|Ease Of Use ||
The Tech 21 California has alot of knobs at first sight, and like Mesa/Boogie amps, requires a little bit of "massaging" to find some usable tones at first, but after some tweaking is actually a really decent pedal! It's 3 band EQ, wide gain stage, and incredibly dynamic character knob allow you dial in a myriad of great tones that actually do sound alot like the compressed tones of the infamous Mesa/Boogie line of guitar amps.
I got this pedal and tested it with a Roland JC-120, Fender Blues Jr, Marshall Vintage Modern Combo, Orange Tiny Terror, and a direct comparison with and against my blue stripe Mesa/Boogie Mark III 60 watt (rack mounted) using a PRS Paul Allender, Ibanez PGM301, Gibson Les Paul Standard, Fender American deluxe tele, and Fender Bonnie Raitt strat.
This little box of tone can surprises for everyone. As a huge Mesa/Boogie enthusiast, I had to have it after recommending to a friend who was using a DS-1 for his "main" distortion with his Valveking live, and wanted a more "Mesa sound". On tweaking the EQ, to dial in the most "Mesa-like" sounds, you can't really set it up like a Mesa. The California pedal has GREAT bass presence once dialed in towards the 3'oclock position. Mids are similar to a Mesa's however, driving it deeper provides that great "oomph" with tons of presence that sings out on leads and growls deeply on rhythm lines. Its incredibly defined, and you never loose your pick attack like you do on other "metal" or similar pedals, since this is actually designed to emmulate the true Mesa's voicing. Treble can be dialed to go from singing sustain, or be backed off to enter recto territory with higher gain settings.
The true tale of this pedal is the character knob. With the character knob rolled up in higher settings and the gain up, the pedals voicing reaches into Mark IIC+/classic Mark lead territory. The gain is liquid and pick attacks pronounced and vocal. Palm muting has that amazing "oomph" and compression in the lows and midrange (when the proper EQ is set right) that Mesa is so well known for, and shredding and lead lines sound almost just like a real Mark series. When compared directly to my real Mesa, I could dial the California pedal within 90% of the real Mesa sound. I would say it was only lacking a little bit of bass (but I was playing through a 2x12 at medium volumes, so at stage volumes or recording volumes, it would be easy to compensate for that!) By dialing out some of the treble and bumping the midrange some more, you can also dial in a very convincing grinding Rectifier sound as well.
What REALLY caught me off guard about the California pedal is its ability to emmulate the Mesa/Boogie's clean sounds. By dialing back the character and gain knobs, the California pedal instantly chimes with the woody ring and clang of the Mesa Mark series jazzy clean sounds - with PERFECT sounds! No matter the amp or guitar, it nailed it; even through my Mesa - maybe even better! With the EQ dialed in, and the gain and character tweaked the California perfectly replicates the Mesa's clean tones with AMAZING response. Pick attacks and presence jump out at you, and the compression lets notes and chords ring out at sparkle and chime across every frequency band. Man does it love tube amps! On the JC-120 it quickly turned the dry sounding chorus into a sparkling Mesa (although a little dry since it's a solid state)...but if you own a good tube amp and have a wild hair to sound like a Mesa, I would grab up this pedal - especially since you can use the output for dry recording!
Side note: Larry Mitchell was in Birmingham doing an Ibanez clinic and I hung out with him for awhile, and he was using the Liverpool pedal for his clean tones live. I spoke to him about the California and Tech 21 pedals. He told me he's been using the Tech 21 stuff for his small gigs since they are easier to carry than a big rig! (Although he did tell me the California was his least favorite)...I can kinda see why. As a fanatical Mesa user, you can come close to the Mesa/Boogie sound...about 85-90%...but it's not perfect. The cleans, however, are SPOT ON...so if you wanna try a different kind of dirt box, maybe this one is for you; it's definitely cool.
Very solidly made, I would use it live. Larry Mitchell uses the Tech 21 stuff! Seems like a good bump to me!
|Customer Support ||
Don't know anything about Tech 21's customer support.
|Liked about it ||
1) Awesome array of tones!
2) Perfect emmulation of Mesa/Boogie clean tones!
3) Dang close to the Mesa Mark-series lead tones.
|Didn't like ||
1) Kinds hard to dial in at first.
2) Its not "perfect"...but what really is? (for $150 versus $1000 for a real Mesa?)
No real complaint, a very cool pedal!
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