Still Brutal After All These Years: Peavey Celebrates 20 Years of the 6505

 By Marc Johnson for

20 years is a long time.

There aren’t many amps out there that have managed to appeal to players for 20 years.

The Peavey 6505 is one of the few that have.

While the 120-Watt 6L6GC powered 6505 will always be a favorite of the old school, the new school is still plugging in and finding new tones in this two-channel classic amp. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 6505, took the chance to talk with Peavey about the amp that continues to leave its mark in the history of rock.

When Peavey initially released the 6505 as Edward Van Halen’s signature amp the 5150, everybody and their mother was stoked about it. It didn’t take long for Marshall JCM 900’s to be replaced with the signature black and chrome façade of the Peavey favorite. Initially, the amp seemed like it was geared towards those looking to emulate the unique EVH rock tone. But, once some of the metal guys took the 6505 for a spin, Peavey’s amp was being used by some of the most brutal bands of the 90’s.

“The 6505 was one of the first guitar amplifiers to give players access to extreme amounts of gain in a single head format,” notes Hartley Peavey, founder and CEO of Peavey Electronics. Which not only explains EVH’s melt-your-face off leads, but might also explain why metal players gravitated towards the 6505. “That’s when artists like Robb Flynn of Machine Head, and producers like Colin Richardson (Machine Head, As I Lay Dying, Carcass, Trivium) and Andy Sneap (Megadeth, Testament, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Mother-Freaking Exodus!) began using it.”

While it’s a mainstay today, when the 6505 first hit the streets, droptuning was kind of a new thing: Players started forging new territory by dropping far beyond the ½ – step threshold that had been big during the 80’s. Metal players found that, even with the heavy downtuning, Peavey’s 6505 gave them the gain and the punch they were looking for without sacrificing clarity.

“People credit various parts of our design for it, but our patented Resonance circuit played a key role by allowing players to keep the extreme low end tight and brutal. Resonance alters the ‘damping factor’ around the speaker’s resonant peak—in effect, it controls the transient response of the loudspeaker. You see, the higher an amp’s damping factor, the more control the amp exerts over the speaker. Resonance reduces that damping factor at lower frequencies, causing dramatic changes to the low-end response and allowing the speaker to recreate the low frequencies with clarity and punch. One of the things that Robb Flynn (Machine Head) has pointed out is how the midrange clears up and tightens the low end—and he tunes down to B, so that’s something!” 

On top of being the go-to amp for some of Modern Metal’s biggest artists, the 6505 was versatile enough that it was also being used by rock legend Ted Nugent and Bo Garrett of country music’s Montgomery Gentry. While maintaining a unique ‘sound,’ the 6505 still had a broad enough range to cover everything from the blistering metal of Machine Head to the familiar throaty wail of Uncle Ted to the twang of a duo of country gents.

By dialing back the gain, you can have that trademark growl with greater clarity and dynamics, which make it great for hard rock and even mainstream rock.”

It’s also important to note that, while the name has changed, the 6505 is still the same recipe as the 5150.

“The “65” comes from our founding year, 1965, and we derived the “05” from the year of the relaunch, 2005. Ironically, after the name change we sold far more 6505s than we ever did 5150s!”

While the original specs remain the same, Peavey has expanded the 6505 line to include other versions of the iconic amp.

The 6505+ expands on the original 6505 design by giving both channels independent EQ, Resonance, and Presence controls, making it easier for players to dial in their rhythm and lead channels individually.

Then, there’s the 6534. If you couldn’t tell by the name, the 6534 puts EL34 tubes into the Power amp section to give the amp a bit more of a “British flavor.”

The 6505 and the 6505+ both come in 60-Watt combo versions. A 6505 212 Combo includes two 12” Sheffield speakers, and the 6505+ 112 Combo comes with one 12” speaker.

For the cherry on top of a metal sundae, Peavey makes a 6505 4×12 300-Watt speaker cabinet. Specifically designed to accentuate the qualities of the 6505 head, the cabinet is fitted with four 12” Sheffield 1200 speakers.

Peavey’s 6505 series speaks to a need for versatility. According to Peavey, there is a reason why bands like August Burns Red and Bullet For My Valentine make the 6505 the main weapon in their arsenal. Quite frankly, the 6505 wouldn’t have such a huge audience of fans if it weren’t adaptable to players’ individual styles.”

Rolling back on either the Pre or Post gain knobs changes the character of the tone as well as ‘backing off’ the gain. While many amps try, and usually fail, to keep the same ‘tone’ at all stages of gain, Peavey realizes that this doesn’t create a dynamic amplifier.

Peavey doesn’t call the Post-Gain knob a Volume.

Because it’s not!

A volume simply increases or decreases the level of sound, while the Post-Gain control changes the dynamic and character of that sound. The result is the ability to create a wide variety of tones within the same Pre-Gain parameters. Basically, if there’s a tone that you want to get out of Peavey’s 6505, you’ll probably be able to find it.

Peavey has been friends of since we put out our first vids. It’s good to see that the old school favorite, the 6505, is the choice of the new bloods out there. There aren’t many amps that can say that they’ve been the choice of several generations of guitar players. And, from the looks of it, the legend that is the 6505 will probably out last us all.

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About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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