King Snake™

King Snake™

Mesa's Randall Smith and Carlos Santana
Mesa's Randall Smith and Carlos Santana introduce the Limited Edition King Snake in 2013

In 1971 at the crossroads of Vintage and Modern amplified guitar sounds stood two pioneers, Randall Smith and Carlos Santana, and the little amp that could... the Boogie®. The passion, creativity and dedication of these two artists intersecting at that revolutionary time in music history can only be called fate, and the resulting impact on the guitar’s voice will be felt forever more. With so many “FIRSTS” it set the world’s pro guitarists on their collective ear, the Boogie ushered out the old notion of a guitar amp and transformed it once and for all into a legitimate instrument. and a tribute to the evolution of electric guitar tone.


Randy and Carlos in the early days.

The Compact 100 Watt 1x12 Combo, Tube Cascading High Gain Preamp (SUSTAIN), FOOTSWITCHING (Clean to Overdrive), Half Power Switch (100/60), Pull-Gain Boost, On-Board Graphic EQ, Slave Out, All World Export Transformer, Custom Hardwood Cabinetry and a Wicker Cane Grille were all innovations seen exclusively on the world’s first boutique amplifier by the world’s first boutique amp builder, Randall Smith and MESA Engineering®.

The original boutique amp builder, Randall Smith and MESA/Boogie.

The Limited Edition King Snake™ is legendary in both sound and story because it is the direct descendant of the original Boogie that stood alone at that intersection so long ago. That amp was the transitional link between the low gain single channel amps of yesteryear and today’s current high gain, multi-channel footswitching amplifiers. Before the Boogie’s appearance back then, players had to turn an amp all the way up to get overdrive and sustain and it occurred in the power section, which of course was LOUD.

With the creation of the world’s first high gain tube preamp in 1970, found only in the little Boogie by MESA Engineering, players could achieve sustain and singing tube overdrive at any volume. Revolutionary! The rest is history – and while it is correct to say that the little high gain, high power 1x12 Boogie Combo changed guitar and popular music forever, the story doesn’t end there!


This tribute model is an exact replica of the amp Carlos Santana toured with in 1972/73 as he introduced the world to this new sound, right down to the unique chassis size and the aged Snake-embossed Lambskin covering. But it has also been updated to include all our most secret Tone discoveries uncovered throughout the 43 years since the original’s creation.

The original inspiration for the Limited Edition King Snake

These improvements, some visible and some hidden, increase the performance and versatility while recreating the original voice with full authenticity. They make the Snake™ more usable across a wider range of musical styles and power requirements and add exciting new possibilities for expression and enjoyment.


Dual Input

The King Snake™ features the original Boogie® MARK I™ single-channel preamp that includes two different Inputs, one for traditional lower gain performance (Input 2) and one for higher gain all-tube overdrive (Input 1). Each of these Inputs has it’s own dedicated VOLUME Control responsible for the amount of gain at that stage in the preamp. Input 2 gives you access to traditional lower gain Clean sounds and Input 1 accesses the extra tube stage that produces high gain performance.

When plugged into Input 2, its associated VOLUME 2 Control is the sole determining factor for the amount of gain available. When Input 1 is chosen an additional tube gain stage is activated and both VOLUME 1 and VOLUME 2 are on line and must be blended to create the preferred amount of overdrive. The best results are usually found with VOLUME 2 set a little higher than VOLUME 1. This scheme produces richer, warmer saturation and reduces excess harmonic content that might create a layer of loosely attached harmonic sizzle with some instruments. This can be desirable on occasion, but setting VOLUME 2 lower than VOLUME 1 should be reserved for those times when you are looking for a brighter voice with added harmonics.

Original Mark I’s were shipped with a harness to achieve rudimentary channel switching with an external A/B box. Modern performance expectations would consider this inadequate, so we’ve focused instead on optimizing the Snake’s single channel performance. We don’t recommend trying to “channel-switch” the Snake with an external A/B box as pot tapers have been altered from Original MARK I spec to achieve this single channel optimization.


King Snake Mid Boost

The standard array of Tone controls shape the Snake’s soulful gain with one new and significant improvement. What was a switchable On/Off Gain Boost feature on Carlos’ original MARK I appears here on the Snake as an adjustable MID/BOOST integrated into the MID Control. From 0 to 5 on the MID/BOOST you will find the normal range of a standard MID control in a condensed form. From 5 to 10 on the MID/BOOST a wonderful graduation of overdrive possibilities unfold that enhance gain over a wide midrange spectrum and saturate with increasing thickness.

This simple but incredibly powerful (and patent applied for) MID/BOOST feature allows you to dial-in additional gain into either Input’s signal path ranging from subtle enhancement to substantial overdrive. This incremental saturation is perfectly suited for adding extra fur to “edge of clean” sounds, helping them transition smoothly into clip with player-directed dynamics and authenticity. It broadens the stylistic range of Input 2 and for some players, will be all the overdrive they ever need. Especially when the upper range of the MID/BOOST is combined with the 10 or 60 watt power Modes. For those needing extreme saturation the MID/BOOST may also be applied to Input 1 to thicken and liquefy, but apply the MID/BOOST with care here as it can easily push things beyond reason and compromise both attack and balance.

MULTI-WATT™ 10/60/100

King Snake Muti-Watt Power

Another powerful weapon this Snake wields is our patented Multi-Watt™ Selectable Power. Multi-Watt allows you to perfectly tune the output power to both preamp styles and venue requirements and add power clip at more usable volume ranges than would otherwise be possible. On the Snake, the three-position Multi-Watt switch offers a choice of the full 100 watts of Class A/B power produced by all four 6L6s, 60 watts of Class A/B power that runs two 6L6s and 10 watts of Class A Single-Ended power running two 6L6s for the ultimate in sweet, clip-able power.

The Single-Ended wiring configuration in 10 watts showcases the even-order 2nd Harmonic and adds to the Snake’s vintage character, helping the layers “line up” with old school, little amp magic. This Multi-Watt setting actually DELIVERS the power expression you’ve been hearing in your head. You know, that haunting power clip you imagine – but never seems to be quite as good in reality when you sit down with a coveted vintage gem. In this amp it’s the power clip dream fully realized. You’ve gotta’ play the Snake to believe it. It really is that good.


King Snake Switchable Circuits

Another pioneering and powerful update is the addition of our new Switchable Presence Circuit. This feature, seen here for the first time on the King Snake, allows you to choose between two classic Presence circuits we refer to as TWEED and BLACKFACE. These different Presence schemes offer complete opposite response curves and re-voice both frequency and dynamic characteristics of the power section.

BLACKFACE produces a warmer, more compressed character that rounds out single notes, giving them more envelope and “pop” on their attack and smoothness on their decay. This is Carlos’ favorite setting and the Presence circuit used on his original MARK I Snakeskin. TWEED brings the Snake’s response forward and features lightning fast attack, substantially more top end (higher up) and tightens the low end, allowing it to track better. TWEED showcases upper layers of harmonics that you didn’t even know were there before switching out of BLACKFACE and adds the grind and shred needed for today’s aggressive gain sounds. This switchable re-mapping of both circuit and sound allows the Snake to command a split personality and excel at both vintage and modern sounds. Set for clean or high gain, it pays even further tribute to its original role as a link between yesteryear and the here and now.


King Snake Reverb

Of course what would a re-creation of this iconic amp be without amazing Reverb. Not to fret, the Snake’s got ‘Verb... miles of it! And it’s all about vintage. We’ve voiced the all-tube, three-spring, long tank Reverb to include just the right amount of old school vibe. Depth, harmonics, decay time and a pinch of mechanical “spring artifact” come together to produce a lush, deep ambience that sounds great as a subtle enhancement or a featured effect. Crack it on for added dimension in a small room or spool it up for a surf holiday, either way you’ll appreciate the Snake’s retro-inspired Reverb.

A Series Effects Loop is fitted to the Snake’s Rear Panel that incorporates an adjustable SEND LEVEL control. This allows fine-tuning of the Send strength so it can be optimized to the Input of either rack-mount or pedal type effects. Start with the SEND LEVEL control all the way down and increase it slowly until the optimum Input signal is reached for your individual effect unit. The King Snake has more than ample SEND strength, so don’t be surprised if you find an optimal setting in the lower region of the SEND LEVEL control (9:00-10:00). As always, overdrive, compression and wah pedals usually perform better when used in the signal chain between your instrument and the Snake’s Inputs. And for the purist who prefers to keep it simple and straightforward, the Snake’s Effects Loop remains Hard Bypassed and completely out of the signal path until cables are inserted into the Loop jacks.

A SLAVE OUT jack and LEVEL Control are also fitted to the Snake’s rear to capture the entire sound of the preamp and power section for sending it on to additional power in large venue applications.


Mesa Fillmore Speakers

And finally, we are proud to announce that in the King Snake, the second in our exciting new line of FILLMORE™ Speakers makes its worldwide debut! After working with companies from around the globe for the last 9 years and scrutinizing over 500 prototype samples, our long-time friends at Eminence Ltd. delivered in spades (Go USA)! Our obsession and their diligence have blessed us with several handmade in the USA speaker models that rival (and surpass) the best of our golden-era British references. The King Snake’s soul and voodoo are perfectly enhanced by our new Fillmore KS-100! We’re really excited to share these new speakers with the world and feel we’ve broken through to a new era in great speaker Tone.

The King Snake is the celebration of the wonderful 40+year relationship we’ve enjoyed with Carlos Santana as well as the commemoration of a defining moment in electric guitar history. This limited number of amplifiers will stand as testimony that two musical Icons – one in the limelight, one behind the scenes – REALLY CARED about their art form and their legacy. We sincerely hope you get to play one of these magic amplifiers and see for yourself what the Spirit Of Art In Technology can achieve.

Download the User Manual for complete details on this product.


  • 1x12 Combo