New amp in Ember Studios: Laney Ironheart
You may remember from my previous post that I’ve been looking for a new tube amp to join my Kemper Profiling Amplifier in Ember Studios. At the time I thought I’d get one of the more interesting micro-amps out there. Well, I’ve brought a new amp into the studio, but it’s not a micro amp after all. It is the Laney Ironheart. I’m going to include a cut so that those of you who don’t care about gear can be spared a long review. But for those who do care, below the cut are both my thoughts and some quick sloppy clips to illustrate them.
Click the link in the previous paragraph for Laney’s complete rundown of the amp’s features, but the short version is that the Ironheart is a three channel amp with switchable boost on every channel. Clean and Rhythm share EQ, but not volume or gain. Master bass boost, “tone” (a sort of presence/mid enhance), reverb, and Watts control (from full up to under 1W for even quieter-than-bedroom volume). FX unit can be bypassed. And most importantly: it’s got red LEDs behind the grill. Everyone loves amps with LEDs.
I should add my speaker cabinet is an old Egnater Oversized 1×12″ built custom with a Celestion Heritage G12H (30W, 16ohm) speaker.
The Watts knob is very effective. You really can take this 60W beast that can shatter windows and start small brush fires down to tiny transistor radio level. I was able to find a sweet spot on the Watts knob between 10:00-11:00 on the knob (maybe 20W-25W?) that got the power amp engaged for some air and girth and the speaker moving but wasn’t loud enough to get me arrested.
The Clean channel isn’t just good, it’s great. Lots of chime and character. With the clean volume on 3 I could get a dynamic, pristine, Voxy-style clean that had just enough “grease” to it to be really interesting. And if you kick in the clean boost around 4 you can take it into some light breakup for muscle and Voxy-style “clean dirt” if that makes sense.
The Rhythm channel is the Laney take on a modded Marshall tone, but with loads more gain on tap. With the Rhythm volume on 6, gain on 4, and boost on 4, I could get the “Brown sound” and all the great British tones (AC/DC, Zeppelin, etc), with a absolute ton more gain to go if I wanted it. This was definitely the mid-gain British sound I am looking for.
Finally, the Lead channel. This is really a nuclear beast. With the Gain at 7 and boost on 4, it’s got a gut crushing, huge, deep tone that doesn’t get muddy or wooly. And again, there’s still more gain and boost to go, I don’t believe in maxing everything out but finding a good tone and pulling back a little.
The EQs are pretty responsive, but I like the basic voicings so much I’ve done no radical EQing. I’ve got some clips below (to no beats, just riffing what came into my head, usually songs I’d written or only sort of knew, so please understand these are very [I]very[/I] embarrassingly sloppy!) and no EQ adjustment was more than +/- 2 on the dial. The recording chain is a Royer R-121 7″ from my cabinet into a Great River mic-preamp into my RME Fireface into Logic Pro 9.
So far I’ve found only two things to criticize, and they’re definitely not deal breakers. The first is the footpedal. It’s got boost and reverb switches, which is nice. And then it’s got two footswitches for the three channels, requiring a bit of dancing to get to all three. It’s made more confusing by the fact that activating the Lead channel does not deactivate the Clean channel light.
My other complaint, which is rather minor but took a moment for me to get used to is that in my opinion, the Standby switch operation is the opposite of what I expect. Standby is on when the Standby light is OFF. Standby light ON = play mode.
Overall I’m very pleased with what I’m getting out of this amp, and I look forward to more experiments with different settings, different tubes, and of course recording songs with it! It seems built very solidly and sounds very good. And have I mentioned the red LEDs? Everyone loves amps with LEDs.