MESA RECTIFIER BADLANDER: notes from a non-metal player

tayholliday

Member
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86
That's one thing I wish they'd kept standard on all Rectos, a master Output separate from the channel masters, but I think the way it was designed (and someone please feel free to correct me here) required the dreaded parallel FX loop to make that particular setup work. Not that they couldn't redesign it, I'm sure, but players must not have cared much. I like smoothness and compression anyway, and I find that I'm more likely to set up a compressed, singing lead tone and then alter my right hand attack for rhythm than to dial in separate sounds for each, so I'm not in dire need, but it would be nice.
Interesting. Any idea why a global master separate from channel volumes would require a parallel loop?

I really hate mesa's design, as I've made abundantly clear elsewhere. The channel volumes determine the send to the effects processor (as they should), but then you have no way to attenuate that after the loop. And if the loop isn't unity gain, it sounds bad due to signal bleed. You wouldn't have that problem at all with a separate preamp and power amp.

The means that:
- you can't have a noise gate (or any effect that depends on input level) in your loop that is calibrated for all volumes
- you can't use a volume pedal (or any other attenuating device) in your loop as a master volume.

Due to this my poor MkV:25 is relegated to being a lightweight mono tube power amp, as I'm using a separate preamp hooked into the effects return.
 
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Jim Roseberry

Silver Supporting Member
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1,439
I'm typically into Modded-Marshall type gain tones (not Metal).
The Crunch setting is pretty versatile with a wide range of usable gain.
Everything from light to heavier crunch.

Crunch setting takes boost pedals well (Timmy, Melody, etc all sounded good).
Crunch setting (especially with a boost) is about all the gain I'd ever need.

Clean setting is pretty decent... but (to my ears) not as nice as the Clean channel of a Shiva.
Crush setting is more in-line with what I'd associate with a typical Rectifier (higher-gain) tone.
IMO, Crunch setting is the star of this amp.

Thru a real 2x12 v30 Cab and Cabclone IR, I was liking the Variac setting.
Thru an OX Box, I liked the Variac less (may be the reactive-load on the OX).

There's a nice touch-sensitivity on the Crunch setting.

Did I mention I hate the fan?!?!
That'll have to be replaced with a Noctua.

Extremely versatile, Cab-Clone IR sounds as good as the better reactive-load/IR boxes, and cost is reasonable (given features)
MESA did a great job with the Badlander.
 
Messages
68
Nice report, OP, thank you for all the details :) To me, it's not surprising you use the amp this way. Blues guitarist Walter Trout has said that he runs a Mesa amp at death metal levels of gain for leads, and rolls back the volume on his Strat for cleaner rhythm tones.

OP, how would you compare the Badlander EL34 to the TC-50 or 100? From your description, it seems the Badlander leans more Recto; from my experience, the TC series doesn't lack low end, but also doesn't flaunt it.

I really like the idea of a Recto with upper mids emphasis. In the past, I've hit a Dual Recto with a Tubescreamer to get that, and to reduce some of the boom. It seems the Badlander accomplishes all that out of the gate!
 
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1,049
OP, how would you compare the Badlander EL34 to the TC-50 or 100? From your description, it seems the Badlander leans more Recto; from my experience, the TC series doesn't lack low end, but also doesn't flaunt it.

I really like the idea of a Recto with upper mids emphasis. In the past, I've hit a Dual Recto with a Tubescreamer to get that, and to reduce some of the boom. It seems the Badlander accomplishes all that out of the gate!
I've only heard, never played, the Triple Crown, but from what I can tell, the TC is generally a bit more focused and precise, arguably thinner as @Jim Roseberry said – I think they were trying to split the difference between Recto- and Mark-style gain, that huge sprawl on one hand and that laser-beam precision on the other. I'd really have to be in the room with a TC to judge, but that's what I know so far.

Definitely an upper mids emphasis, and definitely a reduction of boom. I can't tell you how the Badlander KICKS, even at low volume, even at 3 a.m. house-is-asleep volume. We're talking "don't stand behind the mule, Granny" levels of kick.

After spending another hour with the Badlander last night, I feel I should add one thing: the overall character of the gain is still very Rectifier, and nothing you're going to mistake for a JCM800. It's still smoother, darker, and more mid-focused than anything Marshall, but the whole harmonic context has been moved up (what does "mid" mean?, for example) and you've got that EL34 ka-ZANG on top.

You can, however, get truly excellent Plexi tones by playing with the Gain in Crunch mode, all the way from a pretty historically accurate 1959SLP starting to sweat (around noon) to something like Steve Vai's José-modded JMP (gain up all the way).
 
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Interesting. Any idea why a global master separate from channel volumes would require a parallel loop?
I don't know that it would require a parallel loop in all cases – it must not: surely there's a multi-channel amp out there with separate channel and overall masters, plus a serial effects loop – but on the period Mesas I've seen, mostly Rectos, the Output was technically the "Loop Active Master," and you had to jumper the Send and Return jacks to get it working.

I haven't spent a lot of time looking at the design, and I'm no FX loop expert anyway, but I'm guessing Output controlled the summed volumes of the parallel dry and wet signals; thus, it did nothing with the loop empty, but if you jumpered the loop with nothing in it, Output suddenly came on, and you could crank the channel Master for more saturation, or dime Output and use Master very low for a finer-textured sound. The summing thing makes sense to me, not just because the loop had to be active, but because ... well, what else would Output be turning up, you know? It's presumably going to the power amp just like Master is, but at a later stage, after the loop.
 

Jonathan

Platinum Supporting Member
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3,742
That's just because apparently nobody has heard of these things called parametric or graphic EQ pedals which would do the same thing they want out of a TS or SD, namely mid boost and low cut, but with far more control over the sound. Granted, a TS9 or SD1 or similar is cheaper!
That's the school of thought I fall into. I use either an Amptweaker Tight Boost (boost + EQ) in front or a VFE Rocket parametric in the loop (or both) of my Tremoverb instead of sticking a Tube Screamer anywhere. Both pedals are far more capable of sculpting the tone and signal boost level than a TS / SD1 for me.
 

TP Parter

Member
Messages
1,154
Excellent write up. Agree that it's not a modern metal amp. The metal dudes who reviewed it put boosts in front. Why don't they just build that boost in?

I just really don't need the black tread plate, because I don't walk on the front of my amp anymore.
You could build the highest gain/tightest/most brootalz amp of all time, and the metal guys will still put a TS9 or SD1 in front. Groupthink.
It's fun being weird.

I do really hate pedals though. Lots of points of failure, impulse buys, wasted money and time, all these dirt pedals which claim to sound like a tube amp but don't.

When I tried out the Badlander I cynically thought, "did they make this amp so weak in terms of gain so you'll have to buy one of their pricey pedals"?

But I thought its' raison d'etre is to be the Rectifier that doesn't need a boost for metal? Which is funny to me because I don't really need a boost to play most metal with a Rectifier unless I am playing really low volume or playing with beyond nutz levels of gain. Which granted some music calls for that.
 
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But I thought its' raison d'etre is to be the Rectifier that doesn't need a boost for metal? Which is funny to me because I don't really need a boost to play most metal with a Rectifier unless I am playing really low volume or playing with beyond nutz levels of gain. Which granted some music calls for that.
It "doesn't need a boost for metal" in the sense that it's mega tight and chunky with a wallop of a low-end thud. I think it's a little lower gain than most other Rectos partly to preserve that tightness, partly so the Britishness of the tone doesn't get obscured (because I really do think "the British Recto" is its main ethos), and – if I'm guessing from a "how are we selling this?" sort of perspective – partly so it can work with people's pedalboards if they use OD and distortion from pedals.

As an amp designer, my god, think of what Randall Smith's seen from 1968 till now! The whole idea of the Boogie was to build an amp that could get you massive (c. 1970) levels of gain on its own, at any volume, and if someone wanted to add a wah, fuzz, whatever, nobody was too concerned about signal fidelity and buffering. (Good lord, all those wah sounds from the late ’60s when guys' whole signal chains were going into wahs at the end, and everything was going oooWOCK WOCK WOCK.)

Now you've got to build an amp that's every bit the same monster live in the room, but also sounds good as a preamp into IRs, also takes a million pedals into the front end, and also sounds good with half a dozen things stacked in the loop. And Randall Smith himself happens to have invented an enormous amount of the things that separate an amp in ’68 from an amp now – not just the high-gain cascaded preamp, but low/high-gain channel switching, channel footswitching, simulclass operation, mixed-tube power sections (as far as I know), the 3-channel low-/mid-/high-gain switcher, et al. It's been a hell of a 50 years in Petaluma.
 

cardinal

Member
Messages
5,192
So does this really not have a lot of preamp gain?

Ive owned all versions of the Dual Recto except D, and typically for my metal jollies, I ran Red channel in modern with the diode rectifier and the gain around 1:00, no boost, and it was monstrous. Is the Badlander not capable of that?

(FWIW love boosting an older Marshall or Vox type amp to high gain, but I hated boosting the Recto, as it seems to squash all the things I liked about it).

EDIT: I listened to the vid posted above, and I guess it's hard to judge from a YT video of an amp recorded direct. But it didn't seem to huff and snort and spit like a normal Recto. But maybe that's what people want; or maybe it'd be different in the room with a real cab.
 
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DrRaoulDuke

Member
Messages
206
So does this really not have a lot of preamp gain?

Ive owned all versions of the Dual Recto except D, and typically for my metal jollies, I ran Red channel in modern with the diode rectifier and the gain around 1:00, no boost, and it was monstrous. Is the Badlander not capable of that?

(FWIW love boosting an older Marshall or Vox type amp to high gain, but I hated boosting the Recto, as it seems to squash all the things I liked about it).

EDIT: I listened to the vid posted above, and I guess it's hard to judge from a YT video of an amp recorded direct. But it didn't seem to huff and snort and spit like a normal Recto. But maybe that's what people want; or maybe it'd be different in the room with a real cab.
I have a single rectifier 50 from the early 2000s (with EL34s) and the Badlander 50 head. I don't use boost or distortion for either but I use fairly high output bridge humbuckers when playing metal. The Badlander does have a touch less gain but for me it's still plenty of gain for most metal genres. I've not maxed out the gain on the crush channel, I run it at around 3pm and thats plenty for me. Also, really digging the cleans with single coils.
 
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1,049
So does this really not have a lot of preamp gain?

Ive owned all versions of the Dual Recto except D, and typically for my metal jollies, I ran Red channel in modern with the diode rectifier and the gain around 1:00, no boost, and it was monstrous. Is the Badlander not capable of that?
I've never been in a room with a C, D, or E, but I think I've heard pretty much every other Recto in person and definitely C/D/E in recordings, and in terms of gain range, it's going to be closer to the earlier ones. A Multiwatt can roar you out of your chair at pretty low volume on preamp gain alone, and this isn't quite like that; it's more in the smack and chunk and zing of things, more in how it hits and less in the sheer gain.

This might be a useful heuristic: with my 25-watt Recto combo, I can get infinite-sustain gain on either 10 or 25 watts with volume quite low and Gain around 3:30. With the Badlander in Crush mode and Gain maxed out, infinite sustain would require me to turn it up louder than I've had the chance to.

You mention Modern mode too, and THAT is a crucial thing. To me, Modern is "the Recto sound." The Badlander is so different, in part, because there's no ability to strip negative feedback, so volume, gain, and EQ are all going to be in very different places than you're accustomed to (certainly different than I expected!).

But it didn't seem to huff and snort and spit like a normal Recto.
You're right, it does a whole ’nother set of things. It barks and clangs and snaps at you. Less widescreen sprawl, more smack upside the head. I definitely wouldn't recommend getting it as just "the next Recto with more features" – it's a different amp from the rest of the series, full stop.
 

cardinal

Member
Messages
5,192
I've never been in a room with a C, D, or E, but I think I've heard pretty much every other Recto in person and definitely C/D/E in recordings, and in terms of gain range, it's going to be closer to the earlier ones. A Multiwatt can roar you out of your chair at pretty low volume on preamp gain alone, and this isn't quite like that; it's more in the smack and chunk and zing of things, more in how it hits and less in the sheer gain.

This might be a useful heuristic: with my 25-watt Recto combo, I can get infinite-sustain gain on either 10 or 25 watts with volume quite low and Gain around 3:30. With the Badlander in Crush mode and Gain maxed out, infinite sustain would require me to turn it up louder than I've had the chance to.

You mention Modern mode too, and THAT is a crucial thing. To me, Modern is "the Recto sound." The Badlander is so different, in part, because there's no ability to strip negative feedback, so volume, gain, and EQ are all going to be in very different places than you're accustomed to (certainly different than I expected!).



You're right, it does a whole ’nother set of things. It barks and clangs and snaps at you. Less widescreen sprawl, more smack upside the head. I definitely wouldn't recommend getting it as just "the next Recto with more features" – it's a different amp from the rest of the series, full stop.
thanks. This is super helpful. I was kinda wanting a rackmount one, but it seems like it's just not what I'd be expecting.
 

DrRaoulDuke

Member
Messages
206
Just discovered a nice cranked Plexi tone with a bridge humbucker: Clean mode, full power, bold, everything maxed except master and presence at 1-2pm
 
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1,049
Just discovered a nice cranked Plexi tone with a bridge humbucker: Clean mode, full power, bold, everything maxed except master and presence at 1-2pm
Yep, it does killer Plexi stuff anywhere between full-out on Clean and about halfway up the gain dial on Crunch – by then you're into José territory, and you can push it to full 2203 roar with EQ tweaks as well.
 

MauiJohn

Member
Messages
5
I've seen several people around here asking for a rundown of the Rectifier Badlander's capabilities outside modern metal, and I'm a non-metal Recto fanatic, so I figured this might be useful. For context's sake, I probably have strange taste in Rectifiers: my absolute favorite, at least in most ways, is the 2014 Multiwatt Dual Rectifier Rect-O-Verb 25, with the EL84 power section and Fillmore speaker. (Not, to be clear, the Single Rectifier Rect-O-Verbs of, I believe, 1998 and 2001, which I don't think are among the better Rectos.) I think the Multiwatts in general are the best, not least because they also include that Fender-based channel you can push from blackface territory into tweed crunch and Marshall rasp, and I mostly use the Modern high-gain channel with Presence way down for a huge, thick, very touch-sensitive lead and heavy rhythm tone.

So, with that out of the way (all comments refer to the Badlander 50 combo with Creamback speaker):

• The Badlander is not "a metal amp." You could use it to play metal, especially with something in front of it – depending on your idea of "metal," say, a Keeley Oxblood, an EQD Acapulco Gold, or any of the great Amptweaker distortions. But the Badlander isn't a terribly high-gain amp by modern standards and falls much closer, on that score, to the SLO 100 or Bogner Shiva than, say, a Victory Kraken or later-model 5150. It is, however, extraordinarily tight and punchy (more on that later), which makes it ideal for palm-muted rhythm work.

• "Can it do – ?" Yes. There's massive versatility here, despite the fewer modes and channels compared to some other Rectos. You probably know that it's got 2 identical channels, each with Clean, Crunch, and Crush modes; between the gain, EQ, multiwatt switch, and Variac/Bold voltage selector, there's an enormous range of tone here. Each mode builds on the previous in a very linear and historically accurate way: Clean lives in tweed Bassman/early Marshall territory, and you can push the gain for Plexi crunch or roll it back and crank the master for very Hiwatt-detailed cleans. (I haven't yet tried to dial it in this way, but I suspect you can get something Voxy out of it as well.) Crunch will take you from a hotter Plexi range up through modded-JCM800 territory, and Crush is the full Rectifier – but it's this full Rectifier, not any other, which I'll get to in a minute. (Nothing here sounds exactly like its point of comparison, of course, and I wouldn't want it to; these are just general guidelines.)

• No fizz, no boom, no hypersensitive controls. The searing, seething, almost white-noisy fizz of certain Rectos, especially the Revisions F & G, and the widescreen sub-bass massiveness of the whole Recto line aren't to be found here – in fact, all the pot tapers and interactive controls are much closer to a Marshall than to any Recto I've played before. You can run Bass as high as you like without getting flubby, there's a very wide and very usable sweep to the Mid pot, Treble is in a more traditional frequency bandwidth than its high-mid sweep on other Rectos, and Presence, while it can get VERY present indeed, won't take your head off with buzzsaw harmonics in its upper ranges. That said, the Badlander has a lot more high end on tap than prior Rectos, so I'd advise setting both Treble and Presence well below noon and working from there.

• This is the British Rectifier that might have been. You Mesa fans will know that they've been in a retrospective mood over the last decade: relaunching the Recto as a tweed-grille EL84 combo, somehow putting every great Boogie-series tone into the Mark V, creating a kind of hybrid tweed Deluxe/Twin with a master volume, and going way back to the late ’60s to reimagine a Boogie Mk. I based on a tweed Fender rather than a blackface (i.e. the Fillmore). Well, we're in similar territory here: lots of you will know that the Rectifier, like so many great high-gain amps of the period, was based on a modified Marshall Master Volume 2203 circuit, but by the time Mesa had worked out the kinks in rev. C/D and really established The Recto Sound, it was pretty far removed from its Marshall heritage.

Well, the Badlander is, in many ways, an answer to the question "What if we hadn't departed so far from the Rectifier's British DNA?" And I think one of Mesa's greatest strengths is the way they never simply whack a new power section into something big and go, "Here, now it's quiet," or the inverse; they strip everything down to the ground and start all over. That's part of why I love the ROV25: the creamiest, smoothest, richest gain in the whole Recto line, I daresay, and it wouldn't have happened if they'd just cut the amp down to 2 low-powered 6L6s.

All of which is to say that the Badlander is absolutely NOT "a Rectifier with EL34s." This amp has been reimagined, redesigned, and rebuilt from the ground up to accentuate everything unique about the EL34, and it's got a sound, feel, and general sonic presence you won't find anywhere else in the Rectifier series. The top end has a very British zing to it, the mids are broad, barky, and (I'd guess) somewhat higher-pitched than in most Mesas, like in the 750-2k range, and the low end ... oh my GOD, the low end. To put it in the language of my native land: this amp kicks like a got-dam mule. It's not the massive sub-low spread of the classic Recto, and it's not the broad resonance of the Boogie Marks, it's a super-tight THUNK right in the center of your chest. Other Rectos have had more raw gain on tap, but I don't think they've ever chugged quite like the Badlander. That, I think, will be its major metal appeal: if you need tight low-end response that'll still knock the wind out of the front row (and, ideally, the singer too), this is the place to be.

That upward frequency shift in the highs and mids, plus the huge punch of the low end, makes the Badlander 3-dimensional and room-filling in a different way than other Rectos, less "wall of sound" and more defined, but still huge. Other Rectos wash and roar across the soundstage; the Badlander makes you go, "WHOA, he's over there."

• • •

I hope all of that is useful to some of you, and if you've got any questions, feel free to ask!

Best – MSJ
Thanks for the great review. I'm curious about the clean tone. Can you get something like a Jeff Beck tone? i.e. clean but still with a lot of sustain?
 




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