When EVH named its new 5150 guitar amps the Iconic Series, they hit the nail on the head. The original 5150 Eddie Van Halen signature amp introduced three decades ago is a bona fide classic that shaped and defined modern guitar tone for hard rock, metal and several other genres of popular music.
Although EVH’s 5150 Iconic Series products are designed by James Brown, who collaborated with Ed on the original 5150 and 5150 II, the new amps are not reproductions but rather original designs that deliver all the tones of the predecessors along with a wider palette of Van Halen’s signature tones and beyond.
Featuring a straightforward two-channel design, numerous pro features and a street price below $1,000, the EVH 5150 Iconic Series 40w 1x12 combo promises to deliver incredible bang for the buck.
The 5150 40-watt combo’s amp section is built around a pair of 6L6 power tubes and two ECC83 (12AX7) preamp tubes in a hybrid, multi-stage circuit that delivers exceptionally high gain from fewer tubes.
The control panel is top-mounted, and the closed-back cabinet, made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) with a plywood baffle and covered with black or ivory textured vinyl, houses an EVH Celestion Custom 12-inch speaker.
Top panel controls consist of individual gain controls for channels 1 and 2, noise gate level for channel 2 only, low, mid and high EQ (shared by both channels), volume for channel 1, 2 and the boost function, reverb level, resonance and presence, plus push switches for channel ½ selection and overdrive (channel 1) and burn (channel 2) voicings.
The rear panel is packed with pro features that include a full/one-quarter power (40- or 10-watt) switch, speaker emulated XLR direct output with power amp mute (for direct recording or PA connection) and ground lift switches, 1/4-inch preamp output jack and effects loop.
The included channel/boost footswitch connects to a 1/4-inch footswitch jack, and a pair of speaker outputs and 4/8/16-ohm switch allow connection to a wide variety of additional speaker cabinets.
Hands down, the EVH 5150 Iconic Series 40-watt combo is the biggest sounding combo selling for under $1,000 available on the market today. This is a fire-breathing powerhouse of an amp with serious volume output, massive bass and gut-punching high-gain grind.
But equally impressive is how versatile the amp is. Channel 1’s clean tones are sparkly and spanky, although the volume output sometimes struggles to keep up with that of its high-gain brother channel 2.
The output increases with the overdrive voicing switch engaged, which also pushes the amp into plexi territory with a satisfying crunch that nails SRV tones with a Strat and Angus Young punch with an SG or Les Paul.
Channel 2 dives headlong into high-gain insanity from the get-go. The Burn voicing switch delivers the truly iconic metal guitar tones we all know so well from the last 30 years, while the regular setting is more like the red channel of a new EVH 5150 III. The EQ controls cover a wide range of tones, with the midrange voiced more towards upper mid frequencies.
Particularly notable is how dramatically both the resonance and presence controls can shape the tone, even at lower volume levels. The resonance control in particular can dial in mammoth bass woof with remarkable tightness that can handle 8-string and baritone guitars with ease.
The 5150 combo pairs well with a variety of guitars – single-coils, vintage and high-output humbuckers, etc. – but when I plugged in an EVH USA Wolfgang it was like the scene in Ratatouille when Remy the rat first tasted cheese with strawberry. The pairing is utter perfection. Bravo to the entire EVH gang.
- PRICE: $899 / £649 street
- TYPE: Tube combo
- POWER: 40 watts with 1/4 power switch
- TUBES: 2 x ECC83S (preamp), 2 x JJ 6L6 (power amp)
- CHANNELS: 2
- CONTROLS: Gain (Channel 1 & 2), Noise Gate, Low, Mid, High, Volume (Channel 1 & 2), Boost, Reverb, Resonance, Presence
- SPEAKERS: 1x12" Custom Voiced Celestion EVH
- FEATURES: Reverb, Built in Effects Loop, two-button footswitch, noise gate, solo boost
- WEIGHT: 53 lbs
- CONTACT: EVH Gear (opens in new tab)