As it happens my first amp was a Peavey keyboard amp. We used to plug both bass and guitars with Boss Overdrives and Metalzones into it and turn it up to max. It was loud! It never faulted. I have a deep respect for the pure punishment these workhorse amps can endure.
Pretty much in keeping with that experience, if you’re after more than sheer volume and toughness you’re not going to find it with Peavey’s 30W Vypyr combo. The abrasive distortion tones (from kind of fuzzy to kind of crunchy) or the elusive ‘clean tone’ (which is itself a separate preset that the user must create). Most presets are drowned in a long-haired, stone-wash denim reverb/chorus or an auto-wah funk jam.
“This amp goes to 11,” says Nigel Tuffnel of Spinal Tap. In fact, on this amp, the volume dial goes to 13. I am not sure if any amp can reach volumes higher than 11, but Peavey reckons this one can. There’s only one way to find out.
But first there is more. Arriving along with the 30W combo (rrp $500) was the Sanpera II MIDI foot controller (pictured below) which has its own rrp of $600. Yes, you read that right! It is a huge chunky hardcore cast metal-looking beast, rather daunting to me I confess but no doubt of considerable beauty to some. It’s the kind of foot controller that, when you chuck it on stage, would make other bands whimper and sound guys give you props.
These two pieces of kit are quite literally made for each other. The special 8 pin MIDI plug for the foot controller plugs direct into the rear of the amp, getting its power via the MIDI cable. Now the Vypr=yr’s 24 in-built amp models (that’s 12 x clean plus 12 x overdrive), 11 editable rack effects and 11 stompbox effects can all be controlled via a few toe presses.
The observant will have noted that the Sanpera II actually costs $100 more than the amp does, which does seem wildly out of sorts. The key to the relationship is in what the controller brings to the marriage – like increasing the preset storage from the 12 (or rather 24) that are in-amp to an enormous 400 programmable presets. Of course it also means you can ‘remotely’ control virtually any feature of all the Vypyr Series modelling amplifiers.
Okay, so now I have the MIDI foot controller and guitar plugged direct into amp I think I am ready to blow the roof off this place. Power on… the amp lights up like a Christmas tree with swirling, flashing and bleeping LEDs. The amp’s 12″ custom-voiced modelling speaker roars into life with the foot controller screen displaying ‘Legend’. The tone is bullish, full of reverb, delay and chorus. I can’t help but play pentatonic licks with pinched harmonics and octave bends. I feel like a legend!
It takes some time to work my way through all the presets – yes, there are hundreds, including all the fairly common sounding presets you would expect. I liked the octave fuzz and the 5th harmonised patches, they have a super low end and the notes are still clear through the fuzz. I tweaked the shit out of a couple of them before coming up with four tones from clean, crunch, fuzz and delay that I was fairly happy with. Even in combination this is not an amp of tonal sensitivity, there are plenty of sounds here but this combo seems to me aimed at ensuring they will cut through your bandmate’s racket.
I should mention the loop function – quite cool though limited in that you can only have one loop at a time. The recording length is good and it’s easy to use other patches over the top of your original loop. You can set up the two expression pedals as a combination of wah, tuner, volume and pitch shifting. They’re rather hard to use if you happen to be sitting down, as it takes all your weight to turn them off and on, but that’s just a 30+ gripe. Those who like to go on stage in their Docs will be more than happy with the operation and Peavey rightly describe the 10 tap switches they enclose as ‘heavy-duty’, the whole aimed at ensuring “dependable, road-worthy performance”. No quibbles there.
Looking at this package in terms of price vs the amount of toys you get – it occurs to me that this amp/pedal set up is like shopping at Pak n Save. The Vypyr may not have the full flavour or exotic tones you want for a special night in, but throw in the Sanpera and all the basic ingredients are there to make whatever you want for the nightly gig table, with – just a bit of creative flavour adjustment needed.
Geordie McCallum is an Auckland based musician whose CV includes the Clampers, Motocade, 1995 and SinSin.