Price paid: $ 380
Purchased from: Used - Ebay
Features — 8
Designed during the '80s, the Peavey VTM-60 and 120 were made in a way to emulate the ever-so-famous Marshall JCM800. The two amps were so similar, Peavey stopped production of the VTMs not way too long after starting due to concerns over being sued. This amp is it's own beast, however, and it has it's own unique sound and features that separate it from the JCM800.
Let's get to the boring features first; this is a 60 watt tube amplifier that you can get from anywhere from $150-400 bucks. On the back you have 4 cabinet inputs, 16 ohm, 8 ohm, 4 ohm, and a "not used" input (which is for using four 16 ohm enclosures with independent cables for each enclosure).
The front is where things get interesting. There are two inputs; high gain and low gain. Low gain is good for cleans or for really hot pickups that would make the high gain channel turn to absolute noise. High gain is good for getting a solid distorted tone out of most guitars although rolling back the volume knob on your guitar lets you get a decent clean tone as well (I'll touch more on this in the next section). Then there's two gain knobs, pre-gain and post-gain. Pre=gain is what would be just "gain" on your normal and amp and post-gain is basically volume. Then there's your average low, mid, and high EQ knobs.
Then there's the most unique feature on this amp; the dip-switches. There's a total of eight. They are: Gain 1, Gain 2, Compressor, Low 1, Low 2, Mid, High 1, and High 2. They are somewhat self explanatory (two different extra gain stages, a comp, two low modulators, a mid modulator, and two high modulators.) Again, I'll touch more on how these affect tone in the next section.
Then there's a presence knob. I'm not entirely sure what this does (the manual says it boosts the extreme high frequencies by 6 dB) but it sounds good. Then you have your standard effects loop, a power switch, and a standby switch.
There's no feature that will blow you away but the presence control and the dip switches give you very nice tone shaping tools. The effects loop is nice for those with a fat, healthy pedal board (and really should be on any decent amp head). The features help it stand out among other hot-vintage sounding amps but it doesn't overwhelm you with weird features out the wazoo.
Sound — 8
This amp fits in the same ballpark as old Mesa Boogie and Marshall amps; getting a "vintage-hot" tone. It's nice, warm, bright and crisp but has just enough gain to give your granny a heart attack. It's somewhat versatile as well; I can get a decent post-hardcore tone out of it and play a bit of Minerals and then turn around a play fun hardcore punk tunes like "Rise Above" and "Bikage." I think this is where this amp excels; punk. It's very solid for metal; you can get a good Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Slayer, or hell, even a great sludge or stoner tone out of this, but it feels right at home when playing stuff within the vein of Black Flag, Bad Brains, and other '80s hardcore punk bands.
I toyed around for a good several hours on the amp and found out how to get what noises from where on the thing. Here's how each of the features affect the tone. I'll use a ton of subjective terms that may or may not make sense but tone is pretty subjective anyways. I used an old, cheap Stagg SG-style guitar and a Peavey Rotor EXP straight into the amp with no effects. My cabinet is a home built cab with two Celestion G-10 Vintage speakers.
- Low-Gain Input - This channel sounds a tad stale. It's nice and warm but it lacks girth. I don't think it's creamy or sweet enough. It's very much loud though, and a decent neck pickup combined with a nice clean boost would let you get a solid clean out of this. I've yet to experiment with different effects such as reverb, delay, or phaser to see if I could get some nice psychedelic tones out of it, but I imagine it'd sound just fine. I could see myself playing a bit of post-rock on there with a solid reverb or something cranked all the way up.
- High-Gain Input - I feel like this is what the majority of the people who get this amp are going to be using this for. This is the more versatile channel I feel when it comes to playing without pedals. If you roll your volume knob on your guitar back to two or three, you can get a lightly distorted, crisp, smooth bluesy sound, perfect for jamming to classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin. Turn it all the way to 10 and you'll get a nice 80s crunch that screams both Metallica and Acid Bath at the same time. The distortion on here is definitely very vintage sounding; more modern metal such as Animals as Leaders or Meshuggah would sound very off on this amp (if you're looking for those tones, may I recommend the 5150?). My main complaint with this channel is that the distortion is too buzzy. It's easily fixable when you mess around with the EQ and dip switches (which I'll get to soon) but it still ends up sounding like there's at least a bee or two having the time of their life inside the tubes. This buzz could be fairly easily fixed with a noise gate or some sort of overdrive to tighten up the signal (which I recommend you do).
- EQ - The amp is naturally bright and warm sounding so rolling off a bit of the highs might be okay. Otherwise, I can't say much about the EQ. Just toy around with it for a good while till you find the tone you're looking for.
- Dip Switches - There's 8 dip switches on here that all shape your tone in both subtle and major ways. This is easily my favorite feature on the entire amp.
- Gain 1 & 2 - Gain 1 adds a very subtle, somewhat thin and vintage-y level of distortion to the amp. I'm personally not a huge fan of this; it makes the tone slightly brittle and weak sounding. The user manual seems to imply that this is best used at lower gain setting in order to drive a clean signal into a slightly more distorted and creamy tone. I can see it doing this but I think you're better off with a clean boost. This is just my personal opinion though. Gain 2 is the opposite of Gain 1. Gain 2 has a more pronounced mid and low end bump to it as well as slightly more gain than the other gain switch. This makes it very good for metal as it helps add some much needed fatness to the tone when playing heavy riffs. I personally use Gain 2 for my typical distorted tone but I can see some use of Gain 1 for clean boosts.
- Compressor - This compressor is the most noticeable effect on this amp. With a flick of a switch, your tone is instantly changed. Despite being compressed, it sounds like it very slightly reduces gain and it significantly reduces volume, requiring your to turn your post-gain in order to reach the same level of volume. It makes your tone much smoother sounding and tightens up the sound quite a bit. It also gives a bit more kick. Sadly, I think it chokes out too much of the dynamics in the tone for my taste. I can see this being used with Gain 1 for a better clean tone, but this just isn't for me.
- Low 1&2, Mid, and High 1&2 - These settings are quite self explanatory; Low 1&2 boost the low end, Mid boosts your midrange, and High 1&2 give your treble a bit more edge. I personally like to leave these all on. They help give the guitar sound some weight and pulls the signal together, making everything sound more consistent (although in a different way than the compressor). Surprisingly, both low switches on doesn't result in a muddy distorted mess and as long as you have decent EQ, the high switches don't result in a brittle, razor sharp tone. The Mid boost is the more subtle of effects and like the Low, helps give an extra level of girth to the tone, although in a more "natural" and subtle way.
- Presence - According to the user manual, this boosts the extreme high frequencies by 6 dB but I think there's slightly more wizardry here than just that. It gives the tone more attack and gain than just your average high boost would and in a weird way acts like a compressor, tightening up your tone. I personally like to leave this at 10 but if you're looking for a smoother sound and want less attack, leaving it at a lower setting sounds fine.
Overall I love the sounds I can get out of this. It has great tone shaping tools and they don't take too long to get accustomed to. The gain and sound overall is somewhat brittle, buzzy, and flubby, but the amp's built in tone shaping tools help fix that and any other remaining issues can be fixed by your standard tube-screamer and/or noise gate.
Reliability & Durability — 9
For an amp older than I am, it certainly looks better. I haven't gigged or brought this thing around anywhere aside from my living room to my bedroom and back a couple of times, but if it's survived this long and is still in great shape, it's certainly durable enough for regular use. Only issue is that it's a tube amp and, of course, tube amps have the issue of tubes being easily breakable, burning out, getting old, etc. but if you've owned tube amps before this isn't much of an issue. It's solid (and heavy as hell!) and feels like a tank. I wouldn't drop it down a stairwell or anything but yeah, it's durable.
Overall Impression — 9
I've only played with this thing for, say, 8 hours or so and I love it. It sounds great, is durable, somewhat versatile, and has tons of great tone shaping tools. I've played for a little over two years now and I've toyed around with several different amps in the past looking for a decent, cheap tube amp and this was one of the best options I found. For metal and punk, this amp is great and for. And if some sick bastard stole this thing from me, I'd kill him, but if I couldn't, I'd buy a new one.