Peavey Valveking 100 Head Review
Original author: Mudbone
Weapon: Guitar Amp
Model: Valveking 100
Price: $549 retail price
Can it play metal? This has got to be the number one question asked about this amp. If you're a metal head in the market for an entry level full powered tube head, you should be asking yourself this question as well. I'll answer this question in just a moment, but first let's go over the features.
- 100 watts
- 4 Ruby 6L6GCM-STR Power Tubes
- 3 12AX7 JJ Preamp Tubes
- 2 Channels, Clean and Lead - Passive EQ on Both
- Presence and Resonance controls
- Gain Boost
- Volume Boost
- Bright Switch on Clean Channel
- High and Low Gain Inputs
- Master Spring Reverb
- Buffered Effects loop
- Ohm Selector - 4, 8, 16
- Patented Texture Knob - Sweep Between Simulated Class "A" and Full Power Class "A/B"
This particular amp came equipped with Ruby Tubes 6L6GCM-STR power tubes and JJ 12AX7 preamp tubes. For those who would like to know, "STR" stands for "Special Tube Request". The company Ruby Tubes don't actually manufacture any of their tubes, but instead put their name on tubes that are manufactured for them by other tube manufacturers. The STR tubes in this amp were most likely designed by Ruby Tubes according to specifications provided by Peavey. So why is this important to know? When its time to replace the power tubes, unless you get these same exact tubes, you won't be able to get this amp to sound exactly the same as when it came from the factory. In fact, I don't know where you'll be able to find these same exact tubes on the after market. Personally, I like to try new things all the times, so I don't feel like its an issue. But some people insist on having an amp remain completely stock. The preamp tubes are JJ's, so those can be found all over the internet.
Foot Switch... Or lack thereof
The foot switch was not included with this amp, most likely so it can meet a certain price point. They go for around $40 for an original Peavey foot switch, but you can find aftermarket ones for around $25 on eBay. But, keep in mind the cheap one on eBay doesn't have any lights and you will need a stereo cable as well. The aftermarket one is made of steel, while the Peavey one is made from plastic. If you're concerned about the plastic Peavey footswitch, fear not for they are quite durable. I have one for my Ultra Plus head that is from the 90's and it is still kicking. The foot switch has a channel select and a boost switch, which can be used on either the volume boost or the gain boost, but not both.
Peavey amps have a legendary reputation for being extremely rugged. Many amp techs claim that Peavey and Mesa are the most durable amps out there. However, this reputation is from Peavey's American line of amps, so how does this Chinese manufactured amp stack up? In my opinion, it seems like it is built just as rugged as the American line of amps. The quality of materials and fit and finish is great. I must say though, the amp does look very bland, and thats what gives it its budget look. The faceplate and knobs aren't as nice as on the Ultra Plus I have sitting on top of it. But I'm more concerned with how it performs over the long haul, and this is one of the main reasons I chose this amp over the competition.
Texture Control Knob
This knob changes the amp from simulated class "A" to full power class "A/B". Its located on the back of the amp, which I think is kinda silly, because its pretty useful, and would be much more useful if it was on the front. I think if Peavey ever does a redesign of this amp they should move the effects loop from front panel to the back and bring this knob to the front.
So what exactly does it do? Well I wish I could tell you the difference between class "A" and class "A/B" in plain English, but I still don't fully understand it myself. When I complete my electrical engineering degree in a couple of years I'll come back and explain it, but until then, I'll tell you what it does in terms of practical application and what my ears tell me it sounds like.
When the knob is swept all the way to right to class "A/B" the amp is in full power mode, and this provides a more modern sound. The amp gets louder and the bottom end gets tighter. In this mode the amp is running at a full 100 watts. If you want maximum headroom and maximum flexibility and versatility, this is where you want it. When I play with a band, this is where I usually keep it.
When the knob is swept all the way to the left to class "A" the amps power drops down to almost 40 watts. The tone gets a little looser but also seem to get a little richer. When I'm playing at home at low volumes I usually have it in this position, it just seems to sound sweeter and more manageable than when in class "A/B". However, if you like to play palm muted pedal low E notes, you may want to put the knob to "A/B". Cleans sound more textured and richer when the knob is in class "A".
Presence and Resonance Controls
The presence knob is an incredibly useful knob, especially if you're rocking out with a drummer in a concrete room with no carpeting. Whenever I play in such a room, I turn the presence all the way off, and all of a sudden the amp just sings over the symbals the drummer is banging on. I wish more live bands would do the same thing, because most live bands I see have way too much high end coming from the guitars. The guitar is a midrange instrument, remember that. The Resonance knob makes the bottom end tighter or looser, depending on which way you turn it obviously. I usually keep it at around 1 o'clock - not to tight, nor too loose, but just right.
Ok Mudbone, enough yapping, tell me about the tone dammit
The clean channel is supposedly an almost exact ripoff of the clean channel found on Fender amps, which ain't a bad amp to copy from. I always play with the bright switch on, simply because I like the crispness it provides. Whenever I play the clean channel on any amp, I use the neck pickup almost exclusively. I've played an EMG 85, EMG 60 and Tonerider City Limits single coil pickups through this amp. It is a very rich sounding channel, you can play higher notes over a ringing bass note. It could use a bit more clarity at higher volumes, but this really isn't that much of an issue. Actually, I think I just need to tweak the knobs a little more, as I really don't play on the clean channel that much. This channel does have plenty of headroom, and when in class "A/B" it won't break up.
The lead channel on this amp is supposedly a copy of a JCM 800, save for a few capacitor values. Like a JCM 800, it is very midrangy, and cuts through the mix. It doesn't sound exactly like a JCM 800, probably because of the 6L6 power section. This channel is really a channel and a half, as the gain boost button adds more gain, which under certain applications could be used as another channel. The gain boost adds another stage of gain, but it is diode gain, not another tube stage, so the "all tube" moniker is somewhat misleading. Now before you knock it for having a diode gain boost, Slashes Silver Jubilee had a diode gain stage. So too does Kerry Kings signature JCM 800. In fact many famous 80's high gain amps tones had diode gain stages. At the time it was a cheap way to add more gain, and it also has a more aggressive sound than a pure tube gain stage would. It sounds good to my ears, and to me thats all that matters.
There is also a volume boost for when you need your screaming solo to stand out. When playing at low volumes, the volume boost doesn't seem to have any effect.
When the gain boost isn't engaged, the gain on tap is perfect for classic rock. If you turn down the gain and roll back the volume knob on your guitar, it does clean up somewhat, but still has some dirt on it.
So, the million dollar question... can it play metal?
I am glad to report that yes, this amp can play metal. However, I must say, if you're expecting a huge Mesa Dual Rectifier sound, you will not find it here. I think this is why some people say it can't play metal. Also, it doesn't have as much gain as a 5150, but then again, hardly any amp has as much gain as the 5150. You can pull off heavy, detuned chugging riffing with this amp, but there are better amps for such styles of playing, However, such amps cost a lot more than this amp does.
This amps works perfectly for classic Metallica and Megadeth. Like I said earlier, this amp is very midrangy, and is suited to metal styles that use plenty of midrange. On a side note, in my humble opinion, I think scooping the mids is foolish, its like castrating your tone. If you want to get a good idea of what this amp sounds like, other than youtube demos, listen to the Shadows Fall album "Threads of Life" (I think its their best album). You can get the sound on that album with this amp. Another type of metal sound it is good at doing is the sound of bands like Hammerfall and Firewind.
A good speaker cab to go with amp is the Marshall 1960, it really brings it to life. I've never played the Valveking cab, but I heard it sucks. Choosing a good speaker cab is something you should never overlook, it is really huge component in your tone.
Why you should get this amp over its competitors
Reliability, ruggedness, and uniqueness. When I was shopping for an entry level full powered tube amp head, I was also looking at Bugeras and B-52's. I really liked the Bugera 6262, since it is an exact copy of the Peavey 5150 II/ 6505+, but the build quality on it wasn't that great, it looked really shoddy. I was also looking at the Bugera 1990, but that was also shoddy looking. Also, at the time, Bugeras were new and hadn't proved themselves. I didn't want to risk it and went with the Valveking. To me, reliability trumps everything, if it doesn't work, it's not worth a damn, no matter how good it sounds when its actually working.
This amp also has a very unique sound, it really cuts through the mix. And it is actually very versatile, you can use it for many styles. If you want your guitar sound to stand out, this is definitely an amp to consider.
Video review, found on youtube.