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.