We all know perfectly well that tube amplifiers are great by themselves. They have their own niche in the music world and definitely stand by the reputation they have. But imagine that this magical technology paired with the craftsmanship and experience of a guitar virtuoso. What would happen then? A spectacular tube amplifier would be born. Let me introduce EVH 5150 III, my friend, a tube head that was designed as a result of collaboration between Fender and Eddie Van Halen himself. It is part of the 5150 series and definitely stands out among others due to its perfect amount of wattage, power and the capabilities. Let’s not waste any more time and get straight to discussing all the gems this bad boy has got.
It is true that looks do not always matter when it comes to the musical gear. However, everybody’s heart skips a beat when their favorite amplifier not only sounds good but is also fancy as hell. EVH 5150 III is exactly that case. Everything about it screams Eddie, especially grilled chassis with his signature logo and heavy-duty appearance. What is more important is that this little head packs 50 watts of power and can drive two speakers simultaneously. It operates with two 6L6C output and 12AX7 preamp valves, which are main contributors to the sound it produces. EVH 5150 III is configured in a three channel way: we have Clean, Medium Gain and High Gain channels. Even though it does not have any on-board effects, it offers a wide range of tube overdrive which is perfectly enough in this case. If you want to use more audio effects, you could always connect your pedals with an effects loop. EVH 5150 III is compatible with a footswitch, allowing you to choose between channels without having to lean down or interrupt the performance. This tube head has a single input for your instrument, a headphone jack that mutes the output, MIDI In input for controlling the channel selection or effects loop bypass, an input for the included footswitch, Send and Return jacks for the effects loop, Preamp Out output for connecting other amplifiers or mixers, as well as dual speaker outputs for connecting speaker cabinets.
Even though we have three channels here, the control panel is not clustered in a messy manner. Rather, they are laid out intelligently, which makes it easier to move between the knobs in a blink of an eye. The first and second channel share the same knobs, while the third one has its own controls. This way you will never mix up the encoders and tweak just the right channel. I will describe the functions of each knob briefly but as thoroughly as possible.
The controls of clean and middle gain channels include Gain, Low, Mid, High, Volume and a channel selector. Gain is basically a preamp gain controller, meaning that it will distort your sound increasingly as you turn the knob clockwise. Low, Mid and High modify bottom-end, mid-range and high-end range of your frequency spectrum. Volume sets the level of the selected channel and acts as a post preamp gain control. The channel selector is probably self-explanatory but I still want to mention that it shifts between clean and medium gain channels. The third channel has exact same controls. The only difference is that the push button in here simply activates this channel. Then we have the Presence knob, which attenuates or emphasizes ultra-high frequencies in your sound.
There are couple more controls on the rare panel. We have Power and Standby switches and I am pretty sure you know what they do. Resonance adjusts low frequency response of the power amplifier. Last but not least, Load Impedance allows you to choose the correct impedance (4, 8 or 16 ohms) to match with the external speakers.
When it comes to sound, EVH 5150 III is anything but a one trick pony. This little tube haze delivers any tone you might desire, everything from clean to Eddie Van Halen to ridiculous distortion. It has enough headroom to get loud without overdriving, which is always a good thing when using cleans. Speaking of which, the first channel can create some of the best sounding pristine tones, that can be crunched and growled up slightly by turning up the gain. As you move onto the second channel, you hear a noticeable increase in gain. This is where you get those fat, beautiful overdriven sounds that can change any performance. You get a lot of definition in all three ranges of your frequency spectrum and can even tone down the overall brightness of the amplifier by engaging the Resonance knob. This way you can bark up a decent low-end punch. The third channel gets crazy and intense. At lower settings it offers heavy distortion, while higher settings open up new dimensions of gnarl and growl. It can get pretty insane, which might cause the loss of a high-end definition. But there is nothing that cannot be corrected with some tone adjustments. No matter what kind of sounds you will lean towards to, EVH 5150 III will deliver jaw-dropping performance.
On the whole, EVH 5150 III is renowned not just because of Eddie Van Halen and the ability to create his signature sound. We could easily remove the name and this tube head would still stand among the best valve amplifiers. It has everything one could ask for: the power that can handle pretty big audiences, the set of features that are essential for home or stage utilization, as well as ethereal sound that is hard to compete with. I cannot add anything more. You just have to listen to this fella. Good luck!