Peavey claims its new all-purpose Vypyr VIP amps offer 'the most advanced modeling on the planet' - but what does that mean in real life? Tim Slater finds out.
Digital modelling guitar amps are now a well-established part of the musical landscape but it has to be said that, for the most part, instead of replacing tubes and speakers as the pro guitarist’s preferred recipe for kicking up a joyous racket, modelling has found its niche in home recording, practice amplification and smaller scale gigging.
Having done a lot of impressive work with modelling in its original Vypyr series, Peavey has now revamped the Vypyr series to present digital amp modelling in an interesting new context.
Imagine owning a single multi-purpose guitar amplifier whose versatility enables it to reconfigure itself to amplify an electric guitar, acoustic guitar and even a bass! That's where the 'VIP' comes from, by the way. It stands for Variable Instrument Input.
The concept of a multi-purpose amplifier is not an entirely new idea and it's not fanciful: it works - the small UK firm Alligator had a pretty successful stab at it during the 1980s - but Peavey has thrown all of its formidable resources into making the Vypyr feel like a truly ground breaking amplifier and of course, is doing so with amp modelling technology which is really cutting edge.
The Peavey Vypyr VIP range currently features three models: the 40 Watt VIP 2 combo featured in this review, which is flanked by the 20 Watt VIP 1 practice combo and the VIP 3 100 Watt combo. All three amps are designed to accommodate electric and acoustic guitars or bass, using specially designed speakers and a network of separate digital amplifier simulations that reconfigure the amp’s input to match the frequency range and timbre of the particular chosen instrument.
In common with its siblings in the Vypyr range, the VIP 2 combo uses a lot of digital processing alongside Peavey’s analogue TransTube technology that the US giant has long employed on its solid state guitar amps to inject a more natural tube-like dynamic response.
Peavey has been designing and manufacturing its own speakers for decades and its expertise is highlighted by the VIP 2’s single 12-inch driver, which is designed specifically to cope with the broad range of complex frequencies demanded by its multi-purpose role. In practice, the VIP 2 demonstrates a truly impressive ability to sound convincingly like an acoustic combo, bass combo or dedicated electric guitar amp - as we always say: check out the video! Even pounding low-end bass frequencies don’t appear to trouble the VIP 2; there was nary a hint of stress from the combo which consistently delivered clean and accurate bass response throughout our test.
The speaker is an important part of the equation but the digital modelling pre-amp controls the amp’s dual personalities by telling the VP2 what type of amplifier it is. In basic terms, when the user selects acoustic, electric or bass modes, the Vypyr is completely transformed into its target model. If you need further convincing it might be useful to know that the VIP2 combo actually won Best Bass Amp during winter Namm 2013, no mean feat by anyone’s standards!
The Vypyr series digital front end features 36 separate amplifier models, plus six separate amp models each for acoustic guitar and bass guitar. The amp also offers a generous selection of 12 stomp box and 11 rack style effects. All this cutting edge technology demands some pretty heavy processing firepower and the VIP 2’s effects and operating system are controlled by a powerful 32 Bit Dual Core 266Mhz SHARC processor.
Complex menus are avoided thanks to a simple system whereby the amp’s rotary controls are WYSWYG - they automatically store the user’s last settings until the controls are adjusted - with multi-coloured LEDs that help monitor the amp’s operating status and control settings.
The electric guitar amp models each offer three virtual channels with clean, crunch and lead modes and besides ticking all of the most popular British and US amp types, the Vypyr also reflects Peavey’s tie-in with boutique manufacturer Budda. When an amp model is selected the processor automatically reconfigures the pre-amp and output stage circuitry to accurately replicate not only the sound of the target amplifier but also its feel; even the control knobs are programmed to respond in exactly the same way. One good example is the hot-rodded AC30 model whose tone circuit bypasses the tone stack, simulating the modification that Brian May and others have employed on their own modified AC30s.
What's more Peavey is building an online community, using editing software to develop new pre-sets using software readily downloadable from Peavey's website.
The Vypyr VIP's effects section includes a new selection of 10 instrument types including a 12-string guitar simulation, sitar, resonator, baritone, 7-string, electric violin and even a rather cheesy sounding synth patch. The patches can be combined with the amp’s other effects (chorus, phaser, flange, tremolo, delay, reverb, octave doubler, envelop follower) besides which they can also be harnessed to any of the VIP’s amp models.
The amp’s 30 second looper function can be deployed when the separate, optional, Sanpera foot controller unit is connected. The looper is only a one-shot system - you cannot lay down multiple overdubs - but is nevertheless handy for laying down a cool bass groove to solo over.
The Peavey Vypyr series has lots of potential, especially as an educational tool.
Guitar teachers or educational institutions will surely be thrilled by the opportunity to own a one-stop amp for acoustic, electric guitar and bass guitar that really covers all of these separate bases with integrity and accuracy, regardless of which mode the amp is operating in. It is also incredibly affordable, especially considering its amazing flexibility, user-friendly design and the vast amount of great sounds onboard. If you are in the market for a super-flexible amp for practice, teaching and home recording the Vypyr has to be your first choice.