There is good news and there is bad news, and we’ll start with the good. The Peavey Classic 30 is a remarkable amp. I have played through it on several occasions and I have been blown away by the tones it can achieve. If you play rock and blues and hate pedals, it could very well be the one and only amp you would ever need. It can do glassy clean and warm overdrive and sounds good with neck, middle and bridge, single-coil and humbucker.
However, the Classic is the exception that proves the rule: that Peavey’s products suck. I didn’t like them in the early 90s, when the 100 or 120 watt Ultra heads were the standard backline provided by local sound companies. I disliked the sticky distortion and the dead clean sound. But I hated the footswitches even more. Whoever designed that footswitch could never have been within spitting distance of an actual stage. It’s such a stupid design that I can’t even fathom it. First of all, you have three tiny switches crammed together in a unit that is about as wide as an average man’s foot. But the most important switch, the one that actually, you know, switches between distorted and clean sounds, is in the CENTER! The consequences of this do not wait to make themselves known: you come crashing into a quiet, clean section with massive distortion just because you couldn’t tap-dance the gorram thing into switching to your clean sound. And what happens then? The clean section gets busier, louder, there is a massive crescendo, until it’s your turn in the spotlight, for that classic Big Rock Chord:
Thank you, but no thank you.
The most embarrassing part of this is that I ignored every warning signal my brain was firing at me, and went ahead and bought one. Indeed, I bought a 60-watt Peavey Ultra 2 x 12″ combo in 1999. The footswitch design hadn’t changed a bit, but at least the upgraded version sounded better than the old one. I was even happy when I brought it home and fired it up to brighten the Saturday afternoon for my new neighbors. The bliss lasted two hours, because that’s how long I got before the amp blew up the first time. I immediately took it back to the shop to get it fixed, and two weeks later, the aluminium strip on the front came off.
I lost track of how many times I had to take it back to the shop, but it was probably seven all in all. It was an impossible situation, because you cannot get new tubes on warranty more than you can take a car back to the dealer just because it ran out of gas. Still, the repair guy was amazed at how it kept eating tubes on me. They acknowledged that it was abnormal, but could not do anything besides help me change tubes and fuses every time it blew up.
In all honesty, I think I went against my character and selected Peavey over Marshall because I was cheap. A Marshall with comparable specs would have been a couple of thousand crowns more expensive. Boy, did I delude myself! I easily paid twice that difference in repair bills during the four years I put up with this piece of crap.
The conclusion is a simple one: when shopping for amps, do your research and follow your gut instinct rather than your wallet. As far as I know, no big-name guitar players plug into Peaveys. Perhaps there is a reason for that. All I know is that I will never buy another Peavey product for as long as I play guitar. It is just a crying shame that the Classic is so good. It deserves to have a better brand name associated with it.