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Review: EVH's 5150III 50-Watt 6L6 Head is the perfect gigging and studio amp for discriminating players

(Image credit: EVH)

The first 50-watt 5150III amplifier head that EVH introduced back in 2011 was a great amp for guitarists who play club gigs as it offered similar tones to its 100-watt big brother, but with lower headroom that enabled players to dial in tonal sweet spots at more club-friendly volume levels. There was one nagging problem, however - the shared volume and gain controls for channels 1 and 2 resulted in a noticeable level jump when switching between clean and crunch tones, making the amp more of a 2.5-channel head than a true 3-channel head in live performance situations. EVH fixed this with the 50-watt 5150III EL34 head, which features dual-concentric volume and gain knobs for channels 1 and 2 that provide each of those channels with fully independent gain and volume settings. 

Now EVH has issued a new version of the 50-watt 5150III with those features, but for guitarists who prefer the sound of the original version’s 6L6 tubes and also want the stage-worthy versatility of three truly independent channels.

FEATURES The EVH 5150III 50-watt 6L6 Head looks virtually identical to the original 50-watt 5150III, with the exception of the dual-concentric knobs for channel 1 and 2, and a new front panel badge with '6L6' added to the model name. All of the remaining features are the same as before, including low, mid and high EQ controls for channels ½, volume, gain; low, mid and high controls for channel 3, global presence and resonance controls, a ¼-inch stereo headphone output, MIDI In, effects loop send and return jacks, and ¼-inch preamp line-level output. A pair of parallel speaker output jacks and the 4/8/16-ohm impedance switch enable the connection of a single or matched pair of speaker cabinets. A pro-quality four-button footswitch controller for engaging channel 1, 2 or 3 and the effects loop ships with the head and plugs into the ¼-inch footswitch jack.

As the model name suggests, the head’s power output section is driven by a pair of JJ 6L6 tubes. Seven JJ 12AX7/ECC83 tubes are employed for multiple stages of preamp gain. Also like its predecessor, the head is available with either black or ivory textured vinyl covering, and the grill features the same distinctive black EVH-stripe pattern steel grille.

(Image credit: EVH)

PERFORMANCE The original EVH 5150III 50-watt head registered no complaints when it came to tone and its incredible variety of them. In fact, many guitarists consider it to be the best-sounding EVH amp of the entire lineup, and as a result it has become a common fixture in many modern recording studios. The only real problem was the shared volume and gain controls for channels 1 and 2, which made it practical for using only the clean and high-gain or crunch and high-gain channels in live-performance applications due to the significant volume differences between the clean and crunch channels. The dual-concentric volume and gain knobs for channels 1 and 2 are a simple but highly effective solution that considerably increases the head’s versatility on stage.

The great news is that the sounds remain the same as before, with the extended frequency range, expanded dynamic responsiveness, tighter bass, focused attack and more aggressive saturation that made the original 50-watt 5150III a ferocious beast. This is an amp that can truly do it all, from dazzling clean tones and fiery classic rock crunch to the heaviest modern metal grind. The best news is that the entire range of those tones are now available and practical to use on stage, making the 5150III 50-watt 6L6 Head a true lower wattage counterpart to its 100-watt big brother and a more affordable (and more club-friendly) alternative.

STREET PRICE: $1,333.32
MANUFACTURER: EVH, evhgear.com

● Dual-concentric volume and gain control knobs for channels 1 and 2 provide true three-channel performance.
● The 6L6 tubes in the power amp section provide the same thick, dynamic tones of the original version.

THE BOTTOM LINE With its new independent gain and volume controls for channels 1 and 2 and comprehensive variety of pro-quality tones, the EVH 5150III 50-watt 6L6 Head is the perfect gigging and studio amp for discriminating players, while its affordable price makes it perfect for everyone.