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Peavey Studio Special 1.5 Amp Review

Peavey dives into the low-wattage boutique market with signature affordability

When I first received the box containing the new Peavey Studio Special, I thought there was some kind of mistake. I was originally informed that a new amplifier from the Peavey Custom Shop was being sent to me for review, yet I thought the box was too small and too light to be an amp. I figured maybe I was sent something else, like an effects unit. I opened the box and to my surprise and amazement, it was indeed the Peavey amp!

Peavey is expanding its USA-based, award-winning Peavey 19th Street Custom Shop to include custom-built amplifiers. This series of amps are built to spec, based on point-to-point, handwired models, and they range from a single watt to a 50-watt, in a head or combo configuration. The first three to be unveiled are the Masterpiece, the Sensation and the one I just received— the Studio Special.

Small Package

Download Example 1
British Rock tone - Charvel neck pickup. Setting on Amp: Bass – 10, Middle – 5, Treble – 7, Master Volume – 10, Amp Switch set to Normal
Download Example 2
Bluesy Rock Tone - Charvel neck pickup. Setting on Amp : Bass – 10, Middle – 4, Treble – 7, Master Volume – 5, Amp Switch set to Normal
Download Example 3
Funk Tone - Charvel neck pickup. Setting on Amp : Bass – 6, Middle – 10, Treble – 3, Master Volume – 3, Amp Switch set to Fat
Download Example 4
Funky Blues tone with Single Coil pickup - Single Coil neck pickup on Fender VG Strat. Setting on Amp : Bass – 5, Middle – 5, Treble – 5, Master Volume – 5, Amp Switch set to Fat
Download Example 5
Alternative Rock Tone - Charvel bridge pickup. Setting on Amp : Bass – 10, Middle – 2, Treble – 6, Master Volume – 10, Amp Switch set to Fat
Unless otherwise noted, all clips were recorded with a Charvel So-Cal guitar with Seymour Duncan pickups into the Peavey Studio Special into a Peavey Windsor cab and mic’d with a Shure SM57. The mic signal went directly into Digidesign Pro Tools.
The new 1.5-watt amp is ideal for recording studios and small rooms, and is available as a head only. The Studio Special allows players to achieve those “cranked up” amp tones, but at a decent volume level that won’t annoy your neighbors or loved ones. It is a straightforward, single-channel design with controls for Volume, Treble, Middle and Bass. There is also a Fat switch to boost the midrange. The warm and fuzzy distortion appears courtesy of two 12AX7 preamp tubes, and one 12AU7 tube in the output stage, which is configured in Class AB (a 6CG7 output configuration is optional).

It’s a fairly small amp, measuring only 8”x16”x8”. With an amp as straight-forward as this one, you definitely don’t need a bigger box. Besides the controls, there is one input, one speaker output and a power switch—it can’t get any more basic that that. Since this is from the Custom Shop, you can choose from a variety of Tolex covers to really personalize your amp.

Good Stuff
This little amp has been referred to as “Billy Gibbons in a box,” so I was looking forward to plugging it in and firing it up. I naturally hooked it up to a Peavey Windsor speaker cabinet first and was quickly surrounded by warm, smooth tube distortion and plenty of gain with my Charvel So-Cal guitar. You won’t find clean headroom on this amp, but you’ll definitely want to crank this amp up to 10 and rock out with it! It’s easy to achieve a variety of rock tones with only the three parameters you have to work with—everything from that warm British tube tone to fizzy, gritty fuzz. The distorted tones stay nice and tight when you crank up the power section. There is plenty of gain to please every player, except for maybe the extreme metal guitarist, who will definitely want to add an extra distortion pedal to the mix to achieve that high-gain tone they’re looking for.

I then plugged in my Strat, put the pickup in the neck position and dialed all the knobs to 12 o’clock. It was a thick, warm tone and great for bringing out those bluesy, single-coil sounds. When switching from Normal to Fat on the amp, it kicked in extra gain that was great for soloing.

The Final Mojo
It’s definitely a great amp for recording, and I found it to be really responsive and dynamic. In a live situation, the amp may be hard to hear over a loud drummer and would probably need to be mic’d to be heard properly. But it is called a Studio Special after all, so that’s where this amp will really shine. With Peavey’s 44 years of amplifier design and building experience, it seems only natural that they would now offer amps through their Custom Shop that buyers can design themselves. Different components and cosmetics can be custom designed from preselected options, or they can be specified on a per-project basis. Take a small amp that can be customized, add in Peavey’s reputation for producing reliable, great-sounding amps, and you have a winning combination with the Studio Special.

Buy if...
you'd like a USA-made handwired custom amp that won't take up a lot of space.
Skip if...
you prefer a combo amp with more than one channel for recording and practicing.

Street $1000 - Peavey Custom Shop -