How different are the Mark I, Mark I reissue, and Snake King (Santana Signature)?

Golem

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,614
I feel like I know some, but not all of the answer.

My understanding is that there are various options a Mark I could come with and what was offered varied over time. There was also the possibility of getting some customization to the circuit done. It's not like the reissue where you get what a production model with stable specs over the whole run, so that makes it a bit difficult to say what the differences are.

Santana's has 60W/100W switching. I feel like I've never seen the Tweed setting on a Mark I.

It looks like the Snake King was only available as a combo but has all the options of the Mark I. You can see it doesn't try to look as much as a reissue from the back of an amp. It uses a different speaker than the Mark I reissue combos and has the snake skin finish. As far as I've heard, those are the only differences. The original Mesa Mark I combos had a few different options for speakers. I've heard JBL, Altec, and Eminence mentioned.

I've heard some people say the Snake King sounded a lot better than a Mark I RI, but I haven't heard anyone actually show or explain how the circuit is any different. So part of me thinks the differences might be fairly minor. I have a Mark I reissue head, and it sounds very similar to me. Mine appears to have been modded by Mike Bendinelli though so that could also be why.

Santana's actual Mesa Mark I described by his tech:



Demos of the Snake King:



 
Messages
207
One big distinction between the original mk 1 and the reissues is the “gain boost” pull knob on V1 volume- this does not exist on the reissues. It just lifts the ground on the tone stack to bypass it, therefore gain increase and no tone controls. I use it a lot in mine with a treble boost- it really tightens up the sound. Does your amp have this?

The king snake has the “mid boost”- and I’m not 100% sure if that is the same tone stack bypass as on the original MK 1 moved to the “mid” knob, or if it is a more sophisticated tone circuit mod. I have never seen the tweed/blackface switch an a mk 1 either, nor have I seen it on a schematic. The 60/100 switch was available as an option originally, as well as reverb, graphic EQ, and I’ve seen pictures of old boogies with a loop but I’m not sure when that was introduced or added after the fact.

Not sure if anything I’ve said is helpful or not though…
 

Golem

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,614
Not sure if anything I’ve said is helpful or not though…
It's helpful! I had heard of the gain boost pull thing. I'd also heard at least a few people suggest that this wasn't a feature all Mark Is had. I'm reasonably happy with the RI regardless of whether they're accurate, but I'm the type of nerd who wants to know these things just because I find it interesting.
 
Messages
207
It's helpful! I had heard of the gain boost pull thing. I'd also heard at least a few people suggest that this wasn't a feature all Mark Is had. I'm reasonably happy with the RI regardless of whether they're accurate, but I'm the type of nerd who wants to know these things just because I find it interesting.
It would be a very simple mod to add to yours, just running the ground wire for the tone stack to a pull switch on one of the pots- this would also have to be added. I should note on mine it’s also extremely noisy.

61E39905-2000-49E4-B62B-1F9F8FBB88EF.jpeg
 

jujube

Member
Messages
2,617
I have all three versions and I have described some of the differences previously. The KS has a variable boost while the original had a fixed boost equivalent to putting the KS mid on 10. The boost on my 77 is loud and gets noisy. Some early Mark Is did not have the boost and pull bright and the reissue is modelled after those. The earlier ones also had a boost switch either in the front or back instead of a pull boost that you will always find on the later Mark 1s from 76-78. So the layout varied intially until it stabilized in the latter years.

Since I have three different speakers in my amps, they sound different but none of them can be considered less than the other. I have also modded the reissue to reduce the bass and the reissue is a darker amp than the others even with a Great Plains 417-8H.
 

DiPa

Constant GAS
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,157
I have all three versions and I have described some of the differences previously. The KS has a variable boost while the original had a fixed boost equivalent to putting the KS mid on 10. The boost on my 77 is loud and gets noisy. Some early Mark Is did not have the boost and pull bright and the reissue is modelled after those. The earlier ones also had a boost switch either in the front or back instead of a pull boost that you will always find on the later Mark 1s from 76-78. So the layout varied intially until it stabilized in the latter years.

Since I have three different speakers in my amps, they sound different but none of them can be considered less than the other. I have also modded the reissue to reduce the bass and the reissue is a darker amp than the others even with a Great Plains 417-8H.
All 3 are wonderful. The RI Volume is extremely sensitive, a slight turn and man it jumps up in volume.
 
Messages
2,339
One big distinction between the original mk 1 and the reissues is the “gain boost” pull knob on V1 volume- this does not exist on the reissues. It just lifts the ground on the tone stack to bypass it, therefore gain increase and no tone controls. I use it a lot in mine with a treble boost- it really tightens up the sound. Does your amp have this?

The king snake has the “mid boost”- and I’m not 100% sure if that is the same tone stack bypass as on the original MK 1 moved to the “mid” knob, or if it is a more sophisticated tone circuit mod. I have never seen the tweed/blackface switch an a mk 1 either, nor have I seen it on a schematic. The 60/100 switch was available as an option originally, as well as reverb, graphic EQ, and I’ve seen pictures of old boogies with a loop but I’m not sure when that was introduced or added after the fact.
I've got a Mark I RI, which I assume is basically standard for a reissue, and it's got the 60/100 switch and the Tweed thing (nothing about black Fenders, though, just Tweed and "Full" or "High" or whatever). No gain boost or mid boost, unfortunately, though you can assemble a kind of gain boost by jumping the effects loop and cranking the loop return volume. Pretty noisy, as you'd imagine from a big boost after the rest of the gain structure.

I've never played a King Snake, but from the demos I've heard, it's a pretty different beast from the Boogie reissues. The KS appears to do the liquid lead thing way more readily; the RI is really more like a chop-shopped black or brown Fender and miles away from what you might expect if you're judging from a Mark II onward. Not at all the same beast. You can crank up the gain boost in front of the circuit and the loop return, but it has what I would describe as a "fried" or "hoarse" quality that way – I find that some early-generation master volume amps hadn't quite figured out the gain-cascading thing, they just whopped one cranked tube in front of the rest of the circuit, and it's almost more like a strange fuzz than a distortion.

Which is not to say that they're bad amps, not at all, I'd just recommend thinking of them as closer to, e.g., a modded blond Bassman than they are to any other Boogie Mark. (I know it's not a Bassman circuit at all, no cathode follower, different gain staging and tone stack location, but that amp sticks out to me as a comparison point.)

Also, when looking for the Santana sound from any early-style Boogie, one important thing to remember: he played unholy loud. I'm pretty sure he was using Twin Reverbs at Woodstock, and if you're getting that sound out of a Twin, you're playing at death-on-impact levels. I've seen a few people saying that you've got to get the master on a Mark I up to 3 before it starts doing its thing, but you're likely going to need an attenuator for that, because that Mark I combo is maybe the loudest 1x12 I've ever heard. I think the volume gives up a bit on the latter end of the pot taper, but you're not gonna be there very often.
 
Messages
2,339
All 3 are wonderful. The RI Volume is extremely sensitive, a slight turn and man it jumps up in volume.
Good lord, yes. Never had another amp with as big a difference between 1 and 1.3 on the master. For me, anyway, at home/recording volumes, it's either a little too quiet or way too much.
 

Ultra GP

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,858
I've not tried the KS, but the reissue is a bit smoother and has more low end than the originals I've played/owned.

The original ones definitely varied in sound. I'm not sure just how different the circuit was (other than the 60/100w, reverb, etc options)

As for the gain boost, it's possible that they excluded that from the reissue since the correct CTS pots aren't available anymore. I've seen a factory modified one where it had a switch on the back.
 
Messages
207
I have all three versions and I have described some of the differences previously. The KS has a variable boost while the original had a fixed boost equivalent to putting the KS mid on 10. The boost on my 77 is loud and gets noisy. Some early Mark Is did not have the boost and pull bright and the reissue is modelled after those. The earlier ones also had a boost switch either in the front or back instead of a pull boost that you will always find on the later Mark 1s from 76-78. So the layout varied intially until it stabilized in the latter years.

Since I have three different speakers in my amps, they sound different but none of them can be considered less than the other. I have also modded the reissue to reduce the bass and the reissue is a darker amp than the others even with a Great Plains 417-8H.
I forgot about the “pull bright” on V2 volume. It makes sense that they might have left these out due to lack of availability… I had to replace V1 on mine because it got noisy and I could only find a 1 Meg pull switch pot in the mini size… it’s there temporarily until I find a proper one. Good to know I could be waiting a while.
 

jujube

Member
Messages
2,617
All 3 are wonderful. The RI Volume is extremely sensitive, a slight turn and man it jumps up in volume.
Yes. The volume is a lot more sensitive than the original or Kingsnake. Nevertheless, I always set it at 3 and adjust the preamp gain accordingly. For me, the amp in any of the versions sounds optimal only when the master is at 3 or above.
 

stevie2600

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
402
I've had the KS and have an original '77 HunRee MK I head. They couldn't be more different. Even though the KS purported to have voicing switches that replicated the sound of both the original production (non-snakeskin) Mark I's, and Carlos' snakeskin model, my feeling is the the KS did one of those very well, and the other not so well.

My impressions were that the '77 has more mojo, heft and brass to the sound, less gain and more clarity, and much richer sounding reverb than the KS dialed into Mark I mode. However, with the Kingsnake dialed into 'Snakeskin' mode, the sound was sweet, bubbly and pretty without an ounce of aggression in the sound, and again, WEAK reverb. No matter how hard I tried with the Snakeskin's native lead voicing, its bark was toothless compared to the Mark I. Beautiful, but toothless. The cleans are also exceptional. I eventually kept the Mark I and ditched the Kingsnake. Both great amps, the Kingsnake looked KILLER, but the Mark I sits better in a band mix for me and could cop some amazing, cutting lead sounds which the Kingsnake just didn't seem to be capable of.

Big plus for both the KS and the original Mark I: they both have BIG iron installed in the output section, and lots of headroom. The reissue models have the puniest looking output trannies I've seen in the Mark series.
 
Last edited:

Don A

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,766
I'm pretty sure he was using Twin Reverbs at Woodstock, and if you're getting that sound out of a Twin, you're playing at death-on-impact levels.
It's been said that he used a Galien-Krueger amp at Woodstock. Check out Tanglewood 1970 for 4 Twin Reverbs!
 

Golem

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,614
@jujube you got me curious so I looked it up. They use the same transformers throughout all the Mesa Mark series (100 watt) up until the Mark V.


The same transformer is used in:

DC-10
F-100
Heartbreaker
Lone Star
Mark I (100 Watt)
Mark II(100 Watt)
Mark III (100 Watt & Simul-Class)
Mark IV
Nomad 100
Simul-Satellite
Tremoverb

So, either all of the transformers on those amps are puny compared to the 77 that poster had or he's wrong.
 

Ultra GP

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,858
@jujube you got me curious so I looked it up. They use the same transformers throughout all the Mesa Mark series (100 watt) up until the Mark V.


The same transformer is used in:

DC-10
F-100
Heartbreaker
Lone Star
Mark I (100 Watt)
Mark II(100 Watt)
Mark III (100 Watt & Simul-Class)
Mark IV
Nomad 100
Simul-Satellite
Tremoverb

So, either all of the transformers on those amps are puny compared to the 77 that poster had or he's wrong.

I can't comment on the other amps, but the PT in the reissue is physically smaller than the original 100w and KS. I assume that list is just the amps that are compatible.

There was definitely some variation with the earlier amps. Sometimes they used the export PTs but wired them for 120v (without the voltage selector)
 

jujube

Member
Messages
2,617
@jujube you got me curious so I looked it up. They use the same transformers throughout all the Mesa Mark series (100 watt) up until the Mark V.


The same transformer is used in:

DC-10
F-100
Heartbreaker
Lone Star
Mark I (100 Watt)
Mark II(100 Watt)
Mark III (100 Watt & Simul-Class)
Mark IV
Nomad 100
Simul-Satellite
Tremoverb

So, either all of the transformers on those amps are puny compared to the 77 that poster had or he's wrong.
They appear identical in size on my 97 reissue and my 77 100 watt Mark I but I'm curious now since it has been stated otherwise...

Correction: It is a bit smaller :).

This is my 77 Mark I. The KS is a bit larger. Some of the later reissues don't have the metal fins at the back.
19145756_1071960632937356_1416532141515813577_n.jpg
 
Last edited:

Figaro

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,455
That tech states in the video that the Kingsnake reissue sounds the same as the original and has more features, so there you go.
 

Emplexador

Member
Messages
204
Did the Gil Ayan mods to my reissue...the bass was useless past 3. Also changed some preamp tubes to lower the gain...it does not clean up on channel 1. It's a beast of an amp that can run many types of output tubes
 




Top Bottom