Pros: Volume and Versatility
Cons: Horrible instruction manual. No effects loop.
Peavey isnt kidding around with this one: The Peavey Penta Head (4x12 cab also availablesorry, no combo yet) is a muscle-bound noise machine that doesnt goof around. No effects-laden gearhead maven this: you want noise, you get noise, five different kinds, as below. And talk about headroom. . . .
Listing for $1,599 (street ballpark $1,300), the Penta (why Penta? more in a few seconds) delivers 140 watts of oomph!!! at 4, 8 and 16 ohms, which is enough to melt small Volkswagens (or do you say Vee-Dub!--you gotta love those commercials) or explode illegal arms factories at a safe distance. This well constructed by slightly unbalanced head should be able to take plenty of abuse and, with this power (4 EL34s and 4 12AX7s) will fill anything but an arena. Except for the kinda chintzy footswitch, this machine screams quality.
I said no bells and whistles, and I meant no bells and whistles (with one exception). The front has on/off and standby switches, the magic Penta knob, then Presence, Master Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Gain and a High Gain Input (for regular everyday guitars) and Low Gain Input (for guitars with high output levels). Thats it. No reverb, chorus, delay, multiple channels, phasers on stun switches, nothing.
The reverse has an input for the footswitch, another magic Penta knob for the footswitch, two speaker output jacks, an impedance selector, ground, power cord plug, and fuse. No fancy effects loops, line in/line out, and other assorted mayhem that you generally see on a head this expensive.
This doesnt sound like hell of a lot for your 1,600 clams, so what do you get besides the 140 watts of volume? The key is the Penta switch, which creates five different types of amps (with five different symbols) and is the whole point of this machine. The hopelessly inadequate manual doesnt deign to tell you what they are, so going clockwise, you get 1) Tree, a clean sound, 2) Sheriffs Badge, which is clean with more high-end and some scooped mids 3) Bull, a high gain channel with lots of mids 4) Cactus, more high gain especially on the treble, and 5) Mud Flap Girl, with tons of oversaturated highs and lows and nicely scooped mids and lots and lots of sizzle, if you like that sort of thing.
By twisting this knob and with judicious use of the tone controls you can create anything from classic blackface blues to modern high gain crunch to more classic Plexi Brit rock to some metal monstrosities and anything in between. A little imagination and you can craft anything rock tone you need with the power youve always wanted.
Bottom line, this is a no-frills high-volume boutique amp. Its plug-and-play for power heads. The five-way Penta switch provides a great deal of flexibility sound-wise. But this isnt perfect. As I said, the manual is hopelessly inadequate and I mean inadequate. You have to really experiment with this and they really could have told you what they were trying to achieve with each of the channels. Next, the lack of different channels means that you may have to mess with the tone and volume controls on the fly while in performance because theres only obviously only one setting possible with the single channel. Finally, the lack of effects loops and line in/out have obvious problems and an amp this expensive really ought to have those features.
This is a bit of nitpicking, though. The Peavey Penta has a great deal to offer tone heads. While I prefer the Peavey JSX as well as the Mesa Road King and Lone Star, this is a very high quality amp and will make a lot of players very happy.
Here are my other amplifier reviews:
Marshall Super 100 JH
Peavey Classic 30 Combo
Crate Power Block
Roland Micro Cube
Mesa 5:25 Express
Mesa Stiletto Ace
Fender Cyber Twin
Line 6 Vetta II Combo
Mesa 5:50 Express
Line 6 Spider III 75
Mesa Lone Star Combo
Vox Valvetronix AD60VT
Mesa Stiletto Deuce
Mesa Triple Rectifier Head
Fender DSP 65
Peavey Triple XXX Head
Fender Super Sonic 1x12 Combo
Hughes and Kettner Switchblade 50 Combo
Fender MH 500 Metalhead
64 Fender Vibroverb Custom Blackface
Mesa Dual Rectifier Roadster
Peavey Penta Head
Peavey JSX Joe Satriani Signature Head
Line 6 Spider II Head
Crate Acoustic CA30
Line 6 Flextone III Plus
And you may also be interested in a few books such as:
Hugo Pinksterboer Tipbook Amplifiers and Effects
Ritchie Fliegler Amps: The Other Half of Rock and Roll
Michael Ross Getting Great Guitar Sounds: A Non-Technical Approach to Shaping Your Personal Sound