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This article was originally published in issue #44
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So who gets to review Peavey's hot new pint-sized powerpack? Why, Sam Bell, of course, - whose mission is to find out whether that magic 6505 tone was shrunk in the wash.
In the world of travelling Metal and hard Rock bands, going across the border, or just out on the road with equipment is difficult, unless you want to either surrender to the venue's gear - which isn’t always in the best condition, or makes you sacrifice that awesome crushing Metal tone you have dialled in at rehearsal! Over the last couple of years there has been a huge surge of easily transportable mini amps, ranging from pure pre-amp units with emulated outputs, all the way through to full valve/tube heads. The idea of having a punchy valve based tone has always been appealing to guitarists but despite the attractiveness of ultra portability, often when something is miniaturised, some aspect of the tone or feel seems to disappear. Peavey has decades of experience with tone, though, and scored a real hit with its 6505 MH mini. Now it has decided to put one of those in the washer to see if it could get it even smaller. Let’s see how it turned out. Hint: check the video first!
There's no getting away from the fact that this mini Metal machine packs one hell of a bite for such a small amp head! Despite measuring a mere eight and a half inches wide, the Piranha still manages to deliver 20 Watts of RMS power, from a solid state power stage, driven by a tube at the front and. Twenty Watts makes it fantastic for ‘bedroom’ practice but also loud enough to pack a punch in the studio. As soon as I plugged myself into this mini beast a huge grin crossed my face, - this unit really does have the same soaring, sustaining, full Metal tone of a 6505 head, except this one is tiny!
The Piranha features three control knobs which control gain, EQ and master volume, you can flick between ‘crunch’ and ‘lead’ much like you can on the full versions of the 6505. There’s a bright switch along with a scoop control that helps to add more detail with the limited controls on the front of the amp. The amp's tone comes from the 12AX7 pre-amp tube and the resulting beef is delivered by a single 16 Ohm output. This amp even features an aux input if you wish to insert a mini jack from an mp3 player/laptop for backing tracks, which is a handy extra. It's a limited set of controls but how much can you possibly cram into such a small space? Peavey has reached a sensible compromise.
When filming our reviews at Guitar Interactive we get our sound from a 4x12 with V30s in a soundproof room miked up with an SM57. This cab and mic combo is pretty much the universal standard but, soundproofed or not, from the outside of the insulated room I could hear the sheer volume rumbling through the wall. The Piranha might be rated at only 20 Watts but it packs a hell of a punch. Having said that, if you are rehearsing Metal with another loud guitarist and a punchy drummer it might only just about cut through the mix without being miked up. So rehearsals are a 'maybe' and miking-up would be essential for a gig. Or you could always fire your drummer – your choice!
So how does it sound? Well I think I have already mentioned it has the same aggressive Metal tone its older brother has except it's small. For those who aren’t familiar with the 6505 sound, it can be found on countless Metal recordings. The bottom end of the amp has a super tight response, creating much more definition for down tuned Metal styles. This amp has bags of gain for super pinch harmonics, legato runs and teeth grinding, palm muted chugs. The Piranha may be small and have only a solid state power amp but it’s not sacrificing any of the pure grind that the full versions of the 6505 have.
So are there any downsides? Well, it is important to note that the 6505 series isn’t designed for a clean tone. This is a hard Rock/Metal specialist amp, so forget it for use with your tasteful Folk duo, or smooth Jazz quintet. On the other hand, if you are after that definitive Metal tone in a tiny package, this has to be your starting point. Metal guitarists are going to love this amp and providing you don't expect to play stadiums with it (well, not unless it is miked-up at least) then it is a fantastic addition to Peavey's line-up!