before.

    I actually agree with you, but the fault is with the Patent Office for granting patents they shouldn't - and which anyone who knows anything about electronics should realise are 'obvious' and hence non-patentable.

    Randall Smith is simply doing what he can to protect his innovations in production amplifiers. It's a hard business to make serious money in unless you're willing to compromise on quality (eg Marshall, Fender), and about the only way anyone has of retaining a real competitive advantage with amps that are more expensive to make is by protecting certain features for as long as possible.

    As far as I know Randall Smith did come up with the first cascaded-distortion (which is different from cascaded-gain, which even he wrongly calls it) amp. That's the single biggest evolution ever made in guitar amplification IMO.

    I also think he was first with clean/dirty channel-switching, invented 'Simul-Class', and more recently channel-assignable output section and rectifier switching.

    You might not like the sound of the amps, but that doesn't make them bad sounding. It's actually pretty funny you should put them down by comparing them to an old Marshall - if you were closer, you could stop by and I could demonstrate just how close the Trem-o-verb can get to an old Marshall :). Close enough that you can barely tell which is which, through the same speakers. Which Marshall? Flip some switches and turn the knobs and you can go from JTM45 to near 2203 without even changing the power tubes to EL34s, which makes it even closer.

    Mesa amps aren't perfect, but I do find the constant, relentless bashing of them here by people who have mostly not even bothered to properly explore what they can do quite annoying.
     
  11. Buddy Boy

    Buddy Boy Member

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    I got my 1st Mesa in '81 or '82- a Mk2B and over the course of the next 13 years or so played nothing but Mesa as I acquired several more. My last two conversations with Mesa involved questions concerning modifications to my amps. After all,they were supposed to last a lifetime,right? I was talked down to like a stepchild by some marketing a**h**e who refused to put me in touch with the "old guys" who I had received help from in the past. This young dude simply told me if I wasn't happy with my old amps to buy one of the new ones. I'm sitting on 6 Mesa's and he wants me to spend more $ with a company who just pi**ed on my porch! This was the 2nd call by the way. Well,I was already playing my Naylor's most of the time so it didn't bother me in the least to dump all my Mesa's. My tone is better,my tech can fix them,and I haven't played thru a printed circuit board since. Except my tubescreamer,mine was recovered from a crashed spaceship in New Mexico-has very early serial #.:moon
     
  12. wsaraceni

    wsaraceni Member

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    sure you can. i bought an amp just like that a few years ago. much later than when i sold my dual rec. it was a bad cat hot cat 30r. im sure there are a number of other amps that do this as well. im just not sure you can call them "dual rectifiers"
     
  13. HEAVENandHELL

    HEAVENandHELL Member

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    I've had my Dual Rec since 2000. EVERY time I've needed assistance from Mesa they've called me within a 1/2 hour and answered all my questions. They've consistently been one of the most customer oriented businesses I've ever dealt with.
     
  14. Guitar Josh

    Guitar Josh Egomaniac Silver Supporting Member

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    Mesa comes out with a brand new model seemingly every six months. All claim to be greater than the one before it.

    What amazing is that their best amps are probably the Mark series - one of the first thing they ever came up with.
     
  15. bluesmain

    bluesmain Member

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    I've had a number of Mesa amps over the years and I'll continue to use their products. They work for me.
     
  16. rooster

    rooster Member

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    Perhaps, but if a new builder came up with a dual master volume on the same channel, he'd take them to court using the much larger resources of Mesa, and litigate the smaller company out of business. He's done it before.

    Yes, both are derivatives of the JCM800 10k cathode resistor circuit, just brought to an extreme. The reason the SLO isn't the definitive modern rock amp is, first, it costs $1000 more, due to the MUCH higher quality components/layout, etc., and second, Mike S. didn't have the financial ability to give nearly so many away to up-and-coming artists. Also, on a personal note, the Soldano has a much better note definition, so if you're sloppy, it jumps right out of the mix at you. On a recto, you can hammer away, and nobody'll be the wiser.

    Yes, but what I raise issue with is him patenting it. If he puts it in his amp, cool. But, once he puts it in and then says, "nobody else can use this because I stole it first," he's crossing the line between innovation and corporate butt-piracy.

    No problem, if they are his innovations.


    Oh, I've heard them, and, like you, fixed them. I will say, flat out, that the old, original Mesa in the hardwood cabinet with the 12" speaker was a MONSTER, if it was cranked up. That was the only one I was ever impressed with. The "newer" Mesas never had that "true" sound that the original Marshall amps had. They, to me, sounded like a not-quite-as-good-as-an-800 amp, not an old Marshall. I don't bash them just on their tone quality; that will ALWAYS be a personal opinion, and if their tone floats your boat, fine. I just believe that you should protect your own designs, but he's gone too far. He has become the example of the ridiculous corporate giant, even though they are, by corporate standards, pretty small.

    rooster.
     
  17. kruts

    kruts Member

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    Well let's just say the SLO costs $2k more... a little tougher for the 'average' musician to afford. That affects how well it sells in the market, so it obviously didn't change music the way the recto did.
     
  18. treeofpain

    treeofpain Silver Supporting Member

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    I doubt Marshall is quaking in their boots over any possible lawsuit threats from Mesa. They can probably take care of themselves just fine.

    The small builders are not so strong.
     
  19. kruts

    kruts Member

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    Wasn't the mark series a derivative of the fender princeton circuit? Didn't mesa start out with modifying fender amps? Surely mesa lifted design aspects of fenders somewhere along the way.

    Nothing has been really innovative lately like Reinhold Bogner stated recently...
     
  20. Guitar Josh

    Guitar Josh Egomaniac Silver Supporting Member

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    Yes, you are correct, but to me, that was a substantial innovation. As was the dual rec. But I just have a hard time believing that a company that releases model after model all claiming to the be the "best yet" is doing any real innovating at all.
     
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