Peavey's original, award-winning, ValveKing line, introduced back in 2006, was essentially designed to include all of the tonal characteristics and attention to detail of a high end, boutique amplifier but priced well within the reach of the average budget conscious musician. The Chinese-made ValveKings certainly created waves in the amp business forcing other manufacturers to follow suit, and now Peavey has upped the ante with a new generation of ValveKings. But do they still compete in today's ultra-competitive market?
The all new ValveKing line consists of a 100 Watt head, 50 and 20 Watt 1x12 combos and a 20 Watt micro head. Under the spotlight for this review is the ValveKing 50 Watt combo, which we chose on the grounds that it's likely to be representative of the new range as a whole.
Essentially, the ValveKing 50 combo is a dual input, two channel amplifier with both clean and lead channels, running two 6L6GC and three 12AX7 tubes. Each channel has its own independent EQ stages, featuring Bass, Middle and Treble controls and, in addition, also features a bright switch on the first channel, offering a little more chime for your clean sounds.
The lead channel has a volume boost switch and an additional gain boost switch, which are controllable both from the front of the amp itself and via a footswitch. Sadly, the footswitch is not included with the amplifier. The master section of the front panel consists of a reverb control and a damping control, which takes you from tight to loose, in effect enabling you to dial in or cut the presence and resonance simultaneously. ValveKing's proprietary Vari-Class control also enables you to adjust the ValveKing's "class" characteristics, which allows for complete power amp type versatility.
Another feature which I'm sure many guitarists out there will appreciate is the new TSI tube-monitoring indicators that keep you up to date on the health of your tubes. This is via a set of LEDs on the front panel of the amplifier.
At the rear you'll find some very useful features indeed. There's an attenuator that reduces the output of the amp from 50 Watt to a choice of 12 Watts or even 2 Watts, allowing you to get great tones out of the amp at lower volumes. Yet more features include the MSDI (Mic Simulated Direct Interface) which allows for direct recording via the XLR out. It also features a speaker enable/disable control as well as a ground lift switch.
As if that weren't enough, you'll also find a USB out, for direct computer connectivity, FX loop and footswitch connections allowing for control of the Effects and reverb and also the channel and boost controls.
You have to bear in mind that all these highly impressive features are included in an amplifier which sells at a budget price. By the time we'd worked our way through this impressive list, trying one facility after another, we were starting to think that, assuming Peavey had voiced it well, this could be a really ground-breaking new introduction.
OK, time to fire it up! Starting out with the clean channel, the ValveKing produced some nice warm clean tones and a quick flick of the bright switch enabled me to add a touch more sparkle to the cleans when needed. A dab of reverb added more depth to the clean hues but I found that too much reverb drowned out the sound a little too much for my taste, so I kept the reverb on lower settings for a more subtle effect. A little tweaking with the Vari-Class control allowed for yet more variation in sounds. This was starting to sound very good - and always we had that price tag in mind.
Although the clean channel was decent enough, the lead channel was where it was at for me. The ValveKing pushed out some very nice crunch tones for those dirty Rock rhythms, with good dynamic response and great sustain. Pushing the gain a little further gave rise to some lovely saturated lead tones, perfect for long melodic solos or screaming Rock leads.
Be in no doubt that there's an awful lot of gain to be had on this channel, perhaps a little more than you or I would ever use, but that's no bad thing. Once we'd tested out the tone from the speaker, it was time to try the MSDI. We went straight into our desk and to be frank, the results were superb. It had a great tone which captured all of the characteristics of the nuances from the ValveKing's 12" speaker.
The new ValveKing 50 does a superb job of picking up where the previous ValveKing range left off. In fact it takes the game to a new level. The sheer amount of features available, coupled with some of the great tones it can easily deliver, make it pretty much unbeatable at this price. Peavey has achieved what it set out to do with this new range and you'd be stark raving mad not to try this amp out for yourself. It's really excellent value for money.