Anyone who’s a fan of Eddie Van Halen and plays guitar more than likely knows about the Peavey 5150. Most metal guitar players also know about the 5150. That’s because from EVH raunch to drop C circle picking, the 5150 is an absolute tone machine.
The Peavey 5150 II is a simple amp made up of a clean and lead channel. The clean channel can be switched into a rhythm channel, so you could say it flirts with three simple channels. The clean channel, despite what anyone tells you, boasts a beautiful clean tone that’s full of headroom. Setting the gain knob around 6 or 7 will give you that awesome breakup that accents a clean guitar sound to really give it some shimmer.
The lead channel is somewhat similar to the clean channel, in that it’s absolutely nothing like the clean channel but BRUTAL! The lead channel is controlled by a gain, low, mid, and high adjustment. The lead sound that comes from the 5150 is grimy, raunchy, loud, and… did I say, loud? Setting the gain around 5 will give you a perfect rhythm sound that will deliver a Marshall JCM 800-esque tone while still delivering enough gain for pinch harmonics. Setting the gain any further than this and you’re trying to emulate some ENGLs or Soldanos. Pretty much begging for high gain madness!
The amp houses 6L6GC power tubes. They’re bright and bassy, and still, belt out a reputable midrange that can be tweaked. It’s 120 Class A watts are best routed through either a matched 4, 8, or 16-ohm cabinet. I prefer the 4-ohm setup that I run through my matched Marshall 1960A cabinet. This combination allows for some killer tones, both clean and distorted. My clean sounds are tonally full, and always sound bell-like while still cutting through the mix when necessary. My rhythm playing blends perfectly into the mix and my leads are always sure to cut. The one thing noticed when I got the 5150 II was that everything you play is extremely clear. This has got to be one of the most articulation-laden guitar amps out there. If you’re looking for an amplifier that’s going to cover up your bad playing with a lot of gain, it’s going to be a little bit difficult.
If you want a real tube amp that’s affordable, then this is probably going to be it. I paid $450 for mine on the used market. I got lucky, but I hunted and found a deal. If you get a chance to play one of these, do it up! You won’t be disappointed!