OK, here are my ol' favorites, and I do mean OLD, in some cases...
Peavey Special 130
This was THE AMP for me, for the past twenty years. I bought this one brand new when I worked at a Peavey dealer (now Warehouse Sound and Lights) back in the mid-eighties. As a 112 combo, rated at 130 watts at 4 ohms, it has MORE than enough power for just about any gig/style you can imagine. It has two switchable preamp channels: one totally clean, and one that can be overdriven a couple of ways. I gigged countless casuals with this ol' guy playing rock, R&B, and country, and it even did a stint as a bass head when I joined a country band as a bassist in the late eighties.
For speakers, I've had 8 and 4 ohm Scorpions, 8 and 4 ohm Black Widows, 4 ohm Celestion G12T-100s (as shown from the back, far right), and even 16 ohm Celestion Vintage 30s loaded. Currently they are loaded (again) with an old pair of silver-domed, flat-backed, "spider label" 8 ohm Black Widows speakers (near right), and I think those are probably the final setup. Until I change my mind again...
The unique feature of this year/model amp is that it's the only model of many similar Peavey 112 "Special" combos that has the parametric-style mid-range control, which for me is the control that MAKES this amp. Only the Special 130 has this parametric-style midrange control - all the models before and since have just had the ol' single knob midrange, cut or boost. These have a dual-concentric pair of knobs, with the the outside ring the frequency selector, and the inside knob the cut and boost. My best guess as to why this fabulous feature was only used for this one run is that they must have come to realized that it was just too much control for some people - hey, a lot of players just want to dime everything and expect it to sound good! Not so with these amps - it's like, TOO much control. But, with a little experimentation I've found you can dial up some pretty yummy tones.
A few years ago, I got a wild hare and bought a second one. I can imagine playing them as a "stereo pair," with a stereo-chorus pedal last in the stomp-box chain, feeding them from the chorus left and right outputs. Cool!
I bought this amp many years ago from the ASB at the high school where I now work - they had been using it as a portable PA system! It's a mid-seventies hybrid combo - solid state preamp feeding four 6L6 tubes, hitting the two 12" speakers with 120 watts. Can you say, "Southern Rock?"
This amp has really been through them changes - I sold it to my nephew around ten or fifteen years ago, and then traded it back for a 412 cab. Then I pulled the amp chassis out, built a new box and made a head out of it; sealed up the 212 cabinet and loaded it with a pair of Celestion V12-60 Silver Series 8 ohm speakers. I re-worked the jacks and channel switching scheme on the back of the amp because the pedal was missing or non-functional, I don't recall - but, now you can run the channel change and series/parallel with regular two-button stereo footswitches. For the Jalms in '06, I put it back together as a 212 combo, and left the Celestions loaded. Nobody used it... so, now I've swapped the Celestions out for the old stock Peavey speakers (I think the consensus was that they were made by CTS). It's actually pretty sweet, for an old beater.
The unique thing about this amp is that it was built at the time when everybody was going crazy for preamp overdrive - so this amp has preamp channels designed so that they can be played parallel or SERIES - yup, preamps in SERIES! Now, that's some serious crunch! The problem with that idea was that the preamps-in-series setting (with all the groovey crunch!) is a great tone for solos, but it was invariably not as loud as the "regular" (clean single-preamp) setting. So, you'd stomp on the footswitch to go to the solo, and the volume would drop off (rather than be boosted) from the clean rhythm tone to the crunchy solo tone. Oh well, back to the drawing board.
Heck, I could gig with this old guy, if I had too...
Peavey Supreme Transtube
Now, here's a head I really thought would be THE ANSWER - whatever the question was at that time. It's really a great sounding amp, the Transtube technology works well, and to me it really does sound like a tube amp, even on the clean channel. Great control on the overdrive channel, too, with the "thrash" button - it yanks all the mids out with the touch of a button. Looks good, too, now that I've removed the silly-looking art-deco "PEAVEY" logo - I think all their amps look better without it!
However, after all those years of finding Peavey amps to be LOUDER than reading the specs would lead me to believe, sadly, this one wasn't. In fact, this head could be the quietest 100 watt head I've ever heard. And, it's not just this particular one - that's a knock I have heard elsewhere against this model. It's a shame, too, because I really do like the tones I can get out of it.
Well! I finally figured out the reason I was disappointed in the performance (volume-wise) of this head. Back in the day (MY day, to be specific, was in the seventies), Peavey rated all their solid state amps - guitar, bass, and P.A - to the audio industry standard for solid state amplifiers, which was watts RMS at .1% THD - that's, power BEFORE audible distortion/clipping. In my time, I've run through quite a few of the old ('70s) Peavey Standard and Musician solid state heads, and even the Standard, rated at 130 WRMS, would blow your face off! It wasn't a tone that everybody liked, but NOBODY ever said they weren't LOUD...
OK, so, NOW... Everybody just SEZ this is a 100 watt head. But, the specs on this amp - if you dig in and read them - say it produces 100 WRMS at 5% distortion - which was always the distortion spec for TUBE amps. If you back the power down to .1% distortion for the old solid state amp spec, it's obviously producing FAR less power.
After checking a few models, surprise! I find that Fender also has been rating their solid state guitar amps using the 5% distortion standard - no wonder the Princeton Chorus just doesn't quite have the output I needed! SO! My guess is that sometime in the eighties/ninties - while I was musically "dormant" - all the manufactures of guitar heads started using a similar distortion spec fudge factor for solid state guitar amp output power - and, some don't list the distortion factor at all. The Crate Powerblock (see next page) is WAY over-rated, claiming 150 WRMS - but at 10% distortion!
So, I'm making up a new rule of thumb for solid state amps rated at 5% distortion. The rule is, the new SS-RWMS rating equates to a tube amp at about one third to half of its rated power. So, that makes this amp about 35-50 WRMS. Now, that I can believe! Using this new rule of thumb (and considering the even higher distortion rating), I can see where the 150 WRMS of the Powerblock seems about equivelent to the 22 WRMS of a Fender Deluxe Reverb (vintage tube model) - and I think that may still be pretty generous to the Crate...
While it's true that as guitar players we are usually looking for a little distortion in the signal, it seems as though geezers like myself will have to recalibrate our expectations to this "new" power rating standard for solid state guitar amps.
There, I feel so much better now. BUT, I may never buy another solid state amp, after years of trusting them.
2009, I picked up an empty Randle 212 slant-faced "mini-stack" cabinet, and loaded it with a couple of Peavey Blue Marvels (both pulls from Peavey Classic 30s). That seems to have created the perfect cabinet for this head, and it really has some great sounds... just not a ton of volume.
I think I could STILL gig certain venues with this one, but I'm not sure it has the balls for the jalms... Ah, Atlantis!
NEXT: odds and ends...
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