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D-180 Support Thread

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Bilbo Bassins, Sep 13, 2004.

  1. Maybe this is too organized for this board, but here goes...

    I absolutely love,love,love my Mesa Boogie D-180. :) And I'd like to hear more from other such TB'ers. Things like:
    - what serial# is it?
    - when did you get it / how long have you had it?
    - with or without graphics eq?
    - what cabinets are you driving?
    - what tubes (pre and power) are you using?
    - is it your main head?
    - any "technical difficulties" with it lately?
    - have you had it recapp'd yet? Advice/experiences...

    Here's mine:
    #0197 (I think)
    August 1983, original owner, 21 years now
    sans graphic (I think it looks nicer)
    Aggie GS-112 (formerly EVM-15L's in custom enclosures)
    pre: 12AX7EH(2), 12AX7LPS(1, in Ch2), 12AT7EH
    pwr: original Sylvania 6L6GC's (yes, they're still alive!)
    yup, main head
    blew a fuze once, replaced it, nothing since
    no cap job as yet...
  2. No one? :eyebrow:

    I know there are some D-180 users about... :ninja:

    Everyone running for cover from Ivan? :help:

    Or are classic tube amps dead (God save the valve...long live tubes!) :)
  3. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA
    I had one the first year they were offered, had to order direct from Boogie back then, mine had the EQ. I got that and a roadready 2x15 loaded with EVM's.
    I eventually picked up a M-180 and ran both amps in a bi-amp setup, and the D-180 was the high-end amp. It was one of the coolest bass amps, you can get overdrive from that head..I regret selling it.

    oh, and the 6L6's were nice for touch-sensitive dynamics..much nicer then the later amps with 6550's...I remember the note blossom factor with that amp..nice
  4. Thanks, AlembicPlayer.

    I, too, ordered mine directly from Mesa back then, site unseen. Did you ever see that Guitar Player article on how they built and tested them? That was the deciding moment for me.

    I almost sold it (twice). But somehow convinced myself it was like an old Porsche 911 (or 914) and would be best to keep around. Latest time was last year, and my wife said "You're crazy if you sell that - where are you ever going to find another amp like that?". I really love her...

    Anyone else???
  5. I sold mine :crying: :crying: :bawl:

    But my 400+ is going to the grave with me.
  6. mgmadian


    Feb 4, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Sorry, no D-180 here, but I had an M-180 till recently and it was a great power amp for its size. Supposedly 180 Watts RMS but dang that sucker was loud...and rich-sounding.
  7. natrab


    Dec 9, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    I bought his. Absolutely love it.

    Just found another one on ebay and bought it as well. At the moment, I'm just using it for distortion with my M-2000. The new one I just got is in immaculate condition and I will use it with my small rig (a mesa diesel 1x15) for small gigs, practice, and recording.
  8. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I understand it's supposed to be called a cult, not a support group.
  9. Benjamin, you shaved!

    Hey...could you verify something for me at Mesa sometime. How many D-180's were actually built? (I think 400'ish).
    And exactly from when-to-when? (I think 1982-1985, but down to the month might be good)
    So about how many were they putting out per month then? (400/36 = 10'ish per month?).

    natrab: I saw one on ebay about a year ago. One of those "OMG!" auctions. The data went something like "Mesa D-180. Don't know what this is. This is my cousin's, but my aunt can no longer store it at her house, we haven't seen him in over a year." Seller was also selling some furniture - looked like they were cleaning out a garage. Looked to be dusty but in immaculate condition. Extremely low reserve of $50 (!), ran up to around $225-250. I almost entered the frenzy but thought "what would I do with a 2nd one?". Haven't seen many more on ebay since (maybe two).

    Cult's a little strong. But wait until I get that mind-control stompbox working...
  10. natrab


    Dec 9, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Yeah, my first one cost around $535. Second one cost around $560. The guy who just sold me the one in great condition claims it was owned by Bruce Springsteen. lol :rolleyes:

    Either way, it's my favorite tube amp. I just sold my 400+ to buy the second D-180, and I dun regret it.
  11. slacker


    Nov 27, 2001
    Portland Oregon
    - serial # D408
    - purchased form original owner in '02, he had ordered direct from Mesa in '83
    - has graphic eq
    - currently driving a pair of Mesa/Boogie 4x10's
    - this is my main head, hardly ever touch my 400+, and am thinking of selling it
    - original preamp/power tubes (I am getting ready to do a NOS re-tube, as the 21 year old units have seen better days)
    - technical difficulties would include the previously mentioned tubes and replacing a cracked fuse holder

    I purchased this amp from its original owner for $350. It came DOA due to the cracked fuse holder. After I had filed an insurance claim and had it repaired, it was a lot closer to $300. It turns out UPS (FedEx?) allowed a lot more in repairs than were actually required.

    Aside from the body of the fuse holder (I kept the original cover) it is dead mint. Not a scratch, nick or dent anywhere. It was racked for twenty years and you cant even tell!

    As for the number produced? I have heard the "less than 700" figure tossed around a few times.
  12. slacker


    Nov 27, 2001
    Portland Oregon
    Hey! Benjamin Strange! I would really appreciate it if you could get a bit more info on the D-180 outta some of the "old timers" at Mesa. As you may or may not know, there is next to nothing on the Interweb about these great amps.

    My main question is about the master volume.

    From the owners manual: "Ordinarily the Master is merely a volume control used to reduce gain and provide proper coupling between the preamp and power amp sections. But as part of the D-180's Total System Integration, matching between the preamp and the power stage has been optimized and is not adjustable.The D-180 Master control works instead as a variable current limiter, thereby reducing the amplifier's power and loudness but not its gain. This enables the D-180 to produce unbelievable chunky crank tones - at any volume. At a Master setting of 10 a "constant current source" maintains precise regulation of driver current in order to produce a clean, undistorted, dynamic sound that seems to be far in excess of rated power. Turning down the Master increasingly limits the current available to the driver section and creates a totally musical, symmetrical clip while reducing loudness."

    Could you expand on that a bit and explain how the master volume on a D-180 differs from a 400 or 400+? I know how it sounds, but not what it really does. The above quote is as confusing as it is infomative.

    Additional questions:

    Which tubes were original equipment?

    Does Mesa have full schematics laying around?

    What are the exact funtions of the preamp tubes V1, V2, V3, V4?

    Thanks for any help. I just figured yo are the go-to guy around here.
  13. natrab: Oh, you're the one that bought the latest ebay one with "Springstein" marked on the chassis. I saw that one...

    slacker: yes, very good questions. I too would like some schematics, just been too lazy to call Mesa. I'm worried about having to recap the whole unit. Theory goes that as capacitors age, the dielectric material breaks down. A lot of folks suggest recapping amps after 20 years. Never had a tube amp long enough to need to do this. Then again, I have a guitar buddy who has a 30 year old Fender Twin that he bought new and he's never replaced anything (not even the tubes). Then again, he doesn't replace his strings either, and he teaches guitar lessons 5-6 days a week.

    I still have my original tubes about somewhere. I'll get back to you on that one.

    Yeah, there's diddly on the web concerning these nice units. And the owner's manual has few details. Thus my post...
  14. natrab


    Dec 9, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Yep, that's the one I got. It was in such nice condition and I would have paid up to $600 for it. It's coming within the next two hours (*stares out window for fedex truck*)
  15. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    680 were made between 1982 and 1985.

    I'm not sure if I could word that better than it's been said already. Essentially what's happening is that the amps wattage is actually being lowered, rather than having the gain into the power amp changed. So you can get the power section to distort at lower volumes rather than having to crank it.

    I believe they were 6L6s... not sure what brand. I'm guessing they might have been some GEs, or maybe some Chinese tubes (both used to make great tubes, but no more, so we stopped using them).

    Of course we do. They don't usually just go giving them out, though. ;)

    Usually the first tube is the main gain stage, and the last is usually the phase inverter right before the power section. I can't say for sure, though; that's a good question for Mike B, who worked on them 20 years ago and still works on them now!
  16. The original power tubes were Mesa STR-415's, which are Sylvania 6L6GC's, a very beefy 6L6 capable of handling the high plate voltage on the D-180 (540V?). I can't find my notebook that had the original preamp tubes in them. I do remember that V1 and V4 was a 12AX7, V2 was a 12AX7A. Looking at the wiring in the bottom, it looks like V1 controls the gain stage for Channel 1, while V2 controls the gain stage for Channel 2. V3 and V4 are probably for the tone shaping sections, phase splitter, effects return, etc. (just thinking out loud here).

    I did some research awhile back, and it looks like the Philips 7581A is a MilSpec version of the Sylvania 6L6GC. You might also be able to run RCA 6L6GC Black Plates in them. These are all NOS tubes.

    Has anyone been running new Sovtek or JJ or Svetlana or Chinese 6L6's? Which ones? Was the sound better/worse?

    Hey Benjamin - what's the official word from Mesa on replacement pre and power tubes for the D-180? Also, the Bass Buster 200 appears to be a VERY SIMILAR amp. It uses 6 STR-415s. Has a somewhat similar preamp section. But only has a single channel input (can't cascade Ch1 into Ch2). How similar is the D-180 to the Bass Buster 200 internally?
  17. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Actually, the Buster! is based off the D-180 designs. It's a really cool amp, and a little faster and punchier than the D-180. I don't have a D-180 (yet), so I can't comment from personal experience.

    We're currently getting most of our tubes from the Reflektor factory (Sovtek), so those may be a good replacement for the D-180. I would guess it would depend on what you're going for. I use the STR-454s (Svetlanas) in my power amps, because they are on the higher end of our acceptable "factory determined bias", and seem to have slightly more headroom and low-end response. I honestly haven't spent tons of time A/B-ing tubes, and since the D-180 is something I don't personally have, I'm hesitant to make a hardcore recommendation. Each amp will have different preferences for tubes, so the best I can say is to experiment.

    If Nate wants to bring one of his D-180s over to my studio, I'd be more than happy to put it up against my Buster! and do some tube swapping tests.
  18. slacker


    Nov 27, 2001
    Portland Oregon
    Bilbo? Are you buyin'?

    RCA blackplates go for crazy $$$ these days. And then there is the problem of finding matched sextet, especially within Mesa's specs. Or you can go the bias resistor mod route.

    Does Lord Valve carry RCA blackplates?

    Phillips 7581A's are the tube I have been most commonly recommended. As soon as I have a bit of extra cash, I am going straight to LV for a set.

    I have run Svetlana 6L6's in my D-180. The sound was not as lively as the original tubes. Less high end sparkle. Less definition in the mids. Better low end, though. Some may actually like the sound of the Svet's. It is totally subjective. My only concern would be the Svet's not lasting as long as a more "sturdy" design, the D-180's higher plate voltage being the main issue. If I have time this weekend, I will do a side-by-side of the Svetlana's and original tubes.

    As for the function of the preamp tubes. I do have a schematic of the front end, but between the hand drawn, copier quality (minor factor) and my limited understanding of electronics (major factor), I am pretty lost.

    Both halves of V1 (12 AX7A in my amp) seem to be used for channel 1 and channel 2 gain. V2 (12AT7 in my amp) seems to concern the tone stack, "bright" switch and drives the FX send. V3 is labeled "driver unit" so no mystery there. V4 is not anywhere to be found on my schematics, likely the phase splitter? Not sure where fx return comes in to play.

    Again, don't quote me on any of this, as I am a admitted amateur, but if you were to swap preamp tubes, V1 would probably produce the most pronounced change.

    Looks like I am gonna have to call Mesa to confirm my theories. Why do I always wait until Friday to decide I need to call. I guess it will have to wait until Monday.

    I've always thought the Buster was a bit "thin" sounding and lacking in headroom. This could have everything to do with tube selection, however.

    Thanks to Mr. Strange for the info. Let's try to keep this thread rolling for a while.
  19. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA
    I have my original D-180 "manual" that came with my rig when I ordered it back in 83 . It's not really a manual, but just a couple of sheets stapled together. If it's of any interest, I could get it scanned in and post it.
  20. Mesa has the manual available here: http://www.mesaboogie.com/manuals/D-180 Power Amp.pdf

    I'm still running the original power tubes. Just starting to wonder/worry what to use when (not if) they go. Already replaced the preamp tubes, with some success, but don't have the info available here to post. I'll follow up with that later.

    Yes, let's keep this thread running a bit more. Only one problem...I'M LEAVING ON VACATION! So I won't be able to add anything to this thread until the week of 10/4. Please carry on without me, and I look forward to reading all of your creative and technically informative posts.