Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review: Peavey 5150 / Peavey 6505 and all its variants

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review a legendary guitar amplifier, the Peavey 5150, known since 2004 (as Eddie Van Halen has moved the rights for the 5150 name from Peavey to Fender and eventually to an EVH brand) as 6505.

For those of you (few I hope) that doesn't know who Eddie Van Halen is, a brief recap: he is the guitar player of Van Halen, a Hard Rock band from California, which has produced some of the most famous hard rock songs of the 70s and 80s, as "Jump", "Ain't talking 'bout Love", "Panama", "Hot for Teachers" and "Running with the Devil", just to name a few.

Eddie Van Halen is also known for being one of the first Guitar Heroes in history, having contributed in innovating the rock guitar sound in many ways: introducing an extensive use of tapping and legato in guitar solos, creating a trademark sound very creamy and mid focused that is known as "brown sound", and basically making guitar shredding mainstream and appreciated from a wide audience, not only from guitar geeks.

Eddie in his incredibly long career has experimented with many amps and guitars, by modding and customizing them until they were completely different from the original model, until arriving to 1992, year in which Peavey offered him a signature model based on his requests, and this model is today, 25 years later, the standard in in heavy metal guitar tone: the most used amp by metal bands and metal producers, even the most extreme ones, due to its extremely tight tone and massive gain.

The head is 120 tube watts, a monster in volume, and it gives its best when pushed over the half of the volume knob, meaning that in order to really enjoy this amplifier you need to play it extremely loud, it has a low gain and a high gain input, and two channels that shares the same passive eq section.
The preamp section has six stages of gain (just to give you the idea, the Marshall jcm2000 DSL is Dual Super Lead, meaning that it has two stages of gain), it is loaded with five 12AX7 tubes (one is in the effect loop), the power amp has four 6L6, and the two channels shares also the presence knob (which decides how narrow or wide is the control of the entire eq section) and the resonance one (that adds some oomph to the lower area).
The head, finally, has also two separate gain knobs, one inside and one after the preamp section, and two switches that affects only the clean channel: bright (that adds some sparkle if the tone is too dark) and crunch (that adds additional gain turning the clean channel into a rhythm one).

Although this head is created to produce huge amounts of gain mantaining an exceptional clarity and definition, the amp has been used also for its creamy crunch tones: the interaction of the tubes creates a very warm harmonic richness and sustain that makes it extremely pleasant to play also for lower gain situations, although the amp is not famous for producing particularly pleasant pure clean tones (they are, in facts, rather cold compared to other amps).

When presented in 1992, this amplifier was revolutionary due to the six stages of gain, which meant a big amount of gain from the preamp section that goes into a powerful power amp section with tubes (the 6L6) which are famous for the tight low end and for mantaining a lot of headroom compared with for example the El84 of many Marshall Amps: the result is that the tone is less saturated than a classic Marshall tone, it's more defined and the gain structure is much more compact, perfect for palm muting, that's why this amp is today a standard for thrash and death metal bands, even more than for hard rock.

From 1992 the Peavey 5150 (from 2004 called 6505) has grown very much, and today it offers several variants, all with the trademark original tone but with some interesting twist:

- 6505 Plus (formerly known as 5150 II), a version with the eq separated between the two channels and a slighly brighter tone

- 6505 combo, a 60w combo version of the amp

- 6505 mini and micro, two smaller versions of the big one, one 20w all tube and the other one 20w transistor.

Over the years Peavey has also produced other versions, such as one with EL84 tubes, but they have been discontinued.


- High and low gain inputs
- 120 watts (rms) into 16, 8, or 4 ohms (switchable)
- Rhythm channel: pre-/post-gain, bright and crunch switches
- Five 12AX7 preamp tubes and four 6L6GC power amp tubes
- Channels share 3-band EQ
- Presence and resonance controls
- Switchable post-EQ effects loop
- Preamp output
- Lead channel: pre-/post-gain

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