Digital modelling has changed many players' lives. It offers tons of easily-accessible sounds; it's hugely useful for recording, and few guitarists fail to recognise the value of sticking a modeller through some studio monitors for a neighbour-friendly blast of an evening. In truth, however, some of us have been less impressed by modelling amplifiers. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is not the modelling technology itself - it could be that all that fastidious modelling work gets stymied by second-rate solid state power amps and cheap speakers. Certainly, when playing live, some complain that even the loudest modelling amps seem to lack substance and power compared to valve amps.
But Peavey has a solution, the Vypyr 60, which routes its modelling technology through a 12AX7 and a push-pull 60W power amp with two 6L6s, a chunky output transformer and a specially-designed 12" speaker. There's also a selection of modelled stompbox and rack-mounted effects along with a looper function, a headphone/line output, an auxiliary input and a USB recording interface. So does the Vypyr 60 give the best of both worlds, or is it just onboard overkill?
Despite Peavey's WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface you will need to RTFM if you want to get your head around the multi-function controls. The knobs are laid out using signal path logic, so the Stompboxes are first up after the single input. The list includes Tube Scrm (overdrive), Analogue Phase, MOG (octave up/down harmoniser), Analogue Flange, Auto Wah, Ring Modulator, Squeeze (compressor), BC Chorus, Fuzz, X Boost (a mild overdrive boost) and XR Wild (hot overdrive). Depending on what's selected, the Low, Mid and High EQ controls adjust the effect parameters.
Next up are 12 amp models that include Twn (based on a hot-rodded Fender), Dlx (tweed Deluxe), Plxi (old Marshall), Brit (Vox), B-Kat (modern Class A), Rec (Dual Rectifier), K-Stein (high-gain 5881 tube model) and DZL (high-gain with 80Hz bump). Understandably Peavey has also modelled some of its own amps - Classic, XXX, JSX (Joe Satriani), and 6505.
Peavey has taken trouble to ensure that the Vypyr's tone controls will behave similarly to the tone controls of the selected amp. Thus the EQ power and response vary depending on the model, and for some models EQ adjustment is appropriately limited for authenticity.
Each amp model comes with two channel models - clean (green) and dirty (red). Where the original amp might have three channels, Peavey's designers have selected their two favourites. You can select channels by pressing the Amp knob, but take care not to keep it pressed too long or you'll activate the onboard tuner by mistake.
If stompboxes aren't your thing, the Vypyr 60 also packs in 10 models based on the type of 19" rackmount effects that are usually strapped across an amplifier's effects loop. This time the list includes a low octave Octaver, an eight-stage Phaser, Rotary Speaker, Reverse (backwards replay), Pitch Shifter, a long delay time Flanger, Slap Back (echo), Env Filter, long delay time Chorus, and Tremolo. There's also a 30-second Looper function, but this can only be used with Peavey's Sanpera I or Sanpera II floor controllers.
Peavey sent both foot controllers along with the amp. Despite any reservations I might have had about the Vypyr 60's flimsy plastic control knobs, I was very impressed with the build quality of the Sanpera I and II. Both connect to the amp via a sturdy MIDI cable and they're housed in rugged cast metal cases with decent quality switches.
The Sanpera I includes an expression pedal for executing volume, wah and pitch shifter functions as well as four momentary feature selector buttons. In Preset mode each button selects one of four presets within the bank selected on the Vypyr 60. The amp itself has 12 onboard presets stored in three banks - A, B and C. Pressing buttons 1 and 2 gets you into Bank Select mode, and buttons 1 to 3 function as bank selectors. Once you have selected a bank the Sanpera I reverts to Preset mode. Pressing buttons 3 and 4 selects Loop mode, whereupon button 3's function becomes Record or Play and button 4 is used to stop or reset. Button 1 is used for Stompbox on/off and button 2 is Delay on/off.
The Sanpera II is considerably more sophisticated. It performs all the same functions as the Sanpera I, but the extra space allows some of the buttons to be single function rather than double function, making it much easier to use. Given the Vypyr's plethora of amps and effects the Sanpera II's LCD screen is a welcome addition. It displays Bank, Preset, Preset name, stompbox status, amp model, effect, delay and reverb status. The delay side gets a tap tempo button and in Manual mode individual buttons turn the stompbox, effect, delay and reverb on and off. This time there are two foot pedals: the right one is an expression pedal that works like the Sanpera I's and the left one is a straight amp volume controller. The functions of the pedals can also be reversed.
To my ears the Vypyr 60 displays far less of the digital ‘edge' that seems to blight so many modelling amps. You can really hear the sweet spot kick in when Master volume hits 4 or 5, so the Valve King-derived output stage is certainly an integral part of the Vypyr 60's tone.
Although the overdrive is apparently analogue rather than digital, the valves aren't involved in the modelling circuitry. This becomes apparent when you discover you can use the headphone/line output even when the amp is in standby.
Channel switching is not a foot switchable feature so, for example, if you want to swap between the clean Plexi model and the dirty one, you'll have to program them individually as presets then select them from the front panel or one of the footswitches. Since the front panel is pretty cluttered, I'd suggest that buying one of the Sanpera foot controllers is a must, and as the amp offers so many options, I'd go that extra mile for the Sanpera II's infinitely more intuitive layout and LCD display.
Flicking through all the presets is great fun - but sooner or later any serious user will need to get down to some heavy programming. Adjusting presets and storing them with your settings is fairly simple, and your starting point will probably be turning off the reverb that Peavey seems to regard as mandatory for almost every sound. Playing high gain crunch with reverb is equivalent to attempting to play funk through a fuzzbox. Most of the crunch presets are also heavily noise gated, which some might find irritating.
Overall, I was impressed with the models. Like all modelling amps the Vypyr 60 only gives you a flavour of the real thing, but these are genuinely enjoyable and useable sounds in their own right. I can't help thinking that many of the factory presets have a little too much treble, and Peavey's claim that this amp will save you from buying a whole bunch of pedals should be weighed against the fact that you can only use one stompbox model at a time.