A dependable road warrior gets a nice boost.
Clip 2 - Peavey Classic Channel 1 w/effects: Same as above, with effects added. In sequence: clean signal, J. Rockett Archer, MXR Phase 90, DigiTech PDS 1000 delay, Supernatural Ambient Verb set on shimmer.
Clip 3 - Peavey Classic Channel 2: Same settings for amp and guitar as above except Channel 2 Pre 5, Post 5. Boost engaged at 18 seconds.
Clip 4 - Peavey Classic Channel 2 with heavy overdrive and slide: Same settings for amp and guitar as above, except Pre on 12 and Boost engaged throughout.
My first encounter with a Peavey Classic tweed style combo was in the ’90s, when North Mississippi hill country blues deacon R.L. Burnside invited me onstage for the first time. R.L. decided to preach “Mannish Boy,” so he offered me his amp and stepped to the front with his Jack and Coke in hand, to stand at the mic. When I hit a test chord, the floor of the stage shook. I turned to see that R.L. had every dial on the amp maxed. I rolled back my tone and volume pots and hit another chord. I was impressed by the Peavey Classic’s power, color, and presence—even at R.L.’s juke-thentic settings.
Over the years, I’ve maintained a favorable impression of Peavey’s Classic series iterations. They’re dependable working players’ amps: affordable, big-voiced, with enough clarity and punch to break through a live mix with or without the help of microphones.
Giddy up! The all-tube Classic 30 is the newest steed in this line of workhorses. Thirty watts are generated via the heat of seven tubes—three 12AX7s and four EL84s—that are protected by a steel cage. Two of the 12AX7s push the preamp and the third compliments the EL84s in the power section. The amp has two channels—in the Peavey Classic tradition—and an op amp driven spring reverb, which is situated at the bottom of the cabinet beneath a Celestion Midnight 60-watt speaker. A footswitch for channel switching and boost is included, though it can’t be used for the reverb, which is also foot-switchable and requires a second footswitch.
The control panel is top-mounted and features a single volume control for the normal channel and pre and post controls for the second channel. There’s a button between the normal and pre sections that switches between channels, which are remarkably different, but more on that later. There’s also a reverb level control and an EQ section with bass, mid, and treble knobs. Each chicken head knob goes up to 12 (which is two louder—and better—than 10, of course)! The EQ section serves both channels.
Between the mid and treble controls you’ll find another button marked “boost.” This is the Classic 30’s cool new wrinkle. The boost kicks up the gain and opens up the top end in a warm and colorful way. Like the EQ dials it can be used with both channels. There are also I/O jacks for the sparkly clean effects loop (although I prefer to stack my pedals in front of the amp’s signal), on/off and standby toggles, plus a pilot light so you know when you’re in business. While all this adds up to a lot of practical features, they are familiar and intuitive enough that I felt comfortable bringing the amp to a two-night gig on Memphis’ Beale Street the day after it arrived.
At Home On the Midrange In performance, the amp did exactly what it’s designed to do: it ruled a small, packed, noisy, reflection prone room without the help of a PA. I like dirt, so the first night I experimented with the crunchy channel—the one with the pre and post controls.
It took just a few minutes to dial in a strong stage tone, with lots of rich, toppy midrange. With the EQ dials set straight up at 6 to start, the amp ran a little bass heavy. Moving the bass to 4, mids to 9, and treble to 8 delivered a warm, powerful tone straddling roots and rock—placing my guitars in the sonic strata just on top of the bass and drums. The growl and volume I like—enough to make the strings sing and sustain with minimal effort—came from setting the pre at 3 and the post at 6. The pre dial was extremely responsive. Cranking it up at home revealed the Classic 30’s potential for heavy rock, with lots of stinging overdrive. On the gig, cranking the post to increase volume preserved the tone while providing more “loud”—just the way it should. For the record, it’s easy to keep volumes equal while switching between channels.
Echo of the Past This reverb sounds sweet. And though an op amp rather than a tube drives the circuit, it sounds similar to the tank on my ’66 transition-era Twin. It adds ambience at low levels and lingers deliciously when cranked, making it a natural for surf licks. The control is smooth and effective—adding or subtracting reverb without any sudden surges. It’s so nice that I was a little bummed that the natural reverb from the brick and glass construction of the club required me to deactivate it for the gig.
In addition to the warm, bold, mid-centric tones, the Classic 30’s second channel proved fabulously adaptable to different guitars, pickups and effects. From Gibson and Seymour Duncan humbuckers to a mid-’60 Epiphone dog-ear P-90, and a pedalboard equipped with compressor, overdrive, phase shifter, vibrato, and delay, the second channel still had the headroom to convey nuance and color without getting buzzy or muddy. At home it was equally content with my stock pickup Stratocaster.
To my ears the normal channel is the brighter of the two. It’s also very clean and present. It’s an excellent platform for pedals. Using a J. Rockett Archer overdrive lent just enough hair to the amp’s natural presence and responsiveness. But snapping the Archer off and engaging the boost button I brought the Classic 30’s normal channel to life, adding a big-shouldered purr and nice harmonic colors: organic, crisp, and tough.
The Verdict The latest Classic 30 is a ruggedly built and adaptable creature—dependable and sweet sounding on stage and, I’d surmise, the studio as well. It may not have all the harmonic detail, shimmering breakup, or open-sounding voice of a high-quality boutique amp. But it more than holds its own. I’d be happy to see one of these in a club or festival backline any time. And for the street price of $699, it’s a winner—with enough versatility and sonic goodness for any playing situation.
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