When it comes to tube amp heads, things are already pretty much set. There are some unwritten rules that everyone follows along with.
If you want high end performance, you will get one of many Marshalls, a Dual Rectifier maybe, or something similar.
Squeezing a new model into that elite list is anything but easy. It takes a while for people to get used to an amp, push it to its limits, and find out exactly what its underlying quality is. What Peavey is offering with their Windsor head might just be a good reason to expand that list.
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From a purely financial point of view, Peavey Windsor head comes at a reasonable price, you could even go as far as to say its among the more affordable tube amp heads, that also packs a very heavy punch. Sure, it’s made in China which by default makes some people roll their eyes, but the quality is there.
It’s not a hand wired unit, however Peavey’s quality control still stands. Let’s take a deeper look into this amp, and see why it’s one of the better amps made in the last decade.
Let’s take a deeper look into this amp
From the moment you lay your eyes on this amp, you can pretty much tell what you are in for. Peavey went for a more vintage case design, with a completely closed front panel that features a simple pattern.
The combination of black and creme color themes is only complimented by golden Peavey logo and a matching control cluster. However, no one is buying guitar amps because of their looks. What is more important is the fact that this Peavey Windsor head is built like a tank.
Everything is solid, and the circuitry inside reveals a very decent manufacturing job, even for an amp that is mass produced in Asia.
Most critics will tell you that Peavey Windsor is a simple amp, and that is more than true. Peavey went for function over form, and decided not to burden this model with unnecessary features that most people rarely use, but which ramp up the price significantly. The name of the game is power.
Raw power delivered to the user via a very straight forward circuitry. Power output is limited to 100 Watts made possible by a quad EL34 configuration. On the back panel, you will find a pentode/triode switch that makes this head compatible with a majority of cabs on the market.
Front control panel is pretty basic, and mirrors the idea behind this whole amp. There is only one channel available, and it comes with two distinct sound shaping control clusters.
The first one is naturally your standard three-band EQ that includes preamp volume knob and a boost button. The second one is far more interesting. This cluster includes master volume, resonance, presence and texture knobs. Master volume knob gives you some sort of attenuation effect, as it allows you to push the tubes into that sweet spot power band at lower volumes. A neat feature if you plan on using this amp at home.
In terms of inputs you have a high gain and low gain input on the far left. Interestingly enough, Peavey decided to put the jacks for the effects loop on the front of the amp. You can find them in the middle of the control panel, between two control clusters we just mentioned.
As you can see, there is nothing extraordinary going on in terms of controls and features. Everything is slimmed down to a bare minimum, which is actually a plus. At least in case of this particular amp.
Some say that Peavey Windsor head is the JCM Marshall never made. In reality this amp is definitely up there with JCM 800 series. You get a similar type of growl that we all love about Marshall.
One way to describe this amp is to say that it offers a British tube amp sound that is a bit leaning towards the vintage American style. With that said, Peavey Windsor head is versatile in its own way. There’s enough gain in this thing to satisfy all of your needs, maybe even too much.
This amp was designed for rock and more aggressive genres. That is apparent from its rather stiff clean channel. If you are looking for a versatile amp you can use for anything that doesn’t require distortion, you might end up disappointed.
There is simply not enough clarity and accuracy when you select the clean settings. No matter how much you tweak the controls, and do your best to make this amp produce decent clean tones, it just won’t happen. Alas, that’s the trade off for having an affordable tube amp that eats distortion right up.
Peavey’s texture control gives you a whole new dimension of sound shaping to play with. In essence, the idea behind this feature is to adjust the preamp in a way that converts it from a vintage A to a more modern A/B style amp. Combined with the presence and resonance controls, you can definitely get some interesting results.
What we like
Peavey Windsor is definitely not the jack of all trades, far from it. However, the things it was designed to do, it does very well. You can get a very wide range of distorted sounds from this head that will be fine for a variety of genres.
The amp is cheap, even after all these years since it was discontinued. Its simple design and function is something we consider a plus. Peavey Windsor head is a great amp, especially for those who are working with a tighter budget.
What we don’t like
The only real issue this amp has is the mediocre clean channel. It’s an animal that is extremely hard to wrangle. If you need to have great cleans, this amp will prove to be more of a frustration than enjoyment. Why exactly Peavey designed it this way is unclear, but it was most likely a matter of cost efficiency.
Finding a good quality tube amp at affordable prices is definitely an art these days. The ones that have proven their worth have used this fact to ramp up the price tag.
This led to a very black and white outlook that most guitar players have on tube amps. While we can always appreciate a good Mesa/Boogie amp, it’s not something everyone can afford. Peavey tapped into this void between cheap solid state amps and expensive tube amps with their Windsor, giving us a very decent amp that is a bargain even today.
With that said, Windsor has its good and bad sides. The lack of a decent clean channel is definitely something that a noticeable amount of users just can’t get over. The compensation though, is more than good. You get a sound that is very close to vintage Marshalls at a fraction of the cost.
That is something you just have to appreciate. Combined with a decent cabinet, this amp can really become your best friend if you understand what it’s made to do, and don’t expect anything more. If that is something you can do, we definitely recommend you take a closer look at one of these if it ever crosses your path.