Mesa Engineering’s first venture into the Class D amp market is here! Mike Brooks takes the whole rig for a trouser-flapping spin
Hailed for their fabulous valve amps, Mesa Engineering has taken a while to deliver their first lightweight, compact Class D bass amplifier – but it’s finally here. The rig we have here incorporates both of the lightweight cabinets in the range, so we’re looking at the full rig. Why rush a product to market? Mesa has taken its time and aimed for the bullseye, but has the American company hit the mark?
The first thing that strikes is you that the whole set-up is unmistakably from the Mesa Engineering stable, in looks, construction and general roadworthiness. Both cabs are constructed from lightweight Italian poplar, with aviation-style internal bracing for increased strength but reduced weight, and are covered in a thick black vinyl covering which looks and feels very durable. Moulded plastic corners and a hard metal grille are fitted and although the corners aren’t of a fitted/locking type, the cabs are easily stackable.
The rear panel has Speakon In/Out sockets and a three-way cut/flat/boost tweeter control, with tweeters featuring in both cabinets. Portability and quality of tone are the big considerations here, and neither have been scrimped on: with neodymium speakers, Tri-porting and side carry handles, these cabinets are easily manoeuvred without any compromise to their tonal qualities.
The amp is equally solidly built. All of the controls are soundly fitted with a feeling of reassuring quality when in use. Mesa doesn’t take shortcuts when it comes to hardware and you get what you pay for, or at least that has been the case in the past: initial impressions of this rig would imply that it’s still the case. The simple amp design and intuitive front end means that quick adjustments are easily made with plenty of flexibility to create a variety of tones. The front end has everything you would expect, with controls for Input Level, Voicing, Bass, Low and High Mids, Treble and Master Volume, additional selector switches for muting, active/passive selection and deep filtering (low end enhancement). The rear panel is equally well featured, with a headphone output, auxiliary input, switches for pre/post EQ switching, level output switch and ground/earth lift switch.
Despite looking hardwearing and rugged, both cabs come with official covers and the amp has its own bag. The whole rig looks built to cope with anything you might wish to throw at it, but with the added bonus of being friendly to the bassist’s back!
Sounds and Playability
Whether you’re using passive and active basses, the whole rig really pulls no punches with a robust, pronounced delivery, regardless of which bass was used. Switching the Deep control on gave the passive basses plenty of added body and depth that they lacked compared to the active basses, almost as if turbocharging their performance.
The level of attack and presence is reassuringly high with both cabs connected or individually. In terms of rounded bottom end, the S112 lacks a little of the low-end rumble that the S115 can deliver, but because of the cone and cabinet size, the S115 is naturally more suited to delivering the ballsy tone you may require. Having said that, the tweeters and porting in both cabs means that neither unit is a shrinking violet: the S112 is equally impressive in its delivery. For some purposes, a pair of 12-inch equipped cabinets may better suit you and your playing.
The amp’s front end is incredibly easy to navigate. Changes can be made quickly and effectively, and although the really glassy highs you may require if you’re a slap monster aren’t extreme, this amp has much to offer to put a smile on a funker’s face. Rock players will certainly enjoy the valve-like tonal character of this amp: the Deep filter gives the signal real authority and power, while the Voicing control changes the signal response from a flat curve to a more vintage shape with a greater bottom and top-end response. Although the whole rig is far from ‘polite’ in what it has to offer, nothing sounds extreme or unusable. Pushing the amp in terms of volume showed no signs of signal breakup or harshness and its ability to maintain a solid performance was impressive. If you want loud, this set-up is not lacking in any respect.
This may be Mesa’s first Class D amp, but what a way to herald your first foray into the arena. Mesa fans have waited for this rig to appear for some time, and I doubt anyone will be disappointed once they try it – and with its ability to switch down to two ohms, this rig can be extended further should you wish to do so at a later date. The pricing may not be particularly competitive, but I have no qualms in recommending this rig.
Mesa Engineering Subway D-800
Price | £739
Made in | USA
Power | 800W @ 2/4 Ohms, 400W @ 8 Ohms
Features ¼-inch jack input, Mute/play switch, Active/passive switch, Deep on/off switch, Input Level, Voicing, Bass, Low Mid, High Mid, Treble, Master Volume, Mute/overdrive/active/deep on/power/protect/limit LED indicators, dual Speakon/jack sockets for 8/4/2 Ohm loads, 8/4/2 Ohm selector switch, ¼-inch jack headphone output socket, ¼-inch jack auxiliary input socket, Pre/post EQ switch, Line/mic level switch, Ground/lift switch, Balanced XLR DI socket
Weight | 2.49kg
Dimensions | 262mm (wide) x 79mm (height) x 290mm (depth)