EVH 5150 III 50 Watt

February 15, 2012

With the introduction of the 5150 III 50 Watt, guitarists now have a smaller version of the famed 100-watt 5150 III head that was designed to meet Eddie Van Halen’s demanding specifications. Clad in neatly applied white Tolex and sporting a striped metal grill and white pointer knobs, the 5150 III 50 head looks very sweet atop its companion 212ST speaker cabinet (which has vintage-style, tilt-back legs and a head-to-cabinet locking system that keeps the amp from sliding off when the rig is angled back). Construction throughout is top notch, with Baltic birch ply used for the cabinets, metal corner protectors, and a powder-coated steel chassis that houses a rugged PCB circuit layout.

As with its big brother, the 5150 III 50 features three channels. However, the compact format requires that this model use a shared set of gain and tone controls for Channels 1 and 2. The channels can be selected via illuminated front-panel switches or the included footswitch—which also has a button to turn the effects loop on and off. You can also control these functions via MIDI.

We tested the 5150 III 50 Watt using a Gibson Les Paul, a PRS SC58, and a G&L ASAT Junior, as well as the provided EVH 212ST cabinet and a Mesa/Boogie Recto 4x12. The 212ST sounded slightly darker than the Recto 4x12, but the 5150 III Mini’s in-your-face presence is a great match for the compact closed-back 212ST—which, by the way, pumps out plenty of volume for stage use.

The 50’s Channel 1 has a wide gain range, tons of headroom, and can cover everything from pristine clean tones to overdriven sounds that are perfect for gritty rhythm playing or bluesy solos. The gain increases substantially when Channel 2 is selected, and by turning the Gain control about one-third up with a high Volume setting, the 5150 III 50 cracks like an old, non-master Marshall, delivering ballsy, harmonically rich tones that sound killer with humbuckers or single-coils. Switching between the Clean and Crunch modes required some readjusting of the Gain and Volume controls, but the excellently voiced EQ provided very consistent sounds on both channels. The 5150 III 50 is a bright amp, and the Presence control was helpful for dialing in more buttery tones with single-coil guitars. Dialing the Resonance control to its middle setting yielded a deep, balanced chunk, while cranking it fully clockwise kicked out some serious low-end booty. The 212ST cabinet sounded slightly darker than a Mesa/Boogie Recto 4x12 that we used for reference, but the 5150 III 50-Watt’s in-your-face presence is a great match for this compact closed-back cab.

Switching to Channel 3 ushers you into a world of high-gain burn that is astonishing in both how detailed the tones sound, and how much gain is on tap. With Gain just a third of the way up, most players will get all the sustain they need. Beyond the halfway point, the gain becomes ridiculous— although the amp still maintains surprisingly good definition when pouring out torrents of distortion.

The 5150 III 50 Watt’s ability to switch between super clean, moderately overdriven, and soaring high-gain tones makes it very well suited for players who have to cover a lot of sonic ground. All aspects of this amp have been painstakingly refined, so even if you’ve never tried an EVH before, you’ll quickly get your groove on with it. Bottom line: The EVH 5150 III 50 Watt is a great amplifier and definitely worth auditioning if you’re in the market for a mediumpower rig that can handle just about any playing style.


CONTACT EVH, evhgear.com

5150 III 50-watt head

PRICE $1,333 retail/$999 street


CONTROLS Gain, Low, Mid, High, Volume (Channels 1 and 2). Gain, Low, Mid, High, Volume (Channel 3). Master Presence and Resonance

TUBES Six 12AX7 preamp tubes, two 6L6GC output tubes, solid-state rectification

POWER 50 watts

EXTRAS Dual speaker jacks. Impedance selector (4/8/16Ω). Headphone jack. Effects loop. Preamp out. MIDI jack (for control of channel select and effects loop on/off). Four-button footswitch included.

SPEAKER Tested with EVH 212ST tiltback cabinet with two 12” Celestion G12H speakers ($666 retail/$499 Street)

WEIGHT 25lbs (head), 60lbs (cabinet)


KUDOS Wide tonal range. Ultra high gain. Excellent EQ.

CONCERNS Shared Gain control for channels 1 and 2.

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