Peavey ValveKing 112

Guitarists routinely debate the sonic qualities of class A and class AB amplifiers, usually coming to agreement that the former is better for blues and Brit pop, and the latter better for country and rock. So here comes Peavey with an amp that puts both operating classes under the control of a single knob. Swing the ValveKing’s Texture control to the left and you’re in class A. Turn it all the way to the right, and you’re in class AB. Dial it anywhere between these extremes and you get a blend of both classes. To fully appreciate the differences between the class A and class AB settings, you need to crank up the power section, as class A amps get their distinct sound by overdriving the power amplifier instead of the preamp. In class A, the tones are a little sweeter and more sparkling on the top, and the distortion comes on sooner and is more touch sensitive. In class AB mode, you hear (and feel) an increase in headroom and tightness, and the response is punchier and less crispy on

With the Clean channel Volume knob about halfway up in the fully class A setting, the ValveKing delivers a cool bluesy lead tone that cleans up perfectly for rhythm playing when you turn down your guitar. At higher Volume settings, the amp sings pretty nicely—and is quite loud—although I found myself constantly twiddling the Middle control in an attempt to mitigate some of the boxiness accompanying these sounds. The reverb is okay, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of bloom or surfy drip. (Peavey says the reverb has been greatly improved by the use of a much better tank in the units that are now shipping.)

The ValveKing’s Lead channel packs a lot of gain, and it’s also equipped with a Volume Boost function that increases the loudness by a pre-determined (non adjustable) amount. Activated via a front-panel button (or the optional footswitch), it kicks up the volume to let your solos rip though the mix. The Lead channel provides everything from mildly overdriven blues tones to heavier rock and classic-metal sounds, and the speaker holds together well when you’re going for maximum low-end chunk. Using the full class AB setting yielded the deepest and tightest tones, but due to the amp’s somewhat midrangy voice, eliciting a truly convincing scooped-mids metal tone proved difficult. It’s easy to get the gain and the bass and treble frequencies all together for this type of aggressive sound, but the Middle knob doesn’t notch deep enough to completely get there.

The ValveKing is currently the lowest-cost 50-watt tube combo on the planet, and while you have to put up with the absence of indicator LEDs and an included footswitch, it does give you the elements needed to craft a wide spectrum of tones. Factor in the unique Texture control, and players seeking a stage-ready amp that won’t take a big bite out of their wallet may find the ValveKing worthy of their allegiance.