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EVH 5150 Review and Buying Guide

EVH 5150 Review and Buying Guide

The modern heavy guitar tone would not be the same without the Peavey 5150. The amp first released in the early ’90s had many reissues, the latest being the EVH series. This article will provide an in-depth EVH 5150 review and guide to help you decide if this guitar amp is what you need.

Recently, EVH announced the EVH 5150 Iconic, a modern, not-too-expensive amp with handy modern features. Due to the many similarities between different EVH amps, this review will be based on the EVH 5150 Iconic model and how it compares with its predecessors.

My bottom line up front: The EVH 5150 series gets back to the root of classic heavy tone with the new EVH 5150 Iconic. Even though this amp series is not produced by Peavey and has different components compared to the traditional Block Letter 5150, it still has the aggressive high gain for which it is known.

The EVH 5150 Iconic, compared to its predecessors, has a tighter, more focused tone, a boost, and an improved noise gate – making it perfect for both modern and vintage heavy sounds.

EVH 5150 Iconic Specifics

EVH 5150 Iconic
  • 80W amp head powered by four 6l6 power tubes
  • Multi-stage hybrid preamp section powered by two ECC83 tubes
  • Two channels, green and red. Each with two voices and individual gain and volume control
  • Built-in reverb and 10 DB boost control
  • Shared 3 band EQ, global resonance, presence, and reverb control
  • Two-button footswitch, effects loop, dual output speaker output, ¼ power 
  • Wrapped in Black or Ivory textured vinyl, brushed aluminum front panel, and vintage style chicken head knobs 

EVH 5150 Iconic Pros

  • The ¼ power switch allows you to crank the amp gain without being too loud. Great for using at home or recording at a low volume
  • Overall, it’s a very flexible amp with many voicings fit for live shows and studio work.
  • The independent volume and gain knobs and reverb control give more control on the tone of each channel.
  • The built-in reverb and boost make it great for switching from rhythm to lead without extra pedals.
  • The noise gate eliminates the extra noise and works well for heavy rhythm players.
  • It’s very sturdy and can handle touring and long hours of playing.

EVH 5150 Iconic Cons

  • You need a similarly priced cabinet to bring out the tone of the amp head.
  • The red channel might be too hot and without dynamics for some styles.

EVH 5150 Iconic Series 80-watt Head - Ivory | Amazon

Designed by renowned amp engineer, James Brown, the 5150® Iconic® Series 80W Head is powered by four 6L6 power tubes and voiced by a complex, multi-stage hybrid preamp section anchored by a duet of ECC83 tubes providing all the fire power the modern guitarist needs in a simple to use format.

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03/07/2024 10:52 pm GMT

About EVH Amps

It took me many years of playing in rock bands and recording sessions and lots of research to understand the differences between the many 5150 amps, so I’ll try and make it easy for you.

5150, as you probably know, is also associated with Peavey and Eddie Van Halen. Eddie teamed up with the legendary Peavy engineer James Brown and designed the original 5150 Block Letter, named after the three letters ‘EVH’ written in the front.  This high gain amp changed everything for rock and metal guitarists as it was the first amp to satisfy everyone from rock to grunge up to death metal.

After the original release in 92,’ there have been many reissues, all of which maintained the now-iconic “5150 sound” – the high gain visceral tone that can go from aggressive to warm and heavy.

In 2004 Van Halen teamed up with Fender and launched his series of 5150 amps named EVH. The EVH 5150 Iconic is the latest installment of the series. The main thing to remember is that EVH amps are not produced from Peavy, so it’s normal to find different materials.

EVH amps share many similarities with the Peavey version of the 5150, now named 6150. Both amps series share the same core and have continued to bring new nuances to the classic design. You could shortly describe the Peavey amps as more oriented to the vintage 90s era tone while the EVH amps towards a more modern heavy tone.

The EVH 5150 Iconic Features 

EVH 5150 Iconic

The EVH 5150 Iconic is packed with features suitable for modern-day rock and metal guitarists.

The most useful features are the additional two voicings for each channel. The green/clean channel also has a crunch voice, while the lead channel has a ‘burn’ voice.

The Clean tone can be completely clean, but it gets dirty quickly by raising the gain or playing hard with your right hand. 

The crunch voice gives extra controlled gain to the clean sound allowing you to play some blues and rock n’ roll without making it too muddy or harsh. It’s not the typical crunch tone of an orange amp, as it’s heavier, but you can make it cleaner by playing with the guitar’s volume knob or your playing dynamics.

If you are playing a live show with both rock and metal songs, you need the versatility of having a good crunch tone that can turn into aggressive high gain later.  

The burn voicing is where Eddie’s love for gain is shown. If you are in the red channel, you already have a massive amount of gain. You can do heavy metal chugs and get the percussive warm mid-range and tail the distortion gives. The burn voicing adds an extra layer of gain to satisfy even the heaviest possible genres. 

For some modern metal guitarists focused on low tunings and extra heavy guitars, the burn voicing might be what you are looking for. 

The noise gate is a necessary feature when dealing with heavy guitars. The amount of noise it reduces it’s impressive. Also, a good noise gate affects the overall rhythm playing a lot, as you can feel it while playing palm-muted notes. The noise gate on the EVH 5150 Iconic is especially great for that.

The built-in reverb is good enough for most live performances where you need to kick in some reverb for leads or fit the band’s overall mix. However, if you are very serious about the tone, you could use your own favorite reverb pedal. 

The volume boost adds 10db to the amp making it easier to cut through the mix with your lead.  Having the boost available on the footswitch saves you the money of getting an additional boost pedal.

The ¼ power switch is probably the most helpful feature for casual players or practicing. It reduces the overall power, making it easier to achieve heavy tones at a low volume. If you are considering buying a high gain amp, vintage models often need a lot of volumes to get the best tone. With this amp, you can get that without needing to do that.

However, if you want to record the amp, it’s best to crank it up at full power as there are slight differences that a pro player can tell.

Overall the extra features make the 5150 Iconic a great choice for bedroom playing, live shows, and recording sessions. You can use it with great results without any additional pedals and still get yourself through a gig.

EVH 5150 Iconic Controls

EVH 5150 Iconic

The 5150 Iconic has all the classic 5150 controls and added ones for the features.

The three-band EQ is simple yet effective. Added to that are the classic presence and resonance controls that help you deal with the high and low end of the tone.  After doing the initial treble, mind, and boost settings, you can fine-tune the overall shape of the tone with these two commands.

Probably the most valuable controls are the individual gain and volume. Classic 5150 model only featured one volume control, limiting the amount of customization you could bring to a channel. In a live setting, individual controls are especially helpful.

Two very helpful controls are the reverb and noise gate. The reverb knob dictates the decay of the reverb. The more you put, the more tail the reverb will have and the bigger the room will sound. 

I especially like the noise gate control on this amp as it’s very responsive. Every player likes the noise gate set differently as It depends on the amount of gain and your playing style. You should easily find a good balance with this amp, as it’s built with the heaviest shredders in mind. 

EVH 5150 Iconic Tone

The amp’s tone is what you would expect from a 5150 in gain and character. However, compared to the classic 5150, this amp has a more crunchy-focused tone oriented.

Some players love the added note separation and crunchy nature of the EVH Iconic; others don’t. It depends a lot on what you are looking for in the amp. However, you can get great results for every heavy genre, both old and new.

Vintage high tone lovers will find some of the tones they are looking for in the red channel even though the sound is not as chaotic and aggressive as in the original models. Modern metal players generally like tight tones more, focusing on syncopated rhythm patterns rather than all-out power chords. 

What might bother some players is the extra compression and flatness of the red channel. Since there is a tremendous amount of gain, the tone becomes muddy quickly and loses the dynamics.

I like this new palette of tones, mainly about the improved note separation when playing chords at high gain. The warmth of the heavy muted tone might not be as good as the old model. It still sounds  “tube-like” but is just slightly more controlled.

The amps have a less low end on the green channel than you might expect from a 5150 but rather insists more on the mid-range. This is not a bad thing as from experience. I can assure you that after any recording session or during a live show, the sound engineer takes almost all the low end out of the guitar and leaves that range to the bass guitar.

EVH 5150 Iconic Alternatives 

EVH 5150 Iconic vs Peavey 6505+

Peavey 6505+

The modern-day Peavy equivalent of the 5150 is the Peavy 6505+.  This amp is an excellent choice if you want to go closer to the classic style, look, and tone while having plenty of modern features.

Even though they are very similar in design, the parts used on both amps are different, and some players believe Peavy to be more reliable.  This Peavy amp is generally brighter and more aggressive than the EVH Iconic. Both have a more focused tone since both are modern builds thought for old and more heavy genres. 

The EVH features built-in reverb, noise gate, and two extra voices per channel at a lower price. If you are not specifically into the tone of the 6505 +  would recommend the EVH 5150 Iconic. 

Peavey 6505 II 120W 2-channel Tube Head / Amazon

A tried and true standard for nearly every genre in metal, the 6505+ is an excellent, cost-effective choice for hardcore, thrash, or black metal.

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03/07/2024 10:17 am GMT

EVH 5150 Iconic vs PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti

PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti

Around the same price as the EVH 5150 Iconic is the modern PRS Mt Marke Tremonti signature amp. It’s a small size 7w/15w amp fit for playing high gain tones at a low volume at home or in the studio.

It features two channels and different gain stages that make it as versatile as the EVH 5150 Iconic. However, it does not have individual controls for each channel nor a noise gait and reverb. Tone-wise it’s more articulated than the EVH and has less general gain.

If you are looking for something small to play everywhere and still have great gravy tones, the PRS MT 15 is a great choice for you.

PRS MT15 Mark Tremonti | Reverb

The MT 15 is a commanding two channel amp with balanced aggression and articulation. Now upgraded with JJs 5881 power tubes, the MT 15 punches above its weight class with a large, bold sound, so you can dig in heavy with rhythms but also get singing lead tones out of one amp.

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EVH 5150 Iconic vs. Peavey 5150 Block Letter

The Block Letter is the original 5150 released in ‘92. It features the original Svetlana tubes and is the origin of the visceral 5150 tones.

The Block Letter has the original control, two channels, and no built-in reverb or controllable noise gate. Compared to the 5150 Block Letter, the EVH Iconic is much more versatile as it’s thought out for gigging musicians of modern times. However, the Peavey 5150 has a unique chaotic high gain tone that hasn’t been replicated in future models from EVH or Peavy.

Unfortunately, the Block Letter can only be found used. It can be much more expensive than the 5105 Iconic, depending on its conditions. If you are after the original 5150 tone, if you can find a reasonably priced  Block letter in good condition, I recommend you buy it.

EVH 5150 Review FAQs

Question: How do I Know What Kind of Amp to Get?

Answer: You should first consider the genre of music you want to play. For heavy genres, a high gain amp like the EVH 5150 is a great choice. You should then think about the size, volume, and power you can handle, depending on your budget and where you will play. The last thing to check is if your current gear is compatible with the amp.

Question: Where are EVH Amplifiers Manufactured?

Answer: Early EVH amplifiers were manufactured in Vietnam by Fender. Later on, Fender shifted all their production to Mexico.

Question: Can you Play Through Just an Amp Head?

Answer: You should have a cabinet speaker connected with the amp head as it produces no sound separately.

Final Thoughts on the EVH 5150 Iconic

The EVH 5150 stays true to Eddie Van Halen’s legacy of high gain amps with quality, very versatile feature-packed modern 5150 alternatives.

The amp has the aggressive visceral tone for which the series is known. However, it’s more crunchy and focused sounding compared to its predecessors. It can fit both vintage tone lovers and serve perfectly modern metal players.

It’s rare to find such a versatile quality, high-gain amp at a price point of lower than 1000$. I recommend you consider the EVH 5150 Iconic as it’s the most balanced sounding and reasonably priced 5150 model yet fitting for casual and serious players.

EVH 5150 Iconic Series 80-watt Head - Ivory | Amazon

Designed by renowned amp engineer, James Brown, the 5150® Iconic® Series 80W Head is powered by four 6L6 power tubes and voiced by a complex, multi-stage hybrid preamp section anchored by a duet of ECC83 tubes providing all the fire power the modern guitarist needs in a simple to use format.

Buy at Amazon Buy at Sweetwater
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/07/2024 10:52 pm GMT