Another MESA, what a Strategy I got!
We will cover two things in this article: a flip, and a review of Reverb. What is Reverb you may ask? Reverb is a website, very much like Ebay in that users can buy and sell musical instruments and gear. You guessed it, Reverb is ONLY for musical stuff, whereas Ebay is for everything under the sun.
So I'm browsing Craigslist one day and I notice that some guy has listed a Mesa Strategy 400 power amp. Cool item indeed he wants 650$ for it. I also had noticed that 650$ is a little rich for my blood, but since I have never owned one of these before I figured I would give it a try and worst case, I could sell it for 650$ right back to someone! Of course I met with the guy and demoed the amp it sounded good so I bought it, didn't even bother to haggle him because I wasn't in the mood. Beforehand I had already decided I wasn't going to lowball since the price was good enough and if it was as clean as it looked I was getting a deal.
Now I love this amp by the way! It is so dynamic and powerful people's eyes bug out of their heads when I play music for them with it. Mesa's motto when they built these was "Quality any fool can hear." No, that actually wasn't their motto but it could well have been. I think I have created tube amp worshipers with this thing even though it's not really for home audio.
I set myself up for a win win in this situation, which I always do. I listed this amp next to my Mesa Strategy 500 on Reverb.com. My thought pattern went something like this: why on earth would I need 2 of these things? I'll just list them both and see whichever sells; of course I will keep the other. So after a bit, the 400 sold. Here is where my Reverb review comes in.
Reverb.com : a better way to trade music gear than Ebay
To set the record straight, I have very few problems with Ebay as a company. I have been using them since they were an itch in their daddy's pants and Paypal was the same company. Wierd how things change so fast? However, after using both services, for musical gear, I can hands down say that Reverb is a better platform. I have made a chart of the high-level ways Reverb has compared to Ebay below:
Overall, I do not think I have to spoon feed you here. Reverb charges you 6.2% +.25C fee.
10/6.2*100 = 1.61
Ebay charges you 161% more than Reverb! Sometimes even more than that depending on the other variables involved!
I have been using the 'bay for a long time and I will never stop (see limit of what I can sell noted above,) But c'mon Ebay, you are an established monopoly; I would think you could knock down your fees quite a bit to remain competitive. If you stay greedy like this, tiny companies like Reverb will start to take you apart piece by piece. Mark my words: Ebay will lose more ground as people learn about the alternatives and the used stuff market grows. And it certainly doesn't help now that Paypal will support other companies at competitive rates which I have indicated above, as well as provide seller protection for it. And it most certainly doesn't help that Google will immediately show customer's what is available on both platform because of the Google shopping function. I really hope somebody from Ebay reads this because you can only stay fat, dumb, and happy for so long before you get taken apart.(Twitter, Myspace, help me here guys.)
As for the Strategy 400 here is where the flip ends:
-Bought for 650$ on Craigslist
-Sold for 999$ on Reverb
-Paid 27.22$ + 34.97$ fees to Reverb
-Paid 42.94$ shipping UPS ground, fully insured, signature required, to qualify for protection
Keep in mind I usually try to make more on flips, but this one literally required me not to fix anything, and I got to enjoy this bad boy in my house for a few months. And enjoy it I did! As a bonus to this, for the people that want to ever compare the Mesa 500 and the 400, I did some listening tests for a buyer. I am not a professional audiophile, but I put on some songs and swapped the 400 and 500 back and forth and I could, just like with any tube amp, immediately detect the differences between them. Below are the results of these tests, purposefully unedited, since I wrote them while listening.
400, song: 1980 by RX bandits:
Upper mids crowded, pleasantly so, still very defined. almost a preferable listening eq with no tweaking needed with the presence switch on. Sounds like a tube amp should with emphasis on mids and upper mids. Highs exist and are not harsh or too loud.
500, song: 1980 by RX bandits:
Main difference between this and the 400 is the upper mids are less crowded. Highs are almost identical, maybe a bit more with the 500 than with the 400. Presence control is max at 10 for this one, otherwise it kills the treble and makes it not comparable to the 400 at all really, and not in a bad way either. The 500 has a big edge with listening with the low extend engaged, it creates a warm, round low end that the 400 lacks (without a preamp to optimize it anyways). To get the 500 to sound the most like the 400, leave presence at 10 and disengage the low end switch. Mid characteristics stay the same this way and the huger low end of the 500 is gone and is now slightly less than the stock 400.
Overall: Mids and upper mids are the big difference between these two. The 400 sounds like a traditional tube amp and shines in this region and could be interpreted as slightly too much upper mid. The 500 has a warmer, larger, rounder bottom end available with the bottom end switch. With a preamp I bet you could make them sound almost identical.
Conditions: I was running them through Yamaha CV115 club speakers 8 ohm 1 per channel left and right at a volume level which barely flickered the lights on the 500 which was comfortable and not too loud or harsh.
400, song: Strength beyond strength by Pantera:
dynamic is the first word that comes to mind. compresses less than the 500. easy to get harsh highs with presence on. With presence off I was able to get it louder but no noticeable effect on the listening dynamic.
500, song: Strength beyond strength by Pantera:
Rounded bottom with low end switch. without it does not have enough bottom end period. Noticeably less dynamic than the 400 at the same volume. Can achieve a much more rounded and warm low end with the switch. Easiest to listen with presence at 0. when it is turned up it quickly becomes 'harsh' with this song at any reasonable volume.
400 sounds more dynamic. 500 has much extended low end and warmth. 400 is not lacking in low end it is just tighter than the 500 with no switches flipped or eq. mids and upper mids seem almost identical with this song choice. Odd since the mid difference was huge with the previous listening test on the song 1980 by the RX bandits.
Some eye candy for ya
That's it! Tune in next week for more interesting and mostly financial advice.