5150 Vs 5150 II: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

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If you’re interested in learning more about the 5150 vs 5150 II amps, you’ve come to the right post!

The Legendary 5150 Amp

The original Peavey 5150 is of great importance to the world of guitar. It’s more than just Eddie Van Halen’s signature amp. We’re looking at an important evolutionary step for electric guitar amps.

The amp was released back in 1992. The idea was to have a printed circuit and four preamps. Along with that also came a phase inverter. So there were five preamp tubes, standard 12AX7s. This also came along with a quartet of 6L6 tubes in the power amp.

There’s also the famous fixed bias. On the 5150 amp, it’s set to a value that’s lower than usual. Ultimately, it allowed for more control over gain.

And, of course, all of the amp’s design features brought a new kind of tone. It became really popular among metal musicians over the coming years. The high-gain settings are super-tight and heavy, all while keeping the sonic qualities of tube amps.

Peavey also released the 5150 II model. However, Eddie parted ways with the company and took over the model for his own EVH brand. Peavey changed the name of the amp to 6505 due to legal reasons. They also introduced the 6505 Plus variant.

At the moment, the EVH brand, as a Fender subsidiary, makes 5150 III in a few variants. Peavey makes 6505 and 6505 Plus, which are the equivalent of 5150 and 5150 II respectively. However, the old 5150 and 5150 II Peavey amps are still highly valued.

Another thing that’s been popping up a lot is the question about these amps. In particular, guitar players wonder which one is better. Well, it’s not that easy to answer.


The Return Of The King: 1992 Peavey 5150 Blockletter

Here we have a 120-watt amp head with, as explained, 6L6 tubes in the power amp. There are technically two channels on it. These are labeled as Rhythm and Lead.

To a new user, the amp might seem a bit confusing. But it’s pretty straightforward. There’s the master 3-band EQ that affects both channels. And there are also master controls for resonance and presence. These two are power amp controls.

What’s interesting is that each channel has individual pre- and post-gain controls. Now, some get confused with these. But they’re essentially like gain and volume. The pre-gain boosts the signal at the input and helps you achieve distortion. The post-gain adds more volume and can also add some distortion.

What’s more, the amp has two separate inputs for low- and high-gain modes. This further helps you shape the tone.

What was awesome about 5150 when it came out was its versatility. It was capable of delivering a variety of tones. However, it became famous for controlled high-gain tones. You could push it hard and the tone wouldn’t sound too messy. You’ll even be able to make out complex chords with some high-gain settings.

What’s interesting is that it doesn’t have a lot of headroom on the clean channel. And this isn’t typical for an amp with 6L6 power amp tubes. So the clean channel gets somewhat crunchy and dirty. In fact, you can easily push it into overdrive with the crunch switch.

At the same time, the distorted tones feel kind of sagged. Not in a bad way, of course. It’s got some tightness in the bottom end, although it’s not as punchy in most settings. There’s a focus on mids, low mids, and bottom-ends here. All in all, the tone gets pretty massive.

5150 II

Peavey 5150 II | Classic For A Reason

As far as controls go, 5150 II saw some upgrades compared to its predecessor. However, it has one input. Nonetheless, you get full control over all parameters for both of its channels. 3-band EQ, presence, resonance, pre- and post-gain controls. It’s all available on each channel.

Of course, the Rhythm channel comes with bright and crunch switches just like you have with the original version.

Now, the main difference is the amp’s tone as well as its response to gain control.  There’s noticeably more headroom with this amp. For instance, the clean channel can stay clean.

The Lead channel can get into some pretty heavy territories, as expected. However, it’s just a dash milder compared to the original version.

The most noticeable difference is the amp’s overall frequency response. The bottom-ends are tighter. And the amp focuses more on higher mids and high-ends. The tone is sharper and punchier. And, above all, it doesn’t have that sag.

5150 Vs 5150 II

HEAD TO HEAD - Peavey 5150 VS 5150II

Now, if you’ve decided to get either of these two amps, you can’t go wrong. Whether we’re talking about Peavey’s current models or the old original ones, they’re both great. The same things that I discussed above apply. And neither of these two are necessarily better or worse. They’re just different.

The original 5150 sounds looser, thicker, and has that saggy feel to it. When you push the gain up high, it sounds a bit like that vintage tube saturation. But at the same time, it’s not super-loose and retains some tightness.

On the other hand, the 5150 II is punchier and tighter. Most importantly, it focuses more on mids. So it has more of a modern feel to it. It’s got that in-your-face kind of tone.

I’d recommend the old 5150 to those who gravitate more towards vintage-ish tones. Meanwhile, the 5150 II would be a better option for modern metal musicians. And I also find it to be just a little bit more versatile since it can achieve a more clean tone.  


I hope this article has helped you think through the differences between these guitar amps and which is best for you.

And if you want to read more about guitar amps on this blog, check out:

Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!

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