Peavey Ecoustic E110 Review

March 2013 Cover

by Teja Gerken

Founded in 1965, Peavey Electronics has long been devoted to offering quality sound-reinforcement equipment and instruments at modest prices. The company has offered amps designed for acoustic instruments for many years and has recently updated its popular Ecoustic line with three new amps—the E20, E208, and E110, rated at 20, 30, and 100 watts, respectively. We checked out the flagship E110, a combo amp equipped for maximum flexibility with two channels, digital effects, and a built-in looper.

Classy Looks, Compact Layout

The E110 is a fairly compact amp, but at 45 pounds, it isn’t exactly featherweight. With its gold-and-brown color scheme, dark alligator-skin-like covering, vintage-style chicken head knobs, and brushed brass corners and hardware, the unit has a classy appearance.

Although the E110’s control panel is densely populated, it is easy to navigate. On the left side is the first channel, which includes a combo input jack (which accepts both 1⁄4-inch and XLR plugs), 1⁄4-inch send jack (for connecting a tuner), phase reversal switch, gain control, nine-band graphic equalizer, and notch filter. To the right, the second channel is more streamlined, with only a combo input jack, gain control, and two-band (low and high) EQ. At the far right is the digital effects section (which can be assigned to either channel or bypassed entirely) as well as a master volume control.

The rear panel houses a power switch, AC power inlet, jack for plugging in the optional Ecoustic foot controller, and an XLR direct output with ground lift for recording and live applications. The closed back conceals a ten-inch full-range speaker working in tandem with a high-frequency horn.

Warm Sound, Extensive EQ Options

To put the E110 through its paces, I plugged in a Martin DC-28E dreadnought with Fishman Aura electronics. Wanting to check out the amp’s basic sound before getting into any of its sound-shaping possibilities, I plugged in to the 1⁄4-inch jack of channel one, making sure that its nine EQ sliders were set flat. In this capacity, the E110 already sounded excellent—warm and realistic, with robust bass tones and a sturdy treble, equally responsive to assertive strumming and delicate fingerpicking. While the basic sound of the E110 is certainly brawny enough to be used with a loud band, it would also work nicely in a more intimate setting like a coffee shop.

I next experimented with channel one’s graphic EQ section. Admittedly, I prefer to achieve timbral variety through instrumental techniques rather than electronic tweaking, so it was a bit daunting to be faced with the many possibilities afforded by the EQ. However, players who find themselves in a range of playing situations will find this section—which offers +/-15 dB of boost on each band and frequency centers (Hz) at 63, 125, 250, 500, 1k, 2k, 4k, 8k, 16k—to be very useful in tailoring the guitar’s tone.

Turning the amp up again, I positioned the Martin to deliberately provoke feedback from the amp. The phase-reverse switch and notch control (centered at 450 Hz) each helped tame the howling as promised. The phase-reverse is footswitchable via the optional controller and would therefore be the most useful in a live setting where fighting feedback can be an ongoing battle.

Rich-Sounding Effects

The E110 includes a trio of time-based digital effects—chorus, delay, and reverb—plus tap tempo, which allows you to set the delay time by tapping a button on the control panel or footswitch. All the effects sounded clean and rich. I dialed a subtle amount of reverb to add depth to a gently fingerpicked passage, a hefty amount of chorus to reinforce a sturdier arpeggiated riff, and a tap-tempo delay for some rhythmic echoes. Then I combined all three at once for a trippy effect. These effects will be all that many acoustic guitarists require, but for those who like to push the envelope, it would have been nice if the amplifier included an effects loop so that external devices could be patched in.

The E110 has one additional effect—a built-in looper—that can only be accessed via the optional footswitch. The looper can record up to 30 seconds of a single track of music. It only took a couple clicks of the footswitch for me to record an ostinato, then improvise above it. This feature is obviously a very cool compositional tool for the unaccompanied performer, though it would be even better if the looper allowed the layering of recorded sounds.

Versatile Performer

While the E110 was designed strictly as an acoustic amplifier, I also plugged in a Gibson ES-335 via an Ibanez Tube Screamer and found that the amp did a decent job of reinforcing this electric sound. The digital effects sounded terrific in this context, too—a definite advantage for acoustic guitarists who occasionally double on electric but don’t want to schlep a separate amplifier to a gig. Since this is a two-channel amp with an XLR input, it could be used as a small PA, combining a vocal mic with an instrument. Peavey may be more closely associated with electric music than acoustic, but in the E110, an acoustic guitarist of any style will have access to a broad palette of sounds, both straightforward and laden with studio-quality effects—all in a smart portable rig.

SPECS: Two independent channels with combo ¼-inch/XLR inputs. Gain, phase reversal, nine-band graphic EQ, and notch filter on channel one. Gain and two-band EQ on channel two. Master volume control. 100 watts, bi-amped. Ten-inch full-range loudspeaker plus high-frequency horn. Footswitchable effects include reverb, chorus, and delay, and 30-second looper. Optional Ecoustic foot controller. 18 x 20.7 x 14.7 inches. 45 lb. Made in China.

PRICE: $499 list/$349 street (amplifier). $139 list/$99 street (foot controller).

MAKER: Peavey Electronics: (877) 732-8391; peavey.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar March 2013

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