Review: EVH 5150 Iconic Series 15W 1X10 Combo Amp

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Review: EVH 5150 Iconic Series 15W 1X10 Combo Amp

evh 5150 iconic series 15w 1x10 combo
Words by Christopher Hockey

EVH 5150 Iconic Series 15W 1X10 Combo | Fender Music Australia | RRP: RRP $2,499.00

In 1990, Eddie Van Halen decided he needed a unique amplifier, designed especially for his unique needs. In order to make this dream a reality, he put his faith in renowned engineer James Brown, who delivered something far greater than a mere signature model. The 5150 had an enormous impact and is now considered by many to be the quintessential modern heavy metal amp. Much like Eddie himself, it defined the sound of an era, influencing a whole generation of guitarists in the process.

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Now, with the guidance and blessing of James Brown himself, the team at EVH have made that same iconic sound available in a much smaller and more affordable package. The 5150 Iconic Series 15W 1X10 Combo seeks to recreate the blistering white hot sound of the classic 5150, with the added convenience of some modern appointments and a more versatile, compact size.

The original 5150 featured five cascading preamps and four gain stages for increased saturation and was largely defined by its ‘cold bias’ power tubes. This refers to the amp’s fixed bias, which was set to a lower value than other amps, resulting in the power tubes operating at a lower energy. This allowed the amplifier to have a more controllable gain setting, perfect for taming EVH’s ultra high-gain sound.

This famously searing high-gain tone is faithfully recreated in the Iconic Series with a versatile two channel configuration. Both channels feature independent volume and gain controls and two gain voicings respectively, for ultimate flexibility and cohesion. Channel one acts as a clean channel, ranging from deep, crystal clear clean sounds to vintage crunch. Engaging the overdrive switch kicks the saturation up a notch, perfect for classic rock sounds.

The second channel takes the amp into full blown distortion, exhibiting the powerful growl synonymous with the Van Halen name. Engaging the ‘Burn’ switch increases the saturation even more, taking the amp to its thunderously dirty limits. Both channels feature a highly usable and expansive spectrum of sounds that covers an immense amount of ground, making this a highly versatile tool with potentially wide appeal.

Both channels are governed by a singular passive three-band EQ, as well as a Presence control for adjusting high frequency response and a Resonance control for the lows. Also included on the front panel is a flexible reverb control, which is finely tuned to create the perfect amount of bounce and decay for rooms of any size. Adding to the amp’s commendable versatility is a wattage switch on the rear panel which attenuates the amp down to a quarter of its full power, making this an amp appropriate for almost any live situation, even bedrooms!

Allowing players to achieve gnarly, fully saturated sounds at volumes appropriate for modern venues is an innovation that transcended the needs of the man himself and changed the game entirely. This combo is the next step of that evolution, expanding upon the spirit of EVH’s original quest for a reliably heavy and controllable sound, and making it even more accessible.

Maximising the availability of a heavy sound at any volume, this 1X10 combo is both conveniently compact and intriguingly innovative. For example, when using channel two, turning up the ample amount of gain on tap will simultaneously increase the prevalence of the amp’s noise reduction function, meaning players can tame their sound even at the limits of the amp’s heavy distortion.

At its cleanest, the Iconic Series combo can achieve lush, Fender-like cleans, especially when paired with its versatile reverb. With refined lows, crunchy mids and sparkling highs, the custom-voiced Celestion 1×10 speaker shines at any setting, whilst the plywood cabinet’s internal baffling ensures the low end stays tight and punchy.

Conveniently, the amp comes with a footswitch for switching channels which features a mercifully long cable. The option to switch channels with ease creates the possibility of a fantastic one-two punch, from clean to dirty, or rhythm to lead in a heartbeat. The second channel functions beautifully for either a massive increase in gain, volume or both, eliminating the need for a dirt box.

Overall, the amp does a fantastic job of recreating the enormously powerful sound of a classic 5150 in a very manageable 15 watt combo. Metal players will find it to be a particularly useful tool for rehearsals and smaller shows where a stack isn’t appropriate, and will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of gain on tap. For everything from light sparkly breakup to crushingly heavy saturation, this amp delivers a rich, deep sound that is usable in any situation.

Under the expert guidance of original designer James Brown, EVH have captured the crunchy midrange grind of Eddie Van Halen. Styled in a classy white ivory finish with a minimalist design, it even has the slick looks to match its ergonomic, iconic and thoughtful layout.

As heavy metal evolves, so must the tools used to make it. Eddie’s vision of a high gain amp that was both reliable and controllable moved sensibilities away from the less distorted but more unruly sounds of the past into a new era. In the same spirit of innovation, this new combo takes that iconic sound and applies it to the smaller rooms and lower stage volumes that dominate the current live circuit.

Satisfying the modern day desire for a huge EVH sound at an affordable price, the Iconic Series puts an inspiring sound, devised by an inspiring player, in the hands of a new generation. An iconic amplifier that redefined the sound of a genre, the Iconic Series now has an opportunity to do the same again. This innovative evolution of Eddie Van Halen’s vision is a tool expertly designed for the modern world, a world that misses him dearly.

For more information, head to EVH. For local enquiries, check out Fender Music Australia.