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Mesa Boogie Factory Tour

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Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-001

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour

My Mesa Boogie 400+, all tube bass amp, had a rough go of it at a recent gig. I was playing at a very remote location high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains – a location so remote that the band was shuttled in by helicopter. All electrical power was provided by a large diesel generator, which is shunted to a distribution box to provide 120 volts or 250 volts – depending on your need. To make a long and painful story a little shorter (but just as painful) my amplifier was somehow plugged into a 250 volt outlet – hence the visit to the Mesa Boogie Factory.

Acknowledgement

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank all the staff and management that I met while visiting the Mesa Boogie factory. Everyone I met was genuinely friendly, knowledgeable, and more than willing to provide me with information and assistance.  I did not have an appointment for a tour and was amazed at their willingness to have staff interrupt their busy schedules to provide me with access to their facilities and to let me play around with their newest all tube bass amps.

The Facility

The Mesa Boogie factory is located in an unassuming business/industrial park in Petaluma, California. It is basically a very large warehouse that is divided into many working spaces, some of which are office sized and many very large spaces devoted to manufacturing amplifiers and speaker cabinets. While the production of Mesa Boogie products is in an ordinary looking building, the processes used are anything but ordinary in this day and age. All Mesa Boogie products are completely made in the USA and all amps are hand wired. While I was on the tour, we ran into Randall Smith, the founder and CEO of Mesa Boogie. Mr. Smith came across as a warm, engaging individual who is completely immersed in ensuring that Mesa Boogie maintains the highest standards and values – with the end product of high quality tone being the paramount target.

The Tour

The first stop on the tour was “The Pit” – a small room that contains all the prototype amplifier designs of founder Randall Smith.

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-002

This little room is basically an active museum for all things Mesa Boogie. The shelves are stacked full of early versions of Mesa Boogie Amplifier prototypes. This room is a little dusty and reeks of Mojo – very cool!

Walking into the factory proper, the first large piece of machinery is the Auto Assembly Machine. All of the smaller electronic components are inserted by this machine into a printed circuit board, where they are also soldered into place.

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-003

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-003a

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-003c

Live technicians take to circuit boards from this point forward and quality check them visually for any defects that may need attention and then the boards are hand wired and the larger components are added.

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-004

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-004a

Each board then receives more quality control tests with the components fired up and various electronic tests are run. Each chassis is struck several times with a hammer handle to make sure it can handle some abuse and that everything is tight and working as it should.

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-004b

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-004c

The amp then gets a first sound check to make sure it’s sounding as it should.

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-005

The amps are then are put through the “Burn-in” where they are left on for a minimum of 24 hours and then cycled on and off a few times to make sure they can take some abuse.

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-008

After the amp successfully completes the Burn-in, it is taken behind another set of sound muffled doors and then subjected to a final play test by another lucky Mesa Boogie employee.

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After all this, the folks at Mesa Boogie have even developed there own special packing molds to safeguard the amps on their shipping journey to a store near you.

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Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-010a

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-010b

Mesa Boogie also has an impressive carpentry shop in the same facility where all of their speaker cabinets are produced. As with everything else here, they tend to blend hi-tech processes followed up with a hands-on approach to the finish work. In this case, Mesa Boogie takes Baltic Birch plywood and makes all their initial cuts, routes and joinery using computer controlled routers on mechanized benches.

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-011

They then hand sand and assemble the cabinets. The next stage is to paint and then follow up by wrapping the cabinet in a wide choice of coverings.

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-011a

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-011b

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-011c

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On request, Mesa Boogie also produces speaker cabinets from many other varieties of wood.

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Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-013b

As a final treat of ice cream piled on top of a huge chocolate cake, tehy took me upstairs and let me play around with the Walkabout, the new all-tube line-up of the Bass Prodigy and the Bass Strategy amps! These new all tube amps really have some girth to give your bass playing some added authority when laying down the low end!

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Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-014a

Mesa Boogie Factory Tour-014b

I didn’t want to leave, but the musician’s version of the Willy Wonka Chocolate factory had work to do… and I still had the drive home through some bay area traffic ahead of me!

Thanks again to all the folks at Mesa Boogie who let me peek behind the curtain and see the magic first hand.

For more information on Mesa Boogie products, go to mesaboogie.com

 

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @zonguitars @shukerbassguitars @bite.guitars @adamovicbasses @mayonesguitars @bassbros.uk @capursoguitars @overwaterbasses @saitiasguitars @ramabass.ok

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

New from Elrick Bass Guitars, Headless Series added to Custom Lineup…

Elrick Bass Guitars is excited to announce the addition of a headless option on hand-carved series bass guitars. Initially previewed on the 2023 Gold Series SLC MkII bass of prolific solo bass practitioner and educator Steve Lawson, a headless bass option is now available to all. According the Elrick, “The excitement surrounding Steve’s MkII SLC bass at 2024 NAMM confirmed that the time is right to add a headless option to our extensive range of custom options.” To date, Elrick instruments have only been offered with traditional headstock construction but, in response to market demand, custom features will now include a headless option in 4-, 5- and 6-string models.

Headless bass guitars share these features with the traditional headstock series:

24 frets + zero fret
exotic wood top
hand-rubbed oil finish
2-way adjustable truss rod
custom Bartolini pickups
custom Bartolini 3-band preamp
fully shielded control cavity
Hipshot bridge
Dunlop Straploks
Elrick Fundamental strings

The headless option can now be selected when submitting custom order requests via the form on elrick.com, contacting the Elrick Sales Office directly, or working with your favorite Elrick dealer.

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Gear News

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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Gear News

New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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