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Playing heavy music is not as easy as some people might think. In fact, heavy metal is such a broad term and there are countless guitar players and other musicians in the genre whose skills are not exactly easy to reach. But aside from learning theory and getting their technique tight, metal guitarists face another challenge – getting a good distorted tone.
Of course, another challenge here is to figure out the type of sound that you want and there are countless ways to achieve it. But whichever direction you decide to go down to, one rule always remains the same: if you want a really good professional-grade tone, you’ll need to invest a fair amount.
Although their amps might be a bit pricy, you just can’t go wrong with Mesa Boogie. Whether you’re into jazz or rock or pop, their products have always been a go-to for musicians of all the different genres.
This time, we’ve decided to analyze one of their legendary amps, the Mark IIC+ which became quite popular among metal guitarist.
John Petrucci of Dream Theater is one of its most famous users and his signature model JP-2C is based on this amp head after he was inspired by the tone he heard on Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”
Now, let’s get into it.
The Mark IIC and the IIC+ were intended as the upgraded versions of the standard Mark IIA and Mark IIB amps. Of course, the IIA and IIB are both great amps, but they had issues with loud channel switching.
The idea with C and C+ versions was to get rid of this problem and add a few different features to it. Of course, there are even different subdivisions and versions of the IIC+ model but we’ll be talking about the standard average model. In addition, the model was also available as both a head and the combo version.
The amp has two channels and a fair amount of controls on the front panel. There are Volume 1, Treble, Bass, Middle (in that order), Master 1, Lead Drive, and Lead Master.
In addition, there’s a 5-band graphic EQ that can be turned on and off via a footswitch. On the backside, we can also find the presence and reverb knobs, as well as the send and return jacks of the FX loop.
There is also an additional switch on the front panel with “EQ AUTO” and “EQ OUT” labels. The EQ AUTO option means that your 5-band graphic EQ will automatically kick in when you switch to the lead channel. If it’s set on EQ OUT, the EQ is turned on only if you press its designated footswitch.
What also needs to be noted here is that there are some versions without the 5-band graphic EQ.
But as great as it was, there was one downgrade from the IIB version, as these amps used to have an option to use a volume pedal as an external gain control for the lead channel.
Although it seems practical to some extent, it probably wasn’t something that was popular among guitar players at the time, so the company got rid of the feature.
On the other hand, the IIC+ had some improvements on the FX loop. You can use the pedals with inputs designed for instruments without overloading them with the amp’s signal. This ensured a more stable and cleaner operation compared to the A and B versions.
As for the output power, there were a few variants available for both heads or combos. The 100-watt was pretty common, but all of the versions out there had the power soak which allowed players to switch it down to 15 watts.
Overall, the IIC+ model had an abundance of controls, giving guitar players so many different options to shape their tone.
Just like with the features and controls, there are a few different variants out there design-wise. All of them feature a black panel, but they differed in the front grill design.
Of course, some version lacked the 5-band EQ and you could find the “Mesa” logo on its place with the “Boogie” down on the grill. Those with the EQ had just the standard “Mesa/Boogie” or the “Boogie” logo on the grill.
Although a really powerful amp, it’s not that bulky, especially the head variant. This made it pretty practical for taking out on the road.
To put it simply ñ it has a really tight. You know what guitars sounded like on Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”? Well, that’s Mark IIC+ you hear there. While it also had a lot to do with production, the amp itself is a basis for that tight sound.
The abundance of options allows you to create any kind of tones that you want, for various different styles. However, you’ll always be able to recognize the IIC+’s signature within them.
The inclusion of the 5-band EQ is more than welcome, especially if you’re a lead player who wants to highlight certain parts of the song and cut through the mix without pushing the volume too high.
At the end of the day, whatever you dial in on it, you’ll get a good tone.
Before we come to any conclusions, you need to bear in mind that this is a professional-grade guitar amp. The lead channel is what made it so popular and you’ll always have a horde of metal guitarists praising the Mark IIC+. However, you should not neglect its clean tones.
With all this said, it comes as no surprise to see that this is a pretty expensive product, with prices going well over $2,000 even to this day. In case you’re a beginner or an intermediate player with no current plans to go pro, you’ll need to think twice before investing this much in an amp.
Being this advanced and tight, it’s no wonder that a guitar master like Dream Theater’s John Petrucci fell in love with it years ago. Now, if you really want to go into the advanced stuff, you’ll need to check out the improved version of the IIC+ – the JP-2C, which is his signature model.