I've had the Peavey Vypyr VIP 2 for a month now. I wanted to write about it sooner but the breadth of options it gives you is overwhelming, so I've spent a long time fiddling around with it and feel I have a good understanding of most of its settings now.
I won't give a full spec as it's easily available elsewhere, but it's a 40 watt solid state modelling combo-amp with a single 12 inch speaker. It weighs about 15kg and it's roughly half a metre tall and wide, which is actually a bit bulkier than I was expecting (but that's my own fault for not reading the spec).
I bought this to replace a solid state Fender combo amp which has been my main amp for the past 12 years or so. On the Fender amp, the cleans are great and the distortion is pathetic. Unless you're in a Sex Pistols tribute band, you just won't use it. I knew this when I bought it and paired it with an MT2 pedal and later a 7 band EQ and got quite a lot of flexibility out of it, but it always had that slightly thin and slightly digital MT2 tone; anyone who has used one will know exactly what I mean.
When I bought the Fender the Line 6 Spider modelling amps were starting to get popular, but at that point they were generally regarded as being a bit rubbish. But hey, I like the idea of modelling amps from a cost perspective and (in my opinion) life is too short for pedals and valves.
...12 years later...
I mostly play metal and I was a bit worried the Vypyr's metal tones would be lacking. Obviously I had listened to various demos on YouTube but anyone who has tinkered with sound knows that you can wildly change the sound of a recording by something as subtle as moving the mic a few centimetres, and that's before you consider bigger issues like the quality of the microphone and the quality and inbuilt EQ of the speakers/headphones you're listening through.
This worry lasted for about 3 seconds after turning the amp on. I'm seriously impressed not just by the quality of the sound but also by how versatile it is. Back when the Spiders came in people were saying "but you're much better off with a Marshall than something that thinks it's a Marshall". That's still a valid complaint in a professional setting, but with the VIP 2, for around £200 I've got a range of high quality tones that would cost me thousands to reproduce traditionally. A 6534+ head alone would set me back well over £1000, and that's with no speakers (and no real option for cleans).
The amp models
The breadth of amp models is quite overwhelming initially so I've made an effort to learn each one and have written a rough guide to each one. Note that each model has three channels - clean, crunch (overdriven) and lead (more overdriven), or, as the user interface panel represents them: green, orange and red, respectively.
- Modelled on the Peavey XXX, and if you're unfamiliar with that, it's of the same vein as a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier. Shiny clean channel and the drive channels give very tight and heavy distortion with a big kick on the low end. It sounds very 90s Metallica - when their sound became quite processed, or, if you start with a scooped EQ, back off the bass and saturate the treble, it starts to sound like Pantera. If I have one criticism it's that it sounds a bit digital (and this is the only model this applies to), but I personally don't think mildly digital tones are a problem in the style of metal that this model lends itself to (Dimebag Darrell of Pantera famously used more digital sounding solid state amps for most of his career to give his sound a really tight fizz on top of very heavy overdrive). The overdriven channels aren't particularly versatile, so if you don't like that heavy, processed sound with the bass kicking you in the face, you won't like this model.
- Supposedly modelled after Brian May's Vox AC30 tone but I can't say I hear it; maybe because I'm using humbuckers. The rhythm channel with the gain dialled back to about 12 o clock sounds a bit more Queen-like, but the lead channel is a full and gritty classic metal tone. Think Supernaut by Black Sabbath. It's that kind of nasally and scratchy guitar sound.
- The Peavey Classic was released in the 90s but is intended to sound like something from decades before. It distorts a bit but has quite a smooth and soft tone, so the use case doesn't really overlap with my style of playing. It will break up easily if you turn the gain up but it still sounds soft. A lot of online presets for AC/DC use this as the amp - probably because of the word 'classic' - but it doesn't have any bite (using the Butcher or British sounds better). It's more suited to blues or country I think. Cleans are quite twangy and warmer than some of the other models.
6505+ and 6534+
- Separate models but I'll group them together because they are very similar. Supposedly Eddie Van Halen-esque, according to the manual, but really they're straightforward high gain amps for screaming metal tones. The main difference between the two is that the 6505+'s sound has a bit more definition and crunch at high gain when hitting low-E riffs, probably because the 6534+ has a fatter low end which blurs the sound a bit. The clean channel on both amps leaves a lot to be desired and breaks up very quickly into a bassy rumble, which might have its uses but it's not really the default sound you want from a clean channel. 6505+ is the amp model I find myself using most often for a reliable and clear high gain metal tone. Update June 2018 After six months of having this amp, I've shifted my opinion slightly to favouring the 6534+ model. It gives a thicker rhythm tone, and for leads, with the neck pickup selected and the guitar's tone pot rolled back slightly it starts to sound quite Steve Vai.
- I assume this is supposed to be a Fender Twin, but trademark rules has it called TWN instead. Nice clear cleans, some breakup on the lead channel. Distortion sounds nothing like my Fender, but according to the manual the distortion is modelled by adding a stomp box, so that might be why. Not faithfully modelling Fender's lacklustre distortion is no loss in my opinion, but if you particularly love Fender amps it's something to be aware of.
- The manual's summary of this model is an unhelpful sales pitch for Budda Amps, so it's unsurprising that it turns out they are owned by Peavey. This model is more rock than metal as the distortion isn't as punchy as many of the other models. I was going to put this one in the "I'll probably never use this" box along with the Classic, until I noticed the warmth of the clean channel; I think this is my favourite clean channel on the amp, especially in the second pickup position (bridge + middle).
- The Butcher model is a metal/rock tone, sitting below the 6505+/6534+ in terms of heaviness. It doesn't crunch as much as you might want so it sounds a bit underwhelming if you're going for some palm muted low-E thrash riffs, but it is a nice warm and creamy smooth tone so it could be used as a more chord-based metal or rock rhythm tone. With the gain dialled back this is a decent option for emulating classic rock tones like AC/DC or Rainbow, if you don't find the British model versatile enough. It bites a lot harder than the Classic and has a good, solid mid range.
Peavey Bass and Trace Bass
- I don't have a bass and I'm not sure a guitar play would ever use them, but they're there if you want them. I can't really evaluate them.
Peavey Ecoustic and Trace Acoustic
- As an electric guitar player it's tempting to skip over the two acoustic amps, but actually, if you pair them with the acoustic instrument models, they sound pretty great! Like an acoustic? Not exactly, but not like a standard clean electric either. It's definitely worth exploring these when you want a clean sound. I've spent a lot of time playing through these models.
Effects and extras
The layout of the effects is a bit confusing. A quick summary is that some are categorised as 'stompboxes' and some are categorised as 'effects', and on top of that there is entirely separate delay and reverb. You can have one effect, one stompbox (and one amp model) active at one time, plus delay and reverb. This is further confused if you use Vypyr Edit (more on that later) to control your amp, as it splits instrument models and stompboxes into separate categories, but instrument models are actually categorised as stompboxes in the amp's software, which leads to some confusing user interface.
Stompboxes give you some standard and non-standard effects:
- Ring Modulator (I have absolutely no idea)
- Slap (delay)
- Slicer (Like a tremolo effect)
- Univibe (vibrato)
- Fuzz Pedal
- Tubescreamer emulation
The Fuzz pedal and Tubescreamer emulation may seem redundant but they can give a bit of flexibility when paired with lower gain amps.
Effects give you some things like:
- Envelope filter (a bit like auto-wah)
- MOG (Monophonic Octave Generator - duplicates your sound one octave up and one octave down)
- Pitch shifter
- Reverser (runs on a loop and reverses the last x milliseconds)
You'll notice the effects overlap a bit with the stompboxes, and you'll also notice the practical use for quite a few of them is far from obvious. I mean, if you really wanted to, you could practice with the reverser, sync your rhythm to it and get some interesting sounds out of it, but...
If you were to make frequent use of the effects you would probably want one of the separately sold and very expensive Sanpera pedals to control them adequately.
Alternative instrument modelling comes under the category of 'Stompboxes', which means you can't have for example a Baritone guitar effect and a Tubescreamer at the same time.
Sitar, e-violin and synth give you very different sounds but I don't really have any use for them. Maybe if you really want to pretend you're Paganini you might use the e-violin model...
Bass, 7-string and baritone guitar: These detune your notes by one ocatave, 2.5 tones and 3.5 tones respectively. I don't like the 7 string and baritone effects. They sound a bit off when you play the higher strings. Overall I find these a bit gimmicky and not useful.
12-string: The 12-string isn't a fully accurate model because the standard way of tuning a 12-string is to double the E, A, D, and G strings with a string an octave higher, and to double the B and high-E with a string of the same octave. The amp doesn't know which string you're playing, so it just doubles your note with one an octave higher, which makes the two high strings sound a bit silly. Personally I don't like it much for that reason, but it's certainly cheaper (and lower maintenance) than buying a real 12-string and does give you that kind of shimmering sound effect.
Resonator - Gives a twangy sound. Might be interesting if you play much Bluegrass or Country. But I don't.
Acoustic - As I've said under the amp models section, the acoustic effects when paired with the acoustic amp models are surprisingly very good.
There are some limitations to the combinations. For example you can only use the acoustic models with either of the two acoustic amps, and the bass with the bass amp.
The Vypyr includes a full chromatic tuner built in, which is nice and fully replaces my TU-80 (although the free Boss Tuner app on my phone is more convenient than either).
Something of importance is the built in noise gate. There is a noise gate, but it's not configurable at all. Usually it works its magic without you noticing, but occasionally you're going for a noisy but percussive style, and instead of a sudden silence, you actually get a fade-out. Peavey should have allowed the threshold to be configurable, even if only by USB.
The USB connection
The Vypyr has a USB port (a printer style one - with the square connector) which lets you link it up to your PC.
The most obvious application of this is to get sound into your PC, which seems like a great feature for bedroom musicians, but I've had no real success with it because the audio quality through USB is severely lacking. No amount of tinkering in Windows has allowed me to improve it much. If you need to record, you're better off with a microphone (or perhaps using the 3.5mm headphone out - I don't have good enough headphones to fully evaluate the sound quality). If you do choose to use the USB (or headphone) output, it's also important to note the amp's speaker is muted while recording is active, which I'd imagine makes it somewhere between highly inconvenient and completely useless in real usage.
Edit: I now understand that the USB signal is just a signal, and it needs to be run through an impulse response to emulate a speaker cabinet and room acoustics. Unfortunately, even by doing this, I still haven't achieved anything I'd call good sound quality.
The more useful application of the USB port is the ability to edit the settings on the amp from your PC. I find this very useful. The software you need is called Vypyr Edit (download from here) and confusingly is not included on the CD. Vypyr Edit isn't the best piece of software (e.g. if you press the return key on the initial dialog to choose which interface to use, it seems to select 'Quit' instead of 'Continue', and it doesn't always pick up the initial state of the amp correctly) but it's usable.
Through Vypyr Edit you can save your own presets to your PC which lets you set up your own little library of sounds. It seems like a bit of an oversight that there's no community online sharing built in to Vypyr Edit itself. There is an underused area on the Peavey website where people have uploaded their attempts at re-creating classic tones, but few of them sound good and even fewer sound anything like what they claim to be. Some professionally made Peavey presets in a library like Amplitube's would be nice. The preset files are only a few kilobytes and you could easily stick them in Dropbox or similar if you wanted to.
It's worth noting that the amp settings aren't saved after power-off (despite what the manual says), and if you want to alter the presets, you need to use Vypyr Edit.
Overall, I'm really pleased with the Vypyr 2. It suits my needs well. It has a few drawbacks in peripheral features that I'd like to see Peavey improve, but the overall sound quality and flexibility is extremely good for the price.
What I like:
- Sound is great
- Huge versatility
- Probably the best metal modelling amp for the price.
- Maybe the best metal amp for the price?
What you may or may not like, depending on your perspective:
- The versatility comes at the price of being overwhelming initially
- LOUD - you won't go past 2 for bedroom usage
- You will need to plug it into your PC to get the most out of it
- The built in tuner is not as easy to use as a tuner pedal, but it's reliable, unlike a TU-80 with dead batteries and a loose power switch connector (yes, speaking from personal experience...).
What I don't like:
- No high quality online preset library
- USB out is too low quality to use
- Noise gate should be configurable
- No foot pedal control included, and the ones you can buy are very expensive (the Sanpera 2 is the same price as the amp!)