There is some overlap, but each of these amps has their own distinct feel and sound.
The Mercury can produce a huge range of tones, though for this comparison we can think of the Mercury as 2/3 British, and 1/3 American Blackface in tonal range and nature.
The full power setting is 8 watts, which is enough to play live with a drummer, though at this volume, clean headroom is limited.
For home use, there is plenty of clean on tap. The Mercury has a stepped power attenuator for 8, 2, 1/2, and 1/10th watt settings.
The Mercury is powered by a single EL-34 power tube, and comes with our famous tube reverb.
The Skylark is also 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.
At 12 watts, it will stay clean longer than the Mercury, and its 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 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 !