Mesa Stiletto Deuce II Revie - Revisited

amdowell

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,802
I wanted to write a new review on H.C. but apparently their Beta 2.0 pretty much blows, so I figured I'd post it here. Maybe somebody will find it helpful. I'm going to post my old review first so that you can get a feel for a "then and now" perspective. I've come a long way from being a young, dumb kid to being a fairly intelligent gear addict.

wannabweiland said:
Product: Mesa/Boogie Stiletto Deuce Head Stage II
Price Paid: USD 1700.00
Submitted 05/21/2008 at 11:26pm by T.J.

Features
:
10
Brand new Mesa Stiletto Deuce Stage DEAUX--
I'm lazy, so you can check out the specs on mesaboogie.com.

To be honest, the only thing this is lacking for me is reverb. Aside from that, it's very versatile.

Sound Quality
:
10
I'll have to agree with the first fellow who wrote a review on this... I love this amp. Absolutely love it. I play in a progressive/indie/rock band with this is my main amp. I play alongside a guy who plays through a Mesa Mark IV and they work VERY well together. I'm a humbucker guy--I play a Gibson SG Standard and a Fender '72 thinline tele, both shine with their sunday's best through this thing.

The clean-- All modes of this, channel 1, are completely usable and musical. If I had a 6 button footswitch for this baby, you better believe I'd be using it relentlessly. The clean is crisp and... well, CLEAN. Cleans up almost as well as my buddy's Mark IV--and if you're familiar with Mark IVs you know what I mean. Gives Fenders a run for their money. The only thing it's lacking, like I said, is reverb. If this beast had reverb for both channels (or even one channel for that matter) it'd be perfecto.

The dirty--Channel 2 is perfect. I played early rectifiers for a long time and this has something smoother to it. I run mine on the Fluid Drive mode constantly. It's perfect for chugging, cuts the mix for solo work, and just plain sounds good.

Funkified, molten metal and everything in between. That's what this thing can do. Marley to Metallica, SRV to VAI, whatever you're into, this has a mode and will do it well.



Reliability
:
10
This is my only amp and it gets the job done and then some. Rock solid Mesa engineering.

Customer Support
:
10
I've dealt with them a few times and results are always good. I always get what I need and in good time.

Overall Rating
:
10
I've been playing semi-professionally for 6 or so years. I've owned numerous amps and guitars-- Marshall JCM800s, Dual Rectos, Trem-O-Verbs, Orange AD140HTC, etc etc. This one is the keeper. I run the head through a Mesa 2x12 recto cab with Vintage 30 speakers. Effects-wise I run an Ernie Ball Volume Jr., Boss TU-2 tuner, and a Line 6 DL4 Delay.

I love everything about this amp. It's got features upon features--and I'm talkin' features you can utilize every time you play! Truth is, I was loving my Orange AD140, but it lacked balls... and I needed more balls to my sound. I tried 4 or 5 other Boogies and a Soldano Avenger and this beat 'em all.

I wish it had reverb, as stated numerous times.

Try one out, you'll love it, too.
Here's the new review:


Product: Mesa/Boogie Stiletto Deuce Head Stage II
Price Paid: N/A
Submitted 10/31/2010 at 10:46am by T.J.

Features
:
9
- 2 channels; 6 modes: Ch. 1 features: Fat clean, tite clean, and Crunch.
Ch. 2 features: Crunch, Tite gain, and Fluid drive.
- Multi-watt, channel assignable from 50W/100W
- Dual rectification. Can switch from Diode or Tube tracking.
- Gain, treble, mid, bass, presence, and master controls for each channel.
- Tube buffered FX loop
- Footswitchable solo feature
- 8 and 4ohm speaker outputs

Basically the ideal live specs.


Sound Quality
:
8

Let's start with channel 1. Fat clean is a Fender Bassman-style mode, IMO. I don't normally use this as I think it's more geared towards single coils than humbuckers. I use Tite clean, which is a great mode for 'buckers. It epitomizes clean. I A/B'd this channel with Mesa's Lonestar Classic and to be quite honest, I didn't notice much difference. That should be good news for most because the Lonestars are excellent amps. The crunch mode is a very classic JTM/JMP style, straight Plexi mode. I use it to get a gritty, gainy clean for raunchy indie/alternative tunes.

Channel 2 boasts some of my favorite tones. The crunch mode is cloned to from channel one, but you might notice if both channels are set the same, it'll still be different. It states in the owners manual that they have different properties, so that's normal. Cranked, this mode will give you a cool "brown sound." I don't use this channel much because when I use it, I dime it, and I would rather flick the switch to "tite gain" and lower the gain/volume knobs to get nearly the same tone. The Tite gain mode is a very punchy sound. It definitely tries to emulate a good, loud JCM 800 with a little more focus. This will no doubt be a rhythm players mode, IMO. Gets the chugging stuff with ease. The fluid drive mode is the highest gain mode. Killer for solos, but a bit saggy for rhythm. If you could switch between tite gain and fluid drive via footswitch, you'd have no need for an OD to boost anything.

You'd be hard pressed not to find a sound that suits you somewhere in there. I wanted to address the "brightness issue." IMO, there isn't one. In my experience, all EL34 amps are on the bright side. This is easily solved with a hearty helping of VOLUME.

The only reason I'm giving it an 8 is because, I'm being realistic. I haven't found a bad sound, but I haven't dialed in my "perfect" sound either. It can get a tad noisy at high gain settings and I would prefer a little more clarity in note definition, but usually when I get single note clarity in an amp, the chord and palm-muted riffs become flubby and loose. That was the problem I had with my Soldano Hot Rod.

Reliability
:
8
Here's where I waver. When I wrote my first review 2 years ago I had had the amp for less than a month. Maybe 2 months later, the amp had some serious issues, had to get it into a tech and they had it FOREVER to find what was wrong with it. Turned out it was a bad transformer. Go figure. I sold it the moment it was returned to me from the tech.

Fast-forward. 2 years later. Back to a Stiletto. The only problem thus far is a bad stereo/TRS cable for the footswitch, which I hear is a regular issue with the stock cables from Mesa. I must have had a bad egg the first time around because I would use my Stiletto without a back up. Pretty heavy, solid head.


Customer Support
:
10
It's been awhile since I had to call Mesa, but they've always been helpful.

Overall Rating
:
9


I've been playing for awhile now. Going on 8 years I think. I'm not a professional of any sort, but I have had the honor of playing in talented bands, recording, and I've had the advantage of TGP and HC to buy/sell/trade to try all sorts of amps. As fore-mentioned, I've owned and played many amps and for some unknown reason I keep coming back to Mesa and the Stiletto. I've even tried to sell it and try something else, but the fact that I become extremely nervous and ridden with anxiety when I think of being without it has kept that from happening. It's a damn good amp and if you're looking for a great EL34 high gain British-sounding alternative, I would highly suggest trying one of these.

I give this overall rating a 9. I think this amp is solid enough to keep in a studio and on the road for a long time. I think it's sonically superior to a lot of the British/Marshall style amps who try to emulate the hot-rodded JCM800 sound and feel. This just happens to do that pretty well with an excellent clean channel paired with it.


I hope this review was helpful and not just a pointless rant. If you've made it this far, seriously thank you for reading.
 
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somedude

Member
Messages
7,603
I notice you no longer feel the amp is too bright. What did you do to solve that issue?

How is the Stilettos lead tone compared to a Mark or Recto? I've often considered getting one and setting it up for crunch/lead...
 

amdowell

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,802
I notice you no longer feel the amp is too bright. What did you do to solve that issue?

How is the Stilettos lead tone compared to a Mark or Recto? I've often considered getting one and setting it up for crunch/lead...
Funny thing actually. I had bought a MXR EQ because some other Stiletto owners recommended an EQ for the brightness problem. Well, after a few days of enjoying the sounds I was getting with the EQ in the loop, I realized all I had to do with the Stiletto was turn a few knobs to do what the EQ was doing and now it's much better. I'm a simplistic kind of guy. I don't like lots of knobs, but always found myself with a Boogie, go figure.

As far as the tone comparison, the Stiletto outdoes the Recto. It's smoother and fuller with the right settings. The Recto has a better low end though. I prefer the Stiletto over the Mark stuff mainly because it has "balls." My old Mark IV just didn't have that punch that I thought it would and the lead tone to me felt extra saggy. Could just be my playing style. My friend Joe had a Mark IV and I liked how it sounded with him, but I could never get it to sound that way, even with the same settings. I'm sure there was a lot to account for--pickups, tubes, etc.
 

somedude

Member
Messages
7,603
Funny thing actually. I had bought a MXR EQ because some other Stiletto owners recommended an EQ for the brightness problem. Well, after a few days of enjoying the sounds I was getting with the EQ in the loop, I realized all I had to do with the Stiletto was turn a few knobs to do what the EQ was doing and now it's much better.
I've done the same, both with EQs and attenuators. I find a sound I like... then I find a way to make the same sound without all that extra crap attached.

I'm a simplistic kind of guy. I don't like lots of knobs, but always found myself with a Boogie, go figure.
I also don't like a lot of knobs, but I like how Boogie lets me tune the amp to my playing style. It's only complicated when you can't find what you're looking for, after that it's all high-fives and chocolate cake.

As far as the tone comparison, the Stiletto outdoes the Recto. It's smoother and fuller with the right settings. The Recto has a better low end though. I prefer the Stiletto over the Mark stuff mainly because it has "balls." My old Mark IV just didn't have that punch that I thought it would and the lead tone to me felt extra saggy. Could just be my playing style. My friend Joe had a Mark IV and I liked how it sounded with him, but I could never get it to sound that way, even with the same settings. I'm sure there was a lot to account for--pickups, tubes, etc.
Cool. I take it that by 'balls' you mean that hairy, sort of ragged lead tone that isn't all perfect and smooth like a Mark lead tone?
 

amdowell

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,802
I love high-fives and chocolate cake. And, yes, it's much meatier and, it's still smooth, but a "rough-around-the-edges" smooth, if that makes sense.
 

somedude

Member
Messages
7,603
Yeah, that makes sense. I've only played a Stiletto once, and it was in a store at low volumes, so not really a good example of what it can do.

Still, I remember really liking it. I want something that'll get me into Angus Young territory, but I've never really been sold on the Marshalls I've tried. Maybe it's because my first tube amp was a Mesa... but there's something inherent in their voice and/or feel (not sure which) that I seem to gravitate towards.
 

amdowell

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,802
The crunch mode on either channel will do a decent Angus, but the thing that I've come to realize is that it's not a Marshall clone, it's a culmination of British EL34 sounds, so it'll come real close for sure. I'd like to have the Deuce II and an Ace so I could switch between modes. That'd be nearly the ultimate EL34-based rig.
 

papersoul

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,617
anyone else loving this amp? I may be getting one and am curious the thoughts these days compared to a Royal Atlantic or Electradyne.
 

Skiptrip

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
620
These days, I'm using the second channel (tite gain) exclusively on the Stiletto Ace (gain dialed back and boosting with pedals). Very brown, very crunchy, with a nice bright sizzle on top.

My main complaint is the size of the 1 x 12 combo, but because its so versatile, it pretty much stays in the basement studio for recording. If there's a outside gig or big venue, though, the Stiletto loves to be cranked!
 

amdowell

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,802
Well hello, old thread. For the record the Stiletto is still one of my favorite amps. Within the next year or 2 I intend on buying an Ace head.
 

axpro

Member
Messages
628
Lol, THREAD FROM THE DEAD!

I had an Ace combo back in the day, and i loved it... but on one of my "Tonequests" I got rid of it and got a Soldano. Years later, post divorce, I was stuck playing through a beat up early Blue Voodoo 60 (all I could afford at the time) when an Ace head came up ocally for trade! Bought it and fell in love again. That was 4 years ago... About a year ago it started acting funny, so for the jam i switched in my Homebrew hotrod Marshall. I got so used to the marshall i havent switched back! I think it's the first preamp tube on the Ace that has gone suspect, but It's not at home for me to check, and the guys i jam with have only gotten together twice in the past year (at my drummer's place, where my amp lives) I plan on fixing it soon though. My drummer loved the sound of it! he complains that it isn't getting used.

Overall, I think it's a better "modern Marshall" than even Marshall is doing right now!
 

papersoul

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,617
Dead is right....sorry.....sometimes it makes more sense than a new thread though.

Does the ACE sound as big as the DEUCE or Trident? I know with some amps and power Transformers, the 50 watt heads can sound smaller and brighter. Yuk. Thoughts?
 
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sickboy79

Member
Messages
12,998
Cool post. Funny how we change after a few years of playing and experience. A good friend of mine had a Stiletto head. Can't remember if it was a I or II series. 100w I think. In my short time with it, I thought it sounded great. I didn't experience the "too bright" thing that many players have complained about. I thought it was jsut right. He ended up selling it for some reason. I'd like to play one again someday.
 

papersoul

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,617
Cool post. Funny how we change after a few years of playing and experience. A good friend of mine had a Stiletto head. Can't remember if it was a I or II series. 100w I think. In my short time with it, I thought it sounded great. I didn't experience the "too bright" thing that many players have complained about. I thought it was jsut right. He ended up selling it for some reason. I'd like to play one again someday.
Too bright may be only for those who only play at home.
 

amdowell

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,802
Too bright may be only for those who only play at home.
Exactly. I owned and gigged with a Deuce Stage 1, a Deuce stage 2 and an ACE head. Absolutely no difference in how "big" they sounded. Honestly, at the same settings with the Deuce II and the ACE they were identical. I ran through a Mesa Rectifier 4x12 and all 3 sounded huge. The other guitarist had a Mark IV and the complement was perfect. It reminded me of a 2-channel Dual Rectifier with EL34s, a little smoother--like, if you put a TS9 in front with the gain down and the level maxed, and a MUCH BETTER clean channel. I miss it all the time. You know how you go through a bunch of amps thinking "this one's the one for me! This is my sound!" Well, after several amps, I always longed for the Deuce Stage II. It was just what did it for me. No dirt pedals needed. Just a delay in the loop.

I'm using a Mesa Maverick 1x12 combo right now, which is a great little amp for what I'm doing (or not doing considering I haven't gigged in over a year) but I always think about my Stilettos and how perfect they were for my style.

Sorry for the long post here, but in reference to the stage 1s vs the stage 2s, I just wanted to clarify that if you're looking for a more Plexi sound and feel, the Stage I is the way to go. It was a little looser, more raw, less gain (which could be a good thing), and sounded enormous even at home. The stage 2 had a more refined clean sound. Reminded me a little bit of the Lonestar clean. Loved it. The second channel was gainier. Big time. I would say that I ran the gain at noon or lower while with the stage 1 I had the gain kicked up to 2 or 3 o'clock to get the heavier tones I was after. With a pedal, you'd be fine.

Crap. I'm GASing now. :waiting
 

papersoul

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,617
I think I do actually in the end....prefer a less brittle tone. Maybe a Marshall or the Fryette SigX or the Electradyne or Royal Atlantic as planned.
 
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skoora

Member
Messages
769
I've had my Deuce II for almost 2 years and it's still kicking' ass as my number 1. I got a MKV recently that I also dig the hell out of. It's my number 1b. I have a '69 Metro plexi kit that was my number 1 for several years and it barely gets turned on since I have had the Boogies….and it sounds killer. I never thought I would become a satisfied Boogie player after never gelling with Dual rectifiers or any of their stuff really, except for the IV and some III's I tried. I really feel that even with all the switches and options Boogie still understands and executes the feel and sound of vintage rock amps. Sure they can give you a ton of modern gain but the Deuce and MK V have so many incredible "vintage" type tones that I think Marshall has totally lost the knack for in their channel switchers. The JVM410 has varying levels of gain but the basic response of all channels is the same. The MKV is something else though, going instantly from a Master of Puppets type tone to Scorpions to Free and Bad Co or ZZ Top.

Oh and they both take pedals like total champs, except! the Wampler '57 sounded like ass with my Stiletto, great through the Orange I demo'd it on. Now I have the MKV tweed setting so it's taken care of. I use an attenuator on both amps and can't wait to live somewhere I can turn up a bit.
 

Hugh_s

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,808
These have gotten to be pretty cheap lately and that's piqued my interest. I had heard them described as "ice-picky" before, but that is contradicted here.
 

papersoul

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,617
These have gotten to be pretty cheap lately and that's piqued my interest. I had heard them described as "ice-picky" before, but that is contradicted here.
My tech had one and said he felt they were too brittle compared to Marshalls. I can hear that a bit, maybe brighter too.
 




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