Great tone, great functionality, handy size, famous Peavey durability and a low, low price make the Bandit 65 one of the best preowned amps available.
Take a stroll through your local music shop and you'll see a bevy of amps ranging from tiny solid state practice amps to top-of-line tube driven stacks. You'll likely be surprised at the variety but you'll probably be more surprised at the prices! There are some expensive amplifiers out there!The good news is there are alot of viable used amplifiers available for the guitarist on a budget. You would be hard pressed to find an amp that gives more "bang for the buck" than the Peavey Bandit 65.
Back to the 80's
As part of their Solo Series, Peavey began marketing the Bandit 65 around 1980. Due to it's fairly compact size and even more compact price (under $250 retail) the Bandit enjoyed a fairly wide acceptance especially among country musicians. Peavey amps had been popular with country players for much of the 70's.In fact, you couldn't turn on Hee Haw or Pop Goes the Country without seeing a backline stuffed with Peavey products. For some reason, however, big-time rock musicians seemed to be a little late to the Peavey party. But for a budding rocker on a budget it was hard to walk away from the Bandit 65 in the early 80's.
Over the years, tales of Peavey amp durability have become almost legendary. Hence there are still A LOT of these little guys banging around garages, basements, bedrooms and pawn shops. Yes the funky logo and ubiquitous brushed aluminum trim may give you pause but don't let this gawdiness scare you. The Bandit 65 is a real workhorse and can still deliver great sound and performance for a mere pittance.
The layout of the Bandit 65 is simple enough. The lead channel consists of controls for pre-gain, Saturation (Peavey's proprietary distortion circuit), and post-gain (which is merely the volume for the lead channel).The Pre-gain knob has a pull-boost function that boosts high-end frequencies. The normal or clean channel features controls for volume, Low, Mid, High, Presence and Reverb. The volume (Normal gain) knob, like the Pre-gain in the lead channel, has a pull-boost to kick up the high frequency. Additionally, the Mid control also has a pull-boost that adds an additional punch to the mid-frequencies.The rear of the Bandit 65 features a loop for effects and an input for a footwitch allowing you to toggle between the lead and clean channels and turn the reverb on and off. The amp came stock with the Peavey Scorpion 12" speaker. Featuring a 65 Watt solid-state power section and weighing in at under 40 pounds, the Bandit is just big enough to keep up with a drummer but small enough to not require hernia surgery.
The Amp That Will Not Die
As mentioned above, Peavey has always had the reputation for building equipment that could take alot of punishment.The Bandit has been known to fall out of moving vehicles, have beer spilled on it and even be submerged in water (!) and still work.Many a guitarist, myself included, have been gratefull they've had their trusty old Bandit in the van or pickup when their cool, spendy amp has died in the middle of a gig! The fact that there are so many of these guys still in operation is testament to their bullet-proof nature. For this reason alone, the Bandit 65 is a good investment. You never know when you'll need an emergency back up.
So How Does the Bandit 65 Sound?
The Bandit is a solid state amp. If you're hoping to coax warm, tubey, Deluxe Reveb type tones from this little guy you'll be a bit let down. However, you will immediately be impressed with how good the clean channel does sound. There's tons of clean headroom and, while not Fender lush, the spring reverb is pretty good. Try single coils through the Bandit's clean channel and you'll be pleasantly surprised.The lead channel is solid - good but not great. The Saturation circuit can sound a bit fizzy but backing off on the Presence a bit helps. You'll want to experiment with the interaction between the Pre-gain and Saturation controls. Cranking the Pre-gain gives a little more warmth - but cranking it too high with the Saturation too high makes for some mud. However, dialing back the Saturation can yield some fairly warm, almost tube-like, overdrive.Overall, my preference is the clean channel. With a Tube Screamer, Bad Monkey or other good OD or distortion pedal out front you'll get a good rock tone. One little trick I like to use is to turn the Saturation all the way down and use the Lead channel as a semi-clean boost for solos.
The Price is Nice
You've probably noticed even some lousy amps from the late 70's and early 80's can cost a mint. For whatever reason many Peavey amps have been passed by when it comes to the vintage market. Well, Peavey's loss is your gain! Many old Peavey amps can be had for a song! I've seen fully functioning Bandit 65's for as little as $60 in local consignment shops.On the high end you could spend up to $175. $100 to $150 seems to be the common range. Even at the upper end of their current price-range it's a steal. These guys are fairly plentiful on Craigslist and in pawn shops.
Is the Bandit 65 the best sounding amp you'll ever hear? No. Is it the best looking amp you'll ever see? No. However, if money is a consideration, you would be wise to take a look at a Bandit next time you see one at the local used music store. This is a good, hardworking amp that sounds good and will likely be working longer than most of us will! Buy one while they're still cheap!
(Originally published at Suite101.com )