Monday, March 13, 2017

EVH 5150 LBX Review

Eddie Van Halen! The name is synonymous with great rock tone. Other than maybe David Gilmour and Jimi Hendrix, Eddies tone has been talked about and studied probably more than any other guitarist in history. It's a huge massive guitar sound that is larger than life and the EVH 5150 amps are currently some of the most popular amps in the world. Eighties shredders love these amps of course, but a lot of modern high gain users love them and I've been noticing them on a lot of country players stages as well.

A little history on the 5150 amps for those that don't know. We all have heard the story about Eddie's famous Marshall and using the variac. In the mid 80's Eddie started using a Soldano SLO100 live and in the studio. He really like the sound of both the Soldano and the Marshall. No one really knows what happened behind the scenes but Eddie struck a deal with Peavey to build his new signature amp the 5150. It was so close to the Soldano design that Mike Soldano started to sue Peavey and Eddie but Peavey is a huge corporation with loads of cash and lawyers and Mikes lawyers told him to drop it or be buried in debt. Eddie and Peavey then revised the amp for the 5150 ii. When Peavey's quality control left something to be desired Eddie left and struck a deal with Fender and the EVH brand was born. The EVH 5150 III has already gone through quite a few tweaks since it's introduction. There is a 100 watt USA built three channel version, the stealth version (which adds the resonance knob) the new el34 version, an extremely successful 50 watt "mini" head and combo (which adds power scaling) and now two LBX versions.

15 watt "lunchbox" amps have become huge thing in our industry promising great tube tone at lower volumes for at home playing and gigs that are volume sensitive. The LBX packs a ton of features into a small package for someone who may want flexibility in an amp but not need 100 watts of power and three independent channels. The LBX features include an effects loop, switchable 4/8/16 ohms to match the cabinet, presence and resonance knobs (bright and bottom end), along with a 1/4 power switch. All at a fraction of the price.

A friend of mine has the 50w EVH 5150 and its a shockingly versatile amp. So when I saw a great deal on a new LBX popup I couldn't resit. This too has also proven to be a surprisingly versatile piece of gear. While there are two channels, you don't have separate volume control over them and so there can be a volume mismatch. Really while being very versatile you are looking at setting up a single sound to play through but it's a damn nice sound. The Blue channel will be more than enough gain for most people but Red channel is like liquid molten lava gain and can be addictive. It is a favorite of modern shredders everywhere. 

So lets answer some common questions

Is it loud enough to gig with? YES! Gig volume is the subject of some debate. But wattage is pretty simple. 10% is half the volume, so to get half of the volume of 100 watts you have jump down to 10 watts, for 50 watts you have to go down to 5 watts. There is also the question of speaker cabinets a 4x12 is louder than a 1x12 since your moving more air. At 15 watts into a 4x12 It won't be as loud as a 100 watt but it can get plenty loud enough on a 4x12 making it great for fly dates and small club gigs.

What about clean headroom? Headroom for those who don't know is how long the amp stays clean before it breaks up. I don't think you buy this amp for clean sounds, that being said if you want to play clean at low volumes this amp has a nice clean sound to use with pedals. But WHEN it breaks up is very dependent on the pickups. My Duncan APS2's break up before my EMG-SA's and a JB is obviously going to breakup before a vintage sounding PAF. If you need a dedicated clean tone check out the new LBXII which has a separate clean and dirty channels.

How well does it clean up with the guitar's volume knob? Well enough, again it depends on the pickup but at 12 o'clock on the blue channel (which in this amp is still a lot of gain) it cleans up just fine when you roll down the volume 

How does it sound at bedroom levels? Perfect, my place is not huge and is close to my neighbors. My wife can take a nap while I'm playing through a 2x12. It does sound better when turned up but you can practice quietly.

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How close does this get to the "brown sound"? A lot of Eddie's sound is in his hands, his pick attack and swing in his note placement. If you've got the chops you can use a lot of different equipment. Some people think of the "brown sound" as the first Van Halen album while others point to 1984. But to answer that question look at Pete Thorn's Eruption series on youtube. Damn that's close. Also if you throw in some delay and chorus in the loop it can easily cop the the tone from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

Does it Djent? Seriously? Are you asking me that? haha Well Misha Mansoor seems to think so. I do have one 6 string strung down to low B and the Red channel on the  LBX handles modern down tuned riffage with ease.

If you need a clean pedal platform to gig with this really isn't your amp. If your main sound is 80's or beyond high gain and you'd like something for lower volume and the occasional pick up jam you can't go wrong with the EVH LBX. And for the price of these a lot of people will pick one up just to have laying around. 

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