Guitar Gear: Peavey Wiggy Amplifier and 2 x 12 Cabinet
Author: Mark Bell
The back panel is a little more traditional, but features some well thought out facilities. There are jack sockets for the remote footswitch, Effects Return and Send, Pre-amp In and Out for piggy-backing external amps, plus a nice touch with the inclusion of an FX Level control for balancing the ratio of effect-to-dry signal.
There's a 16, eight and four ohm speaker impedance selector switch and two speaker outputs, giving the option of running the Wiggy in mono, stereo (there are two separate inputs in the cabinet), or with extension speakers.
Flicking on the power switch immediately tells us something else about the Wiggy: it springs immediately to life which can only mean one thing - no valves. The brains behind the Eddie Van Halen 5150 series amps appear to have come up with a way to emulate 12AX7 valves via discreet transistors, something that to the best of my knowledge had only previously been achieved with powerful DSP digital processors. He certainly seems to have nailed it, because I would defy anyone in a blind test to pick that this is not a valve amp. It's fat and warm, cleans up when guitar volume is backed off and behaves in every way like its valve cousins, minus the cost and hassle of matching and replacing those glowing glass tubes.
Having set all the EQs flat, in went the trusty Strat' and the Wiggy was off, delivering a thick, clean rhythm sound. Cranking up the revs to the start of redline country (about eight) and Wiggy was getting a serious growl on. At this point a spot of de-celeration (master volume) became necessary as things had started crashing to the floor. I would not recommend standing too close to a Wiggy at high revs with master settings above four: these things really throw and have headroom to burn.
Having set the master to a safe-to-operate-indoor level, let's check out what the rest of the knobs do. It soon becomes
apparent that every other feature that either turns or slides on the shiny aluminium faceplate is dedicated to the same goal: tone-shaping. What this translates to is versatility, and the Wiggy is one versatile amp.
One of Zappa's own sample settings is named Mosquito Tone, which demonstrates the twangy, trebly extremes you can coax out of the five-band EQ, yet the ability of the twin 75 watt Sheffield 12" speakers to handle great slabs of bass-biased tone was equally impressive. In between these two extremes the world's your oyster. Fat jazzy clean? No problemo. Touch-of-filth front pickup Hendrix? You bet. Dark scary shred? A
doddle. Chic disco-funk sizzle? Yowza. On certain radical EQ settings I would swear the Wiggy was trying to talk to me, but that should probably remain between me and my analyst.
Plugging in a Les Paul showed the Wiggy to be equally at home with humbucker pickups, the extra power translating into a dark, menacing crunch, or at full revs a biting, high-sustain lead sound. Kicking in just 50% of the front-end More booster sent the whole thing into nitrous oxide overdrive.
One quibble I should mention is that the gain stage (Revs) needs to be pushed quite hard at anything less than ear-splitting volume before you start hearing any appreciable crunch (around eight). It's not until you reach beyond nine that it kicks in with a bang, making for very fine adjustments between nine and 10. I feel a more even gain curve would be a lot easier to adjust in the heat of a live gig. This niggle aside, the Wiggy performed faultlessly over a wide range of clean and overdriven settings, loudly staking its claim to be talked about in the same breath as those famous valve-driven boutique cousins. Whether guitarists can get over their well-ingrained valve bias and spring that sort of cash for a solid-state amp, regardless of how good it looks and sounds, we'll have to wait and see.