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> Amp Review: Peavey Ultra Plus, The 5150's evil sibling
Mudbone
post Nov 11 2010, 10:40 PM
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*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 tongue.gif) 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.

So here are the features:

- 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.

Peavey Ultra Plus Owners Manual
















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.


Crunch channel


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. I gotta try it again after playing at band volumes, they'll look like they're on fire.




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 tongue.gif





This post has been edited by Mudbone: Nov 12 2010, 02:56 AM


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Shime
post Nov 12 2010, 12:05 AM
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That is one useful and balanced review.

Is that you playing in either of those vids?

I like the sound for the buck on the Ultra Plus - I like the Mesa as well, but for a 5th to a 10th of the price, you know what to choose... wink.gif
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Mudbone
post Nov 12 2010, 12:11 AM
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QUOTE (Shime @ Nov 11 2010, 06:05 PM) *
That is one useful and balanced review.

Is that you playing in either of those vids?

I like the sound for the buck on the Ultra Plus - I like the Mesa as well, but for a 5th to a 10th of the price, you know what to choose... wink.gif


Thanks dude smile.gif that isn't me playing in either of those videos. The guy in the first video is pretty damn good, I don't think I could top that demo tongue.gif


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He who laughs last thinks slowest.

"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens


Gear:

Guitars: Uncle Rufus' Twanger Classic
Amps: Mississippi Boom Box
Mojo: Hammer of Odin and a pair of Ox gonads
Inspiration: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Zero to Hero: 1,387/10,000

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Ivan Milenkovic
post Nov 12 2010, 01:20 AM
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Wow, that's a nice amp man, sounds great, and looks great too smile.gif Didn't even know it exist! smile.gif Awesome! smile.gif

It needs some dust cleaning inside btw biggrin.gif


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Mudbone
post Nov 12 2010, 02:45 AM
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QUOTE (Ivan Milenkovic @ Nov 11 2010, 07:20 PM) *
Wow, that's a nice amp man, sounds great, and looks great too smile.gif Didn't even know it exist! smile.gif Awesome! smile.gif

It needs some dust cleaning inside btw biggrin.gif


I actually didn't know they existed until last year, when I met someone at a rehearsal who was really animate about it being one of the greatest amps Peavey ever made. Peavey has put out so many different amps that some of them have pretty much disappeared from the public eye. Ever since then I have been looking for the elusive $300 Mesa challenger, and finally came across it this past Sunday in a local classified ad.

Yeah it is pretty dusty inside lool biggrin.gif I left it dusty before taking the pictures because I wanted everybody to see it the way I seen it when I first got it. Just so if anybody decides to get an amp this old they'll know what to expect.


--------------------


He who laughs last thinks slowest.

"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens


Gear:

Guitars: Uncle Rufus' Twanger Classic
Amps: Mississippi Boom Box
Mojo: Hammer of Odin and a pair of Ox gonads
Inspiration: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Zero to Hero: 1,387/10,000

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Todd Simpson
post Nov 12 2010, 03:53 AM
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Looks pretty darn killer! And sounds AMAZING. The tubes could use a good dusting though. Dust is a thermal insulant and causes gear to wear out earlier than it has to. Same thing inside your computer. Great post! Killer Review, now I want one!

Todd


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Mudbone
post Nov 12 2010, 04:03 AM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Nov 11 2010, 09:53 PM) *
Looks pretty darn killer! And sounds AMAZING. The tubes could use a good dusting though. Dust is a thermal insulant and causes gear to wear out earlier than it has to. Same thing inside your computer. Great post! Killer Review, now I want one!

Todd


Dust is also dead skin cells, so now I have some dudes flesh cooking in my amp every time I'm rocking out biggrin.gif

Check the craigslist postings in your area, you'll be amazed by what you can find for dirt cheap.


--------------------


He who laughs last thinks slowest.

"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens


Gear:

Guitars: Uncle Rufus' Twanger Classic
Amps: Mississippi Boom Box
Mojo: Hammer of Odin and a pair of Ox gonads
Inspiration: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Zero to Hero: 1,387/10,000

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Ben Higgins
post Nov 12 2010, 10:54 AM
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Dude, I HAVE this amp too !!

I can't remember exactly how much I paid for it, somewhere in the region of £500-600 about 8 years ago....

The only probs I had with it were a couple of blown valves I think... I had a tendency to keep the master volume low and crank the channel volumes stupidly high which may not have helped so I stopped doing that !! wink.gif

One of the greatest things about this amp is the reverb... a very natural sounding one as opposed to a digital one, which I now have on my JVM.

One thing I noticed about this head is that you definitely need the right cab to go with it otherwise it will be insanely muddy and won't cut through.. which is the problem I had by using a second rate Marshall 4x12 from the Valvestate range. However, mating it to a decent 4x12 will bring out the highs much more and it will have more of a razors edge to it ! I've read a lot of people also like to add an equaliser to bring out the brightness a bit in this amp but it's just a personal thing.

I found after a while that the crunch and ultra channels just didn't have quite enough 'juice' to them... they crunch beautifully for rhythm but I found myself wanting more when it came to legato and needing more sustain, hence why I explored and eventually decided on a JVM (after discounting an ENGL Powerball). But that said, it was just a personal preference and this amp definitely delivers ! And the tone is beautiful !

PS. Pretty sure mine's got those Sovteks in as well wink.gif

This post has been edited by Ben Higgins: Nov 12 2010, 10:55 AM


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Fran
post Nov 12 2010, 12:22 PM
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Cool amp, killer review!

I'm adding this to the knowledge base now cool.gif Thanks!


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Daniel Realpe
post Nov 12 2010, 06:11 PM
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oh man, it sounds killer! great in depth review too!


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Mudbone
post Nov 13 2010, 08:52 PM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Nov 12 2010, 04:54 AM) *
Dude, I HAVE this amp too !!

I can't remember exactly how much I paid for it, somewhere in the region of £500-600 about 8 years ago....

The only probs I had with it were a couple of blown valves I think... I had a tendency to keep the master volume low and crank the channel volumes stupidly high which may not have helped so I stopped doing that !! wink.gif

One of the greatest things about this amp is the reverb... a very natural sounding one as opposed to a digital one, which I now have on my JVM.

One thing I noticed about this head is that you definitely need the right cab to go with it otherwise it will be insanely muddy and won't cut through.. which is the problem I had by using a second rate Marshall 4x12 from the Valvestate range. However, mating it to a decent 4x12 will bring out the highs much more and it will have more of a razors edge to it ! I've read a lot of people also like to add an equaliser to bring out the brightness a bit in this amp but it's just a personal thing.

I found after a while that the crunch and ultra channels just didn't have quite enough 'juice' to them... they crunch beautifully for rhythm but I found myself wanting more when it came to legato and needing more sustain, hence why I explored and eventually decided on a JVM (after discounting an ENGL Powerball). But that said, it was just a personal preference and this amp definitely delivers ! And the tone is beautiful !

PS. Pretty sure mine's got those Sovteks in as well wink.gif


Seeing how you've owned it many years, I'm gonna pick your brain for just a second tongue.gif You got a wealth of knowledge that I'd like to tap into smile.gif

Did you get it new or second hand? And how common are they in the UK? In the US, they're somewhat uncommon, which is kind of strange, considering everyone and their mother has owned a piece of Peavey gear at one point in their life.

Have you ever changed the tubes in it? And are all the preamp tubes the same 12AX7's?

Have you ever used it with a decent cab? I've never used it with a Valvestate cab, but I did have a 100w Valvestate combo once, and I remember that speaker being kinda farty at high volumes.

If you still have this amp you might want to consider changing the tubes, as sound quality and gain can diminish over time. You should check out www.dougstubes.com They sell different cocktails of preamp tubes for Peaveys (and many other amps) that may suit your needs. I have yet to try them out but I plan on ordering some tubes from them.

Heres a list of power amp tubes you might want to consider. To me, the Winged C's and the TAD's look the most appealing.






QUOTE (Fran @ Nov 12 2010, 06:22 AM) *
Cool amp, killer review!

I'm adding this to the knowledge base now cool.gif Thanks!


Thanks Fran smile.gif I might add some more pics of blazing tubes later biggrin.gif

QUOTE (Daniel Realpe @ Nov 12 2010, 12:11 PM) *
oh man, it sounds killer! great in depth review too!


Thanks Daniel biggrin.gif


--------------------


He who laughs last thinks slowest.

"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens


Gear:

Guitars: Uncle Rufus' Twanger Classic
Amps: Mississippi Boom Box
Mojo: Hammer of Odin and a pair of Ox gonads
Inspiration: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Zero to Hero: 1,387/10,000

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Ivan Milenkovic
post Nov 14 2010, 06:53 PM
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yeah, have you changed the tubes since you go it? Changing them could mean lot better sound! smile.gif


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Mudbone
post Nov 15 2010, 06:14 AM
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Okay, took some more pictures of glowing tubes, and came up with something a little better. These pictures were taken with the amp played at low volumes. I want to take pictures of the tubes played really hard, but can't do it at night, as it needs to be completely dark to get the best results. So at the moment, this is the best I can do. Fran, brother man, if you're reading this, feel free to add any or all of these to the wiki entry, whatever you think is suitable smile.gif







--------------------


He who laughs last thinks slowest.

"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens


Gear:

Guitars: Uncle Rufus' Twanger Classic
Amps: Mississippi Boom Box
Mojo: Hammer of Odin and a pair of Ox gonads
Inspiration: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Zero to Hero: 1,387/10,000

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Fran
post Nov 15 2010, 01:40 PM
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Here's the review in the wiki, I added all new tube pics there:
https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/wiki/inde...tra_Plus_Review

Top notch review man smile.gif


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Vox Satchurator, Vox Time Machine, Dunlop CryBaby, Boss MT-2, Boss CE-5, Boss TU-2, Boss ME-70
Recording:
Line-6 POD X3 + FBV-Express, Pandora PX5D

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Ben Higgins
post Nov 15 2010, 02:10 PM
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Hi Mudbone.. I did get it second hand and I think it had been pretty well gigged before me too !

I think I've only changed them once, which is when I got the Sovteks (well, someone else got them for me, I didn't have the 'net back then) smile.gif

I must admit thought that my technical knowledge is poor so I can't really answer your question about the valves sad.gif

When I was still using my Ultra, I'd been doing some research on how different cabs can truly affect the sound, so I decided to upgrade to a Marshall 4x12 1960A cab.. and tonality wise it cut like a razor compared to the dull, muddiness of the previous cab. It generally had more presence and top end and sounded loads more focused !!


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Mate Nagy
post Nov 15 2010, 05:32 PM
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Very nice looking and sounding amp, congrats man.
I have an ENGL Blackmore, that's a killer high gain amp too smile.gif
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Ivan Milenkovic
post Nov 15 2010, 06:26 PM
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Those glowing tubes look awesome, nothing like a nice set of tubes glowing in the dark biggrin.gif


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