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This article was originally published in issue #14
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Tony Iommi's association with Laney amplifiers is almost as legendary as the man himself. Now the amp company that helped him virtually create the sound of Heavy Metal guitar has released the Tony Iommi signature TI100 head and cab, updating the existing signature model with a host a of modern tones and a surprising amount of versatility. We gave Tom Quayle 666 minutes to review it.
When I think about Laney amps, the first name that comes to mind is Tony Iommi. Those legendary power chord riffs just wouldn't be the same without that signature, crushing metal sound and there's no denying that it changed the face of music forever. Now Laney has teamed up with Tony again to release the latest iteration of his signature amp - the all-valve/tube TI100, complete with matching 4x12 cab. According to Laney's website, Tony was involved at every stage in the development of this amp, 'representing a significant advance in Tony's sonic identity whilst still retaining the aggressive tone that Tony is renowned for'.
The class AB TI100 certainly has all the required specs for achieving brutal sounds, with its impressive eight ECC83 preamp tubes (think more distortion than you can shake a stick at!) and four 6L6 power tubes offering up 100 watts of output through the signature 4x12 cab. The two identical channels, configured as lead and rhythm, have independent three-band equalisation with added power stage Enhance and Presence controls for further tailoring the low and high end for specific cabs.
Both channels also have independent Drive and Volume controls and a very useful Pre-Boost dial allowing you to bring in a pre-gain stage boost for extra saturation without the need for a separate boost pedal on your pedal board. Round the back of the amp you'll find all the necessary ins and outs expected from a modern head, including an FX loop configurable in bypass, insert and side-chain modes, Line-in and out, footswitch connection port and various speaker outs in almost any combination you'd ever need. The included footswitch allows for channel switching and pre-boost engaging on both channels.
At 21.5kg, the TI100 is a bit of a beast and is built to survive a nuclear blast with its thick and immensely sturdy housing and steel front grill. The controls feel solid and responsive and all the switches have a satisfying clunk to them adding to the overall quality feel. Two large, textured handles aid lifting of this behemoth and whilst it is heavy this is an inevitable consequence of this level of gain and power. The TI412S cab is equally well built and looks fantastic with its straight baffle design and matching steel cross grill. Celestion G12H75 speakers match perfectly with the intended tonal use of the head offering tight bottom and top end with a 120w maximum power handling.
Laney is renowned for its engineering quality and, as my colleague Dan Veall found in his recent Bassment review of two mighty Laney bass systems, the company's engineering standards have never been better.
Compared to other modern metal heads, the TI100 is a fairly simple animal, harking back to a pre MIDI and 'four channel minimum' world and this makes getting great tones very easy indeed. When I plugged in, I set the rhythm channel with the gain at minimum and volume fairly high to achieve a clean tone. Surprisingly, this amp is capable of some great and very dynamic clean sounds that, thanks to the Enhance and Presence controls, have plenty of body and chime to them. Even at these low levels of gain the EQ controls perform well and are very interactive, offering a good deal of tonal shaping that will be very useful from venue to venue.
Increasing the gain it became apparent just how much overdrive this amp is capable of, with insane amounts being born from the upper ends of each channel. In between the extremes, some very cool rhythm tones can be achieved, suitable for anything ranging from light Rock to modern heavy chugging tones. The bottom end is super-tight and responsive, especially through the TI412S cab delivering the required kick for modern detuned sounds.
Engaging the pre-boost allows for some truly stunning lead tones that are saturated to the max and feel like butter to play. This is a very forgiving, easy playing amp and will really help you to sound great on stage. With each channel delivering the same sonic characteristics, you can set the head up as you wish for two different rhythm tones for example, using the pre-boost to take you into lead territory, for a clean and rhythm tone, or for two lead tones with different EQ curves.
The TI100 is certainly a lot more versatile than you'd possibly imagine and a huge range of tones can be summoned from its eight pre and four power tubes. The FX loop sounds great too and the three configurations will allow you to match it to any outboard gear or pedals you require.
Overall then this is a very impressive amp and comes in at a price that puts some other manufacturers to shame. Whilst it's a must for the Tony Iommi fans, other metal-heads or Rock players really should check out the TI100 as well because it represents a superbly built, great sounding and looking amp at a supremely attractive price. Nice one Laney.