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Mesa Boogie CabClone – A Real-World Review

Producer/composer Rich Tozzoli discovers that the Mesa Boogie CabClone quietly rocks with the best of them.

Mesa Boogie CabClone
Mesa Boogie CabClone

For those of you who want to record huge guitar sounds with your own amps at home without using loud cabinets or mics, the Mesa Boogie CabClone IR Guitar Speaker Cabinet Simulator can handle the job. As a digital cabinet simulator/impulse response reader (IR), this small but sturdy unit lets users choose from 16 popular Mesa cabinets and classic microphone configurations. Just plug your favorite amp or head’s speaker output into the CabClone IR, choose one of the preconfigured cabinet/mic combo IRs and send the signal to your preamp and DAW.

For me, this is great because I have a number of amps and heads that I like to track through, including my Mesa Boogie MK IV head, Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier head, two small Orange heads and a Fender Princeton Reverb amp. With the CabClone IR, I can get the sounds of those classics without miking up cabinets or scaring the neighbors.

Layout is very straight forward, with Input, Output and Presence knobs and a Cab Select knob to choose the row of eight IRs and a Bank A / Bank B switch to select between them. Bank A is called Live and features a number of classic Mesa cabinets miked up with a Shure SM57 and Beyerdynamic M 160 Double Ribbon. Bank B is called Studio and features the same cabinets but miked with a tube Neumann U 67 Condenser and a Royer R-122 Ribbon mic.

There’s a small LED meter that will light red if you’re clipping, and the cool blue LED on top lets you know it’s working. The box is mounted on large rubber legs to fit nicely on top of your amp above the handles, and the rear features a XLR DI output, MIDI I/O for program switching, ¼ inch headphone jack, a ground lift switch, phase switch and a ¼ inch Line Out (DRY) which outputs an unprocessed signal directly from the input jacks. There’s a USB port to manage the IRs on your desktop and a ¼ speaker output to hear a cabinet if need be. There’s a small signal-triggered cooling fan on the side that sometimes turns on automatically and can be heard if you have the unit right next to you, which I do not (so I don’t hear it).

Mesa Boogie CabClonePart of the fun of this box is the simplicity of recording with it. I just plug into an amp head, run the output to the CabClone IR, choose a cabinet/mic combo and output the XLR to my preamp/DAW. To dial in the best sounds, I use a combination of pedals, controls on the head, cab/mic IR choice and the useful Presence knob. Within a few minutes, with a few twists and turns, you can be tracking some huge guitar sounds with minimal effort and no mics or cabs blazing away.

Also, to push the sonic boundaries of this unit, I downloaded some great IRs from heavy metal producer Jens Bogen. Since I record a lot of hard and heavy 6, 7 and 8 string guitars for my TV work, this IR pack is perfect for getting massive guitar sounds. To load them in, I simply connected the USB jack on the CabClone IR and loaded them into the bank folders on that appear in the Mesa IR folder on my desktop. For me, I used the Bogen IRs in slots 6, 7 and 8, both in Banks A and B. The rest of the slots, I kept stock. This lets me get any number of options out of the box and since I double-track everything, I just switch between them to diversify the tones.

The CabClone IR is a great option if you want to get that classic sound of a miked-up cabinet without the hassles. It gives you some great sonic options for tones, and the ability to include third-party IRs makes it infinitely expandable. For big guitar sounds from your own gear, it’s definitely a solid choice in more ways than one.

Mesa Engineering •