Review: EVH 5150III 1X12 50-Watt Combo Amp — Video


There are times when nothing less than a half stack will do when playing certain styles of music live.

However, a half stack is overkill for the venues where most guitarists play ninety percent or more of their gigs, and hauling around a heavy 4x12 cabinet can prematurely cause one’s posture to twist into a permanent Angus Young duck walk stance.

Combo amps are the obvious solution, but the problem is that most combos are either too low powered, not versatile enough, or outrageously expensive.

While Eddie Van Halen has performed on arena and stadium stages for the last 38 years, he never forgot the challenges he experienced when playing at clubs. With the new EVH 5150III 1x12 50-watt combo, Eddie and the engineers at EVH have designed a compact, portable combo that doesn’t sacrifice the sound and versatility of the 5150III heads that Eddie Van Halen uses on stage and in the studio.

The EVH 5150III 1x12 50-watt is much more than just a shrunken-down combo version of a 5150III half stack, offering several exclusive features that make it the ideal all-in-one alternative for club gigs, studio recording, and practice at home.

FEATURES: Consistent with the other EVH 5150III amps, this 50-watt 1x12 combo offers three channels (clean, crunch, lead), a single 1/4-inch input jack, and mono 1/4-inch effect send and return jacks and is driven by 6L6 power tubes (a pair) and 12AX7 preamp tubes (seven of them).

Like the EVH 5150III 50-watt head and 2x12 combo, the front panel provides a set of low, mid, and high EQ, gain, and volume controls that are shared by channels 1 and 2, a second set of low, mid, high, gain, and volumes controls for channel 3 only, and a master presence control. Other front panel controls include a reverb knob to adjust the level of the built-in digital reverb and a power level knob that adjusts the power output continuously from 50 watts to just one watt.

The rear panel is packed with a variety of professional features, including a MIDI input jack (for selecting channels and engaging reverb with an optional MIDI controller), 1/4-inch preamp output, and a pair of 1/4-inch parallel speaker output jacks with a 4/8/16-ohm output selector switch.

There’s also a master resonance knob that adjusts the tightness of the overall bass response, a 1/4-inch headphone output jack, and a 1/4-inch jack for the included four-button footswitch controller that engages individual channels and the reverb effect.

A single 12-inch Celestion G12M speaker is housed in a birch cabinet with a closed-back design and custom internal baffling. The 1x12 version of the EVH 5150III 50-watt combo is 19 pounds lighter than its 2x12 counterpart, but its overall dimensions are only three inches narrower and shorter yet 1/2-inch deeper. The combo is available either with traditional black covering or in ivory at no additional cost.

PERFORMANCE: The sound of the clean, crunch, and lead channels is almost identical to that of the original 5150III 100-watt head, although the latter two channels seem to have a touch more gain that delivers a slightly more aggressive overall edge.

The clean channel has ample clean headroom that makes this channel ideal for use with a pedal-based rig, and it produces satisfying crisp-but-fat overdrive crunch when the gain control is between three to five o’clock. The crunch channel provides Eddie’s modern “brown” sound with sweet treble and slightly saturated sustain, while the lead channel is full-on high-gain distortion that’s perfect for solos or modern metal rhythms.

Thanks to the closed-back cabinet design and ample dimensions, which give the 12-inch speaker more room to resonate and bloom, the amp delivers similar low-end thump and focused midrange to a full-sized 4x12 cabinet. This combo is impressively loud, but the power level control allows players to tame the dBs to more sane levels for smaller clubs and studio recording. Weighing 65 pounds, it’s also a more sane option for players who don’t have road crews.

Everything about the EVH 5150III 1x12 50-watt combo is professional, from its first-class sounds to its rock-solid construction. This is a combo without compromise, and best of all it’s the most affordable pathway to Eddie Van Halen’s current tone zone.

LIST PRICE: $1,818.17

CHEAT SHEET: The closed-back design and custom internal baffling allows the single 12-inch Celestion G12M speaker to deliver huge bass and focused midrange similar to a 4x12 cabinet.

Tubes include a pair of JJ 6L6 power tubes and seven JJ ECC83 (12AX7) preamp tubes that provide 50 watts of output and impressive gain.

Output is continuously variable between 50 watts to one watt via the power level control located on the combo’s front panel.

Clean, crunch, and lead channels provide the full range of tones ideal for any style of music from classic country to modern metal.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Incredibly versatile, packed with professional features, and affordably priced, the EVH 5150III 1x12 50-watt combo offers gigging and recording guitarists unbeatable value without compromise.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.