The Amp We All Owned: The Peavey Bandit

In an age of boutique builds and tendency towards tube tones, it’s easy to overlook some of the brands that have been around for decades and established their name by offering solid amps for petty cash. Nowhere is this truer than for the Peavey Bandit. We’ve all had one, and they’ve all had a special place in our journey.

It’s tricky to know how, where, and when to tell the long history of Peavey amps. It all began back in 1961 when Hartley Peavey designed a pair of amplifiers—the Musician and Dyna Bass—which quickly spawned a massive catalogue of gear. To be fair, a big part of the Peavey amps’ modern success story is bound up in their iconic and pristine builds like the 5150 or Classic series.

Yet for me, Peavey will always channel that same feeling we all had with our first car. Amps that could rip and crank to shake any garage yet on a teenager’s budget. So my top Peavey pick is far from their most celebrated build. Rather, I’m forever a fan of one of their most economical and impacting amps to rock the guitar world: the Peavey Bandit.

Perhaps a tiny Peavey practice amp helped get your rock and roll dreams off the ground. But to take things to the next level, the Bandit series came in to elevate the sound and size of Peavey’s entry-level models. The Bandit line first hit the market in 1980 as solid-state combo amplifiers. In those days at Peavey, designers were pressing in a new direction by experimenting with solid-state technology inspired by tube sounds. They debuted what was then called “Saturation” circuitry. In short order, this design style ended up being the precursor for the Transtube technology that became a staple under the hood of amps starting in 1995. The Transtube concept was ahead of its time by a long shot as the circuit emulated an overdriven tube power amp section as well as its asymmetrical clipping in gain structure.

Initially, the first Bandits came in at 50 watts but over the years they extended up to the range of 100 watts of transistor driven power. The true testament to this amp, however, was not its wattage but its longevity and heritage. By 1988, Peavey had taken the Bandit through a few iterations and arrived at a recipe that was sure to last. The Bandit 112 was the perfect combo of power and speaker size. Now more than 20 years on, and with at least nine variations in the catalogue, this amp is still in active production and fueling jam sessions the world over.

While you might have moved on from your Bandit, chances are without it you wouldn’t be the player you are today. You could even argue that, without the innovation and impact of the bandit, solid-state amp technology would look very different today.

6 thoughts on “The Amp We All Owned: The Peavey Bandit

  • March 10, 2019 at 9:03 am
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    Owned a couple of bandits in the 80s then got a 2-12 stereo chorus that is still gigging to this day with only speaker replacement. Thank you Peavey.

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  • March 3, 2019 at 5:44 pm
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    My first Peavey amp blew a fuse after being on for about 2 minutes. It wasn’t the kind of fuse we had lying around the house, especially in those days, and I had to search the local electrical, plumbers, and anything else you can’t get in a supermarket place to get one. I stuck it in, and after about 5 minutes became aware of a smell of burning and thick brown smoke coming out of the back of the amp.

    Maybe in my panic I did things the wrong way around but my first move was to pull the jack lead out, and I got a jolt. Then I actually thought of pulling the plug on it.

    Good or bad, it makes no difference to me, I haven’t touched anything Peavey since that day, so I haven’t, in fact, ever owned a Peavey Bandit.

    Does this make me really special?

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  • March 3, 2019 at 2:34 pm
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    I own both a Peavey Duece I bought in 1980. I also bought a Peavey Vyper 60. The Peavey Duece sounded great, but the Vyper 60 modeling amp has so many varied combinations paired with the Sampera 2 pedal. I am still trying the exact sound I am looking for 5 or 6 years later.

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  • March 3, 2019 at 9:24 am
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    I’ve used a Bandit since 1987. Loaded with a electro voice EV12L. I’ve also used mesa boogie, bogner, rivera amps. Last summer I got a Fuchs 50 watt ODS. This amp sings love it. As for the Bandit I used it last night and it sounded great. The cheapest amp I’ve ever bought and it’s never broke down on me. Thanks Peavey!

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  • March 3, 2019 at 9:18 am
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    Not everyone owned a Bandit but I do have a Transfex Pro 212 Combo and it is still my main stage amp. I drive a Marshall 1960 412 cabinet with it and it ( the Peavey ) smokes. With the built in programmable effects system it has there are no sounds I can’t achieve. I purchased this amp in 1999 and it is still going strong. You can rely on Peavey to deliver.

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  • March 3, 2019 at 8:49 am
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    I started out with an 86 Peavey Bandit (a bit different than the amp pictured). USA made. Absolute workhorse. Suprised (or not surprised) that they don’t build amps like this anymore. That was a golden age of craftsmanship. Great Sunday Papers as usual. Thanks Riff City!

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