Hands-On Review:Peavey Windsor Half Stack
Massive rock tone and crushing volume
By Jimmy Nichols
History is a funny thing. Some people speak of the past with awe in hushed, reverential tones. Others quickly glaze over and fall asleep. It’s just a hunch, but I’ll bet Hartley Peavey was in the latter camp. A self-described "tinkerer," he constantly—almost restlessly—seeks to improve, invent, and create, never settling for what’s already been done. It is in that spirit that the Windsor guitar head and cabinet were commissioned. The neo-Anglo Windsor guitar amp uses modern design and features to deliver a fresh take on the classic sound of English-bred guitar amplifiers.
The Windsor uses a tried-and-true tube brew of three 12AX7s in the preamp and four EL34s in the power amp. It’s a pure all-tube signal path without a hint of solid-state or digital technology to be found. The Windsor even uses old-fashioned transformers hand wound by an elderly gent who’s been doing it that way since hand-wound transformers were new technology. This single-channel circuit delivers 120 raging watts straight to a matching cab loaded with four special-design 12" Peavey speakers. In the realm of guitar amplification, it doesn’t get much more straightforward. But it’s the tweaks Peavey did to this basic tube foundation that really dial in the voice of this well-dressed amp.
In a sea of standard-issue chrome-and-black cosmetics, the Windsor sticks out like Nicole Kidman at a biker bar, and that’s a good thing. I love the two-tone black-and-cream color scheme, especially combined with the soft-toned, brushed gold finish of the front panel and name badges. The script font used for the Windsor badge is a classy touch, as is the sweet retro red jewel light that serves as a power indicator. The handle is securely attached, the corners are fitted with protectors, the chassis is heavy-gauge steel, and the vinyl covering is good and thick, so the Windsor should easily last through many years of garage rockin’ and club hoppin’.
The panel features easy-to-read black screen-print labeling. The knobs are black dome units with hexagon-sculpted sides for easy gripping and a simple white dot for level indication. And you’ll quickly notice those knobs go way past 10 or even 11. These babies go all the way to 12 and, believe me, it’s not just a total Spinal Tap gimmick. This is a seriously loud guitar amp. As its designer, John C. Fields, so aptly puts it, "The Windsor’s louder than three hells." So you know it’s about more than just looks.
When you’re ready to plug in, the Windsor gives you two options: one low-gain and one high-gain input. The low-gain input is actually a -6dB padded input, while the high-gain input just puts your signal straight into the cascading gain preamp. The two inputs share volume, 3-band EQ, and a Boost switch in the preamp section, as well as Master Volume, Presence, Resonance, and Texture controls in the output section with the effects loop I/O positioned in-between.
Those latter two controls have never been found on any guitar amplifier produced in England. Both operate post preamp and are original Peavey-patented innovations. I really love the Presence control, because of the high-harmonic emphasis it puts on overdrive tones. The Resonance control is also cool, increasing the natural resonance of the cabinet in the low-end to deliver a bigger bass kick. The Texture knob simulates the reaction of a Class A guitar amplifier by phasing out half of the power tubes and increasing output in the driver tube of the preamp. Together they extend the tonal abilities of the Windsor and make it way more than just a new amp modeled on a classic design.
Tone to burn
Through the low-gain input I was able to dial in a range of deliciously thick crunch and drive sounds that definitely boasted a classic ‘60s Brit flavor and really suited my mini humbucker-equipped solidbody. Even with the Boost switch kicked in, the Windsor remained responsive to my pick attack and changes in the guitar volume—always a good sign. Plugging into the high-gain input with my dual-humbucker axe was like hooking into a hot-headed banshee with the gain to out-scream any vintage British amp I’ve ever heard. Applying the Boost circuit and its EQ-independent midrange jolt gave me an absolutely terrifying sound perfect for ripping leads and pounding riffs. The more volume I fed it, the better it sounded too.
This is definitely an amp made to get out and run. The Windsor likes to be loud and that’s where its true character shows up. Unlike most of the tube amps that have rolled out of Peavey’s doors in years past, the Windsor is not a true metal amp. At its highest gain settings it will inarguably produce some seriously heavy sounds, but it’s not as tight, chunky, or modern-sounding as a 6505 or JSX. It falls somewhere between Peavey’s highly acclaimed and much-loved Classic series amps and the crunch channel on the Triple XXX. You could easily think of it as an evolutionary cousin of the Classic series with some major English mojo. If you’re looking for a rock ’n’ roll head with some vintage vibe that still lets you sound like you, the Windsor should be at the top of your list.
- 3 - 12AX7 preamp tubes
- 4 matched EL34 power amp tubes
- Single channel
- High and low inputs
- 3-band EQ
- Master Volume
- Patent-pending Class A-A/B Texture control
- Patented Resonance and Presence control
- Footswitchable gain boost*
- Footswitchable effects loop*
- 4-, 8-, and 16-ohm output
- *Footswitch optional
- Straight or slant design
- 4 - 12" Peavey Supreme XL speakers