The all-valve ‘Classic’ range of Peavey amplifiers with their tasty ‘tweed’ covering was originally launched in the early 1990s and quickly became a favourite with guitarists from jazz and blues right through to rock and country. The mix of design influences that incorporated the features of early Fender combos, combined with modern high-gain amps, meant that players had a power source that was awash with multiple variations of tone and texture.
Peavey have recently revisited the Classic series and updated the amps for the contemporary market. We sampled the Classic 30 with its single 12-inch Stephens ‘Trusonic’ speaker – the original having a 12-inch Peavey ‘Blue Marvel’. Like its original incarnation, the current Classic 30 has a chrome plated, rear mounted control panel, with black ‘chicken head’ knobs and switchable twin channels – one normal and one pre/post gain. Alongside is the control knob for the genuine (chassis mounted) spring reverb unit, followed by a three-band EQ, together with a channel and boost switch that allows switching without the optional foot pedal – which has to be bought as a separate item. Next to these is an effects loop, power switch and a standby control, which surprisingly was not available on the original 1990s model and beside these is a vintage looking pilot light. To the rear of the control panel are the quarter-inch jack sockets for an extension speaker and footswitch.
Being an all-valve amp that has a pre-amp section supplied by three 12AX7 tubes and a power section which has four EL84 tubes providing the 30w output, you’re expecting an open and full-on response – and boy do you get it! The Stephens Trusonic speaker is well matched and seems to offer a slightly warmer and cleaner tone than the original Blue Marvel – the normal channel giving some really sweet jazz tones. However, push the post gain on channel two and you’ll be drenched in bluesy edge and bite.
The Classic 30 was, and still is, an amp for all occasions, with this update offering even more depth and versatility than the original. – David Gallant
We reviewed the Yerasov GTA15 combo all-valve amp with its Jensen 10-inch speaker in our July 2014 issue, and came to the same conclusion as our colleagues in the rest of the music press, promptly adding one to the Jazzwise equipment arsenal. The GTA15 is strikingly similar to the Fender Pro Junior, more solidly built perhaps (it’s Russian after all!) and with a few choice upgrades. This Igor Boiko hails from the same stable and has much the same sort of pedigree taking its lead, from among others, the Fender Deluxe Reverb.
With its buff tolex skin, real leather grab handle and cream ‘chicken head’ controls offering master volume, treble, middle, bass, reverb and gain set on a simple angled panel above the woven grille, it looks every bit like an original 1950s/60s combo. The amp comes with a 20 watt point to point hand wired construction, together with two 6V6 power valves and two ECC83 and one ECC81 pre-amp valves, a combination favoured by many of the early jazz greats for their clarity and warmth.
There is also a valve spring reverb for that true vintage vibe and American Classic tone transformers (weighty!), all coming through a Celestion G12 Anniversary speaker. Plugging in the Burny archtop with its pure nickels produced a velvety sound with a warmth, depth and brightness to die for – it reminds us of those early Gibsons. There’s a real valve ‘live’ quality and digging in can make this amp really speak.
Headroom, as you might expect is impressive – this amp is about as clean as it gets; unless of course you want to dirty up the sound by increasing the gain, which even at low volume levels brings in that subtle edge and bite that lifts the sonic response onto yet another level. And all this for a whisker under £800 including a reverb footswitch.
Are there any negatives? Well, at 22kg it’s not the lightest all-valve combo in the land, and we would have liked to have seen an all-weather cover. But hey, this is a sonic blast from the past that will really capture the imagination and if you’re looking for that authentic 1960s jazz sound, this is just the ticket.
Barefaced bass speakers – much like their name – are about as no-nonsense as you can get and more than live up to their simple company description as a ‘manufacturer of ultra-lightweight high-output loudspeaker cabinets for bass guitar, double bass and pro-sound’. The brainchild of Brighton-based sound engineer and bassist Alex Claber, who built his first bass cab in 2008 to explore the best way to construct the most lightweight speaker he could, Barefaced now boast eight passive cabs and one active cab design that can satisfy virtually any playing situation, from small cabs for clubs to stadium-rocking stacks (including guitar cabs and PA speakers too).
Our test model is the relatively new– that Super Midget like its super-hero style moniker – punches well above its ludicrously ‘light’ weight of 10.5kgs. The smaller sibling to the Barefaced Big Baby 2, and the second generation of their original Midget cabs, the Super Midget, importantly, features a single 12-inch speaker with a tweeter, or rather their newly designed 12XN550 speaker, which came about after a two and a half year R&D period, resulting in (according to their excellent and highly detailed website): ‘a 12-inch nominal diameter, extended range, Neodymium magnet, with ~550cc of volume displacement and 500W thermal power handling’. In short this means that the Super Midget can produce volume levels equivalent to a pair of another manufacturer’s 12s, and based on our testing more than matched our TC Electronic RS210 cab for volume and clarity.
The two ‘speakon’ cable inputs on the rear of the cab also mean this little brute can be paired with either a matching cab or one of its bigger siblings such as the Big Baby 2 for higher volume needs. While the quality of the tone was true, full and punchy across the frequency spectrum, with the volume for such a small and portable cab also hugely impressive, what really took our breath away is just how light these cabs are to pick up – meaning aching limbs or strained backs should be a thing of the past when loading gear into cars or awkward backstage locations.
The sturdy if slightly no-frills design of these cabs should not be a deciding factor – as it happens our test model came with a burnished steel front grill giving it a pleasing ‘classic’ look – in fact it emphasises the lack of gimmicks in the Barefaced aesthetic. Pairing this cab with both Genz Benz Shuttle and Aguilar Tone Hammer amps produced very pleasing results, with depth of tone, precise, focused sound and a noticeable warmth all present. Built to order for an RRP of £599, and capable of handling up to 600 watts of power, the Super Midget is a genuine revelation.
Aguilar have long-running relationships with top jazz players such as John Patitucci, one of the most famous ‘doublers’ out there playing acoustic and six-string bass guitar, as well as leading fusioneers Gary Willis and Tim Lefebvre, and Led Bib’s own jazz-punker Liran Donin among many others. Which brings us to their Tone Hammer 500 bass amp (that’s 500 watts at 4 ohms, 250 at 8 ohms) that combines discreet circuitry and tube-like warmth in a highly portable package. And it should be no surprise that these amps are highly sympathetic for jazz-related playing situations combining both subtlety and muscle with its simple-looking set-up hiding a few little extras.
These are to be found in the Gain and Drive controls that sit next to the usual Mid-Level, Mid-Freq, Bass and Treble pots, an effects loop send and return, Master Volume, and a handy front-panel XLR DI socket. The secret of the Gain control is that it adds volume to the signal coming from the bass and drives the next stage of the preamp section. The Drive control on the amp also adds gain and contributes to the tone by adding midrange grittiness and is also interactive with the gain control. So the lower the Gain control setting, the ‘flatter’ the EQ applied while the higher you set the Gain control, the more saturated the gain structure becomes, and the more the bass is tightened and the treble smoothed. If that wasn’t enough, then the Drive circuitry ‘surrounds’ the midrange controls, enabling you to get a huge variety of tonal characteristics by simply adjusting the Gain, Mid-level and Mid-frequency controls.
What all this boils down to is that providing you use a high quality instrument with the amp, then dramatic tone shaping can be achieved simply by raising the Gain level, making this one of the best-sounding ‘flat’ preamps I’ve ever played. If more EQ tweaking is required the Tone Hammer’s huge dynamic range is matched only by its transparency, which, while not ‘colouring’ the sound in any discernable way, does give all manner of tones a definite warmth with real depth and punch.
Add to this two high quality whisper fans and this amp is practically hiss-free when idling between songs. With a three-year warranty backing up what looks and feels like a really solidly built, thoughtfully designed lightweight amp, the Tone Hammer 500 is simple elegance personified.
This extraordinary little 5-watt amp head measuring 19cm x 10cm x 10cm comes with its very own customised, padded shoulder bag. The beauty of the Little Monster (apart from its size) is that it’s all tube, giving it real legs in the sound stakes. The controls are laid out across the front face of the amp, with a quarter-inch jack input, Thin/Mellow switch, Normal/Top Boost switch, Gain, Volume and Power on/off switch with a red neon to remind you that you’re up and running. A quarter-inch jack output, Power Supply and an 8/16-ohm Speaker Out switch are lined up along the back. Plugging into a cab carrying a 12” Celestion speaker and with the controls set for Mellow and Normal and with the Gain at nine o’clock and the Volume at two o’clock we were amazed at the power this little devil will deliver – going beyond three o’clock all but blew our pants off! But what a great sound: clean, smooth and syrupy. Switching from Mellow to Thin took out most of the bass and middle, while still retaining a clean tone. Switching from Normal to Top Boost immediately gave us a punch of power, while at the same time adding significant depth and width to the overall sound. Adding Gain, as might be expected, drove the amp and dirtied up the sound – but nicely. Mooer claim that the general character of the sound produced by this Little Monster is remarkably similar to the legendary Vox AC30. There are some obvious sonic similarities, but the beauty of the separate head is that you can match it up with any speaker, be it 10, 12 or 15inch, and with any model – Celestion, Jensen or even Eminence. Each of course will give a subtly different colouration and response.