Peavey ReValver Mk III ReviewSCHEMATIC-LEVEL MODELER CREATES CUSTOM AMP DESIGNS 2/01/2009 7:00 AM Eastern
Soon after acquiring plug-in company Alien Connections in 2007, Peavey set out to retool its ReValver Mk II amp-modeling software. In a move that nicely complements the vision of the online Peavey Custom Shop for hardware, ReValver Mk III provides a kind of “tweakability” never before seen in any amp simulation software.
Available for Mac/PC in VST, Audio Units, and RTAS, as well as in stand-alone version for live use, ReValver Mk III models 15 classic guitar amps, including several Peavey units such as the 6505, JSX, Classic, ValveKing, and Triple XXX. Both tube and solid-state combo designs are offered, as well as takes on Vox, Fender and Marshall classics.
ReValver's amplifier modules comprises a preamp and a power amp by default, but also come in separate preamp- and power amp-only formats so users can mix and match. It also has 19 “racked” stomp boxes (chorus, phaser, flanger, distortion, auto-wah, tremolo, compression, limiter, delay, octaver, etc.) and 11 effects, including an FFT-based convolution reverb with sample spring reverb and an awesome 8-band parametric filter with adjustable frequency, gain and Q. ReValver allows you to stack an unlimited number of modules into the virtual rack and freely move them around, bearing in mind that the signal flow is always top-down. You can set each module individually to process in either mono or stereo, and insert the signal splitter and merger modules to create processing chains that are quite elaborate. You can even arrange two discrete signal chains (with phase-invert control) and later blend and pan them for dual-tone stereo presets.
To “hear” all this, ReValver provides more than 150 speaker simulations that have been captured using real-time convolution and something that Peavey calls “membrane modeling.” Finally, there are some handy utilities, including a standard needle-and-strobe tuner, a Simul-Tuner with six independent tuning channels that strobe relative to reference tones, an adjustable frequency analyzer and more. The whole shebang is capable of running in standard Real Time or HQ Mixdown mode, with the latter processing at 64-bit with oversampling — although I can't see justifying the resultant 4x hit to the CPU for a 5- to 6kHz-wide guitar tone.
I enjoyed the hours it took to pore through the hundreds of fantastic sounding presets, mainly slowed by my inspired riffing along the way. And this software would be worth every penny if we stopped right there. But one of ReValver's most powerful features is its Module Tweak mode. Right-clicking on an amp takes you to a signal-flow GUI where you can change, add or remove tubes (both power and preamp), rectifiers, output transformers, tone stacks and more. In essence, you become your own virtual boutique amp builder. Yet, it gets even better!
Clicking on any one of the photorealistic component icons will bring up its “technical parameters” screen, along with a laundry list of editable schematic details. Take the Input Stage configuration, for example. Along with choice of tube from among nine possible triode types (there are another eight pentode types to choose from at the output stage), you can either apply a preset tonal character to the tube or tweak it down to very minute engineering specifications. These could include the voltage as delivered by the power supply, adjusting plate load, attenuation due to resistor ladders, cathode capacitors, bias voltage and more.
At the output stage, amplification class is variable between 100-percent Class-A and 100-percent Class-B, essentially allowing for customized A/B weighting. Even the power supply can be modified. Selecting from “ideal,” tube-sagging/-stiff, diode-sagging/-stiff, or transparent types, you're given full control over amp drain, charge speed, size (stability) of the PS filter tap capacitor, voltage drop influence and much more — pretty mind-blowing stuff.
With this level of intervention, not only is it possible to get just the right tone or response from a classic circuit; it's also surprisingly easy to cook up your own custom designs. You can even tweak many of the effects circuits — a nice bonus.
As an alternative to the real-time IR speaker module, the Speaker Construction Set is extremely cool, allowing you to select from dozens of predefined speaker models and assemble them into a virtual cabinet with any physical size of your liking (up to 40×40×20 inches). There's a choice of 20 microphone scenarios based on five mic models (SM57, MD421/MD441, U87, KM 84 and C 414), displaying various polarity and LF cut settings. You can adjust their distance from the speaker, axis positioning, the angle between two mics in stereo configurations, as well as contour the lows and highs, speaker distortion and crunch. I was extremely impressed with the results; each change did exactly what I expected it to do, and the differences were anything but trivial.
But what's really cool is that ReValver lets users capture the IR of any internal module and save it as a 44.1kHz WAV file for export. You can even capture the IR of any third-party plug-in and use the response within any of ReValver's IR-compatible modules. This let me take snapshots of my favorite “oil can” delay or processor-hogging speaker/room modeling plug-ins and incorporate their “sound” into ReValver with lower CPU overhead. The sound design potential is incredible.
Rather than just simulating how the separate boxes in a guitar rig might sound at output (as the competition does), ReValver Mk III's component-up approach makes it sonically superior. Electrical variances, amp tonality, gain structures and coloration are all earthy sounding and ultimately realistic. The emotive feedback I got from the software in response to changes in my playing and guitar controls was incredibly natural, flowing directly into my hands. This software connects with your “guitar soul.”
Never before-but particularly not outside the world of vintage hardware-have I experienced this kind of excitement in getting an amp sound. The warmth and authenticity are spot-on. With ReValver Mk III, finally, there should be no question that you're playing through tubes.
Jason Scott Alexander is a producer/mixer/remixer in Ottawa, Canada.