Mesa Badlander Review
Verdict and Review Summary
The Mesa Badlander doesn't quite top the Mark V, but it close comes. It's brighter than your average Mesa with EL84 tubes in the power amp, and a very wide range of gain options that doesn't need an external booster pedal. Mesa throws in the CabClone feature with a headphone output and a direct out for a lot of added value. Mesa amps continue to get better and more affordable.
I found the Mesa Badlander to be a good comparison to the Mark V, though without the graphic EQ. Both 25 watt versions are affordable (combo and head), both have CabClone built in, and both have EL84 tubes in the power amp. The Badlander also sounds brighter than your typical Mesa and provides a lot of different sounds between three gain modes (clean, crunch, and crush.
Like all Mesa amps, it's metal, and a better distortion source than most distortion pedals. You can always add an overdrive or boost pedal to push the breakup, which sounds particularly good on the clean channel.
Mesa keeps putting out great amps, and I'm never going to question their quality.
But if you don't want to take my word for it, I'll cover all the details in my Mesa Badlander review.
Note that I tested the 25-watt version of this amp, though there are other wattage options available.
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Compare to Other Similar Amps
We added three similar amps for our comparison table, though note that you can search our database for more amps to compare below.
Our thoughts on the Badlander 25 applies to the 50 and 100 wattage variations as well
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Mesa Badlander 25 Price Guide
Prices updated on Sun, February 25th, 2024.
Pricing from Sweetwater
Price Alert Tool
Price History for Mesa/Boogie Rectifier Badlander 25-watt Tube Head
|February 23, 2024
|April 5, 2023
|February 8, 2023
Last price changes
|April 19, 2023
|April 14, 2023
|April 5, 2023
|February 8, 2023
IDEAL FOR: Recording, live, metal/modern styles, heavy distortion/high gain, multiple styles.
Zach Wish's demo is my favorite. He covers a ton of ground on this amp and uses a lot of different guitars (Epiphone, Fender, Gibson). He also has the amp mic'd with a Suhr speaker cab, so you're getting more of an in-the-room sound as opposed to what you'll get from headphones (which is what I did) or going direct into an audio interface.
Tone profile and sound quality
Lots of warmth and low-end characterize the Mesa brand. They're not as warm as a Fender tube amp, but also not nearly as bright as a Marshall. But the Badlander, perhaps with the help of the EL84 tubes, will give you some of that added bite. This, of course, depends on which mode you select between the three. As you would expect, the high gain and percussive qualities are still the most dominant tone features.
Cleans are where you hear a lot of that brightness I've been mentioning. You can EQ your way out of whatever sound, but with everything at 12 o'clock, and even with a little bit of bass boost, the clean profile had some nice chime to it.
With a single coil guitar - which you can see in Zach's demo video - you'll get almost a bluesy tone, especially if you run up the gain.
The crunch mode pushes this as well.
Light gain/distortion (crunch)
I'm a bit of a metalhead so I'm always excited to get to the highest gain settings on a Mesa amp. But on the Badlander, the more moderate crunch mode kept me busy for awhile. I think it would have sounded better with a Stratocaster, just because it's a lighter and bluesier tone.
But even with my PRS and a dual humbucker configuration (Seymour Duncan Invaders, no less), it sounded like a subtle and bluesy overdrive.
Even on this channel, the higher gain settings are pretty saturated.
This brings us to my personal favorite.
Heavy gain/distortion (crush)
The crush mode is the heaviest and not meant for blues or subtlety. You can back it down if you want, but if that's what you're trying to do you might as well just downshift to the crunch mode.
Just to quickly recap:
- Crush (we are here)
In crush mode, gain is really aggressive and thick, with a little bit of noise at the highest level.
I also noticed harmonics come out really clear, like they wanted to ring even if I wasn't intentionally trying to catch one.
Power chords and palm mutes sounded somewhat less punchy than the Mark V and Dual Rectifier. But that's just what my ear heard and could be wrong.
I'm probably wrong.
And even if I'm right, I try to avoid splitting too many hairs between amps in the same brand. They're all exceptionally good.
Controls, EQ, and flexibility
A lot of the variety in the Badlander comes from the three modes, as we see with most of the Mesa amps. You also have presence added on top of a three-band EQ, though no onboard reverb, which would be a nice add given the brighter lean of the clean channel.
But overall it's a very flexible panel. You can EQ out whatever you want and still get a really nice low-end or bass tone.
Back panel features
The back panel is pretty loaded. Here's a quick look:
The CabClone IR and headphones with level control are the two highlights. You also have a cab selector for both channels. The cab models do provide a lot of variety, but I didn't find any one of them particularly compelling.
Speaker outs and an FX loop are also included.
Note that the internal load is active when you have no speakers connected. That's where the headphones come in handy.
Going back to the front, you can also select between 25 and 10 watts of power.
The $1600 retail is a great price point, given what you usually see from Mesa amps. Note that pricing is subject to change, so make sure to check the price guide above since that is updated live.
As I always like to point out, it tends to be wattage and physical size that run up the price of amps. This is why the combo version of the Badlander 25 is more expensive than the head version.
It's also why the 50 and 100 watt versions are a lot more expensive than the 25 watt version.
So if you can get away with the lower wattage option, you'll save yourself a lot of money. Even better, if you want to add your own speaker cab or just use the direct out, the Badlander 25 head version is going to give you a ton of value.
I have no complaints about the price.
Best fit for the Mesa Badlander
The Badlander is perfect for just about any situation, and without much in the way of style limitations. Mesa is known for modern rock and metal, and the Badlander is definitely most comfortable there.
But it can get more broad and can handle other styles that can be helpful if you play multiple genres of music.
For recording it's fantastic because of the headphone and XLR output. The XLR out will also help you a lot in a live performance if you want to go directly into a mixer. You won't need a DI box.
My experience with the Badlander 25 was great, which is expected from a Mesa amp. Mesa has long been one of my favorite brands, so I had a good time getting to test the Badlander and feeding the metal side of my brain.
So if you're in the heavy rock space, I'd recommend any Mesa you can afford.
The Badlander 25 just happens to be one that's a lot more affordable than most, and can give you all of the same core features, plus some bells and whistles we wouldn't have expected.
As always, you need to take your own situation into account.
What do you need in an amp? Will you use the features you're paying for? What style of music do you like to play?
Give it some thought, and if you have questions, leave them in the comments section below.
We'll see you there.