Gear Report: Peavey KB2 keyboard amp/PA
I just bought a Peavey KB2 amp as a one-stop solution for amping my harps and vocals in small rooms. I’m very impressed with this piece, which is a nearly ideal amp in many ways, especially for harmonica players using amp modelers, or those who want their sound loud and clean.
The KB2 is relatively small and light at well under 40 pounds. It’s got a 10-inch speaker with a horn, and 50 watts of transistor power split between the horn and woofer. I trust we all know that 50 watts of transistor power is a lot less than the 40 watts of power that a big tube amp like my Sonny Junior Super Sonny puts out; to put it bluntly, the SJSS would cream this amp in head to head competition on sheer volume. But of course the SJSS sells for over 6 times what the KB2 costs. In terms of power, the KB2 has much louder clean output than tube amps selling for the same money ($250), and even amps such as the Fender Blues Junior, which sells for about twice as much. I have no doubt that the KB2 would be a perfectly adequate amp for vocals, harmonica, etc. for a room that seats 50-80 people. Build quality is excellent, as usual for Peavey.
The amp has a built-in mixer with three input channels, one of which has an XLR input for lo-z mics. Each channel has its own volume and EQ, 2-band EQ for the line inputs, 3-band for the mic channel. The mic channel does not have phantom power, but few if any harp players will ever require a phantom powered mic on the gig.
The sound of the amp is loud and very clean, which is what you want in a keyboard amp or PA. In other words, the sound you get out of it is like the sound you put into it, only louder, which is ideal for players who want a clean sound, or players using an amp modeler. The bass response on the amp is very gratifying–plenty of bottom end for the harp. (To a point. Speaker size limits the wavelength that can be transmitted accurately, and a 10 inch speaker isn’t ideal for handling frequencies below 80 hZ, which is where a double-octave-down pitch shift puts the harp. If you plan to routinely put low bass and drum sounds–like hiphop tracks and loops, for example–through the amp, get an amp with a 12 or 15 inch speaker.) The amp has no built in FX, but it’s easy enough to add a reverb or delay, either in-line between the mic and the amp or in the FX loop that’s provided for this purpose. The amp also includes a balanced XLR output, so for louder venues it can be used as a stage monitor, with the output feeding the band’s PA.
Did I mention that this amp is loud and clean? If you want a distorted blues tone, you’ll need to run something in front of the KB2, or in the FX loop, to dirty up the sound. I run my Digitech RP355 between my mic and this amp; there are plenty of other options out there too for players who want some Chicago in their sound. The big advantage of the KB2 over a tube amp in this regard is that you can easily find inexpensive gear to dirty up the tone from this amp, but you can’t take the dirt out of a tube amp. The amp’s multiple inputs also allow you to run a clean sound on vocals and a dirty sound on the harp at the same time, a very nice option for small gigs where you don’t want or need to bring a lot of gear.
The combination of low weight, big sound, low price, and a minimal but very useful set of features (individual channel volume and EQ, FX loop, balanced line out, etc.) makes this amp a very good choice for any harp player who wants a clean sound or a good companion to an amp modeler. My rig in Connecticut includes a Peavey KB/A 100, a much larger (15″ speaker, 65 watts, 55 pounds) and more powerful amp that I’ve used on many gigs. I’m not selling the KB/A 100, but if it ever breaks I’m replacing it with a KB2.
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