At one point in time, the Peavey Bandit was the best selling amp in the world and those early models are still the go to workhouse amps for many. Peavey’s Transtube based amplifiers, which per Peavey marketing are carefully designed to clip at every stage that a tube amp would clip at, have a fairly large cult following. Recently, Peavey revamped the line adding the Bandit 112 with a throw back look (love it or hate it, Peavey black and silver cosmetics are instantly recognizable) and some sweet tonal options.
The 80-watt Peavey Bandit 112 features two channels, each with dedicated bass, middle, and high controls. Channel one is labeled clean and additionally features a level control and a three position voicing switch offering Vintage, Classic, and Modern coloration of the channel while Channel two, labeled lead, is the high gain channel and again offers three voicings: Classic, Modern, and High Gain. Additionally, on the front panel is a single control for the amp’s digital reverb and a level knob to control the Bandit’s foot switchable boost, a welcome new feature to this generation of Bandit. On the back panel, the amp sports an effects loop, speaker output jack (which doesn’t kill the internal speaker and ups the amp to 100 watts), and the Transtube Resonance and T Dynamics controls. The resonance control is a three-way switch with tight, medium, and loose settings which control the amps low end while the T Dynamics allow operation at 25%, 50%, or 100% power.
To audition the amp, I lined up three vastly different guitars to really push the amp into several distinct tonal categories: a Strat style SX SST57, the 335 inspired Highland Royal HEG-500 with GFS Mean 90’s, and a dual humbucker Indie Shape Total Natural. On the clean channel, the Vintage voice takes a stab at the Fender clean tone with an extended high end and tight and slightly attenuated low end, Classic features a flatter high end voicing with stronger mid range emphasis, while Modern takes the Classic voicing and boosts the low end and overall level considerably. Boosting the gain resulted in an extremely natural and tube power amp-like breakup. With a moderate output guitar, things get a bit hairy around noon to a nice moderate bluesy breakup from 3 O’clock up to full. Though I should mention, even with the amp set to 25% eliciting breakup from the clean channel is a high volume affair. While all three bands of eq vary in effectiveness based on the selected voicing, the mid range control has the most impact by far and I felt when boosted much past noon dominated the sound in some cases. Though the manual boosts a passive eq, the mid range control has such a pronounced effect that it feels much more like an active control. All three guitars performed beautifully with the clean channel which, once dialed in, allowed the natural tones from each guitar shine.
To my great surprise, giving the amp some volume improved the tone substantially...the natural compression and breakup of the clean channel resulted in an excellently dynamic and spanky tone.
While the lead channel has a more modern breakup characteristic with a tight and focused low end, with the three voices and effective eq, the lead channel covers a ton of ground providing a comfort zone across multiple genres. Like the clean channel, the mid range control has a very pronounced effect and I found leaving it around noon yielded the best results. The Classic and High Gain settings actually share a bit in common tonally with the gain at around 2 O’Clock on the Classic setting, sounding pretty close to the High Gain voicing with the Gain around 8 O’Clock. However, the modern voicing sounds very different with a huge midrange scoop geared towards thumping out some palm muted pain. With some guitars, notably ones loaded with single coils, there was a bit of fizzyness at bedroom volumes and I had a tough time dialing in the mids without creating an artificial sounding upper mid range peak which was quickly fatiguing. Also, the amp is a bit noisier than I expected with a low level hum present even when using a humbucker equiped guitar.
To prepare for some upcoming gigs, I cranked up the amp in my project studio to get used to the controls at performance volume. To my great surprise, giving the amp some volume improved the tone substantially. The slight fizzyness of the lead channel was gone and the natural compression and breakup of the clean channel resulted in an excellently dynamic and spanky tone. However, I was getting some pretty bad chassis rattle which was unacceptable to me. After a bit of experimentation, I realized the culprit was the metal plate displaying the Peavey logo. First I tried to tighten it up to see if that would fix it. No dice. I remembered I had some stainless steel neoprene washers in the garage from another project (steel disc with a rubber coating on the back side) which were the perfect diameter. After unscrewing the plate and adding the washers, the rattle was gone. Excellent!
So I slugged the Bandit along to a couple performances. At around 40 pounds, the amp is fairly portable but might require a dolly for large parking lots. The first was a Church gig. This group's goal is extremely low stage volume letting the house system control the mix; they prefer me to run direct when I play with them. I used an SX SST57 Stop Tail and the amp was run low volume-wise and we used the speaker simulated output to feed the board. The amp sang beautifully and was fairly responsive to volume knob changes, allowing me to go from a cleaner rhythm sound to lead with my guitar's pot. Sound through the house system was good as well. I caught one of the sound guys looking at the back of the amp for tubes.
Next up was an outdoor performance in a four piece modern jazz group using my SX SST57 and Highland Royal HEG-500. I had no issues being heard and was only running the amp at 50% power with the levels for both channels around noon. In a live setting, the boost functionality came in extremely handy giving me just the right amount of oomph to put an exclamation point on my solos. Too sweet!
While not the tonal chameleon that many modern modeling amps aspire to be, the Bandit 112 sounds darn good and is versatile enough to cover a wide variety of gigging situations with power to spare and is an excellent choice for the gigging musician needing a relatively small but loud and reliable amp.
Price: ~$300 USD
Pros: Good tones, nice feature set, enough power to gig.
Cons: Amp needs to be cranked beyond bedroom levels for the best tones. A bit noisey.