This little gem is definitely one piece of gear I’ll hoard for quite some time. I’d been looking for a Mesa combo for a while, trying to stay under the $700 mark. I had my eye on a few different models at the time too; I almost bought a Nomad, but someone beat me to the punch. Yes, a Nomad. A lot of people seem to hate those amps, but I got to play one for a while and I always had fun with it. With that said, I’m glad I was forced to wait, because I ended up liking my second choice much more. After extensive research on Mesa amps that were in my price range, I kept coming back to the Dual Caliber series, and I eventually came across an ad on Craigslist for one. I was on the lookout for the DC-5, even though 50 watts was more than what I needed (I’ll tell you why in a moment). I answered the Craigslist ad and left a message saying I wanted to check out the amp. He called me back while I was leaving work, and it turned out he only lived about 10 minutes down the street from me. I stopped at an ATM, took out the cash and headed right over.
I had never played any of the Dual Calibers, but from what I heard at first when I plugged in, I was sold. I forked over the cash and took her home. The Mesa DC-5 was available as both a head and a combo. This amp had started out as a combo, but a previous owner separated it into a tall head and cab. The unique dovetail joints are beautiful, and really give the amp character. The DC series at the time came in 4 different models: 2/3/5/10, all of which delineate their wattage (with the addition of another digit, of course: 20W, 30W, etc.). The 2 and 3 were built with a smaller cabinet and were powered by EL84s, while the 5 and 10 were powered by 6L6s. This alone is why most people say to go for the DC-5 over the 2 or 3. That fact, paired with the common trend of the smaller models having issues with running too hot, made this an easy decision for me.
Let’s get to how this amp plays: LOUD. I didn’t get to crank it at the previous owner’s house, but I sure as hell did the second I got that thing home. I can safely say I was not expecting that amount of volume out of that amp. Like a lot of Mesas, this amp takes a some time to dial in your ideal tone. The DC responds a bit differently than most amps I have messed around with. Don’t bother raising the bass over 3 (some people even leave it on 0). It does have the 5-band EQ built in, which is definitely a nice feature to have (I believe it was optional on the 3 and not available on the 2). The crystal clear cleans on this amp were shocking to me at first; I paired it up next to my friends Single Recto and I would take the versatility of the DC-5’s clean any day of the week. I like to sometimes break it up with a bit more gain as I tend to like my cleans a little dirty, but this amp does both very nicely. The gain knob also has a push-pull boost feature for an overdriven rhythm channel. The only downfall with this is there is a good jump in volume with the gain boost tacked on; definitely not a flawless transition.
The lead channel is no Recto, but this amp can really get some heavy tones out of it. Mesa originally marketed this amp to be the mix of both the Marks and Rectifiers, but I found it actually leans a bit more towards the Mark. A lot of people recommend boosting the lead if you’re trying to get closer to the Recto sound. I’ve heard it’s easily achievable with a Tube Screamer, but I’d rather save my bankroll for the new Mesa pedals. My friend with a Single Rectifier has pretty much all of them I believe (Mesa is his world), and he has had nothing but good things to say about them. I can’t wait to pair them up with the DC-5 and see what happens. This amp exceeded my expectations because it was on the cheaper end of the Mesa lineup, but it still offered the quality that Mesa is known for. The DC-5 is an all around great amp that I plan to have for a long time. Also, did I mention that it’s loud?
Turn those pedals off.