Peavey 6505: The Only Amp for Heavy Metal
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The Peavey 6505 has been one of the go-to choices for high-gain music since its inception almost 30 years ago. From Megadeth to van Halen, the list of bands who have used this amp is never-ending. Thanks to its 5 12AX7 preamp tubes and 4 GL6GC power tubes, you have 120 watts of stadium-filling power at your disposal. At almost 50 pounds, this amp weighs as heavy as it sounds. Thanks to its high and low gain inputs, two channels, and a shared 3-band EQ, you have a ton of freedom to sculpt your sound as you see fit - as long as your sound is on the heavy end of the sonic spectrum. This isn't your grandpa's Fender Twin! The Peavey 6505 is made to melt faces.
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The Peavey 6505 is meant for musicians who spend most of their time playing high-gain music like hard rock and heavy metal. It's definitely not the most versatile amp you can buy. Though, it will still perform adequately for lower gain genres like the blues thanks to its numerous tone-shaping features. However, don't expect Fender-style cleans to come out of this amp.
The 6505 has 120 watts of power, so you'll need to be very careful setting the volume. For home practice, setting the volume at 1 or 2 will suffice. A lot of 6505 users find this setting is just fine for practice at home. The amp doesn't really come alive until you get to at least 3 or 4, so your tone might be lacking a bit at these low volumes. If you want more consistent control over your tone, you always have the option of buying a separate attenuator, like the Rivera RockCrusher, to drive the 6505 to its limits at low volumes. Sadly, there aren't too many good options for attenuators due to the 6505's super high wattage. These attenuators are costly, so be sure that you won't disturb your neighbors if you forget to turn the volume down on this 120-watt beast. Otherwise, you might want the smaller version of this amp: the 6505 Mini Head. The Mini Head even comes with recording capabilities that its big brother doesn't have.
Style-wise, the Peavey 6505 isn't anything to write home about. Its styling has gone largely unchanged since 1992 when it was known as the Peavey 5150. Decked out in all-black tolex with white logos and silver plating, it's not exactly the most attractive-looking amp on the market. Black corner protectors add some rigidity to the sides of the amp. You'll be happy with the rubber feet as well, helping ensure it doesn't slide around when stacked on top of a speaker cabinet.
The 6505 is not a small amp by any means. It's about a foot tall and is almost 27 inches wide! It also weighs a ton thanks to its all-tube circuitry. At just under 50 pounds, carrying it around isn't exactly easy. However, it does come with a convenient carrying handle to make it more portable. Depending on how strong you are, you might just need two hands to carry this monster. Be careful! The last thing you want to do is drop a tube amp!
The 6505 is just pure, old-school tube technology. There are no effects, modeling, or digital trickery on this amp. Though we appreciate that the focus is on tone first and foremost, it still feels a bit dated. A mic-simulated USB jack for direct recording would be an extremely useful addition, for example. Even its little brother, the 6505 Mini Head, has this feature and more, so it doesn't seem like it would be too much of a stretch for Peavey to update this design with some convenience options.
The Peavey 6505 features two inputs: a high-gain input and a low-gain input. For maximum distortion, you'll want to use the high-gain input, which has double the gain of the normal input. Depending on your guitar, you might find that the high-gain input can be a bit too unwieldy, so you'll need to experiment a little to find the input which plays nicely with your gear.
Next to the inputs is the Channel switch, allowing you to toggle between Rhythm (clean) and Lead (high-gain) channels. The Rhythm channel is more subdued and has less gain on tap. The Lead channel gives you a ton of gain to play with, great for solos and singing legato riffs. A green LED will light up if the Rhythm channel is active. A red LED will light up if you've selected the Lead channel.
The Rhythm channel on the 6505 has a 'Bright' switch. Activating it will add some sparkle and enhance the treble response. Underneath the 'Bright' switch is a 'Crunch' switch. Activating it will boost the gain of the Rhythm channel, effectively turning it into a second Lead channel. Because the two channels are voiced differently, this gives you a bit more choice when it comes to choosing a high-gain tone.
The pre-gain knobs on the amp are the familiar 'gain' knobs you see on all amplifiers. Turn the active channel's pre-gain knob up, and your tone gets more distorted.
A familiar 3-band EQ gives you control over the low, mid, and high frequencies present in your tone. The 6505's EQ controls aren't super dramatic. They're voiced to accentuate the character of the amp, not turn it into something completely different. You can get a lot of mileage out of these EQ knobs, but it's still gonna sound like a 6505, even if you use it to play the blues.
You might know 'post-gain' controls by another name: volume. The higher you set them, the louder you get. Of course, as we touched upon in our Become an Amp Expert series, the higher you set the volume/post-gain, the more power amp distortion you add to your tone as well.
These controls aren't super common, so it's worth explaining what they do. The 3-band EQ of the 6505 shapes the tone in the preamp section, adding or subtracting their respective frequencies. The Resonance and Presence knobs shape the tone within the power amp section. Think of these two knobs as controlling the 'quality' of certain frequencies rather than the quantity.
Bass can be either tight and punchy, flabby and muddy, or anything in between. The Resonance knob controls the tightness of the bass response of your amp. Setting it to zero will filter out a lot of the lower bass frequencies for more punchiness. Set it at 10 and the bass response will be loose and flabby. The Presence knob behaves much like the Resonance knob, but it affects the treble frequencies. You can set the treble from shrill to subdued or anything in between.
Finally, the last controls on the front panel are a standby and power switch. The power switch obviously turns your amp on or off. 'Standby' mode is common on tube amps. It's a mode that serves to keep your tubes warmed up, but without generating any sound. When you're ready to play, flip the Standby switch and you'll be ready to rock. If standby is active, the Standby LED will illuminate.
On the back of the Peavey 6505, you'll find an effects loop. This is a super useful feature for guitarists with pedalboards. Because this is a high-gain amp, running your effects 'in front' is a recipe for muddiness. Putting your time-based effects in the loop will drastically clean up your tone and minimize noise in your signal chain.
There's also a preamp out. Though it's not a common feature, it can be useful for connecting to a recording console or audio interface. It won't sound great without some extra processing steps, however. We'll talk more about this in the Recording section of the review.
You'll also find a footswitch input, allowing you to connect a Peavey 2-Button Footswitch. With a footswitch, you can remotely change the channels of the amp from across the room.
Finally, there are two parallel speaker outputs and an impedance selector switch. You can connect up to two cabinets for even more volume! If you choose to use multiple cabinets, be sure that the amp can handle them. Consult the owner's manual to figure out how to do this safely.
There is just a single option for recording on the Peavey 6505: the preamp out. However, you won't be able to use it for recording as-is. You'll need to run the preamp output through some extra steps before it can sound like an actual guitar. Running it through a speaker cabinet emulator should be enough to get a usable tone.
Don't expect to record silently with this amp. You need a speaker connected to the amp at all times or else you risk damaging the electronics. If you want the ability to record silently, you will need a load box to simulate a speaker load and dissipate the energy that the amp generates. The Rivera RockCrusher we mentioned before isn't just an attenuator - it's a load box as well as a recording tool thanks to its XLR and line outputs. If you can sacrifice volume for recording versatility, then pick up the 6505 Mini Head instead. It comes with a built-in USB jack for connecting right to your computer.
It should come as no surprise that the Peavey 6505 sounds like a screaming freight train engine (in the best way possible). However, it's not a very versatile amp. Its Rhythm (clean) channel is notorious for being just 'adequate'. The magic of the 6505 is in its high-gain tones. For rock and heavy metal, this amp is hard to beat. Check out this demo that shows just how much you can shape the tone of the 6505 to make it sound at home in any hard rock or metal subgenre.
Over at Musician's Friend, reviewers rave about the brutal tones the 6505 can generate. For metal and rock, you can't do much better. Also of note is the quality of the amp itself. Its parts are all well-made and will last for a long time, even if you're a gigging musician. Complaints about the clean channel are pretty common with this amp. It's not as bad as some reviewers make it out to be, however. It's a usable clean channel, but you can't expect the world from it.
Reddit users are happy with the amp as well. One complaint that is fairly common is how the amp will always sound like a 6505 no matter how you set it. Its signature, iconic voice is a blessing and a curse. If you want to get even more sounds out of the 6505, you can always buy a separate EQ pedal like the Empress Effects ParaEQ for much more tonal control than what the amp alone gives you.
Note that there is an 'updated' version of the Peavey 6505: the 6505+. The 6505+ is largely the same as the original 6505, but it has separate EQ and Post Amp controls for each channel. Remember that the original 6505's controls are shared between channels, so the 6505+ gives you more tonal control. If you to want the ability to dial-in the Rhythm channel separately from the Lead channel, this upgrade is worth the price.
The Peavey 6505 is the metal and hard rock amplifier. If you're looking for screaming, high-gain tones, it's well worth the price of admission. Used by hundreds of iconic bands and professional guitarists, you're in good company with the Peavey 6505.