Mesa Boogie Badlander Guitar Amp Review
Mesa Boogie returns with its newest revision of the dual rectifier in the new Badlander! This is a 2 channel amp available in different power options and configurations. The sound has been recreated to be tighter and more aggressive, with a few new features that are sure to impress.
Let’s have a look at some key specs of the Badlander!
- 2 Channels
- New Refined Rectifier Tone
- Intuitive Controls And Functions
- Output Power Control
- Headphone Out
- FX Loop
- Built In Internal Load
- Cab Clone IR System built in
- 12AX7 Preamp Tubes
- EL34 Power Tubes
- Build Quality
- Great Mesa Sounds Throughout
- Cab Simulation Capabilities
- Internal Load
- Included Foot Switch
- No Speaker Cab Required
- 6L6 Tubes do not come stock
- Front panel knobs don’t fit the vibe of the amp
The badlander weighs in at 41 pounds. For a 100-watt tube head, this is pretty light thanks to the aluminum chassis. Its total width is 22.75″, and its height and depth at 10″ making it easy to haul around.
Mesa has continued to use the checker plate front panel with a bit more of a sleek look. The added tolex to the front panel gives it a softer look compared to the rectos of the past.
The badlander has a built-in load so that you can play without a speaker. Simply disconnect the speaker cable and the internal load automatically activates. This is great for late-night jamming.
While the amplifier comes stock with EL34 power tubes, it is possible to use 6L6 tubes as well. A simple tube change and flip of a switch get you there.
Overall, the badlander is built tough, just as one would come to expect from Mesa. The only complaint I had was the choice of knobs on the front panel. They seem to be a more vintage type knob on a modern high-gain head.
Channels and Controls
The Mesa Boogie Badlander is a 2 channel amplifier with 3 modes each per channel. The two channels are identical and can be configured for clean, crunch, or crush. By using the toggle switches on the front of the amp, you can select between the 3 modes per channel.
You can then switch between the channels using the toggle switch on the amp or the included foot switch. You cannot change the modes via the foot switch, however, so whatever the channels are set for is what you get.
The amplifier’s output power can be changed via the front panel switch as well. You have the option of full-out 100 watts of power, 50, and 20 as well. This is accomplished by taking tubes out of use for the most part. It will change the output impedance at the speaker. Mesa does go into detail in their manual for the badlander.
The bold and variac options for power scaling do make some tone options very possible. But we found the bold option to be where we lived during the review. The variac option does create a squishier feel, but the bold option is all recto tone!
The Badlander is loud! Just like the Mesa amps you are used to, this is no different. There is a ton of volume on tap and can tear walls down.
You also have the option of 50 watts and 20 watts as we mentioned and this does alter the output power.
We found that the tone was also altered. Until we connected our speaker cab to the next speaker jack impedance setting. This is mentioned in the badlander manual that Mesa has created for the amp.
Cab Clone IR
This is the first Mesa Boogie amplifier to be equipped with their Cab Clone IR system. Each channel is capable of using one of eight captures of your favorite IRs.
The badlander has n XLR out for a signal to the front of the house or recording with your selected IR. The IRs can be selected with the knobs on the back of the amp.
There is also a headphone out to allow you to play quietly if noise could get you evicted! The two channels can be set differently so that you get a different cab IR when you switch channels. You cannot change IRs with the foot switch itself, however.
The effects loop on the Badlander is a serial effects loop. This tube buffered effects loop is plug and play and did what we expected it to. The sound quality of our reverb and delay pedals were not diminished by the loop and sounded great.
Virtual Mesa Speaker Cabinets
The badlander comes with 8 preloaded IRs of some of the best Mesa cabinets:
- 4×12 Mesa Standard Cab with V30 Speakers
- 4×12 Mesa Traditional Cab with V30 Speakers
- 2×12 Mesa Horizontal Cab with V30 Speakers
- 1×12 Mesa Recto Cab with V30 Speaker
- 1×12 Mesa Thiele Cab with C90 Speaker
- 2×12 Mesa Lone Star Cab with C90 Speaker
- 1×12 Mesa Lone Star 23 Cab with C90 Speaker
- 1×12 Mesa, California Tweed 23 Cab with Jensen Speaker
Mesa Badlander Sound
Compared to older versions of the dual rectifier, the new badlander is a whole new recto! The sound is so different that they probably could have created a new series of amplifiers.
The Badlander has a good-sounding clean channel mode. It is a sparkling clean that can also be pushed to get a bit of break up if needed. The range was pretty good, but depending on the guitar, your experience may be different. We were set at gain around noon and had a full-bodied clean tone that felt great.
Setting the amp to variac changed things up in the clean mode as well, giving us a different feel. We found the crunch mode to also benefit from variac as it really got some vintage feels. For the crunch mode, we preferred the variac setting, especially with a telecaster. It was a pretty good-sounding crunch channel.
The Crush mode was where things got real. This is the high gain mode on the badlander, and it’s a pretty cool dual recto-sounding channel. The tone is tons tighter than the rectos of the past. The loose low end has been modified to provide a tight high-gain tone without the need for a boost.
The gain knob can be turned up much farther than past rectos. To add more flexibility to the sound without getting out of control. Crush mode sounds great and still has the dual recto feel and vibe, but is refined in all the best ways.
If you are a Mesa player, you will enjoy what they have done to the new recto sound and feel. The addition of the cab clone IR system makes this a very versatile amplifier. A few things that I found to better suit my tastes was to swap the EL34 power tubes out for 6L6.
I found this to get closer to the recto sound that I was expecting it to have out of the box. I was a bit surprised that they came with EL34s, but some players might prefer this. Once the tubes were swapped, and I had some time to play with it, I really did enjoy using the amplifier.
The Cab Clone IR preloaded Mesa cab sounds were excellent. Better than what I was expecting to be honest, it had the jam I have come to expect. The Badlander also comes in different models. You can have your choice of the 100, 50, and 25-watt versions in both head or rack mount.
Overall, the Badlander is money well spent and most certainly an amp you need in your arsenal!
Another Amp to Consider
The Revv Generator MK3
The newest version of the Generator is jam packed with great tone and function. Another amp with IR loading and a built-in load box. This is one killer amp!