It seems like only yesterday that guitar amps were simple creatures, able to be coaxed out of their natural forest surroundings by the promise of warm valves and the occasional spilled pint. Nowadays they've evolved into techno-wizards capable of emulating a myriad of their predecessors while calculating Pi to infinity and reprogramming your video.
Into this ever more competitive realm of the marketplace strides the behemoth that is Peavey
with their new Vypyr series
, which they claim to be ‘the most advanced modelling amplifier on the planet'. So the question is whether the Vypyr
's a beautiful and beguiling Cylon Model Six, or Metal Mickey.
The options are bewildering. Each of the nine control knobs on the grey control panel is surrounded by text that reveal hidden possibilities. A Stompbox control allows you to select one of 11 models that include Tubescreamer, Fuzz, MOG
(not unlike the EH Micro POG), boosters, compression and other modulation effects
says the reason this knob is first (as opposed to the Amp one) is to show where the effect is on the signal chain. By pushing in the knob you can switch into the Edit mode, which then illuminates a couple of controls in the EQ section via a set of lights that show the current positions of the settings. Simply turn the relevant EQ knob to alter the settings, press the Stompbox knob again and you're back in business. It sounds a little fiddly, but after a couple of attempts it becomes very easy to use.
Next along is the Amp selector, into which Peavey
have jammed another 11 models. These range from the classic Fender-style Deluxe and Twin sounds right through to Peavey
's own XXX and JSX distortion monsters. This time when you depress the knob it simply switches the settings between the amp's clean channel and the lead. But, I hear you XXX fans cry, some of these models have three channels - well, take a biscuit and go to the head of the class. They do indeed, but Peavey has simply chosen its favourite two.
The Effect selector might seem a bit confusing - after all, we've already had a Stompbox one - but this controls mainly modulation effects that you might normally put into your amp's effects loop. In amongst the Octavers
and Slap Back
options is also the Looper
function: as the name suggests, this is a loop sampler that allows you to record a riff then layer a solo or whatever you fancy on top of it. Sadly the function is actually dormant until you shell out some extra and buy the accompanying Sanerpa
I or II footswitches (which cost £49 and £99 respectively), and whereas that might feel a little like you're being forced into a purchase the fact is that to get the best out of this amp you're going need one at some point... and the Vypyr
is already pretty cheap to begin with.
The EQ section has Pre-Gain, Low, Mid, High, and Post-Gain controls. These behave as you'd expect them to, and when the Edit mode is activated they double up as the parameter controls for the Stompboxes and Effects (the Pre-Gain and Low knobs) and the Delay and Reverb (Mid, High, and Post-Gain ones).
Add to all this a built-in tuner, three banks with four presets in each that you can use to save your favourite tones, tap tempo control, aux input for CD player/ drum machine, plus a headphone out, and you see that Peavey has pretty much thrown the kitchen sink at this amp. One more thing, the Master Volume control goes to 13. Nigel Tufnell would approve. SOUNDS
Anyone with a small degree of electronics training, a bunch of control knobs and a skip full of fairy lights can make a space-age control panel - what really counts are the soun
ds, and Peavey should be pretty pleased with themselves.
Now, as with any amp that tries to be several other classics, there's certainly no Fender Twin hidden away inside the circuitry, but that's not really the point of modelling. What the Vypyr
has in abundance is good quality, usable sounds that cover an impressive range. It can also be done at bedroom levels - which is that's nigh-on impossible with a Twin.
The amp models range from warm cleans to cool blues breakup to insane amounts of gain that'll have you pulling your best rock gurn. The Classic model (based on Peavey
's own amp range) is great for crunchy rock and aggressive blues, with an open, angry tone. Marshall is represented by the Plxi and Brit options that both offer a throaty vintage-style roar. The DZL
option has quite laughably high amounts of gain on tap and cries out for a PRS and some powerchords.
Throwing in some effects increases the fun. I most enjoyed the MOG and Ring Modulator effects (I've been listening to a lot of Radiohead
lately). With lots of gain comes lots of responsibility, and the Vypyr
can be a little noisy at times. A few extraneous tones appearing as notes die off, but when you're having this much fun you don't really care - and plenty of high-end amps can be noisy too.
Peavey has gone to great lengths to advertise the 32-bit, floating-point SHARC processor, a WYSIWYG interface, and true analog preamp distortion that makes up the bulk of the Vypyr's electronics. But at the end of the day most people won't really give two hoots - they'll be having a whale of a time playing with the wealth of great sounds that this amp can produce.
Guitarists are a traditional lot and liable to scream ‘Witchcraft!' at anything too technical in nature, but Peavey has created a product that has multiple layers of operation but can be controlled simply and with a minimum of fuss. It looks mean, has plenty of grunt, and with the addition of a footswitch and the onboard looper it could have you rediscovering your inner muse all over again.
If you're just starting out on your playing career this could be the perfect amp, especially if you're into the heavier stuff. It's probably a bit underpowered for live heavy rock, but Peavey offers bigger and louder versions of the Vypyr with even more functionality. As a home practice and songwriting tool, though, it would be mighty impressive. It's up against the Line 6 Spider, Vox's VT range, and the ever-impressive Roland Cubes, but the Vypyr might have the teeth to take a big bite out of them.