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This article was originally published in issue #38
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Little amps are all the rage - especially little valve amps. Gone are the days where you need 16 100 Watt heads with matching 4x12 cabs and even with the guys who claim to use that kind of set- up you will find 15 of them are just for show. It may not look as cool to have an amp the size of a large toaster on the stage, but its far cooler than putting out your back lugging heads and cabs up 32 flights of stairs for a 30 minute set! Get a good little amp with some great pedals in front of it, mic it up to a good PA and hey-presto tone heaven! Peavey, having been around for a very long time and with a wide range of amps from solid state to all valve under its belt, should certainly know what's needed to crack this market, so let's see how the company's Classic 20 all valve amp head stands up.
Revered by Blues, Country and Rock players alike, Peavey Classic amps claim to span the tonal landscape from vintage to contemporary with ease and the Classic 20 MH provides that tone in a highly portable package. The all-tube, 20-Watt Classic 20 MH is powered by two EL84 power tubes and 3 12AX7/ECC83 preamp tubes. It has two channels that follow the same gain structure and voicing of the Peavey Classic series. The channels share a three-band EQ, reverb and an effects loop. The channels, effects loop and reverb are all footswitchable. Peavey's TSI tube monitoring alerts players of power tube status, and in the event of a necessary tube replacement, identifies which tube needs to be replaced, which can be very handy. Rear panel features such as a Microphone Simulated Direct Interface with XLR output and USB out, speaker defeat switch and three position power attenuator switch should make this mini head perfect for studio environments.
Most people agree the best thing about valve/tube amps is that slightly broken up sound as you push them past a certain volume. The trouble is that valve amps are very powerful and trying to push a 100 or even 40W valve amp to that point in a small room will make you deaf long before you have the chance to bath in its tonal glory, which is why small ones are popular, being able to deliver nice broken up tones without the side effects of bleeding ears! This 20 Watt head offers plenty of power for the majority of playing situations, and it’s easy to use and understand controls make this a plug in and play amp. One of the best features can be found on the back - the Attenuator switch, which can change the power output of this amp from 20, 5 or 1 Watt. This means you can record at home very quietly on the 1 Watt setting with the amp cranked to achieve those driven valve tones without annoying your neighbours. Got a small gig that requires a cranked little amp sound? No problem, just choose the 5 Watt setting, while for full on face melting volume go for the 20. It works really well. Tone will vary depending on what type of cabinet you are running it through (once again options for varying impedances are on the rear panel). We ran ours through a 4x12. The clean tone was warm, powerful and responsive, offering a wide dynamic and tonal range. Its character is geared more to a bluesy, rocky clean, rather than the pristine bell-like kind, especially when cranked, but it does those tones really well. The onboard Reverb was also very high quality, ranging from understated chime to full blown empty cathedral. The drive or second channel uses a Pre and Post control, Pre acts like a gain control and the post changes the channel volume. The Gain (pre) control offered a wide pallet of tones from blues/rock all the way through to fully saturated metal. It's a good quality second channel which is quite often not the case on small amps, the overdrive was very usable, so much so that you may not feel the need to use OD or Distortion pedals. Even turned right up the gain never got muddy or lost its clarity. Overall, the Classic delivers a very definite/distinctive sound that Peavey users will be familiar with, so you may want to keep some pedals to hand if you require a bit of variety in your overdrive sounds. The 3 band EQ worked well and everything was laid out for ease of change during the heat of performance.
The Peavey Classic 20 MH is perfect as a little portable amp head with tones that will put a smile on your face and encourage you to play. It's also much more than that. It's powerful enough for the majority of gigging situations and because of the option to change the power output it makes a perfect studio amp. Well built, great looks and fantastic authentic sounds, a top class portable little valve amp.