Until now, consumer amp-modeling software has been developed by companies whose specialty was, well, software. Peavey is the first amp manufacturer to jump whole hog into the software pool. With decades of experience building amplifiers, the Mississippi company brings first-hand tube-tone knowledge to the table. Guitar legends from Eddie Van Halen to Joe Satriani have turned to them for signature sounds, and ask any pro about the company’s underrated Classic series. ReValver MKIII is Peavey’s launch into the world of virtual amplifiers, and it offers fresh perspectives on an increasingly popular guitarist’s tool.
ReValver installed easily into a Macintosh Power PC G5 and a Macbook Pro laptop. I ran the program both standalone, and as a plug-in in Ableton Live 7. For the G5, I interfaced with an M-Audio 1814 Firewire unit, entering the laptop through a Native Instruments USB Audio Konnect.
ReValver appears on your screen as a virtual drag-and-drop rack like Guitar Rig (Fig. 1). Amps include Peavey’s, 6505, 6505+, ValveKing, Classic 30, JSX and Triple XXX models. Other amps are not directly named, but alluded to either by name or visuals, such as “Flathill” with its Mesa Rectifier appearance, the Fender-ish “Bass 100,” the Vox replica “Fox,” the “Matchbox” miming the Matchless, and the Marshall duo of the “Bluesmaker,” and the “ACM 900.” Boutique models such as the “Homebrew 1 and 2,” and the “Le Petite” were developed exclusively for ReValver. Also available are separate preamp and power amp modules so you can mix a Fox preamp section with a JSX power amp, etc.
Calling up a preset amp model launches an appropriate speaker/mic combination in the Convolution Speaker Simulation module. Each of these speaker/mic configurations is modeled from recordings of the actual speaker cabinets, using a specific mic and mic position. You can choose the same cabinet with a different mic choice and placement if you wish. Convolution is CPU hungry so the software provides a button labeled Resample to reduce the module’s appetite while retaining most of the detail. In addition, ReValver offers a less CPU intensive, more tweakable, Speaker Construction Set module (Fig. 2). Here, you can individually adjust the width, height, and depth of the cabinet; the type and number of speakers; the mic model, and its distance and angle from the source. In both speaker modules you can adjust the highs, lows, and speaker distortion and crunch levels. You may have heard of speaker breakup, but still not be clear as to what these last two parameters mean. Peavey says they affect a complex combination of speaker parameters, and will likely be renamed in the final version. The Convolution module would be easier to use if all the 1x12, 2x12, etc. cabinets were listed together, instead of grouped in an esoteric system understood by the developers alone, but all the basic configurations are available and then some (8x12 anyone?)
Effects include distortions/overdrives, compressors/limiters, delays, reverbs, chorus, flanger, phaser, vibrato, attack decay, wah/filter, noisegate, EQ, and octave. These are divided into Stompboxes and Effects, indicating placement before or after the amp and speakers, but some—like delays, EQs, and flangers—will obviously work in either area. Other items in the effects section are definitively “post,” such as Stereo Widening, and Channel Delay, each effective in spreading out the stereo spectrum.
ReValver’s truly unique effect is actually not an effect on its own. VST Host (Fig. 3) is a module that hosts VST plug-ins you already own, allowing you to load them into the ReValver rack (one effect per VST module). Some of my favorite free plug-ins and Cycling 74 Pluggo effects worked great, providing a wealth of standard and freaky sounds from analog delay to bit reduction. Unfortunately, at press time, Native Instrument plugs such as Reaktor and Guitar Rig crashed the ReValver software, and while IK Multimedia’s Amplitube Jimi Hendrix opened, it did not allow any access to the IK program’s parameters. [Peavey is working to ensure most common plug-ins work seamlessly within the VST Host module, although the company states that loading an entire program such as Guitar Rig will over-stress the practical limits of most users’ computers.]
A Tools section offers two tuners, and some of the options that point towards Peavey’s distinctive take on amp modeling software. ReValver is, in some ways, geared towards tech heads—meaning professional engineers, or would-be amplifier designers. The signal splitter tool is pretty basic, allowing you to set up two different rigs running together in one patch, but items like the stereo and mono levelers, and a frequency analyzer will be more familiar to studio engineers than your average picker.
Other tools will appeal to professionals and punters alike. Modules that contain a single triode tube or a tone stack can be combined to build your own amps or preamps. Anyone can enjoy joining a Fox tone stack with a 12AX7 and a KT66, then adding a tweed 1x12 speaker to build a unique combo, while budding boutique builders will appreciate the fact they can access and alter plate loads, cathode resistors, and bias time-shift constants. This level of modification is extended within the preamp and amplifier modules, allowing you to alter the specs of the power supply, transformers, negative feedback loop, and more (Fig. 4). Audio Transformer Secondary Low Pass tweaking will no doubt be fun for some, but even a techno-peasant like yours truly can dig being able swap out the Basic 100’s 6L6’s with 6V6’s, and add a 1x12 cabinet to construct my own Fender Deluxe.
I tested the software with a 1965 Fender rosewood-necked Strat, a Fernandes maple-neck solidbody, and a Danelectro Pro. All the characteristics of each instrument came through: the warmth of the ’65, the spank of the Fernandes, and the semi-hollow throat of the Dano. The signature sounds of the classic amps modeled were also quite evident: the Marshall clang, Vox’s hollow chime, and the Fender warmth. To my ears and hands, all of the Peavey ReValver amps sounded and felt more like real amplifiers than any other software to date. The two elusive characteristics of a great tube amp—that slight give or sag, even in the cleanest mode, and the mild crunch that responds accurately and expressively to guitar volume levels and finger touch—are present in spades. And ReValver passed my most important amplifier test—all the models sounded great without reverb, because they exhibited the complex depth of a well-made tube amp. At times, I forgot I was playing through software. Most modeling software will give you a decent clean and an acceptable metal tone, but ReValver is the first that I would be comfortable playing in a blues band (though it would likely get me tarred and feathered by purists).
ReValver provides MIDI mapping of most parameters for live controllers and recording automation, and this function worked well with both my Novation controller keyboard, and in Live’s clip-automation mode. All was not rosy, however. ReValver lacks host sync for the effects (this feature is coming in an upgrade), and the presets were minimal, and uninspired. The manual is being worked on, and it will hopefully be clearer and more informative when it hits the streets. The delays and reverbs could be better sonically, and easier to tweak. The cluttered GUI doesn’t make for the most efficient workflow.
In fairness, Guitar Player was provided with an early version of this software, so keep in mind that many of the product’s bugs will be worked out over the coming months, and in future versions. The software is already stable (other than the Native Instruments conflict, ReValver never blinked). The important thing is that Peavey got the sound exactly right—straight out of the box. ReValver’s amp models might be the ones that make you leave the real thing at home.
PRICE $299 retail/$249 street
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS 1GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 1024x768 screen resolution, Mac: VST/AU host or soundcard, Windows: VST/ host or ASIO/WDM soundcard.
KUDOS Amps sound and feel like the real thing. Easy to use.
CONCERNS Effects don’t sync to host. Some effects could sound better.
CONTACT Peavey, (601) 483-5365; peavey.com