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Review: Peavey Electronics ReValver MkIII (Mac/Win)

1/1/2009

FIG. 1: ReValver MkIII delivers models of popular Peavey amplifiers, such as the high-gain 6505, as well as other hardware amps, speakers, and effects.

FIG. 1: ReValver MkIII delivers models of popular Peavey amplifiers, such as the high-gain 6505, as well as other hardware amps, speakers, and effects.

In 2007 Peavey acquired Alien Connections, the company that developed the guitar-amp-and-effects-modeling software ReValver, and released an updated version soon after. ReValver MkIII runs standalone or as a VST or AU plug-in. The standalone edition gives you a running tally of the current rig's CPU use — a feature that isn't available in the plug-in version.

Rack Stacking

Upon first launch, ReValver greets you with a rack containing only the Title module, a virtual device that lets you load and save presets, adjust the input and output levels, access the Options window and user guide, and perform various utility functions (see Fig. 1). Below that, a rectangle in the vacant rackspace invites you to add modules by clicking on it.

The command to add modules opens the Module window, in which you can select from dozens of virtual amps, speakers, effects, and so on. The window provides separate tabs for different module types and describes each module with a paragraph taken from the manual (which is extremely informative and well written — a plus considering ReValver's flexibility). When at least one module is present, you can summon additional modules from a contextual menu. New modules will appear in the rack with the signal flowing from the Title module down to the one in the lowest position.

You can add as few or as many modules as you want, in any order, and rearrange them by dragging-and-dropping or right-clicking on them. There are no restrictions other than your computer's available processing power. Indeed, ReValver takes flexibility and tweakability to new extremes.

You can run ReValver in either of two quality modes. Real-time mode uses 32-bit processing and is recommended for live performance. Mixdown mode uses 64-bit processing and 45 oversampling. Peavey says that mixdown mode consumes about five times as many CPU cycles, and my tests bore this out. On my 2.66 GHz quad-core Mac Pro with 5 GB of RAM and Mac OS X 10.4, ReValver registered a 20 percent hit on one bar of Apple Logic Pro 8.0.2's CPU meter in real-time mode, but pegged one of the bars completely in mixdown mode. Clearly, mixdown mode is just for freezing or bouncing, but to my ear, it does sound slightly smoother and more articulate than real-time mode. To change modes, you first select the desired one in the Options window and then quit and reload all instances of ReValver. If you're using multiple instances of the plug-in, all of them operate in the same mode.

Tweaker's Paradise

FIG. 2: You can open the Module Tweak GUI window for any amp and then revoice and reconfigure each tube and tone stack.

FIG. 2: You can open the Module Tweak GUI window for any amp and then revoice and reconfigure each tube and tone stack.

The ability to customize ReValver MkIII's simulations from the ground up is amazing. You are presented with a preamp, power amp, and complete amp-head module for each of the 15 amplifier simulations. You can mix and match different preamp sections with different power-amp sections at any point in the signal chain. And that's not all — you can tweak every aspect of an amp's design (see Fig. 2), and I do mean every aspect. You can change tube characteristics, EQ stacks, you name it (for details, see the online bonus material at emusician.com).

The speaker simulations are equally versatile. ReValver comes with convolution samples of dozens of classic speaker cabinets, and you can load impulse responses for your favorite cabinet. I have long enjoyed using my own custom Egnater oversize speaker cabinet in convolution processors, so this was an especially welcome feature. ReValver's Speaker Construction Set module lets you specify individual cabinet sizes; select the number, size, and type of speakers; choose the microphone type and configuration; and equalize the result.

Effects and More

ReValver MkIII provides the usual selection of distortion boxes, compressors, delays, reverbs, and modulation effects. It also supplies tool modules such as frequency analyzers, tuners, signal splitters, and tone-shaping devices such as the Leveler volume-adjusting module.

ReValver has two tuners: the Tuner module offers both VU and strobe views, and the Simul-Tune module gives you six separate strobe tuners (one per string) and tunes against a user-selectable preset tone. I love good tuners, and ReValver's Tuner module ranks up there with the best. Personally, I found looking at Simul-Tune's six mini tuners too confusing, but that's not to say everyone would.

Although ReValver's onboard effects didn't blow me away, there are a few standouts. The Greener tube screamer is quite good, and Wow-Wah is one of the most versatile wah simulations I've seen, with lots of parameters you can tweak to find exactly the sound you want. I also liked the fact that the C-Verb convolution reverb lets you load in your own impulse responses in WAV format.

ReValver's VST Host module can host any VST plug-ins you have installed. You can use this module to add your favorite effects from other packages, and open their user interfaces by clicking on the GUI button. Peavey's Read Me file warns that some VST effects may crash ReValver, but I loaded all sorts of VST plug-ins and didn't experience a crash (although loading a VST instrument does kill the audio). The VST Host module vastly expands the sonic palette available to ReValver — kudos to its developers for including it.

X-Rated

As you might guess, ReValver's simulations of Peavey's own amps are top-notch. The heavy channels on the Triple X, 6505, and JSX models sound open, alive, powerful, and huge (see Web Clip 1). In fact, they're some of the best high-gain amps of any simulator I've heard. The clean and less distorted channels of these amps are also modeled, of course, but the distortion channels are the real draw.

The Classic 30 model sounds very open and warm, and it responds well to playing dynamics. To my ear, the ValveKing models have a slightly notch-filtered digital sound at higher gain settings. Ultimately, however, I was most impressed with the models of Peavey's heavy amps.

Some of the non-Peavey amps don't quite capture the signature character of the amps they model. The Fox ACS-45 didn't sound as Vox-like to me as the Vox simulations of some other modelers. The '62 BluesMaker sounded appropriately midgain and dynamic, but not much like the Marshall Bluesbreaker. The Flathill model didn't sound much like the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, either. And the Basic 100 didn't have the dynamic response of the Peavey models.

Le Petite, however, is a dynamic 3-channel amp with a very cool feature that lets you blend each of the three channels to taste. That blend feature gives the amp a unique character, and it was very playable. The MatchBox is a dynamic amp that was quite responsive to picking and had a smooth, liquid feel even when overdriven.

If you can live without the non-Peavey amps, you should check out ReValver HP (Mac/Win, $69.99). It includes all 6 Peavey tube-amp models and more than 75 speaker simulations, but it lacks the Module Tweak functions.

Hot Valves

ReValver MkIII delivers an unmatched level of flexibility and some of the best-modeled high-gain amps I've ever heard. Its VST Host module is unique among amp-simulation programs. ReValver is so tweakable, in fact, that with enough knowledge and patience, I'd bet even the simulations I wasn't as fond of could be adjusted to sound fantastic.

However, the way that ReValver continually opens dialog boxes in new windows can get messy if you have a lot of windows already open. What's more, the presets don't offer enough variety, instead sticking too close to traditional, blues, rock, and jazz staples. But if you're looking for a versatile amp simulator with excellent high-gain Peavey amp models, ReValver MkIII will not disappoint.


When Orren Merton isn't writing and editing music-technology books for Course Technology, he simulates being a guitarist for Ember After (emberafter.com).

PRODUCT SUMMARY

guitar amp modeler $249.99

PROS: Amazingly flexible. Excellent high-gain amps. Ability to load your own impulse-responses. Hosts VST plug-ins. Thorough documentation.

CONS: Many dull presets. Non-Peavey models a mixed bag. Tweaking amp components is complicated. The 64-bit mode doesn't work in real time. Too many nested dialog boxes.

Although ReValver's onboard effects didn't blow me away, there are a few standouts. The Greener tube screamer is quite good, and Wow-Wah is one of the most versatile wah simulations I've seen, with lots of parameters you can tweak to find exactly the sound you want. I also liked the fact that the C-Verb convolution reverb lets you load in your own impulse responses in WAV format.

ReValver's VST Host module can host any VST plug-ins you have installed. You can use this module to add your favorite effects from other packages, and open their user interfaces by clicking on the GUI button. Peavey's Read Me file warns that some VST effects may crash ReValver, but I loaded all sorts of VST plug-ins and didn't experience a crash (although loading a VST instrument does kill the audio). The VST Host module vastly expands the sonic palette available to ReValver — kudos to its developers for including it.

X-Rated

As you might guess, ReValver's simulations of Peavey's own amps are top-notch. The heavy channels on the Triple X, 6505, and JSX models sound open, alive, powerful, and huge (see Web Clip 1). In fact, they're some of the best high-gain amps of any simulator I've heard. The clean and less distorted channels of these amps are also modeled, of course, but the distortion channels are the real draw.

The Classic 30 model sounds very open and warm, and it responds well to playing dynamics. To my ear, the ValveKing models have a slightly notch-filtered digital sound at higher gain settings. Ultimately, however, I was most impressed with the models of Peavey's heavy amps.

Some of the non-Peavey amps don't quite capture the signature character of the amps they model. The Fox ACS-45 didn't sound as Vox-like to me as the Vox simulations of some other modelers. The '62 BluesMaker sounded appropriately midgain and dynamic, but not much like the Marshall Bluesbreaker. The Flathill model didn't sound much like the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, either. And the Basic 100 didn't have the dynamic response of the Peavey models.

Le Petite, however, is a dynamic 3-channel amp with a very cool feature that lets you blend each of the three channels to taste. That blend feature gives the amp a unique character, and it was very playable. The MatchBox is a dynamic amp that was quite responsive to picking and had a smooth, liquid feel even when overdriven.

If you can live without the non-Peavey amps, you should check out ReValver HP (Mac/Win, $69.99). It includes all 6 Peavey tube-amp models and more than 75 speaker simulations, but it lacks the Module Tweak functions.

Hot Valves

ReValver MkIII delivers an unmatched level of flexibility and some of the best-modeled high-gain amps I've ever heard. Its VST Host module is unique among amp-simulation programs. ReValver is so tweakable, in fact, that with enough knowledge and patience, I'd bet even the simulations I wasn't as fond of could be adjusted to sound fantastic.

However, the way that ReValver continually opens dialog boxes in new windows can get messy if you have a lot of windows already open. What's more, the presets don't offer enough variety, instead sticking too close to traditional, blues, rock, and jazz staples. But if you're looking for a versatile amp simulator with excellent high-gain Peavey amp models, ReValver MkIII will not disappoint.

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