Peavey has been making 'the working man's bass amps' for over 30 years. Now the company has brought its combo range bang up to date with digital versions. Do they still cut it for the hard working, cash-strapped pub and club player?Dan Veall tries a digital TKO to find out.
If you have been out to bar and club gigs, or through rehearsal rooms, any time since the 1980s, I could almost guarantee that you have seen or heard one of the original TNT or TKO combo amplifiers from Peavey. Immediately recognisable black and silver square boxes whose weight sorted the men from the boys! Even many years after their release, a good friend of mine uses one in his studio now - albeit as a table... I jest of course, but it is safe to say that despite being a little long in the tooth by today's technological standards, those original combo amps were built like the proverbial outhouse and that's probably why so many are still battling away today!
But Peavey never rests on its laurels and the company hasn't been left behind in the race to digital, having completely redesigned both its stalwart combos with digital amp stages and other enhanced features.
Bang up to date the TKO model boasts a brand new 400 Watt peak 'D Class' power amplifier and new custom designed 15" speaker. Inside the tilt back 'monitor style' cabinet, a tweeter is included to drive that clear top-end out.
The whole front of the amplifier waves goodbye to the original angular wooden cabinet and utilitarian stackable boxes of the past in favour of of a smooth front grill - the controls move from the front face of the old design and are now on the top of the amplifier at the back, facing upward. I love the facelift actually - it reminds me of high spec PA cabinets with the smooth curved metal grill. On these models, the grills are strong and secured to withstand kicks and bumps in transit.
The whole thing doesn't offer the back-breaking manoeuvrability challenge of yesteryear either. The unit is about the same weight as a modern Neodymium speaker loaded 4x10 - around 73 lbs/33Kg.
Up top, the features on board the amplifier are both useful and easy to access. A pad switch is included for taming some passive pickups are wound to have a higher output too. Any distortion at low volumes should be able to be cleaned up by engaging this function. There's a bright switch giving you a boost to frequencies above 1kHz for top end sparkle and next to that a contour switch that provides a preset bass and treble boost with a mid cut. A classic equaliser 'shape' setting giving the amplifier a deep scooped sort of sound - great for slap styles, for example. The seven band graphic equaliser is fairly typical of bass amplifiers. It is smooth in operation and is effective even with subtle adjustments. 15dB of boost and cut available from each slider, meaning there's more than enough leeway for some pretty extreme settings!
Either side of the graphic EQ are shelving bass and treble controls centred at 50hz for the bass and 8Khz for the treble, respectively. Finally on the front panel you will find the master volume and headphone jack for silent rehearsal and also a switch to bypass the internal limiter should you need to do that. I'd suggest leaving it enabled to help protect your speaker, personally.
Round the back with the power connector and power switch there is an effects loop for your out-board signal processing gear - a D.I output for connecting to a P.A system, mixer or recording device and a socket for plugging the combo in to a passive extension speaker cabinet. When opting to do this, there is a minimum advised load of 4 Ohms total.
It would have been an interesting test to have gotten in an original TKO or TNT combo to compare with this new amplifier. However, even in its absence I am still pretty confident in saying that this combo sounds clearer and more articulate than its predecessors - I've used enough of them in the aforementioned rehearsal rooms and provided backline at gigs to know!
There's plenty of tonal control available to make the TKO sound deep and rumbling; if however you need more power and more features, the TNT version of this combo features a 600W (peak) D Class amplifier and is decked out in matching livery. It also includes the all-important carry handles on each side of the cabinet.
To sum-up, I think this is a good solid combo with a punchy tone that will be happy in a number of situations and, as such, is very much in the honourable tradition of its Peavey forebears. It's competitively priced and benefits from Peavey's excellent five year warranty, so I've no doubt we will be seeing lots of these in pubs, clubs and venues across the country in the same way as the original TNT and TKO combos!
Oh, and did I mention the logo lights up and is dimmable? Deeply cool.