modeling amp tubes peavey vypyr combo

Peavey''s Vypyr boldly goes where no modeling amp has gone before

Download Example 1
Dlx model, green channel (clean); Pregain 2:00; Bass 12;30; Mid 12:30; High 1:00; Post Gain 12:30; no reverb or delay. Guitar Vol at 10, Tone at 8.
Download Example 2
Plx model, red channel (dirty); Pre Gain 3:00; Bass 1:30; Mid 12:00; High 12:00; Post Gain 2:00; no reverb or delay. Guitar Vol at 10, Tone at 8
UNK Standard in bridge position into Peavey Vypyr 60, close mic’ed with SM57 and run into a ProSonus Audiobox and Cubase 4. Guitar by Randall Davis.
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Although Peavey has been working diligently for decades to make solid state amps sound like tube amps, last year’s release of the company’s ReValver modeling software seemed to signal a real technological breakthrough—the modeled sounds were so good, and recreated in such technical depth, that it seemed like one company had finally cracked the code to realistic, three-dimensional amp models.

It should be no surprise then that Peavey’s latest generation of combos are packed with the company’s slickest modeling technology yet—the Vypyr line features Peavey’s now mature TransTube technology and a blazing 32-bit floating point processor—but it may be surprising that the Vypyr has not managed to completely slay the valve. The Vypyr 60 and 120 models include a full complement of preamp and power tubes to provide the “feel” that’s been missing from so many other attempts at modeling. And while that hybrid approach isn’t completely new, Peavey’s execution is, meaning the Vypyr may very well be the first modeling amp to win a spot in your gear room.

Welcome to Your Spaceship
From the very start, it’s obvious that Peavey wants us to think of the Vypyr not as just another modeling amp (yawn), but a technological step forward (yeah!). The Vypyr Tube 60 is packed with a lot of powerful technology, but it’s the amp’s face that really delivers that futuristic message. Turning on the amp triggers an epilepsy-inducing lightshow on the front panel (this can be disabled), with the red and green LEDs surrounding each “encoder” (not knobs) dancing wildly until you plug into the input jack. I felt like I was on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, which, depending on your particular sensibilities, is either a very cool or entirely unnecessary thing.

And while having LEDs instead of numbers and lightweight encoders instead of beefy knobs initially felt a little alien, it’s a quick adjustment once you see how it all works together. Because the Vypyr includes so many tonal options the front face needs to be flexible. It works like this: your first three knobs from the right of the input— Stompboxes, Amp and Effects—control the main functions of the amplifier, and are ordered to simulate the order in which you would run a regular rig. Pressing either the Stompbox or Effects encoder will bring you into edit mode, and you’ll see the LEDs encircling the next group of encoders—Pre Gain, Low, Mid, High, Post Gain—switch instantly to represent the parameters of the effect you are editing, along with the amp’s Delay and Reverb settings. Press it again to return to your amp’s controls, or hold it down to bring up the Vypyr’s built-in tuner. Press the Amp encoder to switch between “channels,” and you’ll similarly see your LEDs change to reflect the different settings.

All in all, it’s a pretty slick and surprisingly easy to use interface, and the stompbox/effect editing process is as straightforward as it can be. A line of Bank and Preset selection buttons are positioned underneath the three main encoders and allow you to quickly store any of your settings with just a touch of the button, much like a car stereo. And while this should do the trick for the average user who will just fiddle with the thing each time they play, power users will definitely want to upgrade to the Sanpera I or Sanpera II foot controller, which makes all of the patch business a lot easier (more on this momentarily).

Future Rock
All the flashing lights in the world mean nothing if the tone’s not there, and I’m proud to report that the Vypyr 60 does not disappoint on this front. Backed by 60 watts, the 12 included amp models are all generally solid and include two channels; amps that don’t normally include a second channel have been given an additional “hot-rodded” circuit to choose from. Peavey has also painstakingly recreated the EQ sections of each amp model so that that they react as they would in real life, giving the Vypyr some definite tweaker cred.

It should be no surprise that the Peavey amp models, including the 6505, the JSX and the Classic take the awards for best recreations, but there are some other nice surprises to be found in the Vypyr as well. Thanks to the inclusion of a 12AX7 and two 6L6GCs in the power section, in addition to the Vypyr's ample processing power, the clean Twin and Deluxe models have a depth and sweetness that will surprise a lot of tweed aficionados, while both of the Plexi’s channels mustered up plenty of thick, organic crunch. The Dzl and B-Kat models also deserve some kudos for their nuanced tone and versatility—it’s not often you can find boutique tones like these in a compact package and at a bargain price.

Of course, even with the inclusion of valves these are still only models of classic amps, so you might find yourself wanting more at times. The Vypyr Tube 60 definitely makes a big step forward in terms of sensitivity and depth, but some of the models still lack the dimensionality of an honest-to-goodness tube amp. The high-gain stuff sounds good at medium levels, but the models tend to tonally run together a bit under the weight of multiple gain stages. With the volume cranked on those same models, the single 12" speaker woofs out and the sparse open back design prevents things from being as tight as they could be—that’s certainly not a dealbreaker, nor much of a surprise, but it’s something to consider if you’re planning on chunking out metal rhythms with the Vypyr’s Recto or Triple XXX models on 13 (which the Master knob goes to, oddly enough). There is an Extension Speaker jack, in case you’d like to run the Vypyr into a loaded, closed up 4x12 for more thump.

The Vypyr’s Stompbox models all sound good enough to be entertaining and usable for impromptu jam sessions, but out of the 11 available, I found the drive effects such as the X Boost and the TS model to be the most impressive and usable—they were great at fattening up the Vypyr’s clean channel amps, and it strikes me that no one expected digital effects and amps to sound this good, let alone work well together, a decade ago. If you’re not keen on replacing that boutique board with the Vypyr, no fear; although there’s no effects loop onboard, the Vypyr plays well with pedals, and enjoyed having a boost or OD in front of it. The Effects section really exists in the same category as the Stompboxes—they add enough variance to the Stompboxes to justify their existence, but remain somewhat pedestrian, with the exceptions being the 8-stage phaser which is pleasantly lush and the Rotary Effect, which is always a fun bonus.

With so much to navigate, the Sanpera II foot controller comes highly recommended. It’s a little bulky on the floor, but if you plan on using the amp as a complete rig, from pedals to amp to rack, you’ll be glad you have it. The Sanpera II opens up the Vypyr, bumping the number of presets allowed from 12 to 400, and allows you to use both the amp’s onboard looper and wah/volume effects. It also allows you the option of surfing through banks of patches via the four footswitches, or to operate in Manual Mode, where you have on/off control of each part of the Vypyr’s signal chain—except your amp’s channel, which feels like a major oversight. The only way to switch channels is to do it from the amp’s face or to program two patches into the amp and flip between them. It should also be noted that although the Vypyr is billed as being able to use five effects simultaneously, these include the Stompbox, Effect, onboard Delay and Reverb, plus the Sanpera II’s wah treadle, limiting the available combinations somewhat.

One final parting thought: the Vypyr’s build says “pricepoint” a little too loudly in spots; the plastic on the front resembles Batman’s chest plate, and the lightweight cab construction and lack of a back brace feel too precious for such a serious amp. To be fair, the Vypyr held up fine during our tests, but we had lingering questions about the amp's eventual durability in touring or otherwise rough applications.

The Final Mojo
As processing power continues its freefall in price and electrical engineers drill down on what makes tube amps do that voodoo they do, you can expect modeling amps to get better and better. The Vypyr Tube 60 proves that Peavey means business—they’ve packed a ton of tones and features, including some we didn’t even get a chance to mention, like the USB recording feature and a studio-quality headphone jack, into a combo available on the street for under $500. If you’ve been searching for a wide-ranging, powerful practice or backup companion, you cannot go wrong here.
Buy if...
you want a lot of amp for very little money
Skip if...
you don’t have the space or the money for the optional foot controller

Street $450 Foot Controller Street $199 - Peavey -