There is some overlap, but each of these amps has their own distinct feel and sound. All three have the same complement of tubes.
The Skylark is capable of a huge range of possible sounds, but with a sweet hint of compression to its touch sensitivity. Let's think of this one as 2/3 American Blackface, and
1/3 Tweed/British. The attenuator lets you play clean, mildly overdriven, or with full-on distortion at any home volume.
Presence control is very effective in setting the overall treble character and feel of the amp. The built-in variable attenuator can take the Skylark continuously from 1.2 watts to 0 output.
When the Skylark is set to full power, the attenuator is taken completely out of the circuit. The twin 6V6 power tubes operate at low voltage, with cathode bias - no need to bias with tube change. The Skylark also has all tube reverb.
The Mercury V is louder than the Skylark at 16 watts, and is more like a Marshall in every way. It's not just "a Marshall" though---The Mercury V is like having your favorite Marshalls from the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's all in one small combo. The 3-position Boost switch is governed by Series/Parallel toggle giving you six Boost options instead of just three. In addition, the Mercury V offers two Volume knobs (Volume Treble & Volume Bass), which mimic the old trick of "jumpering" channels on old Marshalls and opens up to you (in a simpler fashion) all the tone sculpting possibilities of those days. The effective attentuator allows you to access all this tone in any setting. Distortion options at various volumes are mostly what players are seeking who buy the Mercury V, but the cleans are some of the best we've produced. Think shimmery Marshall cleans that slip easily into overdriven tones at the touch of the volume knob on your guitar. The Mercury V is so Marshall-like it's hard to believe it's running 6V6's.
The Sportsman is the most powerful of the three amps, topping out around 20 watts, though we rate it at 16 watts clean. The Sportsman is the most straightforward, features-wise, and its
Headroom control (a very transparent, clean pre amp Master Volume), will allow you to have thicker and mildly distorted clean tones at very low volumes, but the amp needs to be loud to
fully overdrive. The Sportsman is great for home or stage use. The twin 6V6 power tubes run at medium voltage, with cathode bias- no need for biasing with tube-change.
The Sportsman also features reverb.
If you are playing British-voiced distortion, at home/studio levels, the Mercury is best.
If you play clean-to-distorted American vibed tones for home/studio, the Skylark is for you.
If you want clean-to-overdriven American tones for home/studio, and medium volume live gigs,
the Sportsman is the ticket.
If you're a tone fanatic - there's no substitute for owning all 3 !
Don't take our word for it, check them out for yourself at your nearest Carr dealer !