The Company Line
We’ve done the company line before on Peavey®. They are a standard-setter when it comes to providing a lot of value with plenty of innovation, yet at a relatively low cost, and doing so without sacrificing quality. This is a hard formula to serve, but they’ve been doing successfully it for many years. Back at the 2014 Winter NAMM Show, Peavey introduced the MiniMEGA™. See the video at the Bass Gear Magazine channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oir4jrcgqz0). We have been eager to get our hands on one ever since, and that time has arrived!
Across the front, you have the usual ¼” mono input jack for the instrument, Gain control, Compressor, Low EQ, stacked Lo Mid EQ (gain and adjustable center frequency), stacked Hi Mid EQ (same), High EQ, stacked Kosmos® control (Kosmos A and Kosmos C), the (master) Volume control, and the 1/8” mini jack for headphones. The buttons below are Crunch, compressor Enable, Punch, Narrow Q (for each of Hi and Lo Mids), Bright, Kosmos enable, and Mute.
The Gain knob is used to set the main gain level to properly feed the compressor and EQ, but not overdrive it, whereas the Volume control is what you then use to control how loud you want to be. Pretty typical stuff there, but the “hints” section of the manual (a very nice feature, by the way) points out that setting the Gain is critical to getting best results from the compressor, which is post Gain, but pre-EQ (which I feel is a good choice). The compressor is an optical one, which in simplest terms means it’s using an electronic design that has lower noise and distortion, as well as greater dynamic range than comparable, non-optical ones. The single control sets the ratio. The attack/release times are pre-fixed (which I also feel is a good choice for this application).
The EQ implementation was actually borrowed from their Crest CV 20 professional mixing console (Peavey acquired Crest Audio in 1999), except modified for bass guitar, of course. The Low EQ modifies a frequency range from 20-200Hz. The Lo Mid can be adjusted to boost and cut (15 dB) at anywhere from 200Hz to 800Hz, whereas the Hi Mid control goes from 800Hz to 3.2kHz. Both controls also sport a “Narrow Q” option. Every EQ control will affect not just the center frequency, but also adjacent frequencies. Think of a tent pole. Think of narrowing the Q as bringing the tent stakes closer to the pole. It reduces the range of adjacent frequencies when you select narrow Q. There’s a nice graphical explanation in the manual, as well. Next are the Kosmos A and Kosmos C controls. Both are harmonic enhancers. The Kosmos A generates sub harmonics to add ultra lows to your sound, whereas Kosmos C uses higher-frequency harmonics, basically designed (as stated in the manual) to make smaller cabs sound bigger. Since these are both controls in the low-end frequencies, caution is advised when using these in combination with the Low EQ control, which is good advice.
The Crunch control is described as a vintage, tube-simulated overdrive sound. The Punch boosts lows and some highs, primarily targeted at slappers. The Bright adds 10 dB at 8kHz, designed to maybe help bring back some sheen from old strings. The power section is a class-D design, rated at 1,000 watts RMS into 4 ohms (700 watts RMS into 8 ohms).
Around the back, you have selectable power input for international compatibility from 120-240VAC, 50-60Hz. There are dual Neutrik® Speakon® “combo” jacks, which accept the (recommended) Speakon plugs, as well as the 1/4” plugs, if you need to use an older cable type in a pinch. Next is the Aux input, which inserts after the Mute (though before the volume control). So you can’t just push the Mute button and practice silently with a cab attached. You’ll have to disconnect any cabs for that. Next, is a fully featured DI implementation, with both XLR as well as ¼” TRS balanced connections, and supporting a Pad, Pre/Post (EQ) control, and a ground lift. After this, we find the ¼” jacks for the effects loop (Send and Return), and finally the Tuner output and footswitch/MIDI input (more on this in the next section).
From a construction standpoint, it’s both attractive and feels solid. At 8 pounds, it’s a nice balance between light, but not too light. It’s an easy carry, but at the same time, connecting a guitar cord isn’t going to pull it off the cabinet. The handles on the front seem mostly just aesthetic, since this unit wasn’t designed for a rack, though they could serve as a knob protector if the amp fell off the cab face-first. The cooling vents are on top, however, and carry a 2” free air space requirement. This essentially means you can’t put anything directly on top of the amp.
The (optional) 5-Button MIDI Footswitch
There are actually two things to discuss here: the standard MIDI implementation, and how the 5-button footswitch actually works with its somewhat proprietary MIDI implementation. There are two MIDI implementations suitable for third-party controllers. One uses continuous controllers, where anything in the lower half of the range (decimal 0-63) is “off” and anything in the upper half of the range (decimal 64-127) is “on.” Continuous controllers 1 through 9 represent Crunch, Compressor, Punch, Lo Narrow Q, Hi Narrow Q, Bright, Kosmos, Mute, and effects loop, respectively. The other generic MIDI implementation uses program change information to enable/disable effects loop, Kosmos, Bright, Punch, Compressor, and Crunch. Program changes 1-63 (decimal) turn different combinations of these features on and off. Program change 64 (or higher) mutes the amplifier, and program change 0 turns all the features off.
What about the foot switch? Here’s the issue; the LEDs and how do you maintain state, so the LEDs represent the current state of the amp, without having to simply reset everything every time you plug the footswitch in (players always want to save last settings, rather than have to reset everything every time they power on or reconnect an accessory)? This means you have to have MIDI communications both to the amp, and also from the amp. In a normal MIDI rig, this is done with In, Out, and Thru connections. The problem is, nobody wants to run two cables to a footswitch. What Peavey did is support a third MIDI implementation using note on/off information, and add both power supply and the return MIDI channel all on one connector (with more pins). This means the amp can accept standard MIDI from third party devices, but also includes the extra socket holes for the other connections for the footswitch. Every time the footswitch is connected, or the system is powered on, the amp sends current state to the footswitch to set the LEDs to match the amp, and you’re off to the races. Settings are preserved, regardless of where they’re made. You can push a button on the amp and the footswitch will reflect the change. You can push a button on the footswitch, and of course, its setting will be in effect (the buttons on the amp and the LEDs on the footswitch will of course match, as well). The 25’ cable with the extra conductors are shipped with the footswitch. Before you ask, due to the proprietary implementation of this footswitch, even though it does transmit and receive MIDI, no, it’s not designed to integrate with other MIDI devices as a generic MIDI foot controller.
On the Stage
I must admit, this amp sounded really good without messing with the tone controls much, which is both good and bad news for this review. The good news is, I love the amp. The “bad” news is I didn’t really have a chance to see where the tone controls were desperately needed and saved the day. With the kind of controls available, this amp can do a lot with only a relative few adjustments. The power is all there, but what I really loved about the taper of the gain controls is that I didn’t have that problem where the full usable range was over a relatively small range of knob movement. I really liked that. At first, I was wondering if it had the juice, because I wasn’t used to being able (or required) to use as much range. But it was all there. Plenty of power for any gig I can imagine playing, as a local cover band bassist, anyway. Might have to use a couple for the huge stadium gigs, I suppose, someday (LOL). As to the tone controls and filters, we all know how bass, mids, highs, Q controls, and even a bright control work, so I won’t bore you with that. Predictable, musical, usable, it’s all good stuff.
What I think separates this amp from others are the Punch, Crunch, Compressor, and especially the Kosmos controls. Oh, yeah, the lights that can change colors are cool, too, but I don’t want to sound like too much of a nerd, so we’ll get back to the musical stuff. Punch is basically a slap tone enhancer, as mentioned before. Lots of builders do these kinds of “scoopy” controls, but this one is among the most tastefully implemented I’ve played through. The Crunch control is a vintage amp or tube-simulated overdrive sound. It’s smooth and usable, and pretty faithful to its name. The best part is, only the high frequencies are processed, so the clarity and dynamics of your tonal foundation is preserved. The Compressor is basic, but very practically and musically implemented (and with the hint section in the manual, most players will make good use of it). It worked great for me, without feeling like I’ve lost important dynamics, and enhanced the usability of the EQ by controlling the signal input to that section.
The Kosmos system is essentially a way to enhance the low end of your tone through creative trickery with bass/sub harmonics. As such, you want to be careful using these if you’ve got any Low EQ in force. I generally only play through one or two 12” speakers, so I found the Kosmos C to be most useful with little or no Low EQ (or maybe even cutting some Low EQ). The Kosmos A control (sub harmonics) was cool at home, but those super-low frequencies didn’t work too well for me playing standard cover tunes in the usual crappy acoustics of a club. Kosmos C, however, was very useful, and I bounced around between using it with little Low EQ or just using Low EQ and no Kosmos. I figure Kosmos A would be really useful in coffee shop gigs to fill out a rich low-end ambience, or maybe if you’re cool enough to play halls. But for the clubber like yours truly, it wasn’t a good fit.
From a physical standpoint, the form factor is really nice. At only 8 lbs, it’s an extremely easy carry, and small enough it could sit on any size bass cabinet and not hang over the sides or back. One minor niggle I have with the case design, however, is the top-mounted fan vent. This was inconvenient for me, because I always put my wireless unit on top of my amp. I would have preferred side vents.
The Bottom Line
I’ve reviewed amps that could satisfy the most demanding techie tweakers, to the most pragmatic of players who look for the simplest controls possible. The MiniMEGA splits that difference beautifully. It provides a rich landscape of features and controls – some traditional, and some more non-traditional, and even one purely aesthetic – but all are very practical, intuitive, easy to use, and most of all, musical. It has abundant power, is highly versatile, and presented in a very portable package. I can’t see any reason not to recommend this amp to anyone, especially noting its very low price for all you’re getting.