Laney Lionheart: Handmade in the UK
Published on 23 November 2021
Handmade in the UK with pride.
That’s the tagline Laney are using for their Lionheart range, a group of all-tube combos and heads, designed to offer a different kind of boutique-style experience.
You’ll have heard of Laney before: the Birmingham-based amp maker has been an established part of British rock royalty since 1967. Beloved of Sabbath fans and Stoner/Sludge/Doom metal bands, Laney are one of those brands for those in the know, who want a quality alternative to the usual Fender, Marshall and Mesa/Boogie choices.
The Lionheart range, named presumably after King Richard the Crusader, distills much of Laney’s inimitable charm and expertise into a concise gang of amp models. The entire range - which includes both combos and heads - are entirely Class-A valve powered, and they are all made in the UK, a feat that’s all the more surprising when you consider how comparatively affordable they are. Today, we’ll check out some Lionheart models in a little more detail, but first, a word about the range as a whole.
Class-A, Single Ended Tone
If there’s one thing that guitarists always want, regardless of genre and individual taste, it’s the sound and feel of genuine tubes. Tubes, or valves, are as old as amplifier technology gets, but for many it’s still the ultimate way to make sound on a guitar. In a world of digital modeling and impulse responses, it’s worth remembering how important simple, great quality tube amps really are. The tone is not programmed or captured, it’s just ‘there’.
The Lionheart range offers simple, effective, great-sounding tube circuits for the gigging and recording guitarist, with some cool surprises along the way.
The build quality is outstanding, compared to any other maker, boutique or otherwise. This distinctive range, with their tan grilles and blue tolex coverings, aim to put pure valve tone - and more importantly, feel- into the hands of guitarists. Dispensing with the pervasive obsession with ever-higher gain levels, these Lionhearts actually don’t offer too much filth at all. The whole notion is in fact to bring back a sense of dynamics and touch sensitivity to the playing experience, and to revel in the feel of a power section that’s cooking up some natural compression, over the flat heaviness of pre-amp gain. Feel is everything, and the guitar world has endless permutations of distortion pedals just waiting for a quality tonal base from which to work. If you are the kind of player who chooses a quality tube amp tone and then peppers it with a selection of stomp boxes, then the Laney Lionheart is your type of amp.
Laney Lionheart L20T 20 watt combo
The Laney Lionheart L20T combo is probably the model most guitarists will be looking at if they want a great recording amp that will also work well in smaller gig situations. Like the rest of the range, the L20T uses ECC83 preamp valves and EL84 valves in the output stage. The circuit is entirely class-A and is ‘single-ended’, so the juice really makes it to the power amp and stays there! This is where that lovely natural compression comes into play, which is great news for players who like using dynamics for expression. With the power tubes working at maximum capacity, the resulting tone will really light up any overdrive or booster pedals you use: this amp takes pedals really well!
There’s an interesting innovation with the speaker choice, too. There are two 12” speakers loaded into the cabinet, but they are both different models, which we have to say is both pretty unusual and really quite clever! One speaker is a Celestion G12H, a well known ‘rock’ speaker and great for getting those classic tones that are full of low end and lower mids. The other speaker choice is the Vintage 30, also by Celestion. This is a very popular choice of driver, thanks to its ability to bring out depth and tonal complexity.
Either speaker choice would be great, but it is especially interesting to be able to have both on at once, and the flexibility offered by micing one speaker over the other offers very useful options, both live and in the studio. Yes, smaller gigs are totally achievable with the 20 watts of power available here, and of course you can still mic up the speaker(s) for larger venues.
Laney Lionheart L5T-112
If you want that handmade, clean tube tone in a slightly smaller package, Laney also have a 5-watt model, the L5T-112. As the name suggests, this is a single speaker amplifier, and Laney have chosen to go with the Celestion G12H, which is an excellent choice: the lower mids are emphasised more strongly, and help balance the slightly smaller physical size of the amp. This beauty sounds terrific, with all the dynamic potential and expression of its larger sibling.
All of the Lionhearts have drive channels, which deliver that ‘hot tube’ broken up sound so beloved of classic and retro rockers. Truly, it’s an all-time classic kind of tone, with a high level of tone-shaping available from the control panel.
Laney L5 Studio
The innovations from Laney continue here with the Lionheart L5 Studio head. This is still a Class-A, full valve, single-ended amp, but it has great new technology on board to let you interface with all major DAWs! The T-USB tech is straightforward to work into your regular recording flow. A USB connection on the back of the amp turns this head into a USB interface, transferring all of that classic tube tone directly to your recording software. The signal is split into an ‘amp’ signal and a dry signal - left and right in your DAW’s inputs - so you can enjoy the Lionheart’s inherent tone and also take advantage of re-amping techniques.
Another cool feature is the dummy load: this allows the amp to run completely silently, whilst still energising the circuit in order to get the tonal benefits. All of this is simple in use, and just means you get a great tone at no volume, straight into your software.
So, at 5 watts this is a perfect amp head to have in the home or studio, where you can enjoy that high-quality tube tone without having to push the power stage to its limits.
Truly a Modern Vintage Choice
We applaud Laney for pouring such high quality workmanship and parts into this elegant and direct collection of amps. If tone is your main priority, then the rich, three-dimensional tones you’ll get from these Lionheart amps elevate them to ‘essential’ on your amp buying list. Given that there are tailored options for home use, recording and small gigs, it appears that you can have it all with Laney, regardless of your particular needs. There aren’t many genres of music that don’t benefit from excellent clean-to-semi broken tones, so there are henceforth not many guitarists who won’t love these handmade British beauties.