I'm a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Peavey Guitar Amps
There are some great guitar amp builders out there, and these days we have more choices than ever. Some companies are best at making gear for certain genres of music, and certain types of guitar players. If you are a metal guitarist, Peavey is one of the brands you should look to.
I’ve played metal for over thirty years, and I love Peavey amps. I should get that out of the way right here in the beginning. I’ve formed this affinity over the decades, going back to my first 5150 in 1994. Since then I’ve played all kinds of different amps, and experimented with many different sounds. I keep on coming back to Peavey.
Of the six amps I own today, four of them are Peaveys. I appreciate other brands too, and like most guitar players I love that British Marshall roar. In fact, I have an awesome Marshall DSL combo that I really like. It sounds fantastic for everything from hard rock to blues and does pretty well with metal too. But, to me, it doesn’t have the same power and authority as the Peavey high-gain sound.
My Marshall sounds great, but, put simply: Marshall is the sound that makes you want to pump your fist in the air. Peavey is the sound that makes you want to put your fist through a wall.
In this article, I’ll talk about some of the Peavey amps I own and have owned over the years, and what kind of guitar player might find them useful. I think Peavey makes the best metal amps in the world, but remember that’s just my opinion. Check out these amps and decide for yourself.
6505 and 6505+ Heads
The Peavey 6505 is the amp that started it all for me, back in the early ‘90s. Then it was called the 5150, and it was created in collaboration with guitar legend Eddie Van Halen. Eddie used it until he departed Peavey in 2004 to form his own company, and took the 5150 name with him. Peavey renamed the amp 6505 the next year, a number derived from Peavey’s 40th anniversary (‘65-‘05).
I used this amp during my days playing in bands, both live and in the studio. It’s a 120-watt monster, capable of insane volume and blistering high-gain sounds. One of the great things about it is how you can get thick, saturated distortion at any volume. Historically, tube amps had to be cranked in order to get power amp distortion and the best sound. With the 6505, the pre-amp will give you all the gain you need.
It’s a simple amp, with two channels, a three-band EQ, Presence and Resonance controls, plus Bright and Crunch switches for the Rhythm channel. Inside you’ve got five 12AX7 preamp tubes and four 6L6GC power amp tubes.
The Peavey 6505 is a beast not for the faint of heart. But, if you need something a little more flexible, check out the Peavey 6505+. The Plus part gives you separate tone controls for each channel, as well an added 12AX7 in the preamp.
If I found myself in a band tomorrow, the 6505+ would be my weapon of choice. It has the high-gain sounds I love and plenty of power for any situation. If you play metal, and you play in a band, this monster will get the job done.
However, if you don’t play in a band it might be hard to justify the need for it. As much as I love this amp, it is somewhat expensive for some players. It’s also has a ton of firepower for home use, and a 4x12 cabinet takes up a lot of space.
If you want the 6505 sound without the price tag, blistering volume or huge cabinet, consider instead the 6505+ 112 Combo.
6505+ 112 Combo
The 6505 Combo is my main amp these days. For me, playing at home at reasonable volumes, it’s perfect. It nails that Peavey 6505 high-gain sound, but comes in a much smaller package.
I should clarify a couple of things. First, this amp only has reasonable volume levels compared to its 120-watt big brother. At 60 watts it’s still a really, really loud amp. That’s a good thing. While it is tamable for home use, you will have no trouble using it in a band if necessary.
It’s also only small compared to a head and 4x12 cab setup because for a combo amp this thing is hefty. It weighs in at over 60 pounds, and it is almost like a piece of furniture.
It reminds me of my old 5150 212 combo that I switched to when I thought my 5150 stack had become too unwieldy. Like I did back then, I’m considering getting a small moving dolly for shuttling it around. If you intend to use this amp in a band I highly recommend that approach.
The 6505+ 112 Combo has five 12AX7 preamp tubes and two 6L6GC power amp tubes. It’s half the wattage of the head version, but as I said it is still a very powerful amp. The front panel is similar to the head, minus the Bright switch for the Rhythm Channel and with the addition of a Master control for the spring reverb.
The back panel features an XLR Microphone Simulated Direct Interface, which you won’t find on the head version. This is for recording or running out to a mixing board.
If you are a home player like me, or if you play in a band but need to watch your pennies, I think the 6505 Combo is the way to go.
Is the Peavey 6505 a Versatile Amp?
If there is a knock on the Peavey 6505 it is that it is a one-trick pony. Sure, it does the bone-crushing, high-gain thing well, but that’s about it.
I strongly disagree with that. Remember, the 6505 evolved from the 5150, and the 5150 was first billed as a rock amp, not a metal amp. It was made for Eddie Van Halen, perhaps the greatest rock guitarist of all time. Dialed in correctly, it does hard rock and classic rock sounds really well, and can even serve as a solid blues amp. Heck, I don't know why a country player would own a 6505, but it works there too.
I think guitarists who aren’t finding these sounds just might not be looking in the right places. It’s a mistake to think of the 6505 as a typical clean channel/dirty channel amp. There is no clean channel. The Rhythm Channel is for playing rhythm, and the Lead Channel is for playing leads. Of course, that's not how most of us use it, but that's how it was designed.
To understand why this is so, just listen to Eddie’s playing. He rarely uses a true clean sound, and (especially in the early days) the “clean” sounds he does get are achieved by backing off on the guitar’s volume knob.
So, the Rhythm channel on, Crunch switch engaged, Pre-gain between five and seven. There’s your classic rock sound. Back the Pre-gain off to about three or four for a blues tone.
To get a clean sound, disengage the Crunch, dial in the Pre-gain to about three and back off on your volume knob a touch. No, the clean sound isn’t Fender-perfect, but I think it’s more than acceptable for most situations.
6505 MH Mini Head vs. 112 Combo
As I’ve said, I think the 6505+ Combo is great in a band situation or for home use. But many guitarists are probably on the fence between the combo and the 6505 MH mini head, so here are some quick thoughts on that.
From what I’ve heard of the mini head it sounds fantastic, and it’s not very expensive. If you already own a good cabinet and you want to add the 6505 MH to your amp collection I think it’s a no-brainer. If you only play at home, and you like the idea of a mini 6505, go for it.
But what if you play in a band, or think you might someday? The Mini’s front panel functions are more similar to the non-Plus version of the 6505 head, and it only puts out 20 watts of power, switchable down to one watt. But, like the combo it also has an MSDI interface on the back, so you can certainly use it for live situations by either running a line to the PA or miking the cabinet.
My concern is using it for jamming or band rehearsal, in cases where you don’t have sound reinforcement. I’ve heard a few accounts where guitar players have said it is loud enough for playing in a band, and others where they’ve said it isn’t. I don’t know that I’ve ever used a 20-watt amp capable of hanging with some of the drummers I’ve known. Still, this is Peavey, so it’s plausible.
If you need an amp for a band situation, the Combo will definitely get it done. If you think you want to explore the possibilities of the mini, just do your research beforehand.
In fact, if you’ve played the 6505 MH with a drummer I’d love to hear your opinion on how it did. Let me know in the comments!
The Peavey Bandit 112
As you can tell I think pretty highly of the Peavey 6505 Series. But, I also recognize that it might not be right for every guitar player. If you are on a really tight budget and need to get a lot of bang for your buck, or if you just don’t feel like dealing with a tube amp, you might want to look elsewhere. In those cases, I suggest you consider the Peavey Bandit. It is affordable, powerful and has great-sounding distortion. The Bandit is one of the most underrated metal amps out there.
I really think this is the all-time most underrated amp of the guitar world. It’s not expensive or flashy, but it is powerful and sounds fantastic. The Bandit has been around a long time, and Peavey has steadily improved on it over the years.
One of the sources of the Bandit’s awesomeness is Peavey’s TransTube technology. There are no tubes here. It’s a solid-state amp, but it sounds pretty darned convincing.
The Bandit is a great all-around amp, outstanding for metal and capable of high-gain sounds similar to the 6505 Series. It is also very easy to dial in warm clean sounds for rock or jazz.
The Bandit has two channels, Clean and Lead, with a separate EQ for each, plus a very nice spring reverb. It’s rated at 80 watts with the internal speaker and 100 watts with an additional cab, more than loud enough for a band. It also handles pedals very well.
If you are an intermediate-level metal guitarist on a budget and you’re looking for your first real guitar amp, given the Bandit a look. Or, if you’re a veteran player me and just want a simple, great-sounding, no-hassle amp for home use you might consider it.
I’ve had my Bandit for something like 15 years. I tried a lot of amps before deciding on it, and today I wouldn’t part with it. While it wouldn’t be my first choice, I would use it in a band if necessary, and I know it would perform very well. For up-and-coming players, I think it is tough to beat, and for veteran players, it is one of those amps you’ll keep coming back to.
The Peavey Bandit
Vypyr VIP 2
A few years ago I was looking for a small amp with built-in effects. I wanted something I could easily tote around the house, just for messing around. I ended up with a Peavey Vypyr, and it is an amp I often still use it today.
Peavey has since improved on the Vypyr lineup and created the VIP Series. When I had a chance to play these I was very impressed. If you are a metal player who never intends to play in a band and doesn’t care about being loud, but does want an inexpensive, great-sounding amp with effects built-in, I recommend the Peavey Vypyr VIP 2.
The VIP 2 is a modeling amp, meaning it is intended to emulate different guitar amps and effects. You can also use it with acoustic guitar and bass, and there are models for those interments a well. It has a wide array of built-in instrument models and effects, so you’ve got everything you need in one handy little package.
Once again we see Peavey’s TransTube solid-state distortion here, and that, in my opinion, is what separates the Vypyr from other modeling amps I’ve heard. You get Peavey models like the 6505, 6534 and XXX, plus a ton of flexibility. No, this isn’t an amp you’d gig with or bring to band practice, but if you just intend to play at home it’s a pretty good option.
There are bigger amps in the VIP Series, such as the VIP 3 and VIP Pro. Both are rated at 100 watts, so if you did intend to gig with a modeling amp these are the ones to consider. The VIP Pro, in particular, offers a lot for working guitarists who want a lot of flexibility in their rig, without having to carry a bunch of stuff to a gig.
I think the amps listed above are your best bets, but there are other amps in the Peavey lineup you might consider. There are a few more models in the TransTube Series such as the Special Chorus and Envoy. The invective .120 is a powerful, high-gain amp for players a bit more accustomed to high-class accommodations. And, there are some great out-of-production models you can find used such as the 6534, XXL and XXX.
While there are strong contenders such as Randall, Marshall and Mesa/Boogie, I stick by my assertion that Peavey makes the best metal amps out there, for every level of player. From the powerful 6505 and 6505+ heads that are made for serious musicians to the affordable 6505+ 112 Combo to solid-state amps like the Bandit and Vypyr, Peavey covers all the bases.
Well, they cover almost all of the bases. I would love to see the XXL come back into production or something like it. I think there is a market for an affordable, powerful, solid-state, TransTube head for up-and-coming players who want a stack but can’t afford the 6505.
I also wish they'd bring back the 6505 212. I really loved that amp, but I understand why there might not be room for both the 112 and 212 in Peavey's lineup.
Otherwise, I have no complaints about Peavey. They are one of the best guitar amp builders in the world, and the metal world wouldn’t be the same without them.