History of 5150 Guitar Amps

 Article by Luc Travers

So, this is pretty daunting. “Write a blog about the history of EVH 5150 Amps” says the boss. I am thinking at first this is a great idea. Then as I start to research this, I quickly realize that anything you write about Eddie Van Halen is going to be under intense scrutiny. So now I am nervous. Be kind in the comments please….

1990/1992 – Peavey EVH 5150

The main Vision behind the first EVH 5150 Amp, was to make a Signature model amp that the average person on the street could afford with the same great tone that you would hear on Van Halen records.

The first version of the 5150 was rumoured to be designed similar to a Jose Arredondo modded-Marshall. Apparently, Jose had made an amp for Eddie that was to become the first 5150. However, James Brown who was the lead engineer at Peavey at the time refutes those claims saying he has never ever seen this Amp. The design and manufacturing of this Amp was all done at Peavey. It took nearly 2 years of Prototype Amps and going back and forth between EVH and James before they finally settled on a design.

In 1992 the very first EVH 5150 Amps started being shipped to stores. The very first version of these Amps had the EVH logo in block letters. The “Electro Voice” PA company (most people would know as EV) sent a cease-and-Desist letter to Peavey, disputing the use of the “EVH” in block letters was too similar to their “EV” branding. Instead of fighting this ridiculous claim Peavey decided they would just change the EVH part of the logo to a Signature (Script Version).

When the new Version started hitting the shelves rumours started to fly that Peavey had changed the design/Circuitry of the amps. This is not true. In the Block letter EVH amps they used four Sylvania 6L6 Power Tube. James had managed to purchase nearly half a million dollars’ worth of these tubes when he found out they company was about to stop manufacturing them. They are found in other amps Peavey made before the 5150 like the Peavey VTM, so at first, they burned through them at a slow pace but due to the Success of the 5150 amps and the fact that each amp used four of them they started to quickly run out.

At the same time as they ran out of the Sylvania 6L6 Power Tubes the Logo on the Amp changed. Peavey then started using the Chinese made Ruby 6L6 Power Tubes giving the amps a slightly different tone. So, the original EVH (Block Letter) amps became very sought after.

The Original Peavey EVH 5150 amp was an incredible success and really set the 5150 Brand up for a fruitful future.


Picture courtesy http://picssr.com/photos/snowfreak91287/interesting?nsid=21186431@N04


1994 – Peavey 5150 Combo

James and Eddie partner up again to produce a 5150 Combo amp. This Amp was 60 watts half the wattage of a 5150 Head, Control Knobs on the back like a vox amp. 2 x 12” Sheffield speakers which most people replaced as they were pretty ordinary. Unlike the 5150 heads, the combo amp has foot switchable reverb and sounds quite nice. The clean side also has a bright switch. It is a two-channel amp, and the clean channel has a crunch button to make boost the gain quite a bit.


Original Peavey 5150 Combo Advert from the 90’s

The two channels share EQ controls, which can really put some people off, but it is pretty easy to find some sort of compromise. Then to top it off there is a master resonance control and presence control. The only complaint about this amp besides the speakers was the weight, it weighs a Ton and was pretty taxing on the gigging muso. Some of the changes made in the preamp stage on this combo amp actually carried over to the 5150 II Head.

1999/2000 – Peavey 5150 II

This Head was met with much anticipation as Eddie and James combined to make a host of changes to the original 5150 Head. It features an extra 12AX7 tube in the preamp stage, to prevent breakup in the clean channel. It features separate 3-band EQ, presence and resonance controls for the 2 channels. It also features only one input, unlike the 5150, which had two. When James was working on this particular amp, he made 3 prototype’s which he took over to Eddie to try.

A unique tone

One of the heads sounded completely different to the other two and Eddie really liked it. James could not work out why one of the amps sounded so different and after some diagnosis came to discover Marilyn a long-time worker at Peavey who put together the circuitry had mistakenly put a 2.2 Mic Capacitor instead of a 22 Mic Capacitor on the first input tube which completely changed the attack of the amp. When Eddie was told about the mistake, he loved the amp even more.

2003/2004 – Peavey 40W Combo

What! I hear you say. This amp never saw the light of day. James and Eddie had started working on the early stages of this project, but it never eventuated. This was due to James Brown leaving Peavey in 2004 and Eddie parting ways with Peavey around the same time.

No photos please – The Peavey 40 Watt 5150 Combo, never saw the light of day, so there weren’t ever any diagrams or concept drawings of the amp! (To our knowledge)

2005 – Peavey 6505 & 6505+

So with Eddie leaving the building, Peavey renamed the 5150 to the 6505 and the 5150 II to the 6505+. This was to coincide with their 40th Anniversary. They are the exact same amps just without the famous 5150 stamps on them.

2007 – EVH and Fender

So in 2007 Eddie starts up his own Amp company EVH in partnership with Fender. Fender’s part is to take care of Distribution and manufacturing.

The EVH 5150III® 50S 6L6 HEAD

2007 -EVH 5150 III

This is the Holy Grail of Tone that Eddie Van Halen has chased his whole life — a truly clean channel, a super-heavy crunch channel and an off-the-scale overdrive channel you simply will not believe. Each of the three channels has gain, low, mid, high, volume and presence controls, as well as a global resonance knob.

This 100W head was a massive hit to Metal and Rock players alike, sporting unmistakable EVH style, this head is wrapped in a thick textured black or ivory vinyl with black steel grille and white front control panel. This amp was made in Mexico which was a big change from the US made Peavey versions.


2012 – EVH 5150 III 50w Head

This was a very popular amp, due to its price point and also it was a little bit smaller and lighter.

2013 – EVH 5150 2×12 Combo

This was a 50-watt 6L6 combo with 2 x 12” Custom EVH Celestion speakers. Exact same design as the head all wrapped up in a neat little package.

2014 – EVH 5150 1×12 Combo

This was a 50-watt combo with 1 x 12” Custom EVH Celestion speakers. Delivering a full spectrum of tone, channel one features pristine cleans, channel two kicks in with overdrive and heavy gain similar to the EVH 5150III 100S, while channel three oozes with liquid distortion. Channels one and two each have dual concentric gain/volume controls, with shared EQ (low, mid, high). Channel three has its own gain, volume and EQ (low, mid, high) controls. All three channels also have global presence, resonance and reverb controls.


2015 – EVH LBX

The LBX was the first Lunchbox type amp for EVH with a mighty sonic force to be reckoned with, the EVH 5150III 15W LBX is an easy-to-carry head. Armed with five ECC83S (12AX7) and two EL84 tubes for incredible high gain sound, it performs like an arena-filling champ. Two flexible channels, the famous EVH Blue “Crunch” and Red “Full Burn,” combine with the familiar low/mid/high/presence tone controls and 1/4–power switch so you can easily dial-in your own roaring Variac-less “brown” sound.

2015 – EVH MXR 5150 Overdrive

The MXR design team has collaborated with Eddie Van Halen to deliver a full range of powerful saturation and hyper-driven tones right at your feet. The resulting EVH 5150 Overdrive joins hand-adjusted multi-stage MOSFETs with a full complement of controls to deliver overdriven tube-like tones and exceptional sonic flexibility through a wide variety of amps and speaker cabinets. 

2015 – EVH Stealth 5150III 100S

Head This hand-customized EVH 5150III® 100S head is identical to the setup Eddie Van Halen most recently toured with, featuring his exact same custom modifications.

Not just dressed in a seductively dark finish, this 100-watt Stealth head roars with its own unique voice — tweaked with added features specifically to meet Eddie Van Halen’s touring requirements. Channel one soars with pristine and sparkling cleans; channel two features increased gain for greater sustain and is re-voiced for improved low-mid frequency definition; channel three also features increased gain and improved range for the “low” control. Each channel has its own versatile controls (volume, gain, presence, low, mid, high), as well as a rear-panel resonance control knob that dials in fine-tuned low-end response.

The amp also has eight JJ ECC83 preamp tubes, four Shuguang 6L6 power tubes, switchable output impedance (4, 8 and 16 ohms), adjustable bias control, vintage-style “chicken head” control knobs, red jewel, dual speaker jacks, effects loop, direct out and moulded plastic handle.


2016 – EVH EL34 100W & 50W Head

The EL34 power tubes deliver smoother contours, and greater sag and saturation that evoke a more modern “British” sound, all with more sustain and versatility than ever before. The 50W version was a massive improvement on the earlier EVH 5150 III 50w Head as there was more control over volume and gain between channels which put to rest the massive volume jumps when switching channels. (PIC)

2017 – EVH LBX2

The EVH® 5150III® LBXII is a 15-watt guitar amp head that packs an extraordinary and powerful punch. This 2.0 version is an easy-to-carry “lunchbox” head which features the famous green and blue channels, delivering sparkling clean tone and punchy gain.

This version comes with four (as opposed to 5 on the first version) ECC83S (12AX7) preamp and two EL84 power tubes, the LBXII also includes dual-concentric gain and volume controls for precise and independent control of each channel, as well as shared EQ presence and resonance controls.

2018 – EVH 5150III 50W 6L6 HEAD

This head was the 2.0 version of the original 50W 5150 head and like what they did with the EL34 version they put independent Volume and Gain on each channel to fix the massive volume jumps when switching channels on the original 50W version.

2019 – EVH 5150III 50W EL34 Combo Amps

The British-voiced 5150III 50W EL34 1×12 Combo and EVH 5150III 50W EL34 2×12 Combo. The 50-watt tube combo amps boast independent dual-concentric controls and three channels—clean, crunch and lead.


EVH 5150III EL34 2×12 Combo

2020 – EVH 5150III 15W LBX-S HEAD

The third instalment of the popular EVH 5150 Amps Lunchbox heads. A crossbreed between the LBXI and the LBXII, the seductively dark stealth LBX-S blends the Green “clean” channel with the Red “full burn” channel for a sonically diverse soundscape — from pristine cleans that soar to that sizzling modern Brit sound with high-gain attitude. Armed with four JJ ECC83S (12AX7) preamp tubes and two JJ EL84 power tubes, this easy-to-carry lunchbox head also includes dual-concentric gain and volume controls for precise and independent control of each channel, as well as shared EQ presence and resonance controls.

2021 – James Brown Returns

EVH has joined forces with amp engineer and original Peavey 5150 guitar amp designer James Brown for the new 5150 Iconic range of amps to bring the legendary tone to players at a more affordable price. The Iconic amps are based on the EVH 5150III amplifier that further refined the high gain machines that the late-Eddie Van Halen used through his career. The launch range consists of an 80W Head, and a 40W 1×12 Combo.


Eddie pictured with amp designer James Brown.


Coming Soon; the brand new Iconic Series of amps from EVH


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