When Eddie Van Halen bailed on his 13-year endorsee relationship with Peavey in 2004, he walked away with the rights to the name of the 5150 amp and his Wolfgang guitar.
Three years later, he unveiled rebooted versions of both products under his own EVH brand, backed up by the manufacturing expertise of Fender.
The freshly baked backline was christened the 5150 III, a three-channel, 100-watt slab of shock and awe loaded with eight 12AX7 preamp and four 6L6 power valves. While most 'III' aficionados will confess that the amp's clean sound is nothing to get moist about, we can't bring ourselves to give a toss about that. The EVH is all about the harmonically rich gain.
Yes, it's loud enough to weld your eyes to the back of your skull, but there's classic Eddie tone in there, too. "There is a difference between being just loud and having what I call a warm, brown sound," commented Eddie on what he expects from his backline.
Eddie has used '5150', the LAPD code for the criminally insane, as the name of his recording studio in Studio City, California, a 1986 Van Halen album, and his Peavey signature amp, launched back in 1991.
The 5150 and 5150 II heads were designed by electronics boffin James Brown, who now puts a soldering iron to noble use building his respected Amptweaker stompboxes. James and Eddie did such a cracking job on the 5150 models that when the latter left Peavey's artist roster the amps were simply rebranded as the 6505 and 6505+ in honour of the brand's 40th anniversary ('65 to '05, natch).
Still going strong, the 6505 and 6505+ are basically the same spec as the original 5150 and 5150 II, with some cosmetic tweaks. Anyway, Eddie moved on and the EVH 5150 III head is great simply because the man who spec'd it still cares about tone.
The amp is currently proving its mettle on tour in support of the new Van Halen album A Different Kind of Truth, but don't forget, Eddie made the 5150 III for you, too.
The legendary divebomber summed up his attitude to developing EVH gear during an interview with Guitar World in 2007: "I do this because a lot of people ask if they can get what I use," said Eddie. "Well, what you get is identical to what I use." (EM)
EVH 5150 III Timeline
1991: Peavey launches Eddie's original 5150 head
2005: Van Halen and the 5150 name leave Peavey
2007: Eddie bounces back with the EVH 5150 III head
2011: EVH unveils a 50watt 5150 III head