The Peavey Classic is one of the all-time great unsung amps for the working guitarist—an inexpensive, versatile, and dependable-as-hell fixture of countless barroom backlines, smoky club stages, and garage band rehearsal spaces.
The attributes that have made Peavey Classic series amps like the Classic 50 410, Classic 50 212, and Classic 30 112 so appealing for so many years are present and accounted for on Peavey’s new Classic 20 MH, a mini amp head that’s packed with features and performance usually encountered only on much bigger products.
Perfect for performers looking for a compact but versatile rig as well as studio players who prefer to have access to many great sounds instead of just one, the Peavey Classic 20 MH is certain to live up to name as well as its predecessors did.
With two EL84 power tubes and three 12AX7 preamp tubes, the Classic 20 MH provides 20 watts of output, although an attenuator switch enables users to drop the output to five watts or one watt for applications where less volume output and headroom is desirable. The amp features a two-channel design, with a surprisingly loud clean channel with impressive headroom and a distortion channel with pre- and post-gain controls. Both channels share the same set of EQ controls (bass, middle, and treble) and level control for the amp’s built-in digital reverb, which can be switched on or off with a footswitch controller. The front panel also features a pair of Tube Status Indicator LEDs that monitor tube condition.
The Classic 20 MH’s rear panel reveals that this is not another bare-bones mini amp but rather a professional-quality tool. In addition to the previously mentioned 20/5/1-watt attenuator switch, the amp provides a single 1/4-inch speaker output jack with a 16/8-ohm switch, a built-in switchable dummy load circuit for using the head without a speaker cabinet, an XLR DI output jack with mic simulation, a USB audio recording output with mic simulation, a ground lift switch, 1/8-inch headphone jack output, 1/4-inch effect send and return jacks, and footswitch jacks for remotely engaging channel select/boost and reverb/effect loop functions.
Other distinguishing features of the Classic 20 MH are its vintage-style tweed covering and chicken-head control knobs, which are consistent with other Peavey Classic amps but stand apart from most other mini heads on the market. The amp even has a voltage selector switch that allows you to use the amp for overseas gigs and a standby switch that provides an added layer of protection to ensure long tube life.
While various other mini amp heads are also powered by a duo of EL84 tubes, the Classic 20 MH has its own personality (or personalities, actually). Whereas most of these amps are fire-breathing dirt machines, the Classic 20 MH stands out for its impressively loud clean tones, which are in a class of their own compared to other mini heads out there. The clean tone is surprisingly full, punchy, and ballsy, and with the volume control cranked up to its upper third range while using a humbucker-equipped guitar it delivers a satisfying aggressive crunch with lots of clang and chime.
The distortion channel is equally impressive and full of character. This channel has more than ample gain on tap, but the distortion remains crisp and defined and never turns to mush even with the pre and post controls fully up. This channel is where the EQ’s impressive range is particularly noticeable, as it allows players to dial in a variety of classic and modern tones. I thought that the digital reverb paired best and sounded most natural with this channel as well, and hall-like dimension to the sound without getting in the way of the primary tone.
I tried the Classic 20 MH with a wide variety of speakers and cabinets, including Celestion, Eminence, Jensen, and Scumback speakers in 1x12, 2x12, 4x10, and 4x12 cabs, and the amp paired quite well with any cab that I tried. A 1x12 with an Eminence speaker was the best “all around” choice, although my preference for distortion tones was a tie between the Celestions and Scumbacks. The mic simulation of the USB and XLR direct outputs also made it easy to lay down demo tracks late at night without disturbing neighbors.
LIST PRICE: $599.99
MANUFACTURER: Peavey Electronics, peavey.com
•Two EL84 power amp tubes and three 12AX7 preamp tubes provide 20 watts of output with impressive clean headroom and highly saturated gain.
•Two channels allow guitarists to switch between pristine clean and blazing distortion tones instantly.
•XLR DI and USB outputs feature mic simulation to produce realistic sounding tones with recording the amp direct.
•A built-in switchable dummy load enables use of the amp without the connection of an external speaker cabinet.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Peavey Classic 20 MH lives up to its “classic” name and the reputation of its predecessors with its versatile performance, pro-quality sounds, and affordable price.