Every time I visit Mr. Ken Huddleston there are surprises, and a good time is
had by all. Ken, of Manchester, Tennessee, owns two music stores and always
has some new gear for me to try. To complete the experience, he graciously sets up a venue for me to
wring the new stuff out. Lucky for me, this is exactly what occurred for
my first experience with the new Peavey JSX Joe Satriani amplifier.
On Friday, October 14, 2005, the GuitarAttack Crew rolled into Manchester
not knowing exactly what was going to happen. We knew that an old school
metal jam was going on somewhere, but the venue was still kind of a secret.
To prepare for the jam, I brought along two guitars: a goldtop GuitarAttack
FM and a Striped S-Style. Once we arrived, Ken opened up the back
doors on his van and showed us the JSX amp. This is the first one we had
seen in person, and the chrome on the front looked great. The amp had a lot
of knobs, and we had hoped that it would be pretty intuitive because we
don’t like to “head scratch” with a new amp. After a short visit, Ken
chauffeured us to the club known as the “Sugar Shack” located near I-24 in
Manchester. The club really brought back memories of our college band days.
Ken had set up a jam with the popular local band “Van Gogh’s Ear”. I had
known the drummer and lead guitarist for years, and it was really great to
see them again. While they were setting up, we pulled the JSX and a Peavey
XXL 4-12 cabinet into the club and set it up on the left side of the stage
(facing it) and ran power. The JSX comes with a three button footswitch, and
I ran it to the side of the stage. We turned on the power to allow the tubes
to warm-up and I grabbed my FM.
According to an interview with Mr. Satriani, the amp was designed with three
distinct sounds. The amp is set up with sounds ranging from the Peavey
Classic 50 to vintage British (very 50-watt Marshall sounding) to the modern
Triple XXX. The control section has a master volume pot and independent
volume knobs for each of the 3 channels (Ultra, Crunch and Clean). The tone
pots are pretty cool. On the Clean channel, the tone is shaped using passive
controls for Bass, Mid and Treble, while the Ultra and Crunch channels use
active Bass, Mid and Treble controls.
We looked through the documentation and found that the amp has 120 watts
into 16, 8, or 4 ohms (switchable) and it is loaded with four EL34s and four
12AX7s! Tubes, baby! Power amp switchable to use EL34s or 6L6GSs EQ and FAT
switch. Also, if you really want to crank this rig, it comes with a built in
noise gate on both of the distortion channels.
After poking around with the amp at low volume, I cranked the Master Volume
up to about “2”, and started playing with the individual channels. I found
the Clean channel to be very clean, and it had a great Fender tube sound.
The FM guitar sounded really great through this channel, and I would have to
characterize its sound as “sparkly”.
Clean is OK, but we like the loud distortion. The Ultra and Crunch channels
have gain controls and fat switches to work the tone and distortion. Global
resonance and presence knobs increase control of high-end tones and open up
the tone. I knew that I would be playing “Sin City” with Van Gogh’s Ear, so
I set the Crunch channel up to sound like an old Marshall. Getting a good
tone was extremely easy, and it really sounded full. The EL-34s made the
difference, I believe, and it sounded very similar to my old 50-watt
Marshall. I pulled out the Frankenstrat, and I was able to dial in a very
convincing “Brown Sound” by manipulating the resonance and the great tone
Next it was on to the Ultra Channel – shred! Boy, this thing has some gain,
and it was clearly set up for lead work. The Frankenstrat sounded cool, but
the FM really came into its own on the Ultra channel. Being a high quality
tube amp, the JSX responded very well to volume changes on the guitar and
sounded louder the harder I played. The Ultra channel was very responsive,
and was not muddy or overblown. I noodled around on the new toy for about 15
minutes, and I knew I really excited about putting this amp through its
paces with a band. I’ve played amps in a store that didn’t do too well in a
band setting, but I knew the JSX was up to the task.
We took a break from the club for a couple of hours, and returned just as
the band was starting to play. We watched their first set, and they called
me up at the start of their second set. I plugged into the JSX and set it on
the Crunch channel. The band’s other guitarist on my side of the stage was
using a Marshall JCM-2000 and a Peavey Wolfgang guitar, and, as we started
playing, I was pleasantly surprised at how the JSX cut through the wall of
sound coming out the Marshall. I played about six songs with the band, and I
only had to adjust the volume once, and I actually turned it down! I ran the
JSX at about 3 ½ - 4 on the master volume, and it was absolutely kicking. I
didn’t use the built-in effects loop because I decided I wanted to hear the
amp, not effects. I believe the noise gate would work particularly well with
guitars loaded with single coil pickups. That will be the next test!
Luckily, the controls and footswitch were very intuitive, and I really
enjoyed my chance to play this great amp. I found it to be very versatile
and responsive, and actually competitively priced for a tube amp with these
features. If I were still gigging regularly, I would buy one from Ken and
proudly rawk! Highly recommended.
Check one out today.