Peavey Ultra Plus Review
Original author: Mudbone
Weapon: Guitar amp
Model: Ultra Plus
Price: $400-600 used
Disclaimer: This is a preliminary review, as I haven't had a chance to really crank this amp (when I say crank, I literally mean level the neighborhood ) and put it through its paces with a drummer. I've only had it a few days, so this is my initial impression.
The Peavey Ultra Plus was developed around the same time as the 5150, and is based off of the legendary Rock Master preamp. In fact, it is essentially a slight variation of the Rock Master preamp paired with a power amp. It was produced from 1995 to 2001, and was the predecessor to the Peavey Triple XXX and the 3120. Like many Peavey amps, it has been relegated to obscurity, and for many years was a cheaply traded amp on the pre-owned market. It could be found for as low as $200. However, many have recently realized that this amp can run with the big dogs, such as Mesas, Marshalls, and of course, the Ultra's sibling, the 5150.
Within the past year the price of the Ultra Plus has doubled and tripled, and now they're usually found on eBay for $400-600. However, there are a slight few who are selling the Ultra Plus that don't realize the demand for this amp has increased dramatically, so deals can still be found, albeit scarcely. This one in particular is one such deal, and it took me a long time to find it. If you want good deals on gear, you have to check the classifieds every day - trust me, you'll seriously be amazed by what you find.
- 120 watts
- 4 6L6 power tubes
- 4 12AX7 preamp tubes
- Three Channels: Clean (with bright switch), Crunch and Ultra
- Master Volume
- Shared Active EQ for the Crunch and Ultra channels
- Passive EQ for the Clean channel
- Output Switch: Full or half power
- Resonance Switch: Tight, medium, or loose
- Reverb: Footswitch activated
- Low Gain and high gain inputs
- Effects loop
- Preamp out
- Footswitch: Controls channels and Reverb
- And of course, the illuminated logo, more on that in just a bit
The active EQ differs from a passive EQ in that it cuts and boosts frequencies, where as a passive EQ cuts predetermined frequencies. One isn't necessarily better than the other, they're just different. Active EQ's do have a tendency to color the amps tone stack, so that could be desirable or not, depending on your tastes. What is does offer is an extensive frequency range, which increases tweakability. Where it really pays ff is when you're playing at low volumes, as it allows you to boost frequencies that are weak at lower volumes. This especially helpful with a tube amp, because tube amps sound really weak at low volumes. It doesn't make the tubes run hotter, so you won't have the tone you normally would at higher volumes.
The Ultra Plus features a preamp out, which is immensely useful as it allow you to record with a real tube preamp. You will however need a speaker emulator otherwise it will sound exceptionally buzzy. I have yet to use this feature so I can't say how well it works.
So, now for the tones. Keep in mind tone is a highly subjective thing, and its difficult, if not impossible to be completely objective. What works for me and sounds good to me may not be the same for you. Also, the use of adjectives is highly subjective as well. For example, "boomy" to me may be "warm" to you.
- Clean Channel:
This channel is pristine clean and will not distort. It might at extremely high volumes, but I haven't tried and have no intention of pushing it that hard. I played an EMG 60 through it and it can replicate the Metallica clean sound very well. Its sparkly and not boomy. As a comparison, its not as warm sounding as the Valveking clean channel, which I think makes chords a little clearer. Its definitely got warmth to it, just not as much as some may prefer. Personally, I could go for either amp, but if you like the pristine Metallica cleans, go for the Ultra Plus.
- Crunch Channel:
This channel can take you from AC/DC all the way to Megadeth type tone. With a low gain setting and turning down the guitars volume knob, it does clean up, but still has a little dirt on it. If you crank the gain its actually a pretty heavy channel, but it has to be turned up to really get some oomph. Its very crunchy, and would work great for 80's metal. In fact, it would work for most metal.
- Ultra Channel:
This is the beast within. Vintage crunch, with modern beefiness. This channel reminds me of the scream of a V-twin motorcycle with open pipes at full throttle. Anybody who rides a motorcycle will know exactly what I mean, V-twins have their own unique throaty howl, and this channel is no different. The bottom end is huge, and palm muting is still clear and articulate. This channel doesn't have as much gain as a 5150, but remember, the 5150 has an insanely ridiculous amount of gain on tap. With that being said, you won't be left wanting more gain, as the Ultra Plus has plenty. The Ultra Plus is voiced differently than the 5150, and to my ears, it reminds me of the Mesa Mark series amps.
The coolest feature on this amp has got to be the illuminated logo. It changes colors when you change the channel: clean is green, crunch is orange, and ultra is red, which reminds of the fires of hell, because thats where this channel sounds like it came from.
For the price you can get this amp for, nothing else comes even close. It can hold its own with Mesas and Engls and even its almighty sibling, the 5150. I buy and sell stuff all the time, but this amp has a permanent residence in my collection. If you find one for under $400, buy it, even if it means eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a month, you won't regret it.
This amp came equipped with Sovtek 6L6WXT power amp tubes. I don't know if they're the stock tubes.
Three Sovtek 12AX7's long plate and an Electro-Harmonix 12AX7. I don't know what the stages are.
Preamp out for recording
Clean channel. I dimmed the lights to emphasize the illuminated logo, but the camera wouldn't obey my orders, so it didn't come out exactly the way I wanted it to.
Ultra channel... the demons of hell have been summoned...
Mmmmm... tubes.... The amp is actually on standby, so the tubes are really cold in this picture. You can see them glowing bright on the next pics though
Just some demos of what it sounds like.
Edit: This isn't me playing in either of these videos. The dude in the first video does a great job of demoing the amp, I don't think I can top it