Valves rock the world! Well, vacuum tubes, to be more precise. Guitar players and hi-fi fanatics have known for years about the unique warmth that tubes bring to the table, but translating the analog world of tube technology into the digital realm has proven to be tricky business. Through years of trial and error, a handful of companies have managed to break through that analog/digital divide – products like Guitar Rig 3, Amplitube 2 and Digidesign’s Eleven (see page 170 for our review) have won over tech-inclined guitarists with authentic sounds and extreme versatility.
"...ReValver has managed to throw the entire industry a curveball by allowing users to access the inner workings of its amp models"
As you might expect, ReValver gives guitarists a variety of stompboxes, rack effects, amps, speaker cabinets and microphones with which to construct a virtual signal chain. That’s familiar enough, but ReValver has managed to throw the entire industry a curveball by allowing users to access the inner workings of its amp models. Users can now adjust an amp’s parameters at the circuit level – everything from power tubes, tone stacks and output transformer characteristics are open to tweaking, giving you unprecedented control over your sound.
As you drag and drop amps and effects into your virtual rack, you can go “inside” the virtual circuitry. There are eight different types of power tubes to choose from alone, and each change you make has a dramatic impact on your sound. From transformer impedances to resistor values, there’s both a depth and friendliness to this program that you won’t find elsewhere. And while some of it may be Greek, this program is essentially a virtual laboratory, allowing you to learn about the effects of circuitry changes in a consequence-free environment. Swap those EL84s for the brawny tone of 6V6s. Combine the preamp of an AC30 with the power section of a Peavey JSX. This program practically begs you to explore the possibilities, and in the process I discovered some unique combinations that are nearly impossible in the “real” world.
Perhaps the best part about ReValver is that it can teach you to use your ears instead of your eyes. While it’s easy to get hung up on buzzwords or numbers, tweaking the innards of an amp will teach you what actually works and what doesn’t. Truthfully, there is so much variation possible with this program that you can dial in some unusable tones, but once you learn the tech behind “good tone,” you’ll find it easier to dial in the sounds that you want.
Granted, it can all be a bit overwhelming and some will not want to go that deep. Thankfully, the ReValver presets are excellent; there are 15 amp models to choose from, including many of Peavey’s own amps like the Classic 30, JSX (providing Satriani tone for days), ValveKing, 6505, Triple XXX and more. But it’s not just a Peavey love fest; it also features some of the most sought-after tone machines of all time, including models from Marshall, Vox, Fender, Mesa Boogie and Matchless. There are also a selection of amplifiers that don’t exist outside the program, such as Le Petite and the HomeBrew SE-1.
Likewise, dozens of speaker cabinet emulations await, from single speaker cabs to 4x12 closed back monsters. When you select an amp, a matching speaker cabinet is selected automatically, although you are free to change it or even build your own virtual speaker with the Speaker Construction Set. This cool addition allows you to tweak the type of virtual microphone and its placement, the size of cabinet, the type and number of speakers, the speaker breakup characteristics and so on. If you can’t dial in a good sound with so many choices, you just aren’t trying hard enough.
All of the expected effects are on tap, and they sound quite good. Delays, flangers, choruses, distortions, compressors, noise gates, EQ, vibrato, octavers, reverbs and reverse effects are all available and solid. I particularly enjoyed the rich and creamy flanger and the Greener Distortion – perfect for when you need that classic Tube Screamer sound. You can even have two separate signal paths going at once for a great dual rig setup.
Another great feature is called the VST Module, which allows you to insert any VST plug-in as an effect into your rack, greatly expanding ReValver’s possibilties. Considering the plethora of VST plug-ins out there, this capability gives you yet another way to create the sound you’re looking for. Fortunately, this software works seamlessly with today’s powerful laptops and is both Mac and Windows compatible. I had mine running smoothly through a MacBook Pro with various MAudio audio interfaces.
The only disappointment here is that, unlike some other packages on the market, ReValver does not come with a dedicated foot controller. That said, there is extensive MIDI implementation built into the software,so you can use an aftermarket MIDI controller if you so desire, even though the process of assigning functions can be a bit tedious.
If you’re planning on using ReValver in a live setting, you’ll definitely want to invest in a foot controller.
One final thing to mention: Peavey also offers ReValver HP, a “trimmed-down” version of the program. If you don’t need all of the bells and whistles, and want to save $200, you can find more info on the HP version at peavey.com/products/revalver
The Final Mojo
Peavey’s ReValver gives you the unique chance to sound like the greats, from Brian May to Van Halen, or to do your own thing. The circuit-level control of amp models is a definite breakthrough in the industry; of course, the technology would be useless if the models didn’t sound good. Does it respond and “feel” like a real amp? Does it clean up nicely when you back off your volume knob on your guitar like a good tube amp should? The answer is a resounding yes. With this much great tone at your fingertips, the choice should be easy.
you want to dig into your favorite amps without the electrocution risk
you need a dedicated foot controller
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|MSRP $299.99 (full version) $99.99 (ReValver HP) - Peavey - peavey.com