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By request: my prototype Mesa/Boogie Bass Triaxis.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Benjamin Strange, Sep 6, 2008.

  1. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Visirale requested some info on my rig, and I am inclined to oblige. Now that I'm back from forced exile from New Orleans (thanks Gustav!), I've got the time to sit down and say a few things about my amp.

    First, a pic:

    (at the time this pic was taken, I was playing in a band with a "no logo: policy. Don't ask.)

    The back story:
    Over ten years ago I was working in a small Mesa/Boogie dealer in Texas named Brook Mays. I was really digging their stuff, and was looking for the perfect bass amp at the time; my only previous bass amp being a 35 watt Fender Sidekick (I think). I had gotten to know Steve Mueller from Boogie (at that time their worldwide director of sales), and we would spend countless hours talking tone. I spent some time at his house playing a bunch of amps, and doing some R&D work on their Formula preamp, and got to know their line inside and out. One day, Steve calls and asks me what I thought about the idea of a bass version of their Triaxis preamp. I expressed a lot of interest in it, as I really dug it on guitar. He said they were considering making a bass model, and were just getting a feel for any possible market. About six months went by, and I never heard any more about it. Then one day, Steve calls me and says, "Well, we decided not to make a Bass Triaxis - there just wasn't enough market interest. But we made one for you. Do you want it?" Sweet! They offered the one and only prototype to me for a ridiculously low price, and I bought it. Ever since that day it's been my main rig.

    I explored a few power amps to match up with it, and found that the Mesa Strategy 500 was the best mate for it. It's 300 tube watts (eight 6l6s and four 6550s), has switchable half power and deep modes, and is only 3 rack spaces. Put that together with any old school Mesa cab loaded with EVs and I've got tone magic.

    The skinny:
    What the Triaxis is, is an all tube, digitally controlled preamp. It's got 8 modes, all designed to sound just like one of their other amps, such as a MKI, MKIIC+, Dual Rectifier, etc. (all modded for bass, of course). It uses 5 preamp tubes, and none of the audio is touched by the digital technology at all. It sounds, and feels like a real tube amp, because it is a real tube amp. The controls are simple: gain, treble, mid, bass, lead 1 drive, lead 2 drive, master, presence, and dynamic voice. The two gains work similarly, but yield different tonal results: the first gain, when raised, seems to soften the attack, adds grit, and darkens the tone, while the second gain is more immediate, brighter, and is more akin to a searing type of distortion found in high gain guitar amps. The dynamic voice control is essentially a 5 band graphic EQ. At zero, it's flat and completly out of the signal path. As the control is increased, it increases treble, removes mids, and increases bass, and also increases the percentage of how much EQ is applied. At 1, it's barely at 10%, and at 10, the full 100% of the signal passes through the EQ. Using this with the standard treble, mid, and bass controls gives quite a range of tone.

    The amp modes are:
    - Rhythm Green (dark and smooth - my main clean sound (which is still ever so slightly distorted, for warmth))
    - Rhythm Yellow (bright ad edgy - rarely used, but good for slap and stuff)
    - Lead 1 Green(dark distorted tone - not a lot of gain here)
    - Lead 1 Yellow (slightly brighter and more "attacky" than Lead 1)
    - Lead 1 Red (this has TONS of low end - it actually uses a seperate circuit board all to itself - this is used for my main, slightly overdriven sound (think Tool's Undertow, but much, much better), and also for a very distorted cruch sound)
    - Lead 2 Green, Yellow, and Red (more modern and bright sounding versions of the Lead 1 channels - more aggressive, with less low end, but cut like a SOB)

    The entire thing is controlled via MIDI - even individual parameters can be swept up or down with a continuous control pedal. I can actually morph a scooped clean sound into a mid heavy distorted tone with a single sweep of a foot. The Triaxis also controls the power amp, switching it from track to track (independant volume and presence controls per channel), and also Half Drive and Deep modes.

    Why I love it:
    It's simply the most musical thing I've ever heard. It's bassy without being muddy, cutting without being harsh, and the distortion is the best I've ever heard from any pedal or amp. It's my sound, and I will never, EVER part with it.

    Why you can't have one:
    True, there's a few other artists out there who have something similar: Les Claypool, John Myung, and perhaps one or two others. But their's are just modified Triaxis (Triaxii?) - mine's an actual prototype designed for possible production. I've been told by the Mesa people that they won't make any more, nor will they mod a Triaxis for bass anymore. I'm not really sure why - perhaps the parts aren't available anymore, perhaps they've ramped up production to the point where they can't gum up the works by making someting too custom, or maybe they just want to protect my tone secrets.

    So... that's about all I have to say about that. Any questions?
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Yeah, one question: what times of day do you generally leave the house unoccupied? ;)
  3. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Anytime a hurricane comes through New Orleans...
  4. levis76

    levis76 Seconds from getting ba...

    Apr 14, 2007
    Metro Detroit
    And I bet you take that amp with you!! I would. To hell with the cat honey, we can get another one.
  5. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    So we just missed an opportunity?
  6. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Actually, you missed a golden opportunity. I didn't take anything with me but some clothes and an acoustic guitar.
  7. RiseAgainst


    Jun 4, 2008
    dude. You are ridiculously lucky.
  8. "dude. You are ridiculously lucky"

    Oh Yea! what's it weigh?
    Remember, most thieves don't work out.
  9. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    The Triaxis itself weights 9.5 pounds, and the power amp weighs around 45.
  10. asad137


    Jan 18, 2007
    That's pretty neat. I can see why Mesa decided not to put it into production -- I don't think the market for a bass preamp with that many 'dirty' channels is very large. If they made one with more varieties of 'clean' channels, I bet it would be a big hit.

  11. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Actually, every channel can be used for clean or dirty, it just depends on how you set your gain. Usually I use my Lead 1 Red as my main clean-ish sound - I run it just dirty enough to grind when I dig in. I also use Rhythm Green as a tubby, distorted sound sometimes, which is great for reggae and old school motown type of stuff.
  12. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Bump for Visirale, since he requested this info and hasn't seen fit to comment on it yet. :smug:
  13. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    I have to bump this as I really want to hear some clips I'm sure I remember some being around at one time but who knows.

    I'm wondering Ben if you have compared it to a bog standard tri-axis and how they differ?
  14. quickervicar

    quickervicar Supporting Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    Lancaster, PA
    Shame they aren't bringing it to market. I would seriously consider one. If you ever decide to part with it...;)
  15. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Perhaps I'll post some sound clips at some point, but I've never really considered soundclips transmitted through the internet are very helpful. I'm still in transit to San Francisco, so once I get setup I may have a chance to do some recording.

    I've played through many Triaxis (Triaxii?), and mine sounds notably different. All the EQ points have been changed, as well as a whole bunch of mods and stuff inside the unit that quite frankly I don't understand. Suffice to say that a regular Triaxis won't work well for bass.

    It just isn't worth the investment from Boogie to make the few units of this that they'd actually sell. They'd have to tool up a bit, train people to build it, market it... Plus, they don't have a power amp in current production to mate with it. The best power amp for this thing, the Strategy 500, hasn't been made in over 20 years. You can't just make a preamp without having an available power amp to go along with it. Methinks that Boogie would loose their ass if they were to produce a BassTriaxis.

    No, you can't have mine. This will go with me to the grave.
  16. Visirale


    Mar 23, 2003
    Haha I'm so sorry. I forgot to comment. School's been killing me.

    But thank you so much for doing this. It looks insane and powerful. I can't imagine how that sounds with your tube poweramps backing it up...
  17. prsbass


    Oct 13, 2006
    I don't have triaxis but I do have two VTBP201 preamps going to each side of the 500 and this head is amazing. It's perfect for my current needs. Stereo, tube and louder than I'll ever need.

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