Mesa/Boogie recently unleashed the long awaited Mark VII, but is it any good? How is the Mark VII different from the Mark V? Does it sound Better? Does it chug better? Does it go to 11!?! Does it have a built in espresso machine? We put both amps side by side and ran them through their paces. Read on for the results. *Spoiler alert: They are both awesome!
Channel 1: Clean, Fat, Tweed
Channel 2: Edge, Crunch, Mark I™
Channel 3: Mark IIC+™, Mark IV™, Extreme
Channel 1: Clean, Fat & Crunch.
Channel 2: Fat, Crunch & Mark VII.
Channel 3: Mark IIB™, Mark IIC+™, Mark IV™
An interesting feature of the Mark VII is that there are some shared modes from channel 1 to channel 2 ("Fat" and "Crunch" modes) reminiscent of the JP2C and Filmore series amps. At first this may seem like downer, the Mark VII doesn't have as many modes as the Mark V does. This is true on the surface, but the VII allows for greater flexibility in a live setting. For example It allows you to have ch1 setup for rhythm crunch and ch2 for setup for lead. A problem I always had with the V is that all three channels didn't really work together very well. Yes it has more modes, but the VII is far more usable when playing live. Not to mention, the VII is MIDI controllable.
So long story short the same modes on channel 1 & 2 are not identical (at least not by ear) but are close enough that they can be used like the Fillmore or JP2C amps.
In talking to my rep he gave me a brief history of the Mark series. The early Mark amps like the II and the III used a larger Transformer but the Mark IV and V moved to smaller transformer as people were wanting a smaller, lighter weight amp. For the Seven, Mesa/Boogie decided to go back to the Roots of the Mark series, using a larger transformer.
Why does the transformer matter? Well in this case bigger is better. More metal means more power which will translate into the tone.
I told a story above about Mesa looking back to the earlier series for inspiration. The Mark II and III inspired the larger transformer but we saw a shift in the IV and V of players looking for smaller lighter amps. I don't think any of us want to sacrifice tone or power, which is why Mesa made a shift back to the larger transformer. What if you could have both?!? The Mark V comes in at 44 lbs And measures 22 3/4" wide. The Mark VII is only 40 lbs and 18 3/4" wide. So it's more powerful because of the Transformer and it's smaller and lighter!
Both the Mark V and VII have the same power tube section, 4 6L6s or EL34's. Where they are different is the V has 7 12AX7's in the PreAmp section and the Mark VII only needs 5 12AX7's.
Watch our video comparing the two amps side by side and hear the difference for yourselves!
The Mark V and VII are very different amplifiers! The biggest overall difference that Mark players will notice right away, is the volume and bass increase on the VII over the V. That is primarily due to the size of the Transformer but also the fact that the VII does not have master volume. This means that it is always running "wide open". This amp is LOUD and isn't as well suited to bedroom practice where the V sounds pretty decent at lower volumes.
The low end has a different feel on the VII. Mark owners know that if you want to turn up the gain, you have to turn down the bass. High gain settings on the Mark V will have the bass essentially at zero as the gain introduces "flubiness" in the bass frequencies. The graphic EQ brings the low end back in giving you that tight, percussive tone that metal players love. The Mark VII still has the tight aggressive tone (yes it chugs) but it has much more usable low end before the flub starts to kick in. People who complained about the V not having enough low end will enjoy the VII.
Both of these amps are extremely versatile and cover a lot tonal ground, so without writing an entire novel, the best way to sum up the tonal comparison is thus: The VII is louder, has more low end, and has a more modern voicing when compared to the V.
*Just a personal opinion note: The Mark V feels suited more for a combo band style amp and will shine for funk, lighter styles of rock and country. Where the extra power in the VII makes it better suited for anything heavy or D-tuned.
Either of these amps will cover a lot of ground and can't really be be put in a box (except maybe the shipping box).
You can pick up one or both of these at Yandasmusic.com (shameless plug)