Hands-On Review:Peavey TransTube Amps
Punch-packin’ little powerhouses with flair and flexibility
By Tobey Aichen
The Peavey TransTube Rage 258, Envoy 110, and Bandit 112 guitar amps incorporate all the benefits of modern solid-state technology with none of the drawbacks. On the plus side, Peavey’s engineers have really nailed tube-style response and distortion in lightweight, maintenance-free, affordable, reliable, powerful combos with a wealth of tonal options. On the down side...there is no down side. The thin, harsh-edged, or cartoonish tones that sometimes emanate from low-end solid state amps are entirely, blessedly absent.
I was beginning to think there was some kind of corporate conspiracy to keep low-priced amps that sound truly good out of the hands of fiscally challenged guitar players. The technology’s been there for years but until now almost every little solid state amp I’ve played has left me wondering, "How would that sound on a real amp?" But TransTube changed all that.
So...does Peavey’s TransTube technology actually use any tubes? In a word, no. But that’s not a bad thing. Since it doesn’t use tubes, it’s a much tougher and more reliable system that requires no maintenance. TransTube technology emulates the high output, warmth, and reaction of tubes with incredible accuracy. The preamp actively tailors the gain level while the power amp responds with natural compression that increases with the amp’s volume, just like a tube amp. But the coolest thing about the TransTube circuitry is that it’s not just sales hype–it actually works. The TransTube amps not only sound like real tube amps, they sound like real good tube amps.
When I plug into a 16-pound amp with an 8" speaker that costs less than a couple of tanks of gas, I don’t expect much. So when I plugged my Peavey HP Signature EX into the Rage 258, I was completely floored! Here was an amp that sounded not just competent for practice, but actually honkin’ good.
The tone is shockingly substantial and chunky with amazingly fat bottom end, thanks in large part to the super heavy-duty Blue Marvel 8" speaker. And this little sucker is LOUD. I’ve never heard 25 watts put to more efficient use in generating sheer volume.
A front-panel switch lets you choose between Stack, Vintage, and Modern tone settings. The Vintage setting gives an impressively big-sounding, blackface-type tone, the Modern setting is rich with upper harmonics, and the Stack tone is impressively Townshendian. I’d have been happy with any one of those tones but having the three options is really a luxury. Two channels with pre and post gain plus a headphone out and aux in for playing along with your favorite CDs or MP3s make the Rage 258 the perfect all-around practice amp.
Like all three of these amps, the Envoy 110 is a real looker sporting a vintage vibe, screw-on oval logo plate, chrome knobs, multiweave grille cloth, black leatherette covering, metal-reinforced corners, and heavy-duty grip rubber handle. It’s a two-channel amp that gets loud in a heartbeat. I was amazed that 40 watts could generate that kind of volume.
The Envoy 110’s three lead voicings are very sophisticated and convincing, aided by a 10" super-heavy duty Blue Marvel speaker. The Modern voicing is tight and sparkly, and the High Gain is a real psyche-rending terror. But my favorite was definitely the Classic voicing, which was bold and round and uncannily tube-like.
The heavy hitter of this bantam-weight trio is the Bandit 112, tipping the scales at a lithe 45 pounds. With a Sheffield 1230 12" speaker driven by 80 watts, this little bruiser packs a pile-driving punch. It’s got plenty of swat for any gig and even includes a switch on the back to operate at 50% and 25% power, so you can get the amp breathing heavy without rupturing any tympanic membranes.
The Bandit 112 shares the Envoy 110’s tone circuitry, which includes clean channel voicings: Vintage, Classic, and Warm. The Vintage voicing generates a crisp, fresh timbre that’s not brittle, while the Classic is a rounder, bluesy tone. And when you set this thing to Warm on the clean channel, it comes alive with a tone and responsiveness I couldn’t distinguish from real tubes.
Added pro features like speaker-simulated direct out with level control; Loose, Medium, and Tight damping switch; effects loop; external speaker out; and footswitch jack make this amp a viable alternative for the professional player. At a third the going price for amps with these capabilities, it’s a steal.
I loved all three of these amps, but the one that made my socks go up and down was the Rage 258. It’s definitely head and shoulders above any ultralight amp I’ve seen. I am deeply impressed at the quality/cost ratio of all these TransTube amps. Peavey has really gone to bat for big talents with small bank accounts.
Features & Specs:
- 25W RMS
- 8" super-duty Blue Marvel speaker
- 2 channels
- 3-band EQ
- Tape/CD aux input/direct out
- Pre and post gain knobs
- Master volume
- Stack/Modern/Vintage voicing switch
- Headphone jack
- 16 lbs.
- 19-1/4"W x 15-1/2"H x 9-1/2"D
Envoy 110 and Bandit 112 shared features:
- 2 footswitchable channels
- 3-band EQ per channel
- Vintage/classic/warm switch on clean channel
- Classic/modern/high gain switch on lead channel
- Pre and post gain on lead channel
- High gain and low gain inputs
- Master reverb and boost
- Footswitch jack
- 10" super-duty Blue Marvel speaker
- Simulated speaker out
- Headphone jack
- 21 lbs.
- 18"W x 16-1/4"H x 9-1/2"D
- 12" Sheffield 1230 speaker
- Simulated speaker direct out with level
- 25%, 50%, 100% power level selector switch
- Loose, tight, and medium damping switch
- Effects loop
- 45 lbs.
- 23-3/4"W x 20-1/4"H x 11-3/4"D