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Peavey 6505 Series Guitar Amp Review

The Peavey 6505 Series features monsters like the 6505+ 120-watt head, and little dynamos like the 6505MH Mini Head.
The Peavey 6505 Series features monsters like the 6505+ 120-watt head, and little dynamos like the 6505MH Mini Head.

Peavey for Extreme Metal

The best guitar amp for metal should deliver crushing high-gain sounds with plenty of power to spare. But it should also have a unique tone and texture, one you can immediately distinguish live or in a recording. The Peavey 6505 is such a monster. In this review we’ll take a look at what makes the 6505 the best metal amp in the world.

Of course this is just my opinion, but I am not alone! With a legacy dating back over two decades the Peavey 6505 has hacked out a reputation for thick, high-gain metal sounds. The line started with a single, all-tube, 120-watt head and matching cabinets, but has since grown to include models with a few different preamps, plus a monster 1x12 combo and a cool mini head. All sound ferocious, and (except for the MH) all carry more than enough enough power to handle any live, practice or recording situation.

Peavey is just one of many great guitar amp manufacturers out there, and each has built its own unique image and reputation. Marshall is well-known as being the best rock amp maker in the world. Fender amps are cherished by blues and country players. Randall has the market cornered for aggressive, solid-state sounds and Line 6 has carved its niche as the leader in modeling and digital effects.

Each amp has its place. Like anything else you do in life, when you play guitar you want to choose the right tool for the job. If your job is extreme metal, you need to take a hard look at the Peavey 6505 series.

Choose your weapon. Whether you play melodic death metal, old-school thrash or anything in between there’s a 6505 that will deliver everything you need, and a bunch of things you didn't even realize you wanted.

Peavey 6505: The Sound of Metal

Peavey 6505, 6505 Plus and 6534

The Peavey 6505 started out as the Peavey 5150 guitar amplifier, and the design still carries on today. The 5150 was the product of a collaborative effort between Eddie Van Halen and Peavey. That’s right: the greatest rock guitarist in the world is in part responsible for the greatest metal amp in the world.

The original 5150 came out in 1992, and featured two channels: Lead and Rhythm. In actuality, these were both high-gain channels, though the Rhythm channel was voiced slightly differently and included a “crunch” button to alter the preamp gain. Unlike most amps, the 5150 did not really have any “clean” channel, but you could dial the Rhythm channel back to get some very nice clean tones.

The Lead channel, on the other hand, put out blistering high-gain sounds with no outside influence required. Where metal players were accustomed to having to hit the front end of a tube amp with a distortion pedal and employ a power attenuator to push the preamp into metal-worthy overdrive, the 5150 stood on its own and produced wicked distortion at any volume level.

The original setup was simple but effective: Each channel had its own pre and post-gain knobs, and shared Low, Mid, High, Resonance and Presence. In addition to the "crunch" button the Rhythm channel also had a dedicated “bright” button to boost the higher frequencies.

Despite its simple design, the potential of this beast was evident from the beginning, and players began to squeeze hellacious metal tones out of it almost immediately.

In 2004, when Eddie Van Halen parted with Peavey to start his own company (EVH), the 5150 brand name went with him but Peavey kept the rights to the amp design. They changed the name to 6505, but it was still the same great metal machine, and by this time the legend had grown. Metal players across the globe had grabbed onto the Peavey tone and the 6505 sound had become the backbone of extreme metal.

In the years since the original 5150 came out Peavey had added a 5150 II model, which now became the 6505 Plus (or 6505+). This amp features an extra preamp tube, and separate EQ sections for each channel. This was a great move.

Some players found the original EQ setup of the 5150 to be a bit frustrating, as they couldn't adjust the tone for two different channels. If you understand how Eddie worked his old Marshalls and used the 5150 you can see why the amp was designed this way. But for those of us who are not Eddie Van Halen the separate EQ sections were a nice addition to an already incredible amp.

The 6505 head is best paired with a Peavey 6505 cabinet, although some players prefer setting it atop a Marshall cabinet with speakers they feel have a bit more clarity than the Sheffield-loaded Peavey cabs. Personally, I do not agree, and have always loved the dark and resonant thump of the Peavey cabinets.

To satisfy players looking for a more British sound, Peavey created the 6534. This is essentially a 6505+ with the standard 6L6 poweramp tubes replaced with EL34s. Many players had already been swapping out their 6L6s for EL34s for years. Another good move by Peavey.

Depending on your taste and style, any of these heads could be a top choice for a metal amp.

For many guitar players, the Peavey 6505 is the best metal amp out there.
For many guitar players, the Peavey 6505 is the best metal amp out there.

Peavey 6505 Plus 112 Combo

A relative newcomer to the 6505 line, the 112 combo has a 60-watt rating and a single 12" speaker. You’re left with a flexible, 1x12 combo amp that still has plenty of power. Even though it’s more portable than any of the other 6505 models, the 112 still weighs in at a hefty 64 pounds.

I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much from this amp when it first hit the scene, but when I heard it I was blown away. This thing does not sound like a 1x12 combo. Of course it doesn't move as much air as a 4x12 cabinet, but the 112 is still very impressive in its depth and thump. Plus, if you really feel like you need more speakers, the 112 can be connected to a 4x12 external cabinet.

The only disappointing thing about this amp is that, unlike the rest of the 6505 line, it is made overseas. There was a time when all of Peavey’s electronics were American-made, and they turned out some truly epic gear in low price ranges.

Peavey is still amazing, and their amps are still bullet-proof, but a few of their models have gone downhill since they started outsourcing more of their labor in the past decade or so. I really don’t think this is the case with the 112, and I guess it cuts down on the price, but it still would be nice to see this as an American-made amp.

6505+ 112 Demo

Peavey 6505 MH Mini Head

The 6505 Combo is a great way to get that legendary Peavey metal tone in a portable, easy to maintain package. But, if you are the kind of player who needs an amp for recording or just jamming at home, there is an even better way.

A short while back Peavey introduced the 6505 MH Mini Head. This is a micro version of the 6505, and despite its diminutive size it packs a wallop. At 20 watts you can crank it up and get those tubes glowing without endangering the foundation of your house. It also has an attenuator switch that lets you set the amp for 5 watts or 1 watt for even more of that sweet, tubey tone.

You only get one set of EQ controls, so this amp is set up more like the original 5150 and basic 6505. Still, it's a pretty amazing little powerhouse, with tons of tone to spare. Match it up with Peavey's 112-6 guitar cab and build a cool combo amp that's perfect for the home studio.

You're probably not going to use this little guy for a band situation, though you can certainly mic it up for gigs. Ideally, this amp is geared for the home hobbyist who loves that 6505 sound at controllable volumes. If that's you, you might want to snatch one up before Peavey changes their mind on this little gem!

Guitar World Reviews the Peavey 6505 MH

Which 6505 is Right for You?

My first experience with the Peavey 6505, then called the 5150, was in 1994 when I walked into a local music store looking for a new half-stack. I was the lead guitarist in a metal band at the time, and we were playing around the local area and getting ready to go into the studio for our first demo.

Like most local musicians who frequently wandered into the guitar shop for no good reason, I was known to the guy who ran the place, and he was aware of what kind of music I played.

I started talking about Marshall amps and after listening patiently for a while he said, “I’ll sell you a Marshall if you really want it, but first check out this thing.”

Needless to say, after messing with the 5150 for a few minutes I forgot all about Marshall. I've loved the Peavey high-gain sound ever since, and Peavey amps became a key part of my arsena from then on.

So how do you decide which 6505 model is right for you? For a lot of us, unfortunately, our wallet makes that choice for us. In this case it’s not such a bad thing, because even the 112 combo still offers enough power and tonal flexibility to meet almost any situation. And you still have the ability to add another cabinet down the road, if you feel you need it.

Peavey 6505+ 112 Combo
Peavey 6505+ 112 Combo

If you have the resources you may think the 6505 or 6505+ half-stack is the way to go. Maybe, but honestly my favorite of the lot was the 212 combo.

The 212 was discontinued by Peavey a few years back. It offered an incredible sound while still being relatively compact. Of course it was also very heavy, but this was part of why it sounded so good. The 112 Combo is a more than capable replacement, and if I wanted a new amp that is the direct I would go. But, if you feel like looking around for a used 212, I suspect you will not be disappointed.

So who needs the half-stack versions of these amps? A 120-watt tube amp is sickeningly loud, and Peavey is especially known for underrating their amplifiers. The result is that these amps are literally earth-shaking, and even turned up half-way they’ll threaten to tear your house down. If you are a hobby player at home, these might be overkill. Your neighbors will definitely think so!

On the other hand, if you are in a band and you play a lot of shows in larger venues, a 120-watt stack will be just what you want. It’s harder to cart around than the combos, but you’ll get all the stage volume and projection you’ll ever need.

Whichever you choose, if you are a metal player you’ll be pleased with the Peavey 6505 series. They’re legendary amps, backed by a legendary name, and the best guitar amps for metal.

What's Your Choice?

Which 6505 Do You Think Will Best Meet Your Needs?

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