Peavey brings its vast experience with both PA and backline to bear with a new combo aimed at the gigging electro-acoustic player. Tim Slater checks it out.
Amplifying an acoustic guitar for live performance needn't be an arduous task, especially if you have an amplifier that is specifically designed to cater for the job. And, of course, it's important for many users that it can handle vocal duties, too.
The Peavey E110 is designed with live performance very much in mind and to that effect this powerful combo could be viewed as a portable PA system as much as a dedicated acoustic guitar amplifier. Featuring a full 100 Watts output, the E110 has enough power not only to provide more than adequate volume for playing live but there is also enough headroom - i.e. power to spare - to help guarantee that the combo will deliver the necessary clarity and projection required for acoustic performance without distorting.
Sound reproduction comes via a single 10" driver and a separate high frequency horn, which are protected by a heavy-duty perforated steel grill. The E110 weighs-in at a hearty 20.4 kilos (45lbs) and the E100's general roadworthiness is strongly backed up by faux-aged steel corner protectors and a robust angled enclosure that offers the option for the combo to be tilted backwards when it is mounted on the floor. The angled enclosure enables the player to monitor his or her amplified sound more easily compared to a standard guitar combo, which again acknowledges that acoustic gigs are just as likely to be occur in small intimate venues as a large concert stage.
The E110 features two independent channels.
Channel One's more comprehensive features set suggests that most users will probably view this side of the amplifier as the 'guitar' channel: a combi-jack input accepts an XLR (perhaps from a microphone) or a standard 1/4" instrument jack, while a tuner send jack is linked to a tuner mute switch for silent on-stage tuning. Channel One also offers a 9-band graphic equalizer that helps to accommodate the varying timbres, meaning the amp can handle a wide range of different acoustic guitar body styles, plus other acoustic instruments like mandolins, banjos and the almost inevitable ukulele!
The Peavey's anti-feedback measures include a phase inverter switch that flips the internal speaker's phase (very handy when the combo is in close proximity to the guitar) while a rotary notch filter offers more precise feedback control by allowing the user to isolate and eliminate any offending frequencies that might spoil a performance.
Channel Two's simpler layout is restricted to a combi-jack input, a rotary gain control and a two-band rotary EQ; which might not look like much on paper but in practical terms it is still good enough to allow a second instrumentalist, singer or accompanist to plug in, or else it serves as a handy spare channel for a second guitar or other instrument. Peavey says that Channel Two will even accommodate a sampler or similar line level instrument, so guitarists who like to accompany themselves with backing tracks stored on an iPod or MIDI keyboard are also well catered for. There is also an effects section offering digital reverb, chorus and delay that can be assigned to individual channels or else spread globally across both channels.
The amp's natural sound is notable for two things: firstly it is easily capable of producing plenty of volume for live work, aided by a DI socket on the rear panel. Secondly the E110 is extremely quiet - and by 'quiet' we mean studio quiet: there is nary a trace of mains hum or subliminal hiss to be heard anywhere, which quite some feat on an amp that packs 100 watts!
As we mentioned earlier, the E110 is designed to reproduce sound with utmost clarity and one major advantage of having so much clean headroom is that your low-key restaurant or wedding reception gigs will still let your music project clearly whilst maintaining sensible volume levels. The amp's crisp, gutsy tone can be enhanced by using the onboard digital effects and once engaged it's quite difficult to do without them. The chorus may not be to everyone's taste but the delay and reverb effects do a sterling job of adding plenty of pleasing depth and ambience to an acoustic performance.
The effects use WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) technology that eschews conventional mechanical control pots for digital pots that instantly recall the effects as they were last set; sidestepping the need for complex memory buttons or menus. The effects can be completely by-passed should the player prefer a more natural sound but it's difficult to leave those lush-sounding reverb and delay effects switched off for very long!
All in, the Peavey E110 is a very convincing case for a dedicated acoustic/soloist's combo. It looks great and contains a very solid features set whilst also looking and feeling like an industrial strength product that will withstand many years of hard use. Typical Peavey, in other words! There may be smaller and lighter amps out there but the committed player seeking a professional standard amp for live work should find that the E110 is a very sensible choice and we recommend that you add it to your audition list.