EVH 5150 III 50W EL34 review

Boutique EVH tones from a workhorse amplifier

  • £1,149
  • €1,990
  • $2,399

MusicRadar Verdict

It’s not cheap, but the features, build quality and tone make it worth the money.


  • +

    Superb build.

  • +

    Packed with features.


  • -

    Not cheap.

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Ever since the arrival of the 5150 III EL34 100-watt head, there have been requests for the same design in a more affordable format. 

EVH has listened and responded with the 5150 III 50W EL34. Featuring the same devastating tones and similar flexibility, the 50W has three channels: channel 1 (clean) and channel 2 (crunch) share the same EQ but feature separate gain and volume controls on clever, dual concentric pots; channel 3 (lead) gets its own dedicated EQ. 

A global presence control on the front panel and a global resonance control on the rear panel tune the power amplifier’s high and low frequency response to taste. Other features include a headphone outlet and a series effects loop, which is footswitchable using the supplied four-button switch, together with a separate preamp out. 

The 5150 EL34 also takes MIDI program change commands, so you can sync it to MIDI-compatible effects units and floor controllers. The EL34 version of the 5150 is important because Van Halen’s groundbreaking early work relied exclusively on heavily-modified Marshall Super Lead heads, which used EL34s. 

Sat firmly in hot-rodded Plexi territory, the 5150’s channel 1 is capable of sparkling cleans

Compared with 6L6s, EL34s have a slightly compressed frequency response and a more aggressive clip, making this new head the perfect weapon for achieving authentic vintage Van Halen sounds, as well as Eddie’s more refined and defined modern tone.

Like all EVH products, the 50W is beautifully designed and constructed, featuring a solid steel chassis trimmed in black and anodised gold with EVH’s trademark stripes over the front panel. Inside, most of the components live on high-quality printed circuit boards, with typically clean layout and minimal wiring for improved reliability. 

Sat firmly in hot-rodded Plexi territory, the 5150’s channel 1 is capable of sparkling cleans, with enough gain for mildly-driven blues sounds. Channel 2’s higher gain is perfect for crunch and classic rock leads, while Channel 3 launches into the stratosphere with gain levels that are cheerfully insane, yet works a clever magic trick by retaining most of the dynamics that are often lost at such extremes. 

This means the 5150 sounds properly cranked up, even at quite low practice levels. The EVH sounds good with any guitar but a beefy PAF-type humbucker brings the amp to life. EVH’s 5150 III 50W EL34 is a highly-effective weapon for the modern rock and metal player that puts tone before unnecessary complexity. It’s also compact and an ideal travelling amp while the addition of MIDI gives it pro-standard versatility.