Back in June I traded in my Mesa Single Rectifier for a Peavey JSX which belonged to one of the guitarists from Breed77, he had only used it for recording and was therefore in excellent condition. Ive had a good number of months to try it out and explore its features so thought i would share my thoughts with you :-)
So whats it got?
-3 independent channels (Clean, Crunch and Ultra) each has its own volume and Eq, the distortion channels also have individual gain and extra 'fat' switches
-Inbuilt Noise Gate that affects the gain channels.
-Four 12ax7s and four JJ EL34s (has a switch to change to 6L6s if needbe)
-Master Presence, volume and Resonance controls
-Effects Loop with tweak-able Send and Return levels.
-Footswitch (which also allows to turn effects loop on and off)
First of all let me say that this head is HEAVY, weighs a ton and is built like a tank; Peavey does have a good reputation for building sturdy stuff and this is no exception. I quite like the chrome finish and the knobs are chrome also, they turn nicely and feel very sturdy; i hate it when knobs turn way too easily as any bumps can alter your settings. Onto the channels:
Clean: This channel is very clean and has enormous headroom; in a way i doubt you would ever use it past 3 or 4. Some people use distortion or overdrive pedals with this channel and i imagine the headroom on tap would allow them to crank it a bit more. Its nice to come across a high gain amp which doesnt have a clean channel which sounds like an afterthought, it seems that Peavey have tried to come up with something which is very responsive and very chimy-chords and single notes ring out really well and as with the amp as a whole, it takes effects well also. The eq on this channel is passive.
Crunch: This is where the fun starts. In my opinion this is THE best channel on the amp. You can go from blues, to rock, to old school metal without any problem. I mention 'old school metal' because for my needs it just needed to be boosted to just give it that extra push; once i did that - wow, its given me THE metal rhythm tone I have been searching for. The gain structure on this channel is warm, thick, tight and not harsh. The gain is very useable all the way through and the active eq on the channel allows for a huge amount of tone shaping. The bottom end never feels flubby or loose, and the channel provides a healthy amount of warm midrange which complements the rounded highs. This channel has a FAT switch which as the name suggests fattens up your sound, on a humbucker guitar it can muddy things up a bit but is great when playing with single coiled guitars or if you play doom/sludge style riffs. Its the first time in a long time where I am unable to find fault with my rhythm tone, and I am extremely happy with the sound this channel provides. Stellar.
Ultra: There is tons of gain on tap in this channel, the tone is louder, raw and more in your face. It doesnt have the warmth of the crunch channel and has added saturation. This channel works well for lead runs and solos. The added gain benefits this playing style because it gives you more sustain and bite. This channel also sounds thinner when compared to the Crunch channel, some people use the Ultra for rhythm but for me it would lacks the hugeness of the crunch channel, so i prefer to keep it for leads. This channel also has a FAT switch, and i think this channel really benefits from this option; i use the FAT switch engaged for lead work as it adds warmth and body to single note runs and solos. Again you get an active eq for a huge amount of tone shaping.
The amp has master Presence and Resonance controls. The Presence can make the amp sound quite harsh very quickly so I normally keep it under 5. But the star of the show for me is the Resonance control, I dont have it past 6 but it really is the icing on the cake; it adds a depth to the sound that gives you that punch to the chest response and rounds off your tone in style. It makes your tone sound even bigger without losing clarity or tightness. Awesome.
The Noisegate control i find a bit pointless. When researching the amp further it seems that Peavey actually say its meant to be more of a Noise Reduction control and that for high gain playing styles you should always keep it on 10. I think if you play blues, clean stuff, you would use this control much more; but for me its always on 10 and even then i need a separate noise gate. So I find it a bit of a red herring.
One of the things that put me off the JSX originally was the amount of noise/hum it produced especially in the Ultra channel; luckily by placing my Maxon overdrive within the NS2s loop this problem has completely gone away. I know have a silent amp that responds only when I hit the strings, so bear that in mind.
-Great tones and versatility, you can get any sound imaginable.
-Amazing Crunch channel.
-Heavy as hell
-'Noisegate' which is not a noisegate
-Noisy (this can be curable as mentioned earlier)
I would recommend this amp for anyone wanting a versatile 3 channel amp that covers all the bases. From pristine clean, to usable warm gain to all out saturation, it covers everything you would need. The crunch channel is the star of the show for me, being capable of tight, warm and thick metal tones, add onto that the Resonance control and you are in metal 'nirvana'. This amp is being rebranded as the Peavey XXX II, but you can get 2nd hand JSX's for as low as 500 pounds.
Hope this was helpful!
I had one of these for about 2 years and absolutely loved it.
try throwing a set of KT-77's in there, you'll love it even more.
One of the cool things about the amp is the loop, you can use it as a 2nd master volume to get the power tubes up a bit without ripping your head off (this amp has one of the best loops out of any amp I 've ever owned).
I used to leave the gate off (I thought it added a "choked" quality to the tone without really killing any noise).
Drew came to my house when I owned mine , I seem to recall he was pretty surprised at how heavy I got mine to sound.
When I owned this amp and my Carvin DC727 with an alnico Nailbomb in the bridge , I got one of the most liquidy smooth lead tones ever.