Mark IV Vs Mark V: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

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If you’re interested in learning more about the Mark IV vs Mark V Mesa Boogie amps, you’ve come to the right post!

For context, I’ve played the guitar since 2003.

And although this may not make me an expert, I’m doing my best to share all I know about the guitar here on the blog!

And in this post, I’ll be comparing the Mark IV vs Mark V amp!

So which is better?

The Mark V is the most recent model of this amp with more advanced controls than the Mark IV. That said, some reviewers say the Mark IV brings more headroom on clean settings and keeps the tone warmer than the Mark V. Regardless, the Mark IV is discontinued and harder to get ahold of.

I’ll unpack more of their similarities and differences in the sections below!

Mesa Boogie Mark Series Amps

Sure, they might not be as big as Fender or Marshall amps in terms of commercial success, but Mesa Boogie makes some great amps. In fact, many say that they outperform most of the mainstream models!

Their most prominent line is the so-called Mark series. The Mark series is their traditional American-style amp series. In fact, they came to be after the company began making various modifications to different Fender amps.

The first model came out in the late 1970s. Over the coming decade, we got a few Mark II variants, including the Mark IIC+. This one was especially useful for metal rhythm parts. In particular, Metallica used it for their legendary “Master of Puppets” album.

But all of the Mark series amps were extremely versatile. Santana, Mark Knopfler, Al Di Meola, Buckethead, Paul McCartney, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Prince, and John Scofield are just some of the big names who used them over the years.

Of course, each of the Mark models had a few variants. These have also been in the form of combo and stack amps.

Mark IV Vs Mark V: What’s the Difference

In the late 2000s, Mesa Boogie released the fifth model of the series. It continued the innovation that the company did with the previous four installments.

However, some players still prefer the Mark IV version. In addition, many are wondering what are the differences between Mark IV and Mark V models. Let’s get into details and see what’s the deal with them.

Mark IV

Mesa Mark IV - In Depth Review / Playthrough
Check out this video for an in-depth look at the Mark IV

The Mark IV model came out in 1990. Just like its predecessor, it had three channels. What was exciting about this particular model is that it came with detailed controls. For instance, it has individual parameter controls for each channel.

In addition, there is a master EQ that you can engage. Plus, you can do all sorts of other stuff with this amp. For instance, there is a pull feature on the master volume control allowing completely silent operation for recording.

The backside is also advanced. Aside from the reverb control, you have a recording output with a separate volume knob. There is even a jack for master/slave amplifier operation.

Another thing that Mark IV inherited from its predecessors is the option to use different power amp tubes. You could get the classic 6L6 American tone or use EL34 in the style of British amps.

The amp had a long run, all the way up to 2008. With 6L6 tubes, you could get a lot of headroom. Meanwhile, it also had thick bottom-ends, just like most classic American amps. Even with EL34 tubes in the power amp, you’d get some of that thickness. And like other amps in the Mark series, it was pretty versatile.

Mark V

Mesa/Boogie Mark V Amp

The Mark V model came out in 2009. As a continuation of the Mark IV, it also has three channels. However, you can immediately notice the difference with its controls. Each of the three channels has its completely independent and grouped controls.

And it’s not just tidy. Each channel makes for a fully functional amp coming with six knobs and four switches. We have input gain, 3-band EQ, output volume, and presence knobs. Meanwhile, the switches engage the master graphic EQ, power attenuation, and we have two controls for further tone-shaping depending on the channel.

In short, this is an extremely versatile amp. So far, it’s easily the most versatile one in the series. This is all accompanied by additional features on the back panel. There’s the FX loop, individual channel reverb controls, and even a tuner output. Plus, you can also mute the output signal while tuning.

Of course, I’m barely scratching the surface on what this amp and its controls can do. That said, it can take some time and effort to get used to all the features it has, particularly its footswitch. Regardless, it’s a highly practical amp with a lot of useful controls.

How Do They Compare?

There are a lot of players who still prefer the Mark IV. There’s a subtle difference in the tone. And some even prefer its interface. These are all viable reasons to get your hands on one of these.

However, bear in mind that the Mark IV is discontinued. This means that you’ll have a harder time finding one compared to the Mark V model. Of course, it’s not impossible to get one, but it’s always a drag to go through ads and search for a used piece in good condition.

Additionally, most agree that the Mark V is a more versatile and practical option. Sure, it may seem more complex when you look at all of its controls. However, when you get the hang of it, these controls give you the ability to really fine-tune your sound.

What makes them both really great is the option to swap power amp tubes. This brings an option to get a more Marshall-like or a Vox-like tone with EL34 tubes. Otherwise, they’re both bottom-end-oriented with default 6L6 tubes.

Some say that the Mark IV brings more headroom on clean settings and keeps the tone warmer. It’s kind of similar to traditional old-school Fender amps.

Some reviewers also say that the Mark V is just slightly thinner-sounding in clean settings with a noticeably smaller headroom. This is a great option for anyone who prefers to have some sparkle in their clean tone. It’s especially pronounced with EL34 power tubes instead of 6L6 ones.

That said, when it comes to high-gain tones, the Mark V is usually sharper-sounding. No matter the power tubes, it’s closer to a Marshall amp’s sound compared to the Mark IV.

Which One Should I Choose?

There are many variables to consider here, including the types of tubes that you’re using, guitars, pickups, and pedals. But, in my opinion, Mark V is more versatile. On the other hand, the Mark IV amp has some serious old-school Fender vibes.

If you need something super-versatile and practical for live gigs and studio work, I’d advise getting a Mark V. If you want something that’s also versatile but gravitates more towards traditional tones, get a Mark IV.

I got the chance to try out a Mark IV with a Tube Screamer and a few other overdrives. It responds well to them, especially on clean channels. Despite its massive headroom, it breaks up nicely if you pair it up with a quality overdrive.

Nonetheless, both amps are really good. Just bear in mind that the Mark IV is discontinued and harder to get ahold of!


I hope this article has helped you understand some of the differences between these amps!

And as usual, feel free to message me in the comments below if you have a question about this or another guitar-related topic!

2 Responses

  1. John Mitchell says:

    I own a 1991 Mark 1v combo. Paid $1100 for it on a consignment in Portland, OR. Brand new condition. It’s the holy grail for me. I also recently got a Mk v 25 head and cab. I love it just as much!

    1. Hi John!

      Thanks for sharing that. That sounds like a sweet setup, and I’m glad you got the instrument of your dreams!

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