Eddie Van Halen changed the game when he started having people mod his Marshalls into some of the first high gain amps / sounds. After that he worked with Peavey to create the 5150 and 5150 II. EVH left Peavey to start his own brand through Fender/Jackson. Peavey changed the amps to the 6505 and 6505+ while the EVH brand eventually released the 5150 III and many others.
The Peavey 5150 is one of the most popular amps ever made for heavier styles and it didn’t get that way because of any one genre. The amp has earned it’s keep over the decades by being affordable, durable, easy to use and because it’s beyond incredible at producing tones for many different genres. The list of notable and legendary level players to have used the OG 5150 is too immense. A little research may really surprise you.
Many versions of the 5150 exist but the Nembrini 8180 plugin is based on the first of the Eddie Van Halen / Peavey devised weapons; the original Peavey 5150. The plugin includes a generous cab section and some simple processing tools. The regular price is a pinch on the high side however Nembrini Audio always have sales going on with prices to fit any budget.
The plugin’s GUI makes it very easy to navigate the amp and included components. The amp looks terrific and the attention to detail in the control panel sets the pace for the overall authenticity. Users will find the cab section and additional tools by clicking the “cabinets – impulse loader” button.
When trying to dial in the plugin from default there are a few things to note. The low end in the 8180 seems inflated from the analog amp and other plugins. To negate the additional lows, roll the “low” EQ knob back to about 3 and the resonance to around the same instead of 5 as the starting point. To tighten things further, mute the ambient mic in the cabinet section. While it can be a useful tool, it definitely creates an additional roundness that isn’t needed in most traditional 5150 rhythm tones.
The rhythm or “green” channel is generally my preference in most of the 5150 family of amps. It’s often left right out of many 5150-inspired plugins for whatever reason but the 8180 has it front and center. Clean tones aren’t exactly the focus of the 5150 but there is one onboard. Without the crunch switch, the green channel is pretty clean and the bright switch can really help to shine it up a bit. Driving or boosting it a bit can yield some really nice rock tones but I am not sure how often I would use it perfectly clean.
Hitting the crunch switch opens up a ton of mid to high gain rhythm and lead tones. The crunch side of the green channel uses the entire pre-gain control from 0-10 which can help it to cover a hell of a lot of ground. Punk, hard rock, classic rock and if there’s a boost involved, thrash and other genres really don’t take much to dial in which makes the 8180 every bit as reliable and trustworthy as the real deal. The green channel also acts as a terrific canvas for distortion pedals so bust out your favorite HM2, RAT or DS-1 and other distortion plugins to see what sort of hellish soundscapes you might uncover.
The red channel of the 5150 has always been the focal point for the majority of 5150 enthusiasts over the years. In fact, due to this, many plugins based on the famous family of amps model only the red / lead channel. The 8180 brings the “dead red” goodness to your DAW (and iOS device). The dead red lead channel has a long history of being used and abused by some of the best players in the history of metal and hard rock. With or without a boost, the 8180 can be used to create some of the best high gain tones that I have ever heard in a plugin.
The cab section has been improved from a few of the first Nembrini Audio plugins. The section features four cabinets (Peavey, Marshall, Mesa, Soldano, Bogner, Fender) and four industry standard mics. From there, things can be additionally tweaked with “distance” and “position” controls that scroll through optimized selections. Users can also use the cab section to load up to three of their own impulses into a very functional IR loader or bypass the cab section in favor of a separate IR loader and selections. When I bypassed for my own loader, I noticed a drop in volume but a simple bump on loader’s output evens things out quickly.
The 412 and 212 cabs all match up perfectly with the 8180. I love the Sheffield loaded Peavey cabinet, it’s got this naturally scooped sound to it that just “fits” in so many ways when using the 57 mic option. The other powerful cabs bring out so many different aggressive sounds for lead and rhythm work on both channels of the 8180. The Fender Tweed 410 is a cool cabinet and it’s been a mainstay in the Nembrini cab sections but for the first time, it’s inclusion feels like more of a throw in as it’s not really a cab geared for the 5150.
The 5150 / Tube Screamer relationship started in the 90s but in the early 2000s and onward, that relationship became a longstanding and loving marriage. While there are boost pedal plugins both free and paid everywhere, an internal boost section has sort of become the industry standard for those choosing to work inside suites only. Having a small but solid boost / screamer component even tucked in with the gate and other tools would make a big difference. That said, it’s very easy to simply put a boost in front of the 8180 in the chain. Doing so helps to unleash the full power of the amp while tightening things up to construct the modern high gain tones of your dreams.
UPS / DOWNS
Overall, once the addition low end response is taken into account, the amp is basically as realistic and authentic as it gets but none the less the score must reflect. It has that slightly raw and rough edge to it which many 5150-related plugins tend to try to smooth out a little bit. The first 5150 is known to be the most “raw” sounding of the bunch and Nembrini made sure to stay true to that instead of condensing or “simplifying” an amp that is already quite easy to dial in.
Nembrini Audio could very easily put a boost section into their plugins as they have a quality boost plugin in their analog rack bundle. It’s not as crucial in a DAW but with the plugins moving to iOS, having a boost would really start coming in handy. I truthfully understand not wanting to conform and contribute to certain dependencies but having a Nembrini Audio level quality boost section onboard also makes sure the signal chain quality stays in tact. It’s likely such an addition would also create a better experience for users that are newer to amp sims.
There’s a myth that the plugin market has too many 5150 plugins. It’s certain that the amp’s appeal has seen it modeled on more than a few occasions, I would ask how many times the amps in the 5150 are modeled in their entirety with quality? As far as I am concerned, any high quality take on any amp in the series will always be hugely handy for more aggressive players. Nembrini Audio’s take on the amp is nearly perfect and is definitely one I would recommend to all 5150 tone enthusiasts.
See more: Nembrini Audio launch video
Andre Neumann demoes the 8180 for HASR