This latest iteration of the Vypyr line of amps is designed and built to handle electric 6-string, acoustic, and bass guitars.
Hartley Peavey’s now-global business began a lot like many other musical instrument companies that got rolling in the late ’60s and ’70s—a musician with a soldering iron and a knack for electronics applied both to the nascent art of rock ’n’ roll. Unlike a lot of those companies, however, Peavey has always remained steadfastly independent, and even over decades of massive growth, Peavey maintained a focus on affordability while delivering the features and flexibility of more expensive gear. While Peavey has dabbled in many facets of the sound and instrument business over the years (their PA systems are ubiquitous in nightclubs, theaters, airports, and even the U.S. Capitol Building), the company’s bread and butter remains amplifiers. One of the most famous—and desirable—is the ’70s Classic 30, a 30-watt combo amp with a distinctive, bluesy, classic-rock tone derived from a solid-state preamp and 6L6GC power tubes (the current production Classic 30 is all-tube). This amp garnered a following among gigging guitarists and the amp-mod community, which constantly tinkers with the Classic 30’s tone.
Fast-forward to 2008, when Peavey released cutting-edge modeling software called ReValver mkIII, which let users modify tones not just by tweaking knobs, but also by changing the virtual circuitry of the amp model. The following year, the company introduced the first series of Vypyr amplifiers, which were based on the company’s new TransTube modeling technology. The goal of TransTube, like many other modeling technologies, was to create tube-like tone with natural compression in the power amp, a wide dynamic range, and tube-amp grit.
Now, Peavey has unveiled a second version of the Vypyr line, the VIP series, as well as an optional pair of foot controllers, dubbed Sanpera I and II. VIP stands for Variable Instrument Performance, and it means this latest iteration of the Vypyr line of amps is designed and built to handle electric 6-string, acoustic, and bass guitars. And after plugging in your weapon of choice, you can simply select guitar, bass, or acoustic settings, and the Vypyr will reconfigure and optimize its performance for that instrument. The onboard modeling engine also includes amps that are tweaked specifically for acoustic guitar and bass.
An Amp for Every Season
The Vypyr VIP 2 reviewed here is a member of a three-amp family that includes the VIP 1, VIP 2, and VIP 3 (rated at 20, 40, and 100 watts, respectively). These amps are designed to accommodate stages and studios of every size. Both the VIP 2 and 3 have a 12" speaker while the VIP 1 sports an 8" driver. The cabinet for each model in the series has a ported, semi-closed back designed to extend the low-end range.
The controls on the back of the amp are basic and simple—just power input, on/off switch, and the Sanpera’s combined data and power MIDI connection. At power up, the LED window on the Sanpera greets you with “Plug in, tune up and rock out!” You’re also treated to a dazzling lightshow from the—no kidding—78 LEDs on the amp’s front control panel. That number of LEDs may seem a bit excessive, but on this amp they are essential for navigating to the effects, amp models, and other features, and selecting and modifying the amp’s sounds. Essentially there’s no menu system to navigate on the Vypyr. That’s a big plus for musicians who favor a simpler control layout.
Apart from the Peavey-related amp models, there are 24 electric guitar amp models in the VIP 2, including 6534, “twin,” “xxx,” “British,” and “butcher” models. The six acoustic amp and six bass amp collections each include a Trace Elliot model (from the Peavey family, of course).
A Trip to the Tone Library
I first explored the Vypyr using a Fender Stratocaster plugged directly into the amp. I pressed the electric guitar button, and spun the amplifier knob to classic (an emulation of the modern all-tube Peavey Classic mentioned earlier). Each electric guitar amp model on the Vypyr has three virtual channels, clean, crunch, and lead. These channels are accessed by pressing the amp selection knob and are indicated by a change in the LED color from green, to orange, to red—so far, so easy.
The Vypyr’s TransTube engine pretty easily belted out solid approximations of the Classic’s tone. There was sparkle to spare in clean mode and a very tube-like sense of pick dynamics, and the amp was very responsive to pickup changes. Its dynamic range is obviously not as pronounced as what you’d hear from a handwired, all-tube combo amp, but at $200, it’s impressive and fairly natural. Each of the Vypyr’s amp channels offers adjustment to the pre-gain, lows, mids, highs, and post-gain settings. And turning up the pre-gain on the Classic’s clean setting produces an articulate overdrive tone with plenty of spank and range for picking nuance. The Classic’s crunch channel can sound a bit harsh with bright single-coils, but dialing back the treble controls on my instrument took care of the harshest overtones and helped give the amp a gritty, sustain- and harmonic-rich distortion.
The original Peavey Classic was never intended to be a big crunchy rock ’n’ roll amp, but the Peavey 6505, which was inspired by Eddie Van Halen’s 5150 signature model, excels at these heavy tones and it’s the foundation for the 6505 model on the Vypyr 2. The 6505 model matched up well with my Gibson SG’s humbuckers and the sound was bubbly, blistering, and retained dynamic response when you rolled back the pre-gain. And like most of the other models on the Vypyr 2, the 6505 responds much like a tube amp when you roll back your instrument’s volume control.
The Teachings of Budda
Peavey aligned with boutique amp company Budda in 2008, and the insights they gained are apparent even in the Budda model included in the Vypyr. The Budda setting packs a big low-mid punch, making it excellent for in-your-face blues soloing, as well as intricate jazz noodling. This Budda model was my favorite amp model on the Vypyr, due in large part to the dynamic range and full-bodied tone. A lot of modeling software tends to struggle with those two very important characteristics, but the Vypyr 2 nails it here in a manner that belies the amp’s price.
Modeling software brings enormous versatility, and it can be a challenge to make an amp simple to operate. One of the most important breakthroughs with the Vypyr VIP series is the incredibly intuitive control layout. When I bought my first smartphone, an Apple iPhone 4, I was surprised to find no included user manual. With the Vypyr VIP 2, it feels like Peavey took a page from Steve Jobs’ book of minimalism and intuitive operation when they designed the front panel. Your instrument selection determines the amp model selection, which is tweaked with a few tone adjustments (they typically sound great all at noon), and you select your effects by spinning a few lighted rotary knobs. The tuner, effects editing, and basic mixing control are all available within a push and a spin of those same rotary knobs.
In addition to the well-executed standard effects like phaser, flange, reverb, delay, octaver, tremolo, chorus, and envelope filter, there are also some off-the-wall effects. Synth mode turns your guitar into a cheesy-sounding lead synth, but it tracks the instrument’s pitch exceptionally well. You can also make your electric guitar sound like an acoustic, a 12-string, a 7-string, a sitar, or a bowed violin-like instrument. These models can all be combined with each of the amp models, as well as the previously mentioned effects.
Sanpera—Far Beyond Steppin’
With the accompanying Sanpera foot controller you can access a looper setting. What’s really cool about a looper effect with a multi-instrument modeling amp is that you can lay down a bass line with a bass amp model, and then perform guitar solos over that with a guitar amp model. The Sanpera’s II dual expression pedals are assignable, so you can use them for wah-wah and volume effects, but also for controlling parameters such as the speed of a tremolo effect. The numerous stomp switches let you toggle effects in your virtual effects chain like you would on a typical pedalboard.
If asked what I would expect to pay for something like the Vypyr VIP 2, my honest guess would be about 400 bucks. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the street price was half that. As a guitar amp alone, this device has a ton of value. It’s versatile, the models are convincing, the controls are intuitive, and the lightweight chassis makes it a good practice amp or small stage combo. The additional bass and acoustic inputs, as well as their accompanying amp models, make the VIP 2 even more versatile to anyone who likes to practice and write with more than just a 6-string electric. If you’re looking for a fun and simple modeling amp with easy controls and a wealth of effects at an insanely nice price, I’d strongly suggest taking Peavey’s new Vypyr VIP series for a spin.
Watch our video demo:
A dual channel overdrive/boost pedal that combines the Black Cat OD-1 with a clean boost circuit.
Foxon, CT (April 22, 2013) -- Black Cat Pedals is pleased to announce the OD-Boost, a dual channel overdrive/boost pedal that combines the Black Cat OD-1 with a clean boost circuit. The two channels can be used individually or they can be used together simultaneously. There is also a switch to change the order in which the channels are stacked, allowing the option of selecting OD into Boost, or Boost into OD.
Similar in concept to the Black Cat OD-Fuzz, the OD-Boost combines two distinctly different circuits of pure gain and allows them to interact without being compromised with tone circuitry. The OD-Boost is a powerful, dynamic and incredibly loud pedal that allows you to discover and explore the finest grades of raw, unprocessed dirt.
- Durable powder-coat finish with two-color graphic
- Professional black glass epoxy PCB with yellow screen
- Two 3PDT true-bypass switches (one for each channel)
- Uses 2.1mm Boss style power jack, or internal 9V battery
- Toggle switch changes the order of the channels
- Hand-wired, Boutique quality, Made in USA
The new Black Cat OD-Boost will retail for $195.
For more information:
Black Cat Pedals
For those who relish the profound shifts in color and mood that a little volume or tone knob tweak can provide, the Saturn V Harmonic Booster has the potential to be a very special, even indispensable piece of gear.
Spaceman Harmonic Boost - Boost at Max, Gain at 1, then conrols at noon (Fender Jaguar & Fender Tremolux)
Boosters, despite seeming simple in function and intent, vary wildly when it comes to tone, purpose, and potential. Clean boosts (though rarely truly clean) can increase pickup output without adding too much distortion, or compensate for signal loss at the end of a pedal chain. Treble boosters, with their narrow focus, can create the perception of a clean boost, though you typically hear an increase in noise, too. It’s all confusing and abstract enough to scare off a lot of would-be users.
Spaceman’s Saturn V Harmonic Booster may not really clarify the overarching issue of what, definitively, a booster is supposed to be. But it’s a pedal with a lot of character that can enhance dynamics, transform an amp, and breathe life into a rig that may have started to sound one-dimensional.
Built for Orbit
There may be more colorful and sensational-looking devices than Spaceman’s wares, but precious few stompboxes are cooler or more elegant. And the pedals’ straight-from-an-Apollo-capsule-control-panel design accurately reflects the build quality.
The Saturn V is hefty and built to what NASA would call mission-critical standards of durability. Spaceman also invests a lot of time and effort in aspects that only the most curious tinkerers are likely to notice—things like the chrome-like coating on the circuit board, the super-exacting soldering work, and even cool touches like the little Saturn and stars logo on the battery contact sheath.
The control layout is as simple as can be. The boost knob adds up to 18 dB, and if you crank the drive knob, you can get a summed boost of 35 dB between the two.
Though the Saturn V isn’t complicated by any means, there is a great deal of complexity to the sounds and textures you can extract from it. Not surprisingly it takes a little trial and error to feel out how it works best with a given guitar-and-amp combination.
This pedal is very sensitive and interactive, and it rewards picking nuance and responds dynamically to varied input from a instrument’s volume and tone controls. It’s critical to keep this in mind because one of the first things you’ll discover is that with a guitar’s volume controls wide open, the Saturn V won’t really work as a clean boost. Even with the drive all the way back to zero, there’s a little extra grit, especially if you use humbuckers. But roll back your guitar’s tone knob just a touch and it’s like wiping your car window clean after a long interstate drive—you’re suddenly seeing detail and color in the landscape you’d missed through all the bug carcasses and grime.
Set up your rig this way, and the Saturn V becomes a superb clean boost. It does a beautiful job of exciting and coloring attenuated guitar output. And you get the sense of a very gentle taper in boost level as you roll back your volume knob. You can hear this aspect of the Spaceman’s dynamic potential with a cheap solid-state amplifier and budget electric with bottom-of-the-barrel potentiometers. But with a high-headroom tube amp, nice pickups, and wide-range pots, this simple interplay of boost and guitar volume control becomes a sweeping meadow dappled and bursting with spring color. It’s a great way to get back in touch with the lost art of volume-knob manipulation. It also means you may never switch the Saturn V off.
The Saturn V’s most natural and easy-to-manage clean boost tones tend to come when it sees a nice single-coil out front. Telecaster bridge pickups sound glorious, alive, and crystalline, and neck pickups are mellow and full of almost vocal detail. The humbucker output from a Les Paul isn’t as easy to manage. But if you get a feel for where the sweet spots are, you’ll likely get a fresh sense of how versatile those guitars can be.
When you crank your guitar’s volume back up, the Saturn V seems to assume a whole different persona. Even at the lowest drive levels, it exudes the tough aura of a leather-clad ruffian. It’s rowdy, twitchy, and—depending on how you pick or how high you set the drive—positively explosive. And just as the Saturn V can almost make a $100 Vox Pathfinder sparkle like an AC15 in a recorded mix, it can drastically recast the voice of a bigger amp.
At the highest drive settings, for example, you can transform a blackface Fender into something much closer to snarling a Marshall plexi. And the distinctly un-Zeppelin-esque recipe of a Jaguar and a brownface Vibroverb can deliver the crackling, midrange-y, and fanged aggression you more closely associate with Jimmy Page’s “Whole Lotta Love” lead tones.
When you crank gain and volume together, the Saturn V not only generates a wall of wide-spectrum, harmonically rich distortion, but also has a way of exciting frequencies that are often lost in distorted settings. In fact, depending on your pick attack, the Saturn V can almost work like a treble booster and really expand your sonic palette for leads.
If the Saturn V has a weakness, it’s in chordal settings where you want a little extra top-end bite, but don’t want to surrender clarity. And here, the same excitability that makes every single note a potential tone playground can work against the Spaceman. It generates a lot of harmonic content. That doesn’t mean that clear chord tones aren’t in there to find—they usually are, depending on where you set your guitar’s controls. But in situations where you’re holding down a steady, fast arpeggio rhythm, you probably have a lot less time and inclination to tinker with your volume knob and find the sweet spot.
If you have the curiosity and desire to really experiment with the Saturn V, it can be transformative to your guitar and amp—the difference between a bland, undercooked stew and a gumbo that’s simmered all Saturday and tickles every bud on your tongue. On the other hand, players who have to hold down rhythm guitar and vocals, or just savor the simple pleasures of a wide-open Les Paul Junior wired straight into a cranked Marshall might be frustrated by the tinkering—however minimal—it takes to make the Saturn V really work.
But for those who relish the profound shifts in color and mood that a little volume or tone knob tweak can provide, the Saturn V has the potential to be a very special, even indispensable piece of gear. Unfortunately, Spaceman won’t be making many of them. In this run, at least, there are barely 400 units. Should those disappear in a flash of rocket flame, let’s hope Spaceman sees the worth in another go ’round.