A familiar combo gets a refresh as a stealthy-looking, feature-packed machine.
Clip 1: [Using Fender Elite PJ] Slight cut on bass, slight boost of mid at 250 Hz, treble flat.
Clip 2: [Using Squier Contemporary HH Jazz] EQ flat.
Thoughtful features packed into a rugged, portable package.
Some loss of clarity with Kosmos-C low enhancement. Noticeable popping sound when tuning and manipulating switches.
Peavey Max 150
Ease of Use:
For bassists on the go, combos are often the handiest means of amplification. And technological innovations over the years have expanded the functionality of these portable devices into all-in-one tools for both practice and performance. Peavey has a long and successful history in the combo game, and the company has consistently enhanced their offerings with the latest developments. Peavey’s Max series amps have undergone many transformations as they’ve evolved, and the latest iteration has all the signs of being a standout in its lineage. The refreshed series contains various pairings of speakers and power amps in the four models offered, but our focus here is the Max 150, Peavey’s 1x12 offering with 150 watts of thumpability.
Peavey employs an angled baffle with a “waterfall” grille over the front of the cabinet, which is likely the most noticeable visual difference in the modern Max combos. The shaping was designed for better high-frequency dispersion when the combo is on the floor, and helps eliminate the need to tilt the speaker cabinet.
Peavey’s tone-shaping options for the Max 150 combine signature features with a streamlined EQ. Inputs for both active and passive basses will accommodate a variety of pickups. The gain section has overdrive capability via the switch below the gain dial, and, next door, a few spices are added to the 3-band EQ.
Below the bass control is a contour switch, which scoops the EQ by cutting mids and boosting highs and lows. The mid-shift switch adjusts the center frequency for the mids to either 600 Hz or 250 Hz. If your tone requires a little shine, the bright switch delivers a 10 dB boost to frequencies above 1 kHz. Conversely, the Kosmos-C switch (aka booty button) creates a massive amount of low end for the subsonic fan. According to Peavey, this enhancement creates harmonics of signals in the bottom octave, providing a perception of stronger bass.
Practical additions to Peavey’s latest expand its versatility. They consist of a chromatic tuner, effects loop, DI, speaker output, footswitch jack, and a pair of mini inputs for headphones and playback devices. There’s a lot packed into this under-30-pound package.
Take It to the Max
The Max 150 made a great first impression. The strong handle and rugged design instilled confidence it could manage the rigors of working musicians. Historically, I’ve found the looks of Peavey’s products to be hit-or-miss, but the Max 150 gets top marks for its sleek styling and a super-cool grille. In addition to being lightweight, its compact shape made it easy to transport.
I employed a Fender Elite PJ and a Squire Contemporary Active Jazz HH to explore the amp’s tones. The combo produced strong midrange definition, thick lows, and smooth highs. Never did the Max 150 feel lacking in the EQ department, since I could temper or beef up the sound as needed. The PJ’s voice opened up with a slight boost at 250 Hz and a slight cut in the bass control. On the other hand, Squire’s modern zinger really sang with the bright switch engaged, and I found the contour switch to be sonically effective when slapping and popping strings.
Those who dig a little dirt in their tone will likely appreciate the Max 150’s distortion capabilities. I was easily able to go from a slight bite to full-on gnash without worrying about damaging the essential components. Thanks to Peavey’s proprietary DDT limiter, safe operation is assured when pushing the gain to its—ahem—max. Even if you’re not a regular user of distortion, having it available in the combo is a convenient alternative to schlepping a pedal and additional cables for when you do need it.
Strobe tuners are typically my preferred pitch-fixer, but I was happy to find that the onboard chromatic tuner is fast and accurate. After tuning up both basses using the combo’s tuner, I plugged them into a Peterson StroboStomp Classic for comparison and found the open strings to be dead-on in tune.
I had a couple of quibbles with Peavey’s little monster. While the engaged Kosmos-C does what it’s supposed to by producing lots of low end, I felt that bass notes had a tendency to lose clarity and articulation. This function could be great for dub-heavy players, but I found it to be a bit too muddy for some styles. The other concern came when engaging the switches and tuner. The combo emitted a slight yet noticeable pop when pressing and un-pressing the buttons, and using the tuner. This wouldn’t be much of an issue when practicing at home, but could be a potential irritation when miking the cab at shows.
Speaking of shows, I did take the Max 150 to a blues jam, where the amp was part of the house band’s gear. No, the 150-watt amp couldn’t contend with loud guitars and drums on its own, but it did function well as a personal monitor while, thanks to the amp’s DI, the mains and monitors of the house system reinforced my tone. I don’t know if the angled baffle provided a significant increase in sound, but I was able to hear fairly well with the amp on the stage floor.
Peavey’s Max 150 puts a fresh face on the Max combo lineage by augmenting Peavey’s consistently rugged design with contemporary features. It’s a solid amp for home practice, a coffee-shop show, or small-room rehearsals. You’d typically be hard-pressed to find a quality amp for less than $350, but you can still count on Peavey to offer a solid product with great value.
Watch the Review Demo:
A reader in Malaysia uses his extra time to make a kit git with a twist.
Name: Steve KellettHometown: Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Guitar: Farker Ply
Having been recently “excused work” due to a contract cancellation, I decided to do something constructive with my time. So I bought a Chinese guitar kit inspired by the iconic Parker Fly and set about assembling it.
The body needed some color, so I experimented with blue food dye diluted in water. I rapidly learned two things. First, that “one size fits nobody” disposable latex gloves are about as reliable as condoms bought from a pub toilet vending machine. Secondly, that the end grain soaks up water-based stain like a sponge.
After three coats of the stain, I applied teak oil on the body. Three coats later, the stain still wasn’t sealed in, but an unintended consequence was that the wood grain popped out and the stain took on a turquoise tint. The maple neck sits a little high in the pocket, meaning that the bridge saddles needed to be very nearly at the top of their adjustment screws to get any sort of action on the neck. I eventually got enough relief on the neck, and after a lot of fret levelling, got it playable with a 1 mm action at the 12th fret on the 1st string and 1.5 mm on the 6th string. I also had to lower the slots on the pre-cut nut to stop the strings from pulling sharp in the first few frets.
The only things I added were a capacitor and a piezo pickup. The kit came supplied with three pots and two 3-way switches intended for a pair of 2-conductor humbucker pickups, which makes no sense. Taking inspiration from the Parker P-44 that this kit obviously rips off, I decided to wire it with one 3-way switch controlling the two magnetic pickups. I also connected the piezo system to the second 3-way switch, which allowed me to use either the magnetic pickups alone, the solo piezo pickup by itself, or combine them.
I play my “Farker Ply” in a cover band called Blues & Soul Train that currently has a weekend gig at a club in central Kuala Lumpur. I’m the guy who sneaks the Gary Moore and Van Halen covers into the setlist.
Send your guitar story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consider the power of positive dressing.
Given that our demographic is comprised entirely of musicians, I'll speak bluntly. We are the nerd herd. At times, we may pass for normal, but we know in our heart of hearts that we are weirdos. Beginning around seventh grade, our abnormalities may have led to rejection by our classmates. But with time and contemplation, we've learned that our weirdness is our golden unicorn superpower—and that many of the straights love us for our eccentricities, rather than in spite of them.
I bring this up, because I've seen some disheartening normalcy with the way performers look of late. Being a musician gives us license to let our freak flag fly. Like our beloved patron saint Steven Tyler said, we should be “wearing out things that nobody wears." So why is it that the majority of modern performers gave up stage clothes?
We can give 21st century Eric Clapton a pass, because he's a grandfather in his 70s who has earned the right to place comfort over style. But back in the day, E.C. rocked a perm-fro, a Mongolian warrior jacket, corduroy bell-bottoms, and a pirate blouse. Had Slowhand been wearing his now-ubiquitous golf shirt and khakis in '67, nobody would have confused him with God.
An audience does not go to a show to see a version of themselves. They want to see something spectacular, or at the least a version of themselves at their very best. Sadly, the show-biz rule “always look better than your audience" has gone the way of tuning by ear and playing all parts live.
I realize I'm going to sound like the old guy saying “kids these days," but the give-a-shit is gone. There are people onstage checking their phones between songs, dressed like they are playing video games at a frat house or stumbling through the aisles of Walmart.
I'm not saying that every performer should wear a checkered leotard, like Freddie Mercury, but they need a look. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown may be wearing dirty jeans and T-shirts, but they both have a definite look on and off stage that separates them from civilians. You look at those guys and think, “They are rock stars."
Back when I moved to Nashville, during the Dwight Yoakam reign, every artist that got a record deal immediately went to Manuel Couture, which was then in a huge brick Victorian mansion near Music Row, and laid down $5,000 on a hillbilly jacket. Manuel's new shop is a humble clapboard house in the Berry Hill district of Nashville. The man who dressed Elvis, Gram Parsons, John Lennon, Keith Richards and every other cool music star has had to cut back—in an age where artists wear baseball caps and T-shirts to awards shows.
Most days, I dress like an adultolesent: a swag T-shirt given to me by some bar or manufacturer, and whatever jeans were lying on my floor when I got up. But there are four solid feet of my closet full of somewhat outlandish clothes that would look ridiculous anywhere but onstage. They include a pair of skin-tight, German-made leather pants formerly owned by Gene Simmons, a cowboy suit with piping formerly owned by Ranger Doug from Riders in the Sky, a tight denim Western shirt once owned by Tim McGraw, and two vintage Nudie cowboy shirts. In addition to this fine garb, I have a legit mariachi suit I had made 20 years ago in Manzanillo, Mexico, by a tailor working a leg-pump sewing machine in a dirt floor, cinderblock shop. The suit took a week to make and cost $2,034 pesos, roughly $215 in U.S. dollars. (I later submitted the receipt to my accountant, who luckily confused pesos with dollars, giving a far better write-off than I was due. As I type this, I hope this is beyond the statute of limitations for tax fraud. The IRS does not play.)
I also have a hillbilly jacket that my former wife, Sherrie, and I made from a thrift store white tux. We dyed it gray, cut off the tails to convert it to a Bolero jacket, and sewed some fancy beads on the shoulders. Total cost? Around $25.
As it turns out, these clothes have been some of the best investments I ever made. I've worn these outfits on literally thousands of gigs. Whenever I put them on, I know that even if I sound like tennis shoes in a dryer, I'm going to at least look like they hired the right person.
There's something to be said for getting in character for a performance. All young musicians should be forced to watch Prince, Angus, Marty Stuart, Kiss, Nuno, ZZ Top, and Lenny Kravitz before they book their first gig. Playing notes is not performing. And if you don't care enough to try to look right, you may not care enough to get into what you are playing.
Decades ago, I read an interview with Chet Atkins where they asked the CGP if he had any advice for young guitarists. Chet said, “Hold onto your ties. They come back in style quicker than you'd think." Take it from the master.