Another entry in Peavey’s line of mini-heads, the Classic 20 MH promises versatile and quality tones in an economical package. by Alex Wilson
THE CLASSICS NEVER GO OUT STYLE
Peavey’s Classic line of amps have never quite had the prestige of other amps, but they’ve always been dependable stalwarts of jam rooms and venues the world over. The Classic 20 MH aims to take this humble-yet-quality amp and box it down into something truly lightweight and compact. Fueled by two EL84s in the power section and a trio of 12AX7s in the preamp, there’s no reason to believe that the small size will necessarily mean cheap solid-state tone.
In addition to the tube sound, the Classic 20 MH boasts 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 footswitch, a built-in plate-sounding reverb and cabinet simulated recording outs via XLR or USB.
THE RIGHT TONE
The amp’s tweed covering and mirror plate speak volumes about the sound – this is an amp that will sound great for classic rock, country, blues and indie. Plug it into the clean channel, and you’ll be immediately greeted by a big, full-spectrum clean sound that balances its bottom end with the right amount of clang and chime. Using the pre-gain and post-gain knobs will dial in a pleasing crunch that also imparts a nice, naturally pushed tube compression.
Over to the dirty channel: full-on metal, this won’t handle (try Peavey’s 6505 MH for this - we reviewed it in the last issue), but then again, this was never the amp’s MO. There’s still enough oomph for a nice, moderately high-gain tone that’s clear and defined, even as the gain knob goes higher. While the dirty channel is pleasingly free of mud, this seems to come at the expense of a certain low-end kick that is present on the clean channel.
There’s a reverb that can be dialed in, with a slightly modulated tone. In the sweet spot, it adds a nice depth without masking the fundamental tone of the amp. The EQ controls are simple and responsive enough without drastically altering the sound, too. The EQ is shared by both channels, however - a bullet that probably needs biting when the amp is so compact. Tone-shaping the Classic
20 MH would probably work best with a light touch, making judicious boosts and cuts that suit the sound of the cabinet or room that the amp is
Thankfully, the tone simply works despite some of these minor limitations. The switchable wattage really comes into it’s own, providing ample headroom in a variety of situations. The 20-watt mode is plenty for gigging, especially when you consider the genres that the Classic 20 MH is pitched at. So, in terms of tone for dollars, this amp delivers the goods.
DIRECTLY AND HONESTLY
Having spent some time with more than one of Peavey’s mini-heads, I have one major bone to pick - it’s to do with the direct-out XLR mode for recording, or the Microphone Simulated Direct Interface (MSDI). Peavey’s cabinet simulation on this line is, simply put, not good enough. While it’s not as poorly-suited as it is on it’s high-gain cousin - the 6505 MH - it’s still frustratingly lifeless and subpar relative to the Classic 20 MH’s quality tone and specs.
When Peavey have already included other flexible recording options like USB connectivity and a ground lift switch, it seems like a lazy oversight to not include one extra button that allows for their crappy cab to be turned off. When so many ordinary players now have great cabinets living on their computers or hardware loadboxes, it’s supremely annoying to have this otherwise great little amp shackled to the lackluster MSDI.
Depending on where you stand, this might not be a total dealbreaker. The line-out of the effects loop sends an MSDI-free signal, and when the Speaker Defeat loadbox simulation (another great feature) is switched on, this signal can be routed for recording as normal. When doing things this way, I was very happy with the Classic 20 MH as part of my project studio setup - getting there is still needlessly complex, though. I seriously hope Peavey consider making the MSDI optional on any reissues of their mini-head line.
THE BOTTOM LINE
MSDI aside, the Peavey Classic 20 MH has a great deal to make it worth recommending. It will provide you with quality, versatile tone for your home and gigs without breaking your back or your bank. Check it out.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Clean and dirty channels
• New Tube Status Indicator feature
• Switchable 1, 5 and 20-watt modes
• Additional cabinet-simulated outputs via USB and XLR
• Ultra portable
• Versatile and useful input and output features
• Small, lightweight and affordable
• Great sound that can be easily shaped to taste
• Inability to switch off cabinet simulation
• Shared EQ section
Ph: (03) 8813 0241