When you think of reliable workhorse amps, Peavey’s name has to be at the forefront of your mind. Walk into any rehearsal space around the country and you’re bound to find some old, battered Peavey combos for bass and guitar, probably about 20 years old, bought for pennies, but still doing the job.
In terms of reliability and affordability Peavey rarely put a foot wrong with their amps, and although they also cater to the higher end of the market too, it’s at the budget and midrange points that they’ve made their name.
The new Tour TKO115 looks set to continue that fine pedigree, offering a perfect gigging and rehearsal combo for less than £400. But in this day of ultra-lightweight, features laden amps can this relatively plain and simple offering capture the imagination and knock you over with its sounds?
Build Quality And Features
At 33kg the TKO 115 isn’t exactly a light combo, and its dimensions aren’t compact either. Peavey certainly aren’t going for the lightweight sector of the market with this beast, and the two side-mounted metal grab handles are solidly built to deal with the weight. Although this may (just about) be a one-man carry for most people in terms of its weight, the dimensions of the combo mean that lifting and manoeuvring the TKO is easiest with the help of a bandmate.
There’s no doubt that this combo has been built to survive the rigours of gigging and movement from home to rehearsal to gig and back again. The front grille is solid metal and feels as if it could withstand the heaviest knocks, although I’d be worried about that plastic Peavey badge. Incidentally the badge lights up when the combo is turned on: not exactly a deal clincher, but it does look very cool.
The control panel is relatively straightforward, another nod to this being a practical gigging combo that needs minimal fussing with to get the job done. The quarter-inch input socket has a pad switch for active or passive basses followed by your input gain. If you decide not to use the graphic EQ, all you’ve got in terms of tone control is a knob for bass and one for treble, so it’s pretty basic. The knobs for all these controls, and the master volume, all feel a tad flimsy. Although they’re well fitted, the turning action is a little too slick and they just feel generally a bit light- weight. How they’d stand up to a hefty knock remains to be seen, although they are well seated and didn’t come loose even with a good tug.
The seven-band graphic EQ can be bypassed or engaged via a small push button. Again, the sliders don’t feel of the best quality. The sliders feel cheap and rough in operation, although they do catch the centre notch firmly. There’s quite a bit of horizontal play in the sliders and this would be the area I’d expect to see some damage to first. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine these shearing off if they got caught or knocked.
Other controls are a bright switch, which gives a high-end boost, and a contour switch that takes out your mid frequencies for that smooth scooped tone. Lastly, you’ve got a button for Peavey’s DDT speaker protection system. This circuit senses when your amp is about to clip and automatically dials in some compression to smooth things out. On the back you’ve got a quarter-inch external speaker output for running a secondary cab, and then an FX loop send and return and a DI out. Simple as you like.
There’s no built-in effects, tuner or compressor, features that are becoming increas- ingly common on combos these days. Perhaps the lack of effects is no bad thing, as they tend not to be of the highest quality, and given the no-frills approach from Peavey on this amp, this is only a minor criticism.
The first thing you notice on turning the combo on is how loud the fan is. Closing my eyes while not playing had me in mind of the interior of an EasyJet Airbus at 30,000 feet, so intrusive is the noise from the fan.
Bypassing the EQ and leaving everything flat, the TKO has a full, deep tone that is surprisingly smooth, but definitely lacks a little in top-end definition. Forays to the top end of my test bass sounded mellow and warm, but in the lower register things sounded a tad muffled for my liking.
It’s a sound that would work surprisingly well for soul and other similar genres, not what I’d initially tag a Peavey amp for. Punching in the Bright switch yielded a much more versatile tone and the inherent depth of the amp’s sound meant that the treble kick just added a touch of definition and sparkle, as opposed to piercing or clicky highs.
The Contour button gives you access to a workable slap tone at the push of a button, but I found the resulting tone too bassy and muffly for defined finger work. Nonetheless, popped notes spoke out with force and clarity, while the thumbed notes were surprisingly tight and punchy.
Without the graphic EQ engaged you’ve just the aforemen- tioned buttons and a Low and High knob to tweak your tone. Both EQ knobs function well, but it does mean that getting a tight midrange honk for that Jaco tone is quite tough. The High control doesn’t roll on too much treble, and, even wide open, the sounds weren’t too grating and didn’t introduce any back- ground hiss that was discernible over the fan noise. The TKO also coped admirably with a heavy bass boost, and by rolling off the treble I was surprised at how good a dub/reggae sound I could coax from it.
Once you start playing with the EQ, the versatility of the TKO becomes apparent. Give it a healthy boost on the 200Hz slider and you get a pleasing low mid-range grunt that maintains depth thanks to the inherent sound of the amp. Scooping out the mids gave a much better slap sound than from the contour, and fingerstyle playing sounded more defined too. One last thing: the TKO is, as you might expect, very loud and so should serve you well as a gigging combo. The amp deals well with being pushed hard.
In a world of ever lighter and smaller bass amps, the TKO is something of an anomaly. While other manufacturers seek to reduce, Peavey have instead put together a pretty bulky 1×15 combo that’s built like a tank. It’s certainly big and heavy, but it can kick out bass like it’s going out of fashion, and at high volumes too. It’s a shame about the noisy fan, but then even at bedroom practice volumes this becomes less apparent, and certainly isn’t a concern for gigs. The TKO is loud and proud, but whether it can lure people away from those pricier but sleeker lightweight combos is another thing.
PRICE | £399
MADE IN | USA
POWER OUTPUT | 400 watts
CONTROLS | Master volume, 7-band graphic EQ with high and low shelving controls, pre-shape contour switch, bright switch, active/passive pickup switch
FEATURES | Effects loop, DDT speaker protection
INPUTS | Quarter-inch Instrument input
OUTPUTS | Headphone output, tuner output
SPEAKERS | Ceramic 15” (381mm) specially designed loudspeaker and high- frequency tweeter
WEIGHT | 75lb/33kg
DIMENSIONS | 22” H x 23.3” W x 19.5” D
|What we think|
PLUS | Plenty of volume. Versatile amp once you kick in the graphic EQ
MINUS | Bulky and heavy. Noisy fan
OVERALL | A decent gigging combo that won’t break the bank, but might break your back
|BUILD QUALITY | 8/10SOUND QUALITY | 6/10
VALUE | 10/10