REVIEW: Peavey Windsor Studio Class A Tube Amp

Peavey-Windsor-StudioWell, I have to send out a huge Thank You to EGR reader Jarrod Perkins, who was kind enough to submit the following review of Peavey’s new tube amp.

Peavey’s entire Windsor line continues to garner great reviews, and I’m happy to see that Jarrod’s experience was no exception––with boutique Class A’s running in the thousands of dollars, it seems incredible that Peavey is selling these beauties for just under $400.

Thanks again, Jarrod. And without further ado…

Before the Purchase

I had been in the market for a new amplifier for a few months, as my Fender Blues Junior just wasn’t cutting it for me anymore. The Fender had a nice smooth tube sound, but tended to record very mid-dy, could not achieve a very high gain (not that it was supposed to), and had a broken reverb unit. The things I was looking for in an amp were:

A. A single 12“ speaker

B. A recording line out

C. The ability to get a good crunch at low volumes

D. A sub $500 price tag

Tubes were optional, although I had grown to love the gritty tube break-up sound. But I started playing guitar in the 80’s where a solid state Crate was all the rage. I do lots of home recording at all hours (hence the low volume requirement) , and play a handful of live gigs on electric guitar. I am a songwriter before a guitarist, so you must excuse the poor playing in the following audio clips. 🙂

I tested out and/or researched quite a few amps before I settled on the Peavey. A few Fenders which were all OK but didn’t blow me away. A Line 6 Spider that had tons of features but the tone just sounded… well, fake. A Mesa Boogie that was too high gain for my liking, a Vox Valvetronix that wasn’t bad but had too many buttons, etc… I read the description of the Peavey Windsor and thought ”Wow, that sounds exactly like what I’ve been looking for!“ The only downer is that no stores in my area stocked it, so I had to order it unplayed.

Plugging In

Peavey-Windsor-Studio-FrontI got the amp three days later and unboxed it. The first thing I noticed is that it was much bigger than my Blues Junior. However it wasn’t too heavy and the handle seemed very sturdy AND comfortable. I plugged it in and let it warm up for a minute in standby (a feature my Fender did not have).  When I turned it on, I got a few weird hums and pops (the power tube wasn’t properly seated, an easy fix with no more problems).

The first thing I noticed upon hitting a chord is that this guy has ALOT more gain than my Fender did. With the ”pre“ volume on 4 and master only on 1, I got quite a bit of crunch. I had to have the ”pre“ on 8 or 9 on my previous amp to get this sound.

Another immediate sound difference I noticed was the decrease in bass from my old amp. The Windsor is an open backed amp, so I had to crank the bass up to 11 (12 is the max) to get the sound I like. I tried the reverb, and while it at least worked, it really leaves something to be desired. It just sounded kind of cheap and ineffective. Luckily, I normally don’t use much reverb, or at least add it in later on recordings.

The amp also comes with a footswitchable ”preamp boost“ (no footswitch is included, although I had a generic one lying around) which I was excited about for live playing. However, I was initially disappointed with the boost. I had a great tone going before the boost but the instant I hit the switch, it’s like someone turned the Mid control up to 100. There is no way to adjust the EQ of the boost (it’s not a separate channel), so you either like it or you don’t. The good news is the first time I played the amp live, the boost sounded PERFECT. I guess Peavey knew what they were doing after all. For studio playing, I find myself always using the amp non boosted, which can get you some amazing tones.

A Closer Look

There are a couple of cool features on this amp I haven’t discussed. The first is an XLR out with built-in mic simulator. This can be used for recording or put into a PA system, but it does not silence or change the tone of the amp (in theory). That’s good, but what if I do want silent recording?

Peave-Windsor-Power-SpongeThat leads me to my next feature, which is my favorite thing about the amp: the Power Sponge. This is basically the same feature that the Princeton Recording Amp has (for $600 more). It allows you to turn the actual volume down as low as you want without affecting your tone at all. So you can run your XLR out to a recorder while basically silencing your amp (it won’t 100% silence it, but it’s so quiet it wouldn’t wake a sleeping baby in the same room).

I’ve found that the Power Sponge seems to do almost nothing until it gets close to 20% power, then it rapidly decreases the volume. When I do this & record with the XLR out, I said it doesn’t change the amps tone ”in theory“. What I mean by that is the mic simulator DOES give you a different sound, but it is more in the EQ than the tone. The sound in my recorder is deeper and bassier than what was previously coming out of my speaker.

The last feature is one that tubeheads will really like: the ability to interchange power tubes from  EL34 (stock), to 6L6GC, 6550, 6CA7, KT88, KT66, KT77, KT90, or KT100. I haven’t yet changed the tube, but this is an exciting possibility.

Sound Clips

Windsor-And-GuitarsI recorded a few clips with two different guitars to give you a taste of the amp. They were recorded up close with a Zoom H2 recorder and sound a bit thin to me (I guess due to where the recorder was placed), but fairly realistic. The first four clips are recorded with a PRS CE22, the last two clips with a Fender American Deluxe HSS Strat.

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Although it’s not the worlds best amplifier, I feel that for under $400 you’d be hard pressed to find a more versatile and feature packed tube combo amp.

Sure, it could use some work on the Power Sponge adjustment, maybe pull back the gain a bit in the preamp, and a complete reverb overhaul, but these are things I can live with.

This is a great amp for someone (like me) who wants one multi-purpose amp to use for recording and small to mid-sized gigs. It may not have the power of a vintage Twin Reverb or the gain of a Dual Rectifier, but it hands down beats both of those amps in sheer versatility.