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Laney Pro-Tube 100 Head

LANEY Pro-Tube 100 in Torture Chamber Trial

On professional stages right across the world it isn't the apparently ubiquitous combo amp which holds sway, at least not among the superstar Rock bands, but rather the combo's big brother, the head/stack, which occupies the square footage behind countless guitar and bass players. Part of this traditional set-up's appeal lies, undoubtedly, in the visual impact of all that equipment. It would be hard to imagine the Rod Stewart band, Black Sabbath or Motorhead creating their walls of sound with 2x12 combos although, with the quality of speakers these days they probably could, especially aided by current P.A. system technology. But the stack looks right — and Rock is show business and always will be — don't let's ever forget that.

But there's more to the appeal of the head/stack than just its visual image. Separating the amplifier's electronics from the vibrations produced by the speakers in a 100 watt unit makes good sense, and the tremendous volume and spread of sound you can get from using two 4x12's has still to be equalled by most combos.

Maybe it's because of these factors (plus the undoubted growth of heavy bands once again in the past couple of years) which has led to the emergence of several manufacturers getting back into the head business in recent months.

Last month we reviewed the new Roost SR 100; a new Fender rack-mounted tube amp was launched at the Frankfurt Fair in February, Hi-Watt are still pumping away at their highly individual sounding amps, Marshall continue to sell like they were this year's latest thing. And now Laney, the Midlands-based amplification manufacturers who have been offering valve heads since as far back as 1967, have just launched their own new model — the Pro-Tube 100 head. Three new models are now reaching the shops from Laney — a 50 watt lead valve head, a 100 watt bass head and the 100 watt guitar version, which we ran though our tests to see how it stood-up against the opposition.

Recently we've had the chance to look at several of the latest Laney amplifiers (although this is the first review of a Laney we've yet published) and by and large have been tremendously impressed with this maker's development of transistorised technology in recent years. This, coupled with exceptional prices, has helped them become one of the largest manufacturers exporting amps from the U.K., as well as having a fast growing presence over here. Laney seem to be a company very much on the move, so we were expecting the very best when we sampled one of their valve models. First step in any test of an amp in the MUSIC U.K. torture chamber is a good poke around inside. The Laney was thus strapped to the rack and disembowelled.

The first point we noticed was the use of valves which we can't say we'd encountered before. These comprised ECC83's for the pre-amp and the usual four EL34's for the power amp. The pre-amp bottles were unnamed and we hope that they aren't coming from one of those Eastern European sources who seem to be making valves deliberately designed to sabotage decadent Western Rock Music. The power amp's EL34's were labelled 'Trigon' but bore no country of manufacture. O.K. — we know that Mullard are no longer making this standard valve, that's why some makers (like Pro-Amp) have gone onto American 6L6GCs and others (like Roost) are using GEC KT77s. Trigon is a new name on us and we hope they're o.k. Frankly it would be unlike Laney to risk their reputation by using cheap, duff valves so we'll trust them to have done their homework sufficiently, although we'd have preferred to have seen valves from a more recognised source.

Valves aside, the Laney was well made from an electronic point of view and should prove to be reliable on the road. Constructionally speaking, the head is pretty well assembled with sturdy plywood sides, top and bottom and the usual chipboard back. Carrying is by a sturdy strap on top and the overall job (including metal corner protectors and the four heavy duty rubber feet) looks to be quite up to a hard life.


From the facilities point of view the Pro-Tube 100 is very much your 'par for the course' 100 watt valve head. The back panel offers a detachable mains lead, fuses, twin speaker sockets and impedance selector enabling you to select speaker combinations of 4, 8 and 16 ohms.

Front panel facilities are both simple and familiar, with two inputs (high and low sensitivity) presence, bass, middle and treble controls plus pre-amp volume and master volume pots. In addition you have the usual illuminated mains switch plus a standby facility which keeps the valves nice and hot without imposing any wear on them.

Our playing tests comprised the usual wide gamut of guitars and used the amp both on clean and distorted settings and at high as well as low volume levels. As we were testing the head on its own (ie without Laney's own speaker cabs) we coupled it to Celestion G-12 speakers which we favour on account of their ability to soften the sometimes rather harsh nature of overloaded amps.

The first point to note about the Laney is its excellent treble response. Even with all the tones set full 'off' it's a very sharp almost crystal-sounding amp and when you begin to wind-up the tone controls the sound still holds its top (even at full volume settings) — definitely this is one for those who've lost the top 25% of their frequency range through too many headbanging sessions!

Overall tonal range of the Pro-Tube is pretty good, very good in fact, compared to that from some other heads of this type and you can get some really wide-ranging sounds which are especially effective when the amp is set low on the pre-amp and high on the master volume to get a clean sound.

Whether you'll like the distortion is going to be one of those matters of personal taste. The sound of the amp set at low overall volumes with the pre-amp gain up high didn't really remind us of the archetypal valve sound — in fact it was really rather more like a good transistorised amp in some respects, with a slight hint of that bugbear of a rasp accompanying each note and a difficulty (at least as far as we were capable) of getting a really rich, thick valve sound of the traditional type at low levels. This, of course, is often a problem with master volume type set-ups; even some of the best amps around can suffer from problems in this area and it really is a case that if you want an amp which overloads at low levels, you're probably better off buying something other than a type designed to do its best whilst cooking away on full hoot with every last component straining fit to bust.

Used at full power, the Laney settles down a bit and doesn't sound quite so raspy as it does when the pre-amp is up and the power amp down. However it isn't as smooth sounding as some of the older valve amps we've come across and yet not as harsh as last month's torture-chamber victim, the Roost. This, of course, is all to the good as there's little point in every manufacturer in the world trying to copy the basic Marshall valve sound. The only reason for any other head to exist is if it has its own voice, which the Laney certainly has. It's definitely one to try and should be considered by any player who wants a fine tonal range and a good waspish overload.

Approx. £265.

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Music UK - Copyright: Folly Publications


Music UK - May 1983

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Amplifier > Laney > Pro-Tube 100


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> Clarion: Home Studio System

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