PEAVEY 6505 MH
A PINT-SIZED BUT FEROCIOUS LITTLE BEAST OF AN AMP THAT FAITHFULLY RECREATES A CLASSIC TONE IN THE BEDROOM, THE STUDIO OR ON STAGE. BY ALEX WILSON
A CLASSIC COMPACTED
Guitar amps just seem to be getting smaller and smaller, but often enough great tube performance and tone can be squeezed into a tiny package. The 6505 MH (standing for ‘Mini Head’) is Peavey’s attempt to fun-size one of their classic high-gain designs. Popularized by Eddie Van Halen as the 5150 and rebranded as the 6505 when the axeman and Peavey parted ways, the amp is famous for it’s distinctively thick and rich distortion tone, versatile enough to work in styles as disparate as classic rock and death metal.
Before getting on to the sound, fueled by two EL84 power tubes and three 12AX7/ECC83 preamp tubes, it’s worth rattling off some versatile array of features that accompany this classic tone. These include switchable 1, 5 and 20 watt modes, impedance switching for 8 and 16 ohm cabs, a Tube Status Indicator circuit with lights to show the state of the amp’s tubes and biasing, a headphone output, a Speaker Defeat switch to create an artificial cab load, a buffered effects loop, a versatile footswitch, a built-in plate-sounding reverb and cabinet simulated recording outs via XLR or USB. Phew.
And let’s be clear from the outset: despite being about the size of a shoebox, the 6505 has gain for days and sounds absolutely massive. The Rhythm channel is aggressively voiced, meaty and satisfying. While there’s a decent amount of headroom, remember: this is the little brother of one of metal’s classic amps. Chiming cleans it will not do, but you can get a great pushed-and-just-breaking-up tone by tweaking the wattage and front dials. Hit the crunch switch and you’ll push this channel over the edge, swathing your playing in a dark yet very musical sustain. If you want, give it a bit of sparkle with the bright switch.
The Lead channel will give you more saturation than you could ever need or want. Set the pre-gain at 3 or 4 and you’ll be deep in a distortion that is chunky, wide and dynamic. Soaring, sustain-for-days lead tones can had at 7 or a little less. Push beyond this and the little amp’s impressive responsiveness and clarity will suffer, the sound trading clarity for a fizzy, compressed flatness. Having a quality boost pedal on hand would be a much better method for juicing that extra bit of aggressiveness out of the 6505 MH without losing articulation in the process.
A couple of caveats: The 6505 MH’s bass response is not quite as bowel-shatteringly powerful as it’s 120-watt senior, but thankfully the Resonance and Presence controls can be balanced in such a way to bring back some thud. And while the 20-watt mode is more than sufficient for small-to-mid-sized gigs, it probably would sound a bit thin in a big theatre or outdoor stage. There’s outstanding tone to be had here, for the price and size, but you’ll need to spend a bit of time getting to know the ins and outs of it before it’s roaring just the way you like.
DIRECTLY & HONESTLY
Speaking of ins and outs: this brings me to the major flaw of the 6505 MH. The Microphone Simulated Direct Interface (MSDI™) or, more specifically, the quality of this cabinet simulation itself. Giving the user the option to record direct via XLR with a ground lift, or directly as an audio interface via USB great ideas features hamstrung by the mandatory and mediocre cabinet emulation built into the outputs. Compared to other cabinet simulators from Radial, Palmer, Redwirez, Two Notes and Recabinet, the 6505 MH’s feels blurry and indistinct. Usable in a pinch for demos or a gig situation where going direct into the PA is necessary, but hardly ideal.
Thankfully, there is a workaround. Some Google-bashing revealed that the line-out of the effects loop, when the Speaker Defeat is switched on, can be safely fed into an audio interface. Routed like this, the 6505 MH performed admirably through my selection of software cabinet impulses modeling Peavey, MESA/Boogie, Marshall and Framus speakers. So while it is possible to get release-quality tones from this little dude, it’s pointlessly difficult. One extra switch on the back to control the MSDI should be considered an essential update on future versions.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Peavey 6505 MH is feature-packed tone-machine, light on size and light on cost. It’s a serious and versatile option for anyone who wants more gain in their life.
TOP FIVE FEATURES
- 2 versatile rhythm and lead channels
- New Tube Status Indicator feature
- Switchable 1, 5 and 20-watt modes
- Additional cabinet-simulated outputs via USB and XLR
- Ultra portable
- Feature-packed for the price
- Adaptable to many musical situations
- Faithful, usable emulation of a classic Peavey sound
- Mediocre cabinet simulation
- Shared EQ section
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