Lately, I've been reading where people are making claims that the Rockmaster preamp was the "inspiration" for the Peavey 5150 amplifier. It was not. I worked for Soldano back in the 1980's. Ed Van Halen came in and bought three SLO-100 heads. He took one and showed it to Peavey. That's where the inspiration for the 5150 came from. The preamp of a Soldano SLO-100 and the preamp of the 5150 are identical. I remember Mike Soldano being a little miffed about it at the time. Eddie also took the Music Man guitar they made for him and showed that to Peavey, too. This is where the Wolfgang came from. Sterling Ball was not too happy about that, either. A person who I considered a good friend took one of my own amplifiers that I had built for him that contained a unique overdrive circuit and showed it to Fender. Later, a few of Fender's amps implemented that same overdrive circuit. Coincidence? I think not. In any case, the Rockmaster preamp has nothing to do with the 5150, no matter how badly you wish it did.
This is a great sounding and easy to use preamp. Th features and easy of use coincide with the quality that Peavey stands for. Peavey has made some amazing sounding pieces of equipment this is one of those legendary units that still has a great place in today's modern music world. If you want somthing that is cheap but bot cheaply made and that will sound fantastic then this is a great preamp to start with.
This unit has been rumored to have been where Peavey got there inspiration to do the 5150 amps. Most people who have been around guitar amps enough know that the Peavey 5150 amps that were a signature model for Eddie Van Halen have been one of the most used and highly sought after not only for their sound but also for their competitive pricing. I have seen 5150's go for the used price of $450 and as high as %900 depending the conditions and what not.
This unit is essentially a three amp preamp which has a clean gain, and crunch gain, and an ultra gain. These modes or channels all share the same EQing and equally have a place to stand on. Each mode has a great sound and fits into a set list quite well.
There isn't much to get discouraged from or misunderstand with this preamp. The controls are laid out very well and easy to understand. The definitions of each control knob are pretty self explanatory and easy to figure out. The only thing that is unique is probably the post gain which is essentially the volume for the amp.
The tone from this amp is phenomenal. I think the Peavey tone lives on the ultra high gain mode whether it is a 6505, 5150 or this Rock master. The ultra high gain modes in most of not all Peavey amps sounds the best to my ears. I ave ever been a fan of their low gain amps such as the classic series or simply just the clean channels of most of their amps. The uber high intensity is the Peavey tone and most likely will be for ever amp they produce.
These units have been discontinued a long time ago. So the used market is the only way to go to grab this unit. I have seen them for around under $200. That is a great price for this unit. The only competitor for this preamp in my opinion is the ADA MP1 which is another phenomenal preamp. Different voicing but a beats on its own as well. This preamp is a little cheaper than an MP1 , but the ADA has more features.
The Peavey Rockmaster preamp is an all tube, three channel guitar preamp. Like many other Peavey guitar amps, the channels are labeled Clean, Crunch and Ultra, and the Crunch and Ultra channels have a three band active EQ labeled Bottom, Body and Edge for the low, mid, and high frequencies. The Body knob can be pulled to shift the mid frequency higher for a more mid-scooped sound. The Crunch and Ultra channels have their own gain and level controls labeled Pre and Post. The Pre knobs can be pulled on these two channels for a gain boost. The Clean channel has its own Low, Mid, High, Presence and level controls. This preamp has an unprecedented five effects loops; one loop per channel, plus one that affects the Crunch and Ultra simultaneously, and a global loop that affects all of the channels. The Rockmaster also has both a high and a low gain input for different output pickups. There is also an XLR balanced line out on the back.
I find it very easy to dial in a good sound on the Rockmaster.
I use a Gibson Les Paul Custom and run the Rockmaster into the effects return of a Peavey Classic 50 2x12 combo. I’ve tried running a Danelectro Fish n’ Chips graphic EQ in the Crunch and Ultra loops because they share an EQ, and this gave the two channels a more unique and differentiating tone. The Rockmaster is capable of sparkling cleans, mid-gain Marshall like crunch, and full on metal saturation. The key to these tones are in the push/pull gain knobs and the push/pull Body knob.
My favorite thing about the Rockmaster is its versatility. That, and how inexpensive they are to buy. This is my second Rockmaster. I sold the first one thinking there was something out there that would make me happier, and within weeks I regretted it. I’ll be holding on to this one for a while.
All analog tube pre-amp
Three foot switchable channels from clean to high gain
Separate effects loops for each channel plus a global loop and crunch/lead loop
1/4" connections and balanced line out
Being an analog pre-amp it is quite simple to set up. There are no digital read outs or menus to navigate through. Everything is plainly labeled and straight forward so if you have a basic understanding of EQ you will be good to go.. I bought this used without a manual but had no problem getting a good sound out of it quickly.
I was really impressed by the sound of this pre-amp. I bought it on whim after hearing about it from a guitar player who was into shred and 80's style music. I thought at worst it would get me some decent high gain to get me by until I could afford something a bit more modern. I ran it with a peavey 50/50 power amp into a carvin legacy cab and it easily got a modern metal sound. This box has a lot of meat to it when dialed in properly and even running into the el84 based power amp I could still get close to the sound of a 5150. The clean channel is also good and for me was actually much better sounding than peavey's other high gain amps I have tried.
You get a lot of EQ options with the resonance and shift knobs plus having all the effects loop options makes it easy to stick outboard units in the seperate channels for further tone shaping. I ran a furman PQ3 in the lead channel effects loop and a light reverb in the clean channel's loop.
If you are looking for a simple to use pre-amp with a wide variety of sounds check this out before dropping tons of money on the more expensive brands. I think peavey over-all is an underrated company and their stuff is built tough. Sure there are some better units out there but they are sometimes double the price for a 10% difference in tone. I have moved on to a different set up but still keep the rock-master around just in case.
The only issue I ever had with this unit is the effects loops would sometimes stick open when not used. When this happens it's like having a bad cable between the channel and the output so you lose a lot of signal. It's an easy fix by just working a cable in and out a few times to get the contact going again. You can also just leave a 1/4" cable in each of the unused loops to avoid the problem all together.