If you visit any guitar discussion boards, you’re likely to find 2 types of guitarists: the tube traditionalists and the digital devotees. The debates play out like politicians from rival parties often resorting to personal attacks as the tension escalates. When I started reading the prerelease hype that Peavey was going to throw their hat into the digital ring, I was more than a little intrigued. After all, their Classic 30 is a highly regarded blues and rock combo and the 6505 (formerly the 5150) has plenty of fans in the heavy metal and modern rock groups. As soon as the demo was available, I downloaded it and put it through the paces. While the only version available to demo at the time of this writing was the flagship MKIII, I’ll also be discussing what you will and won’t get with the slightly less featured HP version.
I installed the application on my personal lap which is a Dell 9300 with a 2 GHZ Intel Processor and 2 GB of ram with an EMU 1616M breakout box and cardbus for audio. I should note that I use this machine for everything from recording and web design to surfing the web and playing games. It is by no means a dedicated box. Installing the application was extremely fast and painless and I was up ready to go in literally less than 30 seconds. Revalver runs as a standalone application or as a VST effect within a DAW allowing super easy reamping. Additionally, Revalver can function as its own VST host allowing you to use your favorite plus ins if you so desire. Excellent! Anxious to get started, I launched the stand alone version of the app.
Revalver MKIII offers 15 configurable amp models, six of which are models of their own amps (only the six Peavey models are available on the HP edition) and the rest cover the standard fair from all the big manufacturers as well as a few original models. You can load an amp or a preamp and power amp separately to mix and match tones. Cool. Even cooler is the ability to tweak the circuit design of the amp from something as simply as changing tube types to completely altering the circuit offering nearly infinite variations (not available on the HP edition). There’s a convolution driven cabinent/mic emulation section offering a multitude of variations and the ability to custom design your own virtual cabinet and a convolution reverb processor Peavey has offered the most tone shaping power that I’ve seen to date in amp modeling software, but how does it sound?
The uncluttered interface allows you to add modules one by one to construct a virtual signal chain. (figure 1) I loaded up the Classic 30 module and began twiddling dials. Immediately, I was faced with the latency which has driven me away from software modeling in the past. Wait a minute, the EMU 1616m lets me manually set the latency so I lowered it all the way down to 2ms and gave it a whirl. Yuck! Tons of digital distortion, clicks and pops. I raised it up to 4ms and…BAM, we’re good to go. A smile curled my lips as I dialed in a just barely breaking up tone with tons of sustain and very natural decay. Most impressive was the very subtle sag which felt incredibly authenticate. Very, very promising; what else does this baby have under the hood? Hello, a Tube Screamer emulation (Greener)? I added the module and rearranged it to feed the amp module and the tone was there, spot on. At this point, I had to play for a while as the tone was really inspiring and far better than I expected.
Stoked, I substituted the 6505 amp module to test out the high gain tones. Holly smokes! Tons of thump with just the right amount of high end sizzle. Letting chords ring out resulted in an extremely realistic decay with just a hint of feedback, just like the real deal. All the Peavey models delivered an extremely organic tone, but when I tested out Basic 100 module (based on the Fender Bassman and not available in the HP version) my ears really perked up. Everything is there; the juicy tube sag, the biting highs, the growly midrange and the loose but not flabby lows. Trimming back the input cleaned up the low end without significantly altering the overall gain and tone. Outstanding! Coupled with the Greener and one of the Deluxe convolution cabinet flavors and you are in hot Texas blues heaven. Things got even better by adding a tremolo kicking the tone over the top.
Finally, I wanted to try out the Tweak feature. I’ve always wanted this kind of control over an amp modeler. Clicking on the “edit this module” button launches a graphical interface displaying a conceptual flowchart of the amplifiers circuit (figure 2). By clicking on the different component icons, an interface is launched allowing adjustment of a bunch of detailed parameters such as tube type and character. Randomly changing component values definitely has an effect of the tone and varies from subtle to substantial. There is even a group of audio analysis tools to allow the would be amp designer to really fine tune their virtual design. While initially excited about this feature, actually attempting to use it is a little bit overwhelming and will most likely be more useful to people who are more intimately familiar with the inner workings of amplifiers.
The tones across the board are tactile, responsive, and sound absolutely fabulous. It can be as smooth or as raw as you want it and offers enough control to keep even the most obsessively compulsive tweaker busy for a long, long time. I did experience some performance issues when using a large amount of modules, specifically when using the convolution reverb module, and as a result had to slightly increase my audio interface latency. However, this has more to do with my system than the performance of the application. I highly recommend downloading the demo and giving it a spin. The Basic 100 and the Classic modules alone offer enough tasty tones to justify the price of the flagship Revalver MKIII version in my opinion. The rest is just very tasty icing on an already delicious cake.
Price: MKIII ~$250 USD HP ~$69 USD
Pros: Incredible tones, extremely versatile tone shaping toolkit
Cons: Fairly powerful computer required