AFTER STAKING ITS CLAIM IN METAL WITH THE POPULAR 6505+, PEAVEY IS ON THE MOVE WITH A number of new amplifiers, including hand-wired designs built to customer specifications (such as the Masterpiece 50 that we just received), and a production-line, all-tube powerhouse called the 3120—a name that is based on the amp’s specifications of three channels and 120 watts of power. The 3120 sports independent tone controls for each channel, which are selected with a front-panel switch or the included footswitch. The amp struts a clean purposeful look with its pointer-style knobs, jeweled amber pilot light, and heavy-duty toggles. There are no boost functions or tone switches, but the 3120 does provide a means of adjusting the damping (which affects how tightly the power amp controls speaker motion), and it also has external test points for checking the tube bias with a standard voltmeter—a hip feature for both road techs and those who like to experiment with different power tubes. Other details of the 3120 include send and return level controls for the series effects loop and a 1/4" direct out with a level control.
For an amp that’s designed for rock and metal the 3120 covers a lot of sonic ground and delivers every step of the way. The Clean channel is crisp and open sounding with a great sense of dimension. It’s the kind of clean that you can totally enjoy without reverb, and the only thing missing here is a master volume, which would allow you to crank it up for a little extra grind without the loudness getting totally out of control—and this is a very loud amplifier. Of course, the real distortion action is reserved for the Crunch and Lead channels, each of which has a voicing and gain structure that’s ideal for dialing in muscular rhythm tones and heavily saturated solo textures. Here the 3120 excels with its harmonic richness, dynamic responsiveness, and ability to compress just enough for a great tactile feel without sacrificing low-end tightness. The damping function is handy for tightening up the low-end, but I liked the vibe of the “loose” setting and tended to keep it there. The 3120 sounded great with single-coils and had no problem delivering endless sustain and massive chunk. With humbuckers, all it took was some minor tweakage of the Bass and Treble controls to get articulate tones at any level of overdrive. As with most amps, the 3120 sounds its ballsy best when you can turn it up, but we still managed to get some very happening metal and shred tones at levels suitable for small stages and studios. All said, the American-made 3120 is a cool hard-rock/shred/metal amp that comes in at a sweet price. The R&D folks at Peavey have obviously been doing their homework, and even though the 3120 isn’t one of the company’s pricier signature models, it offers a level of performance that any pro player could appreciate. So, if you’re looking for badass tones, give this one some serious consideration. —Art Thompson
Peavey (601) 483-5365;
PRICE $1,319 retail/ $999 street
CONTROLS (Clean channel) Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble. (Rhythm channel) Gain, Volume, Bass Mid, Treble. (Lead channel) Gain, Volume, Bass Mid, Treble. Global Master Volume
POWER 120 watts
TUBES Four JJ EL34s, four JJ 12AX7s
EXTRAS Effects loop w/ send and return level controls, line out w/ level control, 3-position damping switch (tight, medium, loose), dual speaker jacks w/ impedance selector (4Ω, 8Ω, 16Ω), biasing test points.
SPEAKER Peavey 412EX; $499 retail
MAXIMUM MEASURED VOLUME 125 dB
WEIGHT 47 lbs (head)
KUDOS Well focused distortion tones. Loads of gain. Handy damping switch.
CONCERNS No master volume for the Clean channel.