THE PEAVEY MAX BASS PREAMP
My fascination, and subsequent nostalgia, for certain pieces of USA-made gear inspire me to create pages like this. After three years of missed oppurtunites, I finally acquired a Peavey MAX Bass Preamp and it lived up to the hype.
From forum posts, it would seem that the MAX had an MSRP of $419 in 2002, but could be picked up new for $330 if a buyer shopped around. At that time, they could be bought for about $150 on the used market. Since my search began in 2020, prices have generally ranged between $200-300, with an occasional deal of $150 still popping up. I would roughly estimate maybe ten to twenty units pass through the web each year. So when they get posted, they are bought within hours. I found mine listed on a small bass guitar store's website, two states away during August 2023 for $250 plus $25 shipping. The condition was excellent, with only a few scratches on the bottom and top panels from being moved in and out of a rack.
Comparing the schematics, I have a hunch the Peavey T-MAX head was released a year prior to the MAX, in 1995. The T-MAX supposedly shares a lot of the preamp circuitry of the MAX. However, the T-MAX notably lacks a blend knob, does not have the Punch or Bright switches for the tube channel, and both channels share the same graphic EQ. In 2023, the T-MAX was commonly going for $300+ on the used market.
The Peavey MAX Bass Preamp is highly regarded on the forums by bass players of all genres. But it does seem to garner most of that veneration from fans of Type O Negative's Peter Steele. Peter used the Peavey Bassist at least as far back as 1994 before switching to the MAX around 2000. He performed with the MAX until 2008, at which point he began using the Peavey Tour 700 head until his death a couple of years later.
Be aware that there are older and newer lines of Peavey products with the "MAX" designation that are not similar to the Peavey MAX Bass Preamp or the T-MAX. Most notably, none of them contain tubes.
The Preamp Circuit
The unit includes an effects loop and has several output options. There is the standard 1/4" output jack, but there is also a Crossover Balance for blending separate High and Low outputs (ex: a 410 cab and a 118 cab). There are also two DI Outputs providing a cabinet-voiced signal. A three-button footswitch will allow the user to select a channel, combine the channels, and punch the effects loop in and out. I currently route my MAX signal through the power amp section of my Peavey Tour 450.
Does the tube channel breakup? Yes-ish. Coming from a guitar background and having owned a Peavey Ultra and an Ampeg VL-502, I naively expected something more aggressive. If both gain knobs are cranked, the MAX's single tube will produce what I would describe as a pleasant rumble. To me, it is muddy - to others, it might be what they're looking for. Whatever it is, it is subtle.
I've also added T-MAX resources. The manual and the original schematics are here, along with an alternate drawing of the footswitch circuit. The original footswitch drawing can be found within the Patch Board page of the original schematics.
The second mod will remove the cabinet voicing from the DI Output. This voicing apparently attenuates the highs. With the top panel removed from the unit, locate the row of seven small parts soldered directly behind the three main output jacks. The two adjacent bright-yellow "beads" are small capacitors. These need to be removed, or at least one leg unsoldered and lifted clear of the circuit board. These are parts C517 and C521 on the main board.
I have not done either of these mods.
CrankyGypsy (established 2001)