If you have listened to any modern metal album recorded between 1999 and 2015, it was probably done with a Peavey 5150. The amp, originally designed by Eddie Van Halen, has gone on to be a staple in metal. But what about the more affordable Bugera?
Peavey VS Bugera: Let The Showdown Begin…
Tube amps are a staple of the metal community and none is more popular than the Peavey 5150/6505. This was a collaboration between the late Eddie van Halen and Peavey, to achieve his signature high gain sound from his “modded” Marshall amps.
Eddie’s Marshall amps worked great for what they were. But the mods that Eddie had done to them, had the amps…umm…exploding a lot. Seriously, they blew up and overheated all the time. That can be a problem in the middle of show.
And while you can get ALL of these tones from software like BIAS FX 2, purists still love (and swear by) their hardware.
So Peavey stepped up to the challenge and after a few prototypes, they finally delivered the 5150, the namesake attributed to the Van Halen song from their famous album.
Metal musicians flocked to the 5150, and they still do to this day. It is legendary for a reason, however it is no longer in production by Peavey. The amp manufacturer moved on to make the 6505, which is essentially a copy of the 5150. Purists still search the used market for the 5150, though.
Then comes Bugera, who may have no shame in admitting where the 6262 amp’s influence lies. Is it a clone of the 5150?
No, but it is a very close representation of the Peavey. The difference is the Bugera is a budget amp. But don’t let the price fool you, it has some great updated features that rivals the 5150!
I suppose we should start this shoot-out with the specs and features of both amplifiers and a summary of what both of them are capable of. Then we will compare the units in 4 different categories:
- Distorted Tone
- Clean Tone
- Tube Features
Which one will come out the victor?
Peavey 5150: Overview
The Peavey 5150 got it’s start in 1992 as the signature guitar amp for Eddie Van Halen. AS mentioned before, Eddie needed something more rugged that won’t blow up.
The 5150 was a step away from “traditional” tube amps, as it’s sound starts with a PCB (Printed Circuit Board). This is usually looked down by purists as tube amps usually lack any modern technology.
This PCB helped a lot with any potential grounding issues the amp may have from the power source. This means the amp retained it’s sound regardless of the quality of power source or any interference.
The 5150 went on to be used by everyone from Fear Factory, to Machinehead. This is due to a few Metal producers getting their hands on them in the 1990’s and using them exclusively on albums.
With modeling amps, and pedal processors, the 5150 is the most popular sound they mimic. Modern metal still uses the peavey in the studio all the time.
Let’s check out the specs:
- 120 watts of tube power
- 5 12AX7 Preamp tubes
- 4 6L6 Power tubes
- 4, 8, and 12 ohm output
- Low/High Gain inputs
- 3 Band EQ (shared)
- 2 Channels: Rhythm and Lead
- Independent FX Loop
- Fixed Bias
The 5150 is an absolute monster of an amplifier. While most tube amps never go past 100 watts, the 5150 goes to 120 watts. That is a “Spinal Tap” amount of power! The amp has a matching cabinet usually loaded with Vintage Celestion speakers.
The biggest complaint from most people is the shared EQ section. This means that your EQ settings are the same for all channels. I can see this as being a pain for some people, but the peavey is usually a “set it and forget it” amp.
In my years of using the amp, I rarely got a bad tone from it. There are several models out there of the 5150. For the sake of this review, we are talking about the original.
The Peavey 5150: Standout Features Of A Classic Amp
The Tone: No matter how you seem to set the EQ, the 5150 sounds the same. The distortion tones are simply out of this world. There is a reason why it is the staple of any Metal guitarist’s sound.
The Lead Channel is all out saturation, and has more gain than you could ever use. The Rhythm channel has the gain dialed back a bit, and adds the only other EQ you’ll really find on this amp. It has a “bright” switch. The bright switch stays engaged when it comes to most players.
The combination of 12AX7 tubes and 6l6 tubes is a classic setup for anything high gain. While this lends the 5150 to being a straight metal amp, it also makes for a good “crunch” sound. The superior definition of the amp under any kind of gain load is what gives the 5150 it’s tone.
Fixed Bias: What does this mean? What is a bias? Do I have to have an amp biased after every tube change?
Tube Amp Bias is the process of electrically setting the output of your tubes for optimum performance when changing out the tubes. This is usually best left to a professional, as you have to measure bias under a high power load. This can shock you, and even cause death!
The 5150 has a fixed bias, no matter what brand of tubes you install into the amp. This means never having to fuss with an amp tech. The amp automatically adjusts to the new tubes.
Bugera 6262: Overview
Bugera is German amplifier company that has been around for quite a while. The company seems to make just about any kind of amplifier you can imagine. To be honest…just like Peavey does!
But Bugera, regardless of what some people seem to think, are not just a copycat company. Bugera has the Infinium Series of amps that actually improve upon some features. The Infinium Series is where the 6262 comes from.
The Infinium Series uses classic amplifier designs with a catch: they have modern features. The Infinium has the same type of PCB that the 5150 has, with other features like a “tube life extender”.
Bugera says that they want to take classic amps and modernize them, with added features and updates. I can get behind that!
- 120 Watts
- 6 12AX7 Preamp tubes
- 4 6L6 Power Tubes
- 4, 8, and 12 ohm output
- 2 Channels
- Single guitar input
- 3 Band EQ
- FX Loop
- Infinium Tube Technology
On paper, the Bugera 6262 on paper, looks a whole lot like the Peavey 5150. The big difference being the use of 6 preamp tubes instead of 5. Otherwise, they are very similar in construction and function. But how does it sound?
I can see why so many people give the Bugera flack. It certainly works/looks like a Peavey 5150! However it’s a pretty far cry from being a “clone”. The 6262 has it’s own features and advantages.
It is pretty easy to judge a book by it’s cover. I get it.
There are a few differences that are negligible, and one really huge difference that changes the game a little for the Bugera. Why don’t we check out the features that I think stand out the most:
Standout Features of the Bugera 6262: Future Proof Design
The Tone: The Bugera fits in the same category as the 5150, as being a straight-forward high gain amp goes. It works basically the same as the Peavey, with an added tube in the preamp section.
This gives the distortion a rich tone with a good amount of depth. Like the 5150, it is hard to get a “bad” sound out of the amp, and the three band EQ works much in the same vein. The control layout is almost identical.
Where the distortion shines is in the mid-scooped sounds. The Mid controls seem a little more dynamic on the Bugera than on the Peavey. The scooped sounds are really killer from this amp. However, the mids are not as pronounced as it’s inspiration.
The “crunch sounds are very versatile and can do anything from AC/DC to Guns and Roses. There is a pretty wide palate to play with, and easy to dial in. Otherwise, it does everything I mentioned above with the 5150.
The Infinium Technology: The Infinium circuit is designed to optimize the performance of your output tubes and distribute the load evenly between the tubes. By automatically adjusting current levels, aging tubes are compensated for and your tone retains even.
This technology allows you to grab whatever replacement tube you have on hand and get back to playing – there’s no matching necessary. In fact, you can mix and match tubes to create your very own signature sound without the hassle and expense of buying matched pairs.
There is an LED Indicator on the back of the amp that tells you the health of your tubes. This is pretty cool, and you never have to bias the tubes.
*For best results I would still always use a matched set of tubes, and change out all of the tubes per section. Sure, this is a cool feature, but there is nothing wrong with an ounce of prevention.
Round 1: Distorted Tones
This is a tough call, but I think Peavey wins this round!
Both amps nail that highly saturated distortion tone. But where the Bugera loses to the peavey is the EQ section. It just doesn’t have the same wide palate that the 5150 does.
If you blindfold test these amps, you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference on the high gain channel. But when it gets down to the versatility of tones, the Bugera is more of a one trick pony to me. The EQ section just cannot keep up with the 5150.
The 5150 wins because the EQ section is broad in the midrange, Even though it is only really a 3 band EQ section, there is a lot you can do with it. This includes getting that mid 1990’s “scooped mid” sound that was so popular in Metal.
The Bugera just doesn’t have this same amount of control. That’s not to say that the Bugera sounds bad, but this is a fight to the death! The Peavey wins!
POINT: Peavey 5150
Round 2: Clean Tones
This is pretty hard to gauge to be fair. The reason is not because they are both great sounding clean channels either. It is quite the opposite!
The 5150 is well known for having a…lackluster clean tone. Many people use a plethora of pedals to make the clean channel a little more lively. I am not saying it sounds bad, but it doesn’t sound good either.
So Bugera is going to take the point on this one. Simply because the clean tone is slightly better than the 5150. The Bugera has more natural warmness to it than the Peavey.
The biggest problem when it comes to these amps, is the clean channels are tied to the same EQ as the dirty sounds. maybe, if the clean channel had it’s own independent EQ section, you could make it sound better.
When popular bands use these amps live on stage, they usually have a trick up their sleeve when it comes to their clean tone: they use a separate amp. Most times the amp is something with a beautiful clean tone, like a Fender amp.
So clean tones just are not these amp’s strong suits. That’s ok to me, since that isn’t why I would buy one anyway! This is high gain territory, for massive distortion tones.
If you want pretty clean tones, go for a Fender or a Vox.
POINT: Bugera 6262 (just barely)
Round 3: Tube Specs and Features
Both amps are very cool when it comes to tubes. We have already mentioned how both amps self-bias. But Bugera has a slight edge with their Infinium Technology.
The fact that you can track your tube’s health and longevity with the Bugera is really cool. Tubes are mostly unpredictable, and can last differently depending on brand, type…there’s so many factors. I have had tubes last for years, and some last for months.
As I mentioned earlier, I do not recommend “mixing and matching” tubes as the amp is advertised to do. I understand that the Infinium Technology helps to preserve the tubes and it is technically safe to mix tubes. But I guess that a matched set will just always perform a little better.
Both amps are great when it comes to tube maintenance, but Bugera just barely edges out the 5150.
POINT: Bugera 6262
Round 4: Construction Quality
Peavey wins this all day. Sorry Bugera.
Peavey’s construction is not only evident when it comes to the outside construction of the amp, but also the inside and the wiring. Every 5150 I have ever seen opened up, has been really amazing quality electronic components.
Both amps have a similar PCB, but the 5150 is just slightly better. The Peavey also has some higher spec’d parts when it comes to the knobs, transistors, and pretty much everything that is not a tube inside the amp.
Bugera is designed in Germany, but usually assembled in China. This is not a slight against the company at all, but the internal parts are usually just not up to par with the mostly American made Peavey.
POINT: PEAVEY 5150
It’s A Tie! So What Does This Mean?
Well, this is awkward.
At the end of the day, both of these amps would be a good choice for any Metal guitarist. They both do a similar sound that is perfect for any of the many sub-genres of metal.
But This Is The Tie-Breaker: The price.
The Peavey 5150 and 6505 are definitely going to be a little more pricey. If you go for a vintage 5150, you can end up paying a premium price. Peavey’s newer 6505 models are the same specs as the original 5150 and can be found for a much more affordable price.
Bugera on the other hand, is always affordable. It is their claim to fame! The parts and labor may be outsourced, but the design remains the same. What it all comes down to is your budget.
Neither of the amps are going to break the bank like a boutique amp, but the Bugera is about half the price of a Peavey.
I think both amps have their place in the guitar world. I would feel better touring with the Peavey 5150 since it is road-tested and reliable. But in the studio, I think the Bugera can be a great option for someone wanting that classic tone.
So who is the winner? This time it’s up to you!