Laney LC30 Mark I Guitar Amplifier Review
Review of the Laney LC30 Mark I guitar amplifier. An underrated, British-made, 1×12, twin-channel, all-valve workhorse with flexibility to spare.
Laney is an often forgotten about guitar amplifier manufacturer. You want clean ? Get a Fender. Classic crunch/gain ? Get a Marshall. Distortion? Get a Mesa/Boogie. I’ve owned them all. They all have their own signature sound, and they all have their faults. My old Fender Blues Junior III didn’t have a great drive sound, My old Marshall didn’t have a great clean. The Mesa, well, that’s boutique territory isn’t it ? Seemingly, the Laney LC30 is without any faults at all. It has great clean AND drive channels (switchable via foot-switch) and won’t break your back or the bank.
Laney LC30 Features
Here are the standout features of the Laney LC30.
- UK made.
- Hi/Low Inputs: Offering two different levels. Great for matching to different guitars/pickups.
- Two switchable channels, clean and drive, each with their own independent 3-band EQ : A great start if the more commonplace shared EQ is a compromise for you. (E.g a Marshall DSL). Here, you won’t need to sacrifice your clean tone for a great drive tone, and vice versa.
- Bright & Modern switches on the Clean and Drive Channels.
- Global, post EQ tone: Allows the overall tone to be tailored to a room without re configuring the Clean & Drive channels.
Laney LC30 Clean Sounds
In a nutshell :Fender clean with more body., with versatility provided by the hi/low inputs, bright switch and 3-band EQ. At it’s roots this a big, warm and expansive, lacking any shrillness whatsoever, with the bright switch adding extra sparkle if need be. As a platform for your own choice of OD/Distortion pedals I’ve never heard better really, and the gain control will you get that beautiful valve breakup all those digital modellers struggle to emulate.
All in all it makes you wish Laney did a cut down, single channel version, as for a lot of us the clean channel could be all you’ll ever need. The undisputed star of the show.
Laney LC30 Drive Sounds
After the instant gratification of the clean channel, I approached the Drive channel with some trepidation. Surely it can’t be as good can it?
What’s immediately apparent is that there’s a lot of flexibility and range to the drive sounds (and gain levels) of the Laney LC30. The disadvantage is you won’t be able to instantly dial in a mid-rich Marshall, but it’s in there somewhere with a little effort. Rather, this is a full-range gain structure (along the lines of something like a Fulltone OCD). that can be tailored to your specific needs. It’s a blank canvas not a template. In practice this type of configuration is a pain to begin with, but it gives you all the tools to create your own sound from light breakup to shred and all points in-between, with the mid-shifting ‘modern’ switch giving you the metal scoop if required. Laney drive doesn’t really favour a specific frequency, if you want more treble, bass, mid or gain, it’s there, delivered in a predictable way that only your ears can judge. You want cut?, you’ve got it , but be careful not to thin things out. More mid push?, it’s a question of cutting back on the bass and treble as well as boosting the middle control, as the EQ is very ‘interactive’.
Sadly, although the flexibility is beyond doubt, sometimes you DO just want to plug and play. A Marshall sounds like a Marshall, pretty much however you set the EQ. On the other hand, the Laney LC30 drive channel is just too twitchy, exacerbated by the chicken-head knobs that drastically change your sound with only so much as you breathing on them.
Laney LC30 Build Quality
All the boxes are ticked here. UK-Made, Solid construction, metal corner protectors and re-assuring weight for its 30 watts. No issues with the handle that I’ve sometimes found on similarly specced amps, not least my old Cornford Roadhouse 30.
Laney LC30 Competition.
They just don’t make ’em like the Laney LC30 anymore.
Obvious choices for a gig-able twin channel valve combo would be the Marshall DSL40C, the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe or the Blackstar HT-Club 40, but all those have shared EQ. Something like the Hughes and Kettner Tubemeister 36 will beat the Laney for versatility but not on sounds or price, leaving you in Marshall JVM territory if you truly want to step up.
Of course, If you really don’t want the hassle of the Drive channel, there’s always the Fender Blues Junior III, but that has no effects loop and at 15 watts a whole lot less headroom than the Laney.
Laney LC30 Specification
- Power Consumption 100W
- Output Power Rating 30W
- Loudspeaker 12” Celestion Seventy 80 8 Ohms
- Pure Class A Valve tone
- 4xEL84 Power Tubes
- 4x12AX7/ECC83 Preamp tubes
- Hi & Lo Gain Inputs
- Footswitchable Channel and Reverb (FS2 Optional)
- Reverb Yes (Springline ‘Sound Enhancements’)
- EQ Passive Bass, Middle and Treble (Separate EQ for Clean and Drive)
- Bright Switch
- Modern Switch
- Input Impedance 1MOhm/47pF
- Unit Weight 20KgLoudspeaker outputs Extension speaker socket (Minimum 8 Ohm Impedance)
- FX Loop with Switchable Level & By-pass
- (H*W*D) 451*558*278
Nowadays you’ll need at least £600 to get you a twin channel valve guitar combo over 30 watts, let alone a class A model made in the UK. The Laney LC30 was a steal at £180 second hand and can handle any gigging situation you could throw at it. For me they nailed the clean channel in giving the player, in effect, a Fender Clean+ (isn’t that what we all want?). A part of me just wishes they’d made the Drive channel a Marshall+ instead of the blank canvas Laney thought would appeal to a larger audience. That’s just me though, the Laney LC30 allows you to sound however you want, provided you’re willing to experiment. It’s a beautiful looking, true ‘instrument’. A tone-sculpting extension of your guitar which is bags of fun to play around with.